Who’s In-Charge, Anyway?

Residents concerned about the Johnson’s Point Condominium development took videos of areas on The Point that appear to have been cleared.

The conditions of approval for the development state that: “all vegetation, with the exception of invasive species, shall be retained and maintained in their natural state within 30m of all water bodies”.

If what the videos show is correct the developer would be in violation of the development’s conditions of approval.

The residents brought their concerns to South Frontenac Council. Since the County has final approval authority for condominiums, Council passed a motion asking the County to investigate “a possible violation of the conditions of approval for the Johnson’s Point development”.

In response the County referred to a legal opinion that argued it was not possible to change the Conditions of Approval, an issue unrelated to the motion.   Second, the County used a letter which clearly states that the Conservation Authority has no “regulatory” role regarding the OMB agreement, and that compliance “rests with the principal approval authority” – in this case Frontenac County Council – to argue that any clearing had not damaged the wetland.  Based on these two opinions the County dismissed the resident’s concerns.

The Township flipped the residents’ concerns to the County, the County punted them to the Conservation Authority and there was still no clear answer. This is a recurring question at both Council and the Committee of Adjustment: who ensures that conditions for a development, that have been set in consultation with the community, and approved by a democratic authority, are carried out.

Township Council asked for a legal opinion on that point.  The Township’s lawyer’s response is item 7(a) in the May 15 Council Agenda.

One take-home message is that the Township has a role in overseeing the Conditions of Approval since the Township has to send to the County a recommendation on how well condominium and subdivision developments have met the conditions of approval.

The County should be monitoring the developments since it has to give final approval.  The residents are paying for two levels of government to oversea developments and yet it is hard to get a straight answer to a concern.

There will be more to come on this issue and Johnson’s Point, including at the May 15th Council meeting.

Speed Bumps

The Public Services Committee is preparing to bring a report to Council on the use of speed bumps to slow down traffic on secondary roads.  Their preliminary draft contains these criteria for the use of speed bumps: no arterial roads, no gravel roads and a traffic and speed analysis must be undertaken that warrants temporary traffic calming.

Speeding is probably the most common concern in the Township.  Any comments on what the Township should do?

Public Notification Still Lacking

A public meeting for a new four unit condominium on Dog Lake was held on May 9.  The meeting was held in Sydenham rather than Battersea or Seely’s Bay, either of which would have been more accessible to the directly affected residents.

The notification given for the public meeting was the minimum required under the Planning Act, 20 days.

Township Council, when it was organizing the public meetings, changed the required public notification to include a large sign at the site, a notification to the public when proposals were first presented and a minimum notification of 6 weeks for the official pubic meeting.  The Township asked the County to use our enhanced notification provisions.  Two years later this is still not happening.

Our Council supported more notification for two main reasons. New subdivision and condominium proposals are complicated, involving many studies and issues, like water is low water areas, proximity to wetlands, and overcrowding on lakes and roads. To prepare adequate comment on these proposals takes time.

Second, expanding notification gives the time needed to notify residents who are away for significant parts of the year and for them to comment. Similarly, many residents have jobs and children and need time to make arrangements to come to meetings.

All of these big projects have been in the works for months, if not years, ahead of the public meeting.  Waiting a few extra weeks to allow the public to comment is not an impediment to development.

Second Annual Lakes and Trails Festival

The Second Annual Lakes and Trails Festival will take place on July 14 at the Point Park in Sydenham.  Events include a bike around the lake, a cycle skills competition, a family bike, introduction to paddling, boat trials, a historic walk around the village and “Music on Mill Street” in the afternoon.  The festival is free and everyone is welcome to come.

 

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Sydenham Main Street Improvement Proposals

The following proposals for improving the main streets of Sydenham were made and prioritized by the residents of Sydenham and the surrounding area.  Residents were contacted for their ideas.  Some were communicated directly to the Councillors.  Others were presented and discussed at a community meeting on April 7, 2018.

The following are community generated ideas for improving the main streets in Sydenham listed in priority as chosen by the community meeting:

  1. Signage – this includes wayfinding signs (for example to the Grace Center, Township Hall, firehall, doctor’s office, toilets, Cataraqui Trail, etc) signs identifying historic buildings and sites, signs on Rutledge pointing to the town center, signs listing community activities and groups, natural history information signs.
  2. Benches – half way between the senior’s centre and Foodland, at the post office, at the Cat Trail. It was also suggested that these could be paid for by a memorial and sponsored bench program identifying standard benches and cost.
  3. Banners on lamp posts. These could be seasonally appropriate, depict historic scenes, be created as part of a contest at the high school.
  4. Public art murals
  5. A working public clock
  6. More access to public washrooms
  7. Planters or hanging baskets for flowers
  8. Attractive light standards
  9. Storefront winter lighting on a theme
  10. Wider sidewalks with more ramp opportunities
  11. A cross walk in front of the bank
  12. A path from the Point Road to the corner of Mill Street and George Street
  13. A walking path from the Point Park to the Library
  14. Cost shared fix up to building fronts
  15. Bike racks
  16. Historic booklets on Sydenham
  17. Light on Rutledge Road welcome to Sydenham sign

 

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OMB Out, Main Streets In and Local Food for All

This is my 41th Councillor report.  These reports have helped me think seriously about Township issues and sparked many interesting and productive conversations.  Your comments on my comments were great.  Thank you.

The OMB is No More

On April 1, no joke, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) was dissolved.

The OMB has been criticized for pro-any-development bias over community interests. It was an unelected board that could, based on a series of technocratic rules, regardless of the local situation and the democratic preference of local Councils, force development on communities.

Municipal Councils will now be more accountable for the local planning decisions.  Council will have less ability to say ‘we had to make this pro-development decision because the OMB would have ruled that way and we would waste tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars’ on an appeal. Council’s will now be more accountable and make decisions based on what is best for the community: at least that is the hope.

The OMB will be replaced by new ground rules and the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). Unlike the OMB, the LPAT would not make ‘the best planning decision’, rather it would determine if the Township acted within its own rules (Official Plan, zoning bylaws, provincial policy statements).  If an error was found the decision would be returned to the municipality for reconsideration. The Tribunal would not replace the original decision with its own, as the OMB did.  More authority would rest with local Council.

A Local Planning Appeal Support Centre has also been established. With its budget of $1.5 million will offer legal and planning help to ordinary citizens who want to participate in matters before the Tribunal.

While it is early in the life of the new procedures, it is possible they will level the playing field a bit between communities and developers and that local Council’s will be more responsible and accountable for local planning decisions.

Main Street Revitalization

South Frontenac is eligible for a grant of $54,140 dollars to revitalize the Township’s main streets. Staff is trying to find a matching grant which will significantly increase this amount.

The money is part of an Ontario government program to help “rural communities attract investment and tourism, create jobs and enhance regional economic growth”.

Council is considering how to spend this money. At this point no decisions have been made.  My inclination is to support sharing this money between the five main commercial hamlets, Sydenham, Inverary, Battersea, Verona and Harrowsmith.

The money can be spent on a wide variety of projects from improving store fronts to landscaping, banners, signs and broadband equipment. The projects can not be large, in terms of expense, but they could go a long way to improving a hamlet.

I have called a public meeting for input on what the community thinks would improve the main streets in Sydenham. The ideas from this meeting and from other comments received will be passed onto staff and Council and hopefully receive support within the budget available.

The meeting on Sydenham’s main streets is Saturday, April 7 at 10am in the Library’s community room.

If all the suggestions can not be supported this time the comments will provide a useful list for other grants and spending priorities.

Support for Local Food Production

The Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC) has produced a report on how to support local food producers.  It was presented and discussed at the April 3 Council meeting.

The report identified a need for a poultry abattoir and suggested that a cooperative and/or a joint effort with the new prison farms might help. Producers also face problems with distributing and marketing their product.

The report identified problems with planning and permitting locally and provincially.  Locally, the Township should be clear on what permits are required before work starts.  There should be no surprises in the middle of an approved project.  Reasonable time lines should be established and communicated prior to the beginning of a development and adhered to.  These problems have been previously identified and Council has been trying to hire a permanent Manager of Development services to address them.

 

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What Would Improve Sydenham’s Main Streets?

Public Meeting
What Would Improve Sydenham’s Main Streets?

Community Room, Sydenham Library
Saturday, April 7, 10am-11:30am

South Frontenac is receiving a grant of $51,837 dollars to revitalize the Township’s main streets.

Council is considering how to spend this money. Your input is needed and important. What would improve the main streets in Sydenham?Some possibilities are:

• storefront improvements,
• accessibility enhancements,
• community energy efficacy,
• benches, landscaping,
• cross walks, pedestrian walkways.
• bike racks,
• wayfinding signs,
• lighting,
• banners, murals,
• telecommunications/broadband equipment.

Use your imaginations. The projects can not be large, in terms of expense, but they could go a long way to improving the hamlet.

The money is part of an Ontario government program to help “rural communities attract investment and tourism, create jobs and enhance regional economic growth”.

 

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Bedford-Portland Road Site Plan

The link is to a site plan PDF for the Bedford-Portland Road reconstruction project.  It is small but can be blown up for greater detail. Please contact me or South Frontenac Public Works if you have any questions.

Bedford Road Contract limits

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Too Many Plants; Too Little Staff

Invasive Species Strategy

Giant Hog Weed, Wild Parsnip, Phragmites, Dog-Strangling Vine, Buckthorn, Purple Loosestrife, Eurasian Milfoil, just to name a few, are uninvited plant guests to our area.  Now what to do with them? The Conservation Authority hosted a seminar run by Ontario’s Invasive Species Council to help municipalities address that question.

Some of the key messages from that meeting were:

  • You need a strategy.
  • It is often not a case of eradication but of control, most species are too endemic.
  • Each area is different, so strategies should be local.

While it was not a message from the provincially funded organization, it was abundantly clear that the province was going to provide encouragement and advice but little, if any, financial help.  In other words, the Township is on its own.

In recent years the Township’s response has been piece meal and crisis driven.  The 2018 budget contains 124 thousand dollars for road side mowing and weed spaying, our two approaches to invasive species control.  This year’s expenses are $20,000 lower than 2018.  By a vote of eight to one Council supported this reduction.

In February, Council passed a resolution to develop a “targeted, strategic and fiscally responsible invasive species strategy” for South Frontenac.  The strategy is to consider concrete actions, like what species are a priority, priority actions, public education and involvement, controls on equipment cleaning, replanting problem areas and the use of summer staff dedicated to invasive species control.

If the Public Works Department does not have sufficient staff to develop the strategy in a timely manner they have been asked to come back to Council with a proposal to contract the development of an Invasive Plant Management Strategy.

30-Metre OMB follow-up

Council passed a motion to produce a fact sheet outlining what property owners need to know on development close to water.  The fact sheet will include the guidelines in the OMB ruling on grandfathered structures within 30meters of lakes, as well as approvals needed and applying to the Committee of Adjustment.

Council has also asked the building department to keep track of the number of permits that are issued to rebuild structures on the same foot print with the same gross floor area within the 30-metre lake protection zone.

Desert Lake Campground

Following the recommendation of the Desert Lake Property Owners Association Council agreed to allow a noise exemption to the Desert Lake Campground for four, 7:30 to 10:30, concerts this summer.

Community concerns about the number and placement of docks has been raised again and will be brought back to the Corporate Services Committee.

Plans are proceeding to redevelop the Causeway this year, probably in the fall.  A public meeting will be held to obtain community input on the plans.

Staff Shortages

The Township is currently actively looking to fill some key staff positions, including a building inspector, a Manger of Development Services and a permanent Fire Chief.  Tom Berriault has been promoted to the position of Chief Building Official.

 

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New Year Blahs and Money

The first month, under Council’s new rules of procedure, was slow.  There were only three meetings: a Council meeting, a Committee of the Whole meeting and a Corporate Affairs Committee.

Rutledge Speed Reduction Hits Bump.

The new rules are partially responsible for the delayed response to community concerns about high traffic speeds on Rutledge Road.

The Public Services Committee recommended numerous reductions in speed limits on Rutledge Road near Sydenham. Unfortunately, they left out the section from Ashwood Crescent to Boundary Road: a concern for many residents.  An amendment at Council to reduce the speed limit on this section was defeated.  A second motion was referred back to committee which does not meet again until after the first council meeting in February.

Part of the problem is that the Public Services Committee reported directly to Council rather than Committee of the Whole.  At Committee of the Whole it would have been easier to identify the problem and change the recommendation before it came to Council. The report directly to Council required formal amendments and motions for any changes.

It is too early to draw firm conclusions about the new rules of procedure but the concern that they shift power away from Council and the public to staff is still there.

Township Investing

How to maximize income from and protection for the Township’s 16-million-dollar reserve fund was up for debate in January.

The reserves are money the Township has in the bank.  They provide operating funds before the taxes are collected allowing the Township to avoid taking short term loans.  Reserves also pay for capital projects, like firehalls, road rebuilds and large equipment purchases. And they are valuable in case of a major emergency: for example, a devastating forest fire or key bridge collapse.

How large our reserves should be is a political question. Some minimums are useful. For example, in the case of a natural disaster the Township is on the hook for the first 3 million dollars before provincial assistance starts. And we need about 5 million to cover our yearly operating shortfalls before taxes are paid.

With the goal of increasing the income from the money in the bank in August 2016 Council established a new investment policy. About 6 million dollars was transferred from the savings account to mutual funds run by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

The mutual fund results were mixed. Over the first year and a half returns were often small threatening underlying capital value.  While the year end results were adequate the decision was made to return the funds to investments that guarantee the capital and issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for investment advisory services.

The Township’s investment strategy will be re-evaluated after the results of the RFP are known.

Township Twitter and Facebook Accounts

The Township set up Twitter and Facebook accounts in January.  You can join both sites and get South Frontenac’s official news at Twitter account: @SthFrontenacTwp , and Facebook: Corp of Township of South Frontenac.

Bedford Road

Ditching for the reconstruction of Bedford Road between Alton and the Sydenham dam should begin in the first week of February. All the construction is scheduled to be completed by July 1, 2018.  Similarly, the Perth Road Fire Hall is progressing well and should be open latter this spring or early summer.

Lakes and Trails Festival

Planning has begun for the second annual Lakes and Trails Festival. Last summer hundreds of people enjoyed a day of activity, local history and community.  The 2018 Festival will be held on Saturday July 14 and feature cycling, paddling, and a historical walking tour.  For more information or to help send me a note.

 

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