Here from the Muskoka Lakes Association is the February NewsBites.
Courtesy of the Muskoka Lakes Association
Welcome to February 2015 NewsBites
The MLA is pleased to announce that our President, Michael Hart, has met with Township of Muskoka Lakes Mayor Don Furniss, Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith, Seguin Township Mayor Bruce Gibbon and District Chair John Klinck. These meetings provided an opportunity for our President to discuss current issues of concern and interest to the MLA and to provide an update on MLA activities. Michael is looking forward to meeting Gravenhurst Mayor Paisley Donaldson in the coming weeks. The MLA looks forward to continued congenial open relations with all District of Muskoka elected officials.
The MLA reminds all our seasonal residents to reserve Monday February 9th, 7 to 9 p.m. to attend the Township of Muskoka Lakes’ (TML) Community Input Strategic Plan meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn, 3201 Highway #7, Vaughan. Your input is critical to the formation of TML’s 4-year Strategic Plan. TML Mayor and TML District Councillors want to hear what you value most about Muskoka. As well, don’t forget to fill out TML’s on-line survey to provide you input to the Strategic Plan. The press release can be found here.
DISTRICT OF MUSKOKA
Sale of a Portion of Airport Lands – At the January 19th District Council meeting, Council held a very passionate debate on whether to sell, or lease, a parcel of land at the Muskoka Airport. In the end, Council voted 13 to 9 to sell the airport lands. Selling the land and receiving confirmed Provincial and Federal government redevelopment funding and resulting creation of local jobs won out over annual revenue from leasing the land. By selling this land, the development potential for an east/west runway is lost along with any future economic development potential on those lands. District CAO Michael Dubin stated that the District typically sells land versus leasing it and that it will still retain first right of refusal to repurchase the land. Lake of Bays Mayor Bob Young called the vote to sell the airport lands “a tragedy”. For that story click here. Although the MLA supports increased job opportunities in Muskoka, an agreed upon, long-term strategic plan would have been helpful prior to this decision.
Bala Falls Entrance Permits Update – Swift River was before District Public Works committee asking for some minor wording changes to the conditions of their entrance permits. It was noted that Swift River has had difficulty obtaining a Performance Bond. Several delegates spoke about risk management and the importance of setting substantial financial securities in place in the unfortunate event something happened to the District’s assets in Bala; namely on District Hwy #169 and the bridge. A representative from the Wahta Mohawks reminded the committee that the government’s Duty to Consult had not yet been fulfilled. As such they requested the entrance permits be stayed until this has occurred. As their letter stated, “It would be most unfortunate for all should Wahta Mohawks find themselves in a position in the future where there are negative impacts caused by this potential development and we are forced to seek legal redress due to lack of adequate consultation.” Committee resolved to change the Performance Bond to a Letter of Credit for no less than $2 million dollars. This issue will be coming back to District Council for approval later this month. The MLA continues to support the District in taking extra care to ensure District assets are protected. The MLA
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has always been concerned that sufficient performance bonds are secured when private companies, such as Swift River Energy, are undertaking major development projects.
DisPro Owners Association’s Celebration at James Bartleman Island Park, Port Carling – On Saturday, August 8th the DisPro Owners Association will be celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Disappearing Propeller (DisPro) boat. A commemorative blue and gold Ontario Heritage Trust plaque will be erected at the former home of Billy Johnson, the inventor of the Dispro, at 95 Joseph Street in Port Carling. These boats were built in Port Carling, at a shop adjacent to the locks, from 1915 until the mid-1950’s. The DisPro Owners Association is inviting DisPro boat owners to attend the celebration in period costume and display their boats at James Bartleman Island Park. District Public Works Committee agreed to recommend that District Council waive lockage and berthage fees for all DisPros for this important heritage event. The MLA hopes everyone will attend this special event recognizing Muskoka’s unique boat building heritage.
New Procedural By-law and Code of Conduct Adopted – District has adopted a new Procedural By-law and Code of Conduct. Corporate and Emergency Services Committee have worked on these policies for the past two years to ensure more accountability and transparency to the public. District Council agreed with committee that it was not necessary to hire an Integrity Commissioner. The MLA endorses this new Procedural By-law and Code of Conduct as a more up-to-date document. The District’s new Procedural By- law and Code of Conduct could provide a strong template for all the municipal councils in Muskoka.
Review of Hydro One’s use of the Pesticide, Garlon – After removing trees and heavy vegetation from the perimeter of their hydro poles in utility corridors, Hydro One uses Garlon RTU and Garlon XRT pesticide to prohibit regrowth. The District is working with the Muskoka Watershed Council to investigate this pesticide and any potentially dangerous effects to the environment, especially the water table. District Chair John Klinck suggested that the District also review the use of road salt and its effects. It was noted that Lake of Bays rejected Hydro One’s use of Garlon. The MLA applauds the District for investigating this potent pesticide. We must all be diligent in maintaining the purity of our watershed.
Discussion of Road Condition Cameras – District Commissioner of Public Works, Fred Jahn, is looking into the use of video relay technology throughout the region to help monitor road conditions. During the winter months streamers can occur anywhere throughout the area. Having video feedback in place would help the District road crews and snow removal contractors target specific areas. Commissioner Jahn said the equipment could be installed on district or municipal buildings near district roads throughout Muskoka, as long as there was access to Internet. The MLA agrees that measures to help improve the area’s roads and keep them clear and safe during the winter months is good. It would be extremely helpful to all of our members, both seasonal members wanting to travel to their cottages in the snowy winter months and our full time resident members for everyday travel.
TOWN OF BRACEBRIDGE
Bracebridge Council Priorities – Bracebridge Council is undertaking the task of identifying their priorities for the next four years. These priorities are broken into four strategic objectives: a vibrant, prosperous and economically sustainable community; a green, mindful and environmentally sustainable community; an
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engaged, healthy and socially sustainable community; and a creative and culturally sustainable community. Although council has many ideas they would like to implement, Mayor Graydon Smith stated that council may wish to ask the public for their feedback as well. The MLA supports public input and feedback whenever councils undertake a review of their Strategic Plans.
The Province of Ontario is reviewing the Ontario Disaster Relief Program (ODRAP) – The province is reviewing its Disaster Relief Program which provides relief for those whose property has been damaged by unexpected natural disasters such as severe windstorms, tornadoes or floods. In April 2013, Bracebridge experienced a severe flood which caused damage to many properties on the Muskoka River. On December 12, 2013, Bracebridge received funding of $1,927,000 from an ODRAP Grant Agreement with the town to assist the municipality in the recovery of damages caused by the April 2013 flood. This review may result in beneficial changes or more stringent requirements. Therefore, taxpayers are encouraged to submit their comments to the provincial government. For the full details, see the press release here. The MLA encourages taxpayers and municipalities to carefully follow this review to determine its potential effect upon their citizens.
TOWN OF GRAVENHURST
New On-line Videos Promoting Gravenhurst – Gravenhurst’s Economic Development and Communications department has produced six one-minute on-line videos that promote the potential of Gravenhurst to investors, visitors and those people interested in moving to the town. The videos show the quality of life provided in the area along with the area’s resources. Mayor Paisley Donaldson states, “We hope these videos will persuade others to consider Gravenhurst to be in their future.” The videos can be found here. The MLA applauds Gravenhurst on their initiative to promote their town and will hopefully draw more permanent and seasonal residents to the area.
A New Three-Session Business Education Series – The Downtown Revitalization Committee is offering Gravenhurst business owners and entrepreneurs the opportunity to attend a three session business education series. The overall goal of these sessions is to help local business thrive and prosper year-round. Most downtown businesses face at least three similar challenges: the ability to prosper 12 months of the year; the ability to capitalize on visitors attracted to the community; and learning how to turn ‘customer service’ into a ‘customer experience’. The first session is entitled “Growing your Business in a Seasonal Economy;” the second session is “Tourism Packaging for Local Businesses;” and the final session is “Building the Customer Experience.” All sessions are free and local business owners and managers are encouraged to attend to learn how the strategies discussed can be incorporated into their business plans. Muskoka businesses struggle to remain open in the winter months. The MLA supports initiates that strive to improve the local year round economy.
Town of Gravenhurst’s Improved Website – The Muskoka Lakes Association uses various methods to keep up- to-date and informed on Muskoka’s municipal issues, agendas, meeting schedules, special events, community programs, etc. Over the last couple of years, the MLA has noticed many impressive improvements to the Town of Gravenhurst’s website. These changes have created an informative and easy-to-manoeuvre website. The home page is attractive and headlines the major issues of interest up-front. The drop-down menus make
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finding what you’re looking for incredibly easy. The MLA would like to compliment the Town of Gravenhurst on such a successful revamp of their website. Thank you and well done!
Seguin Councillor, Jack Hepworth’s Monthly Report – Councillor Hepworth’s February 2nd report can be found here. The month’s topics include detailed information on Seguin’s 2015 Budget which is expected to come forward to Council for approval in May, the negative impact of road salt on our watershed as discussed by the Muskoka Watershed Council, the new Nurse Practitioner at the Rosseau Nursing Station, and details of upcoming community events. Councillor Hepworth also provides a link to the February 2nd Council meeting. The MLA encourages our members to check out Sequin Township’s February community events and to participate in these fun activities on a February weekend. It’s a great way to beat the ‘winter blahs’.
TOWNSHIP OF MUSKOKA LAKES (TML)
New TML Meeting Schedule – Beginning this March, TML will be embarking on a new meeting schedule. This new schedule will see all TML meetings occur in the second week of the month as follows: Committee of Adjustment on Wednesday, Planning and Committee of the Whole together on Thursday, and Council on the Friday. The MLA sent a letter to TML council and our President, Michael Hart, spoke with Mayor Furniss about this issue, requesting that finalized meeting dates provide an opportunity for our seasonal members to attend important council and planning meetings. Council meetings will still be held on Fridays which gives our seasonal residents an opportunity to attend by taking a long weekend. However, Planning and Committee of Adjustment meetings are mid-week. Note these meeting date changes take effect in March.
TML Deputy Mayor and Acting Deputy Mayor Announced – Mayor Don Furniss has announced the new Deputy Mayor is Ward C Councillor Jean-Ann Baranik and the Acting Deputy Mayor is Ward A Councillor Donelda Kruckel. The MLA congratulates Councillors Baranik and Kruckel on their new positions.
Chair and Liaison Appointments – With a new Mayor and Council come many changes. Unlike previous councils, this new Council passed a motion to appoint Council Departmental Primary and Secondary “Liaisons” to replace previous Chair and Vice-Chair positions with the exception of the Planning committee. A further change passed that established a monthly rotating schedule of councillors that will take turns chairing the Committee of the Whole meetings. The MLA congratulates all TML Councillors on their new positions and wishes them much success.
TML Comprehensive Zoning By-Law – The Planning Committee heard one delegation at their January 19th meeting. Mr. Greg Knight proposed less restrictive policies on those properties zoned WC1 (Waterfront Commercial). Although Mr. Knight had worked directly with TML Director of Planning David Pink to draft some new WC1 policies, the committee decided to leave the by-law’s existing policies in place. The Zoning By-law will be on the February 13th Council agenda where it is expected to be adopted. The MLA will be attending the February 13th Council meeting. We remind our members who wish to make any final suggestions or recommendations to this by-law to have their delegation requests in to TML by 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb 6th.
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Bala Falls Update – TML Interim Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Clayton Harris produced a staff report in response to the previous month’s delegates and their specific ‘asks’ regarding Swift River’s proposed North Bala Falls hydro project. In his report Mr. Harris outlined courses of action the Township could take, but stated, “The Township is in an awkward position as we don’t have any real authority over this project.” One of Mr. Harris’s recommendations was to endorse the suggestion made by Swift River that a working committee be formed. Mayor Furniss suggested its makeup include himself, Councillor Sandy Currie, Councillor Linda Barrick-Spearn, TML CAO, 4 representatives from Swift River Energy Ltd., an independent from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and an independent Chair. The CAO was directed to draft two letters; the first to the province requesting that a portion of the province’s revenue from the hydro plant be shared with the municipality, the second to Transport Canada inquiring about their assessment of the impact on marine navigation on the Moon River, the high risks of flooding on Lake Muskoka and potential encroachment and land ownership issues. These draft letters and the final composition of the working committee will be back for further discussion at the February 13th Council meeting. Mr. Harris’s staff report can be found here starting on page 17. The MLA will be present at the February 13th Council meeting.
Proposed Solar Wind Farm for Windermere – Skypower Global have approached TML with a proposal to install solar farm on 1691 Windermere Road. The proposed development would occupy approximately 77 acres of land and produce about 8 megawatts of electricity. The solar farm would consist of a substation as well as a 30 metre tall communication tower and eight pad mounted transformers set amidst the solar panel area. A 50 metre buffer is proposed along the two creek beds that are located on the property. As this project is under the Green Energy Act, it is exempt from the Planning Act process. Regardless, the applicant must consult with the municipality. A public meeting will be scheduled prior to May 2015 to receive comments from the public. The MLA plans to attend the public meeting. We are very interested in hearing what the residents of Windermere have to say about this new Green Energy initiative in their community.
Muskoka Watershed “Living in Cottage Country Handbook” – Dr. Peter Sale, President of the Muskoka Watershed Council, was at the January 20th TML Council meeting. In addition to his request for funding to help develop environmental educational and stewardship material, Dr. Sale reviewed their accomplishments. One accomplishment in particular drew our attention. The Muskoka Watershed Council has produced a handbook entitled “Living in Cottage Country”. This publication is directed toward home owners/cottagers, builders and contractors. It explains Muskoka’s regulations, guidelines and by-laws and why they exist. They are currently working with Muskoka realtors asking them to gift a copy of this handbook to all new purchasers of property in Muskoka. Single copies are for sale to anyone for $20.00. Information on how to obtain a copy of the handbook can be found on the Muskoka Watershed Council’s website found here. The MLA thinks this is a handy reference guide.
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Do you have a ‘Big Idea’ on how to make Muskoka better?
Do you have a vision of how Muskoka should look in the future and how to make that happen?
Metroland’s Muskoka Region newspaper asks whether you think urban growth is the key to Muskoka’s future, with better services and jobs, leading to an economy of plenty for all in Muskoka, or whether you believe that would turn Muskoka into a clone of southern Ontario towns where urban sprawl is the name of the game; where you can turn a blind eye to the environment.
Whatever your idea or vision is, Muskoka Region newspaper wants to hear from you. Email Pamela Steel at firstname.lastname@example.org and let your voice be heard.
To include your idea and to view others please click here.
Thinking of heading north to check on that cottage roof? Don’t forget to check the Weather Network’s local weather forecast here.