The Township Watch is the Muskoka Ratepayers monthly publication that is circulated to our membership.  This sample edition is being sent to you by a family member or friend who thought you might be interested in reading it and potentially becoming a member of the Muskoka Ratepayers.  We hope you find the content informative and helpful.

The content below is from the February 2024 edition.

Special Planning Committee

Short Term Rental Accommodation Licensing By-Law

A Special Planning Committee was called to obtain public input on the current draft of the proposed Short Term Rental Accommodation Licensing By-Law – Click Here . The meeting began with Chief Municipal Law Enforcement Officer, Rob Kennedy, reviewing his presentation – Click Here – as well as background on the by-law including numerous Committee discussions, a survey which received 488 responses and two open houses that were attended by approximately 100 people each.

Over the course of the next several hours 48 individuals spoke with in person or online regarding the draft by-law. The delegates raised the following concerns/comments, including but not limited to:

  • cottage rental agencies registered under the Travel Act should not be included in this by-law,
  • there is no demand for rentals before Canada Day Weekend,
  • this by-law is a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito,
  • the money brought into the Township of Muskoka Lakes through tourist rentals is huge,
  • less than 14-day rentals not being included in the by-law means someone could rent for 14 Saturday nights,
  • local businesses will be affected as less people will be in the community,
  • legislation is for oversight and not for restrictions,
  • the Township is penalizing property owners who have never had a complaint against them,
  • Muskoka is not “all rich” nor is everyone on expensive waterfront,
  • the by-law is unreasonable,
  • the costs for a license and inspections are too high,
  • property owners who vet their clients to ensure they are good renters are being penalized,
  • people will flaunt this by-law if it is passed,
  • a system could be put in place that once a property owner breaks by-laws then they must register for a short-term rental license,
  • children under the age of 12 should be included in the head count,
  • property owners who are onsite should be exempt from the by-law,
  • most renters cannot afford to rent for seven nights,
  • this by-law is telling “the world Muskoka is not for you” and “that people are not welcome in Muskoka”,
  • trades will lose business if rentals are limited (ie: cleaners, snow removals, etc..)
  • the Township of Muskoka Lakes does not have a short-term rental problem, they have a by-law enforcement problem,
  • property owners are going to be unfairly taxed based on some bad renters,
  • this by-law will drive people to other municipalities,
  • businesses work hard to extend the shoulder seasons and restricting rentals to a three-day minimum will hurt that,
  • property owners will “go underground” to rent their properties,
  • this by-law will be expensive to property owners and the Township,
  • restrictions in the by-law will force some property owners to sell their properties,
  • this by-law will not control noise,
  • demerit point system is strictly punitive maybe the Township should try to “incentivize good behaviour”,
  • the by-law is burdensome on taxpayers,
  • renters have no concern for neighbours or the community,
  • strengthen existing by-laws,
  • Muskoka is becoming “the wild west” and something has to be done, and
  • the by-law is complicated and onerous.

Upon hearing from the last delegate Chair Bosomworth thanked everyone who had taken part in the meeting.

A resolution was read that staff should undertake a review and analysis of comments/submissions and that a revised by-law be brought back for consideration.

ED Note: The MRA has tried to capture all the comments by summarizing them and not repeating comments.

ED Note: The MRA agrees that this is a very heated topic but were most impressed by how respectful all who took part in the meeting.

Tuesday, February 13th, 2024

General/Finance Committee

Windermere Wharf – Beach Front Hut

Avery Kober, Manager of Operations at Windermere House Resort, explained that Windermere House would like to build a “beach front cabana” on Township property to provide shelter for staff while managing the beach and docking at the wharf. Mr. Kober stated that they hope the hut, which will be built to look like Windermere House, will become a small information centre in Windermere. The hut will be small enough that a building permit is not required, but some site alteration in the form of leveling the area will need to be completed. Mr. Kober went on to explain that racks may be installed to store canoes and kayaks beside the hut.

Councillors Bosomworth and Moyer-Kent questioned what docking fees were being collected. In reply to this question the Director of Operational Services, Ken Becking, explained that through a wharf agreement between the Township and Windermere House, Windermere House collects docking fees for vessels parked longer than four hours. Mayor Kelley questioned if the wharf agreement included the use of public lands around the wharf, to which Director Becking said no. Mayor Kelley stated that if a structure was needed in this area that he believed that the Township should build it and lease it to the wharf manager. Councillors Nishikawa and Edwards stated that they could not support the request as the location is a park where children play. Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, informed Committee that a private owned structure in the suggested location would need to submit a planning application as it would not comply with the Comprehensive Zoning By-Law.

A resolution was read and carried requesting a staff report.

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024

Muskoka Lakes Snow Trails Association

Manager of Parks, Recreation and Facilities, Corey Moore, explained to Committee that multiple meetings had been held with the Muskoka Lakes Snow Trails Association (MLSTA), the District of Muskoka and Township staff. When they delegated to Committee in December 2023 (Township Watch – December 2023) the MLSTA had three asks of the Township: support with maintenance, a permanent base for operations and a budget request. Mr. Moore stated that the Township can provide maintenance support by leaving snow in certain areas so the MLSTA can groom it, as well as provide support with “brushing”. In regard to a permanent base for operations the Township reviewed some municipal property locations, but none were a suitable option for the MLSTA. The District of Muskoka has agreed to provide a letter to the MLSTA stating that they will extend the MLSTA lease on their lands, which will allow the MLSTA to apply for grant monies from the Province. Lastly, the MLSTA had a budget request of $20,000.00 which Mr. Moore explained would be coming forward in the 2025 budget.

Councillors Zavitz and Roberts voiced concerns the application for Provincial grants deadline was approaching and the letter from the District has not been received by the MLSTA. Director of Operational Services, Ken Becking, stated that it was his understanding that the letter has been drafted and is awaiting Commissioner Steele’s signature at the District.

This item was for information and no resolution was read.

Speed Limit on Mortimer’s Point Road

Councillors Nishikawa and McIntyre brought forward a resolution asking that the speed limit on Mortimer’s Point Road from Muskoka Road 169 to Eveleigh Road be reduced to 30 km an hour, and that trucks be prohibited on the same stretch of roadway for public safety reasons. Councillor Bosomworth felt that a speed reduction along the entire length would have unintended consequences, but stated he would support the speed reduction in the area where cottages are located on one side of Mortimer’s Point Road and docks on the other side. Director of Operational Services, Ken Becking, stated that he believed that a speed reduction will not increase safety but reduce it as people will not obey the speed limit and pedestrians will have an unreal expectation of safety. Mr. Becking pointed out that the Township had made the same request to the District of Muskoka, who is the road authority on Mortimer’s Point Road, two years ago and the District determined that the 50 km an hour speed limit was acceptable. Mr. Becking further explained that restricting trucks on the road would mean all trucks, and that would not be appropriate. Councillor Roberts suggested that perhaps a 40 km an hour speed limit might be more appropriate. Chair Mazan felt there was not support for the resolution as it had been read and suggested that the wording be amended to include a request that the District do an “operational review of safety measures” on Mortimer’s Point Road.

The amended resolution was read and carried.

Licensed Cannabis Retail Stores

As reported in the January 2024  Township Watch, a lengthy discussion was held to allow cannabis retail stores in the Township following a delegation requesting permission to open a retail cannabis location in the Township in December 2023 – Township Watch – December 2023. This item was brought forth by Councillors Zavitz and Roberts who felt that the Township was missing an economic benefit by “opting out”. Councillors agreed with that allowing cannabis retail locations in the Township would support economic development.

A resolution was read to inform the Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission that the Township wants to “opt in” to allow cannabis retail locations in the Township of Muskoka Lakes. The resolution carried nine to one in a recorded vote. Councillor Edwards voted against the resolution as there is no provision for the Township to be able to limit the number of stores or comment on where stores can be located.

Council

Update on Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare

Mayor Kelley provided Council with an update on Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC). Mayor Kelley explained that all the District’s Mayors and CAO’s sit on the “local share committee” for MAHC. At the local share committee meeting on January 26th a new model for the two Muskoka hospitals was unveiled. This model did not include two full service acute care hospitals, but two hospitals with Huntsville being allocated 139 beds and full services while the Bracebridge/South Muskoka hospital being described as an ambulatory care centre with 14 beds. Both sites would have full emergency rooms, but Bracebridge/South Muskoka would be used for day surgeries and Huntsville for longer stays. Prior to this model being released to the public, doctors in South Muskoka who were feeling “very vulnerable” released a letter on social media calling for residents from the Township of Muskoka Lakes, Bracebridge and Gravenhurst to protest the new model as according to them those in South Muskoka would not receive adequate care. Several “Community Chats” have been hosted by MAHC where loud opposition to this plan has been heard. At times behaviour has become disruptive and disrespectful.

Although they do not have any jurisdiction, CAO Hammond, Mayor Kelley and the Mayors of Bracebridge and Gravenhurst have been working together in an attempt to bring MAHC and the doctors together. A meeting was held with MAHC on Monday, February 12th, and a meeting is scheduled with the doctors on Friday, February 16th, 2024. The goal is to de-escalate the situation and try to find some common goals.

According to Mayor Kelley MPP for Muskoka/Parry Sound, Graydon Smith, spoke to the Minister of Finance and there is still time to reach a solution.

This item was for information and no resolution was read.

ED Note: The MRA has attended three of the MAHC meetings and would like to congratulate Mayor Kelley and others involved in the meeting that was held in Port Carling. The meeting was respectful and disruptions that occurred in other venues did not occur in the Township of Muskoka Lakes.

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024

Comprehensive Zoning By-Law Update

Manager of Planning, Bryce Sharpe, informed Council that following a recommendation from the Planning Committee in January 2024 he was before Council asking that Terms of Reference for an update to the Township’s Comprehensive Zoning By-Law be approved. And further, that staff be authorized to prepare a Request For Proposal for consulting services to complete the update. Mr. Sharpe stated that he was excited to proceed with this project.

Councillor Moyer-Kent questioned why a consultant was required for the update. Mr. Sharpe explained that although he and the Director of Development Services and Environmental Sustainability, David Pink, do have the expertise to complete the project a consultant is required due to the scale of the project. Mr. Sharpe further explained that the update of the Comprehensive Zoning By-Law will be time consuming and require a lot of effort and as well staff also have their daily work to complete in the Planning Department. Mr. Pink explained that the Planning Committee will be “heavily involved” with this process, there will be a “kick off meeting” prior to background work and research being completed, and then a draft will be brought forward.

A resolution to support staff’s recommendation was read and carried.

2024-2028 Strategic Plan Update

CAO, Derrick Hammond, reminded Council that in December 2023 Council approved an update to the Township’s Strategic Plan. The Township completed a Request For Proposal and staff were recommending that the project be completed by Strategy Corp Inc, at the cost of $72,407.00 plus HST.

A resolution to reflect the above was read and carried.

Planning Committee

Administrative Monetary Penalty System Policy

Chief Municipal Law Enforcement Officer, Rob Kennedy, was before Committee with a mandatory policy for the Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS). According to the agenda package the policy included four specific items:

  • a definition of “political interference” to keep that from occurring,
  • guidelines and procedures preventing conflict of interest,
  • a process for relief if financial hardship is claimed, and
  • a process for complaints to be files for AMPS.

Although the first three items are in separate policies, legislation requires that they be in one specific policy for AMPS.

A resolution was read to accept the policy and carried with no discussion.

Thursday, February 15th, 2024

The MRA has been attending the hospital
“Community Chats” and is watching the situation
on behalf of our members.