We are almost there – part of the way through March. Lots of snow, ice and cold, but things will look very different in just a few weeks. Here from the Muskoka Lakes Association is the March NewsBites.
Courtesy of the Muskoka Lakes Association
Welcome to March 2015 NewsBites
The MLA is pleased to inform our members that we will be presenting the MLA’s 2014 Water Quality Initiative Report to Bracebridge, Sequin, Gravenhurst, and Township of Muskoka Lakes councillors over the next two months. Water Quality Director Andrew Watson presented our report to District Council on February 17th. “Our water is in very good shape. I think we should be proud of the water quality in Muskoka,” said Watson. But he noted a slight increase in phosphorus levels and E. coli bacteria spikes in some areas, especially near the community of Minett on Lake Rosseau. MLA representatives will be investigating this further with stakeholders. The full Water Quality Initiative Report can be found here . The MLA heartily thanks all of our 100 plus volunteers who make time on precious summer days to take water samples. Without you, the MLA could not continue this important activity.
DISTRICT OF MUSKOKA
Muskoka Mayors Meet with Minister of Health – Brcebridge Mayor Graydon Smith, Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison and TML Mayor Don Furniss met with Minister Eric Hoskins on February 24th to discuss hospital services in both Bracebridge and Huntsville. The Mayors stressed the importance for continued support for the delivery of a full range of emergency, inpatient and surgical services at both hospitals. See the following story here . The MLA has had, and will continue to have, discussions with Mayor Graydon Smith on this important topic. While discussions are ongoing, the MLA is endorsing the Mayors’ position that both hospitals continue to operate as at present.
Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) is asking for your input – MAHC is currently drafting a long-term, sustainable model for health care in Muskoka and wants your input. As part of this planning work, different models for future service delivery are being considered. Can MAHC continue to operate two acute care sites in Bracebridge and Huntsville? Could one brand new hospital at a new Muskoka location replace both? Can services be provided at one site or the other, but not both? These are the models that MAHC is grappling with. They will be holding 3 community information sessions on March 23rd, 24th and 25th to engage Muskoka residents, both permanent and seasonal, in this long-term planning process. The Board of Directors welcomes all constructive input to help inform the final report that will be brought to the Board recommending the future model of health care in Muskoka. For more information on these sessions click here. To read MAHC’s letter to residents, click here. The MLA encourages all our members to try to take part in one of these important sessions. As our population ages, hospital services will be in greater demand.
Bala Falls Entrance Permits Update – At the last District Council meeting Council heard delegations from Bala Falls’ activist Peggy Peterson and Swift River Energy Ltd.’s (SREL) Vice President Frank Belerique regarding Swift River’s request for entrance permits in Bala. Council adopted District Public Work Committee’s recommendations to grant Swift River entrance permits which will allow SREL, once all their conditions are met, access to construction areas for their proposed hydro project. The MLA will attempt to keep our members apprised of any construction ‘start-up’ dates.
MTO Winter Maintenance Falls Short in Muskoka- If you’ve driven in and around the Muskoka area this winter you’ve probably noticed poor road conditions at times, especially on Highways 11 and 400. At the last District Public Works Committee meeting the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) Maintenance Superintendent Tom Lumley admitted there are issues with Carillion – Muskoka’s roads service provider. Concerns with poor service during the winter months include slow deployment, circuit time and getting out in advance of a storm. MTO representatives left District Council with a resolution to take immediate action to improve winter maintenance on Highways 11 and 400. They have also been asked to look at statistics concerning motor vehicle collisions in Muskoka to determine whether winter maintenance under Carillion is impacting safety on the roads. For more information on the meeting click here. The MLA is pleased the District is pushing for better maintenance of Muskoka roads. Safety is always a prime concern as is value for our tax dollars.
TOWN OF BRACEBRIDGE
Live Streaming of Bracebridge Municipal Meetings – On March 3rd at 9 a.m. the Town of Bracebridge began its one-year trial webcasting of municipal meetings at www.bracebridge.ca. Meetings will be streamed live and are available to be viewed at a later date if you missed one. The media release can be found here. The MLA is pleased that Bracebridge has undertaken this important step in keeping their residents informed of all municipal issues. The MLA looks forward to viewing their meetings on-line. Thank you for providing this new service!
2015 Draft Budget – According to a local newspaper, “Bracebridge council is tapping into their reserves to avoid tapping into taxpayers’ wallets. In 2014 council started tapping into their reserves taking their reserves from $9.4 million to $8.6 million and they intend to do the same thing in 2015”. Infrastructure funding appears to be the main area of concern. The full story can be found here. The 2015 draft Budget can be found here. The MLA will be reviewing the draft Budget and may be providing comments to the Town.
TOWN OF GRAVENHURST
‘Mayor’s Minute’ Video – This ten minute video with Mayor Paisley Donaldson is well worth a listen. The Mayor covers topics such as the 2015 Budget, Gravenhurst Winter Carnival, funding for the Muskoka Airport and the search for a new Town CAO. The video can be found here. The MLA congratulates Mayor Donaldson and Town staff on this new initiative. The Mayor provides a friendly, personal update on local events and council issues. The MLA is always supportive of increased communications from our Muskoka elected officials to their permanent and seasonal residents. Well done!
2015 Draft Budget – The 2015 draft Budget was presented to Gravenhurst Council on February 17th. The Town’s press release states: “Tax rates on residential property are projected to increase by 5.2%. The increase on non-residential properties is projected at 3.2%. The estimated financial impact on the ‘average’ Gravenhurst rural residential property tax bill will be an increase of $100 per year based on a median assessment of $217,250. The urban residential property tax estimated increase on a similar assessment will be $133 per year.” Council is welcoming your input. Budget deliberation meetings take place in Council Chambers throughout March with an expected adoption date of March 27th. For details on the budget and a list of special budget deliberation meeting dates, please click here and here. The MLA will be reviewing the draft budget and may be providing comments to Gravenhurst Council.
Gravenhurst’s Economic Development Team is looking for Your Input – Gravenhurst and the Muskoka Region offer a unique work-life balance with opportunities for home-based businesses or telecommuting. Gravenhurst is currently designing new creative branding for the town and are asking for your feedback. This new branding program is designed to reach out and remind individuals of the benefits of living in Gravenhurst. The Market Research survey can be found here. If you complete the survey, your name will be included in a draw for prizes. Deadline is March 16th, 2015. The MLA is pleased to pass along this survey to our members and hope you take the time to fill it out. Helping our local towns grow is important for all of us.
Rick Mercer Attends the Gravenhurst Winter Carnival – TV celebrity Rick Mercer attended this year’s Gravenhurst Winter Carnival. For the local news story and some fun pictures click here. Note -‘Rick Mercer Report’ aired the Gravenhurst Winter Carnival segment on Tuesday, March 3rd at 8 p.m. on CBC. To visit his website click here.
Seguin Councillor, Jack Hepworth’s Monthly Report – Councillor Hepworth’s March 2nd report contains the following: request for feedback regarding your internet usage for a funding opportunity; the MTO is currently reviewing their ATV statutory regulations and would like your input – note deadline is April 13th, 2015; waste and recycling management 2014 Year-end Report; and links to Seguin Township’s meeting agendas. All this can be found here . Once again the MLA thanks Councillor Hepworth for providing his report and allowing the MLA to forward it to our members. In addition, the MLA wishes Councillor Hepworth a quick recovery from his surgery.
TOWNSHIP OF MUSKOKA LAKES (TML)
TML Hires both a Treasurer and an Interim Director of Public Works– Mr. Len Troup, previous TML Director of Public Works, has been rehired by TML on an interim basis until a permanent Director of Public Works can be hired. TML has hired Ms. Shannon Johnston as their new Treasurer. The MLA is pleased TML has finally hired a Treasurer to replace Mr. Steve Rettie, who moved to Bracebridge in late 2014 to become the Town’s new Treasurer. The MLA would like to welcome Ms. Shannon Johnston and wish both Len and Shannon much success in their positions.
New TML Meeting Schedule – In January TML Council had proposed a new meeting schedule. At the February Council meeting this new schedule was voted down. Although the April and May meetings will return to the old regular meeting schedule, March meetings will occur in the proposed January format. It is understood that this issue will be coming back to council in May for further discussion with the hopes that the new schedule proposed in January can be adopted. For clarity, the March schedule is as follows: Committee of Adjustment (COA) – Wednesday March 11th, Planning Committee of the Whole (COW) and COW – Thursday March 12th, and Council – Friday March 13th. The MLA had previously requested that allowances be made in the meeting schedule to easily allow the seasonal population to attend and delegate at TML meetings. It is hoped that this issue can be settled soon to avoid further confusion to its citizens.
TML Comprehensive Zoning By-Law 2014-14 – TML’s new Zoning By-law 2014-14 was passed at the February 13th Council meeting. MLA Director Al Moran, acting as a private citizen and not on behalf of the MLA, spoke about the need to bring TML into conformity with the District and Township Official Plans regarding the 100 foot septic setback from the water. MLA Director Anne McCauley also spoke stressing the need for this. On a vote of 6 to 3 TML Council passed the by-law without making this much needed change. Any person or agency may appeal this By-law 2014-14 to the Ontario Municipal Board by filing a notice of appeal setting out the objection to By-law # 2014-14 and the reasons in support of the objection with the Clerk of The Corporation of the Township of Muskoka Lakes not later than 4:00 p.m. on the 17th day of March 2015. See here for details. The MLA will be reviewing all our previous submissions to TML and will be deciding whether or not to appeal this by-law.
Bala Falls Update / New ‘Working Committee’ – At the February 13th TML Council meeting TML Interim CAO Clayton Harris had prepared a staff report for Council’s consideration regarding establishing a ‘Working Committee’ with Swift River Energy Ltd (SREL). SREL’s VP Frank Belerique was present to request the approval of this committee in order to have dialogue regarding widening Hwy 169 to provide a construction lane and leasing TML lands for staging in lieu of using Margaret Burgess Park. Council determined that staff could deal with entrance permits on TML property. Some councillors disagreed entirely with the formation of this working committee. After a spirited debate, TML Council voted 5 to 4 in favour of establishing a working committee comprised of TML Interim CAO Clayton Harris, 2 members of SREL – Karen McGhee and Frank Belerique, 3 TML council reps – Deputy Mayor Jean-Ann Baranik (Ward C), Sandy Currie (Ward A) and Linda Barrick-Spearn (Ward B), a rep from MNRF and an independent Chair – Bracebridge lawyer Mike Fitton. The MLA continues to follow this issue. At a special meeting on February 5th, the MLA board confirmed its opposition to the proposed hydro plant at Bala Falls. A letter communicating our opposition was sent to our membership, interested stakeholders, such as the Wahta Mohawk community, Williams Treaty Nations, and local cottager associations, local municipal governments, local media and the Ontario Minister of Energy and the Premier of the Province.
Proposed Solar Farm for Windermere – This is a reminder to all interested parties that Skypower Global will be hosting two public meetings – Wednesday March 11th and Thursday March 12th at the Windermere Community Centre from 6 to 8 p.m. to receive public input regarding their proposed solar farm. The proposed development would occupy approximately 77 acres of land and produce about 8 megawatts of electricity at 1691 Windermere Road. 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. The MLA has identified some potential concerns with this project and will be attending one of the public meetings.