1 – Improvements for TML / Better Community:
Healthy communities include having access to appropriate housing and reliable, high-speed broadband. Both require working with different levels of government and private service providers to affect meaningful change (please see below re: housing)
As part of the TML broadband working group, I believe that continuing advocacy and partnership with different stakeholders will be an important initiative in the next term of council. The Provincial Government recently announced results of a reverse auction, releasing money for providers to work towards the goal of 50/10 broadband connectivity for every household by 2025. It will be very important to bring a TML perspective to ensure all residents and businesses, including those in the more rural settings, are included in plans. Details are anticipated in the coming months.
The Community Improvement Plan intends to enhance our downtown infrastructure and public spaces. With funds available for both public and private initiatives, implementation and support of the plans will be important in the next term of council.
Another element to fostering healthy communities is support for relevant four-season recreation and community spaces. The recently endorsed Recreation Master Plan creates a roadmap for future councils and its implementation should be a priority for the next term of council.
2 – Tax Increases / Effective Delivery:
Knowing that the largest source of revenue for the Township is from property tax and that only 20 percent is used to fund services provided by the Township (with 50 percent going to the District), managing the budget to match the needs of the community is a top priority.
The Township recently completed a number of foundational plans (asset management, recreation master plan, fire master plan, IT master plan, transportation master plan) that will help form decision making around spending. It will be important that the next term of council works with the public and staff to determine appropriate service levels, matching community needs with operating costs and long-term capital spending.
Using the recreation master plan as an example, having a comprehensive plan improves opportunities for grants from other levels of government. In addition, a key direction includes the importance of public/private partnerships. These are a couple of other ways to help offset the tax burden.
In considering service levels, a goal should be that with appropriate governance, to reduce or have no duplication in effort internally or with other levels of government. An example of this is the current approach to climate change with the District being the lead, with input and “a voice at the table” from the Townships.
3a – Data to Justify Environmental Improvements:
The Official Plan has been a 3-year process with significant public input. Staff and consultants have used the best data available from environmental experts to form the current draft official plan recommendations.
Site Alteration and Tree Preservation By Law
As noted by staff, the environmental science indicates that shoreline buffers are critical to watershed health and impacts (i.e., building) should generally be avoided in the first 30 m. (Muskoka Watershed Council – Shoreline Buffers 2013 is a great resource).
While this by-law is not yet complete, it should be noted that a new recommendation (or new property right) which would allow patios within the first 50 ft is an example of staff finding a balance between environmental guidance and property owners enjoyment of their property.
The septic re-inspection program is in place to mitigate the impacts of failing sewage systems and for protection of the watershed. Staff are currently creating a database with ratings for every septic in the township. Early reports showed 40 percent were in a high-risk category. With this data, it will help guide the inspection program. Costs incurred by property owners to improve systems will vary depending upon the state of their septic system. Costs to manage the program and options on how to do so are yet to be determined.
3b – Financial Impact of Regulatory Environmental Changes:
Candidate provided a single answer to both parts a and b of this question – see above
4 – Affordable Housing:
Housing options that are affordable and attainable are an important part of a healthy community. There is a national housing crisis which will require policies and incentives at all levels of government. Specific to the Township of Muskoka Lakes’ ability to spur development, council has undertaken a few initiatives.
For example, within the draft OP, there are polices allowing for pre-zoning of housing developments in appropriate locations, and to allow for the waiving of fees (i.e., permits and site plans). Through the recently endorsed CIP, the Community Improvement Plan Private Sector Incentive Program creates three different funding stream opportunities for appropriate developments; fee rebate, constructions grants and tax increment grants. Community awareness of these programs is set to launch this fall. Through the attainable housing committee there are funds available for fee rebates for different fees (i.e., planning, building).
The goal of the above initiatives is to reduce red tape and timing, and to provide financial support for appropriate developments. The next term of council will want to assess the uptake of these programs and continue to support these and other initiatives.