Endings and Beginnings

In December Council finalised the Township’s 2020 budget and 2019-2022 Strategic Plan.

2020 Budget

South Frontenac’s 2020 budget is 30 million dollars with 20 million raised from taxation: an average 2% increase.

Overall the budget maintained traditional priorities.  the top five expenses are: roads (45%), police (10%), general government (9%), Fire (7%) and solid waste management (7%). For those that look at the budget you will note that general government is 5 million, or 16% of the budget, but approximately half of that is transfers to reserves for future expenses.

The budget details include:

  • A decrease in roadside spraying for invasive species, but an increase in roadside mowing, which has less negative environmental impact and should be more effective in the long run.
  • Reducing the staff proposal to help maintain the Cataraqui Trail, one of our biggest recreation areas, our only truly 4 season park and well used, from 15 thousand to 5 thousand dollars.
  • Deferring the recommendation to install an electric vehicle charging station, the only action directly related to cutting carbon emissions, for further discussion, though it is still in the budget waiting final approval.
  • Similarly, a proposal to hire another planner, needed to improve our monitoring of development, prepare more comprehensive and enforceable subdivision agreements and bring planning control back to the Township, is in the budget but deferred for more details.
  • Establishing a 30 thousand dollars fund to assist with studies on lake health.
  • A larger increase in winter control expenditures than the increase in the overall budget, reflecting the more adverse and unpredictable winter weather in a changing climate.

2019-2022 Strategic Plan

At the December 17 Council meeting a new, streamlined strategic plan was approved.

Attachment 1 – DRAFT Proposed Strategic Plan

Along with being more accessible, the Strategic Plan includes a new South Frontenac Vision statement: “Natural, vibrant and growing – A progressive rural leader”.

The strategic plan includes stronger language on environmental protection but does not include a specific statement on climate change, our biggest environmental threat.  This reflects the relatively few times climate change was mentioned in the public input on the Strategic Plan. Conversely, the community consultations on the Official Plan, including more comments from younger members of the community, identified climate change and three other environmental concerns as four of the top five issues to be dealt with in the new Official Plan.

What’s Ahead in 2020

Council agendas in 2020 should include:

  • Further public consultation on the new official plan, including a Township vision and growth study;
  • A bylaw to control signs on public road allowances;
  • Discussion on using more electronic signs to advertise Township events;
  • A staff report on a climate change action plan;
  • A review of the major items outstanding on the Johnson’s Point Condominium Development; and,
  • A public engagement plan for the Sydenham water system including my comments on one possible approach.

Three other projects percolating are a new seniors housing project in Verona, plans for new Township administrative offices, and reports from the new recreation committees on improving recreation opportunities in the Township.

I want to thank everyone for the thought you have given to Township issues in the past and I look forward to more comments in the future.  Also, thank you for the many volunteer hours you spend and the donations of personal resources you make to community projects South Frontenac.  They make the Township, and the world, a better place to live.

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South Frontenac’s 2020 Budget

2020 Budget Package – Dec 17 2019

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Residents and Species at Risk

Ambulance Shortage

South Frontenac’s Fire Chief’s quarterly reports contain all sorts of information on fire and rescue services in the Township.

In his last report, as it is in most, the largest number of calls that our volunteers respond to are medical calls, that is calls with no fire or rescue component.

I asked the Chief about these calls. The Chief said that our emergency services get called out for medial emergencies when there is no ambulance able to respond within 15 minutes. In the first nine months of this year our services responded to 212 medical emergencies. In other words, South Frontenac residents called 911 for medical help 212 times when there was no ambulance able to respond within 15 minutes. Last year the total number was 243, and we are likely to exceed that this year.

Our fire and recuse personnel are well trained first responders, they do their best and can initiate very valuable, potentially lifesaving, first aid, like control bleeding, administering oxygen and delivering a cardiac shock. Nonetheless, they do not have more advanced lifesaving skills like administering medications nor are they able to transfer a patient to hospital.

One comment at Council was that recent cuts in funding for ambulance services was partially to blame, as are overcrowded emergency rooms, which tie up ambulances.

Regardless, we are still at risk. I presented a motion to council earlier this fall asking the provincial government to maintain, at least, the current level of ambulance services. Unfortunately, it was defeated in a 5-4 vote. Perhaps, if the Fire Chief’s report had come out earlier, the vote would have been different.

Johnson’s Point Species-at-Risk Benefit Permit

There is a new twist in the Johnson’s-Point-development-and-its-threat-to-the-provincially-significant- wetland-and-species-at- risk saga that has been going on for years.

One of the small victories at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) that approved this project was an order that the developer apply to the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) for a benefit permit: a permit that requires the MNR to evaluate the site for any species-at-risk and issue orders to protect, or mitigate, the damage to those species. I have written before about the limitations of this process.

The MNR issued the Johnson’s Point benefit permit this past month with significant portions blacked out. The OMB ordered that the benefit permit has to be incorporated into the conditions of approval for the development, conditions the Council has to vote on. The conditions of approval also guide how site plans for the development are created and how the building department issues permits.

After final approval is given to the project, it is the Township’s job to enforce the conditions of approval. Fulfilling all of these responsibilities seems impossible if the recommendations in the benefit permit are not known.
The planning department is working to have a full, un-redacted version, which has no deletions, attached to the final conditions of approval.

While obtaining the full benefit permit is a work in process, it is one that needs to be completed for the OMB decisions to be honoured and the Township to do its job monitoring the development.

Official Plan Consultation Results

The first round of pubic consultations for the new Official Plan have concluded. 125 people provided input at the open houses and 129 responded to the online survey. The most common words attendees at the open houses used to describe what they love about South Frontenac were: lakes, close to the city, community, rural feel and people.

72% felt that growth should take place in the villages and hamlets. 18% of respondents identified the environment, 13% water quality, 13% the economy, 10 % growth and 8 % for each of agriculture, lakes and rivers and rural character as top issues to be addressed in the Official Plan.

The top five issues that respondents to the online survey want discussed in the Official Plan process are were: natural environment, climate change, water quality and quantity, state of the lakes and affordable housing.

There were many more comments on the challenges the Township faces, the vision for the Township and a variety of other issues. A full list of all comments and further analysiscan be found in the agenda for the November 25 Development Services meeting.

These results provide the basis for initial research and drafts. There will be more opportunity for the public to comment in the spring and fall next year.

 

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Signs of Progress: Roads, Plans, Budgets and Signs

Desert Lake Causeway

After years of promises and consultations, progress has been made on redeveloping the Desert Lake Causeway. The new culverts are in and the road bed is wider. The new boat ramp, while not yet fully usable, looks much safer with the concrete mesh base. It is already a significant improvement. The work will be finished next spring with a separation between the beach and the road way, parking spaces, hard top and a dock by the boat ramp.

The agreement on Council was that the culverts would not permit boat access between Desert Lake and Holleford Lake. At this falls low water level, it was possible to get a canoe through the culverts, though it is tight. With normal summer conditions this would be a difficult, if not impossible, maneuver.

New Official Plan

The community process to write the Township’s new official plan is truly underway.

Close to 100 people came to the Storrington Lions Hall and a further 60+ came to the Sydenham library to learn about the new official plan process and give their initial input. At both meetings people were attentive, asked staff lots of questions, and participated in the opinion gathering exercises.

There were many comments on a wide range of topics. Staff will collate all these, plus information from the online survey, and consider them in their background work on a new official plan.

A casual glance through the responses at the meetings showed two issues that attracted a lot of attention. A desire to protect and improve our water, lakes, wetland and the environment was on many participants minds. Second, focusing growth on hamlets also had broad support.

There will be more opportunities for those who missed stage one to have their say. And everyone will have more opportunities to comment on the concrete proposals as they become available. It will take the better part of two years to complete the process. If you want to be on the contact list for updates please send me a note or contact the planning department.

Repaired Roads

Last winters the many freeze-thaw cycles caused parts of some roads to disintegrate. To address this need about six hundred thousand dollars for urgent repairs and upgrades was added to last summers road work. Murvale Road has been rebuilt and sections of Holleford Road have had major repairs. Thank you for your patience and thank you to those users of other roads where work was delayed by a year to facilitate this urgent work. The last major repair resulting from last winter is the rebuilding of North Shore Road which will happen next summer.

Draft 2020 Budget

The draft Township budget for 2020 has been posted.

Council asked Staff to prepare a budget with a 2% increase over 2019: this draft achieves that goal. Now we have to see what that means in terms of service delivery. That is the work for the next month.

On Tuesday November 5 at 7 pm, there is Council meeting specifically to hear from the public their comments on the draft budget. What should be left in, what should be taken out, and what is missing. If you would like to speak at the meeting please contact the Township Clerk, Angela Maddocks, 613-376-3027. You can also pass along your comments in writing.

Council is debating the full budget at a special meeting on Thursday, November 9 from 9 – 2 in the Council chambers. This meeting is open to the public. Please pass on any thoughts you have; I would be happy to enter them into the debates.

Progress on Signs?

Many people have commented on the “mess”, the “unsightly chaos”, and the “blight on our environment” – take your pick -caused the many signs on Township roads that are fallen over, grown over, tacked to trees, put on Township road signs or simply littering our ditches.

Staff have been asked to report back to the Development Services Committee on how to deal with the mess. The report is expected early in the new year.
Some of the signs advertise directions to events and family parties. Some advertise local businesses and community happenings, all of which seem helpful: though they also can be very unsightly.

If you have comments on a signs-on-public-roads policy, please comment. Do we ban them? Or, are their regulations that could control the clutter and permit the transfer of community information.

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OP, PPS, and Docks

Official Plan Public Input Starts

The first public meeting on the new Official Plan (OP) was poorly attended.  There are two more meeting, please come and tell the Township staff what kind of community you want South Frontenac to be.  Your comments will be reflected in the first draft they produce.

Some issues that will be considered are:  the natural environment, affordable housing, climate change action, bigger but fewer hamlets, agricultural lands, more rural lots, more communal services, and commercial and industrial development.

There are two more meetings: have your say:

There is also an online survey on what kind of Township you want in 20 years. Please fill it in: https://www.southfrontenac.net/en/open-for-business/official-plan.aspx

Provincial Policy Statement Changes

The province has drafted changes to the Provincial Policy Statements (PPS).  These documents outline how development will take place in the province.  Municipalities must work within these guidelines.  They are important.

The PPSs cover: healthy communities, resource management and public health and safety.

While there maybe other significant changes three stood out to me:

1. Under the proposed changes, companies developing an aggregate mine could use rehabilitation measures to argue that the project will have no negative impact on the environment.

This seems to allow an aggregate operator to develop a quarry in an environmentally sensitive area or on prime agricultural land as long as they have a plan to rehabilitate the area when the operation closes.  In other words, companies would be able to dig up a sensitive area, strip the soil, remove the aggregate, and, in the future, replant and argue that there has been no negative impact on the land.

This proposed change would have significant short-term and long-term negative impacts, but it is nonetheless the proposal

2. In a variety of places, the proposed PPS mandates that municipalities develop plans to adapt to climate change. Only once does it mention that actions may be taken to lesson climate change.  It also has a separate section protecting petroleum extraction which could be read to include fracking.

The documents accept that there will be significant changes in the climate, but do not encourage action to lesson the damage from climate change.  This is the “pound of cure is better than an ounce of prevention” strategy. It is neither financially nor environmentally sustainable.

3. The document encourages rural areas to develop communal services, like water and sewer systems. Preference is given to private systems where municipal ones are not “available, planned or feasible”; and feasibility includes a municipalities willingness to pay.

For instance, in a new subdivision or rural land condominium developers would be encouraged to install a private communal water and sewer system.

A few problems immediately come to mind.

  1. It is more expensive for private developers than governments to access capital to develop these systems leading to higher housing prices.
  2. If you had a couple of developers is an area, say around Inverary or Harrowsmith, the services would have different owners and possibly use different technologies making it harder, that is more expensive, to develop a broader community system when that is needed.
  3. As the law currently stands, if any of these private systems fail, the Township is obligated to take them over. The Township’s ultimate liability can be lessened by regulations, covenants, and deposits. All of these require monitoring, and potential legal action, all of which involves more cost above what would be incurred with a municipal system.  And none of which remove the Township’s ultimate liability.

Please read the proposed PPSs on line and comment.  There maybe other sections you find positive or concerning.

Encroachment on Public Lands: Docks

The Township’s Development Services Committee is considering a public land encroachment policy.

Historically, on a case by case basis, private individuals have been allowed to develop on pubic property.  The immediate issue sparking this discussion on whether we need a more uniform approach is the use of the Desert Lake causeway by private, unsanctioned, docks.

The initial discussion focused on a general principle that public lands should be protected for public uses.

When a strong argument can be made, like access to a lot, or historic use of docks for a commercial business, Council could consider granting a long-term lease for encroachment on public land.

 

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Calm Before the Storm

The summer felt like a re-setting time for the Township: the new Chief Administrative Officer started his job, input for the next three years strategic pan was being collected and developing the new Official Plan started. A few other issues were percolating that will also have significant impacts on the Township.

Planning Changes: A Win for Large Developers

Last spring the provincial government passed an omnibus bill, “More Homes, More Choice”. It is not clear that it will lead to more affordable housing, but it will definitely shift planning power strongly in favour of large developers and away from community input and control.

The government has changed the rules Local Planning Appeal Tribunal back to those of the old Ontario Municipal Board which takes power away from local councils: a change that will lead to longer, more expensive legal proceedings, particularly around subdivisions.

The new legislation also shortens the time allowed for Councils and communities to consider new development proposals. Extra reports and community input into both the Johnson’s Point and Hartington developments changed the original developer proposals for the better. Yet this input was not possible even under the longer timeline rules. The situation will be worse with the new shorter timelines.

In our community many residents are away for part of the year: longer timelines are needed to get their input. The number and complexity of studies required for most developments demand time for the community, let alone Township staff and Councillors, to adequately assess them, and get a second opinion if necessary. The legislation also restricts the right of residents and community groups to appeal the Land Tribunal decisions on subdivisions, further limiting public oversight of large developments.

All these changes strongly favour well-financed large developers. The impacts will be felt when new proposals come to Council.

Pyrolysis Proposal

A proposal to turn plastics into energy through a process called pyrolysis appeared on the Public Works Committee agenda this summer.

Concerns about this technology include:

• It burns plastic which produces significant amounts of greenhouse gases in its manufacture and again when it is burnt.
• The technology is very expensive.
• To be efficient it requires a large guaranteed amount of fuel, effectively encouraging more plastic consumption.
• A more pressing and solvable problem is organic waste. Organics make up about 50% of our garbage. Proven technologies that can turn organics into compost or bio-fuel are cost effective, reduce green house gases and can significantly extend the life of our landfills.

Official Plan Redo Officially Started

At the August Council meeting the Official Plan redo was formally initiated. When finished the new plan will play a major role in how the Township develops over the next twenty years.

To be a good plan it needs extensive public input. A good plan will help South Frontenac develop into the community we want it to be.

Writing a new official Plan will take about two years. Your early input early is important. It sets the tone and ensures that the correct questions are answered to create the best Official Plan.

The first series of meetings for community in-put are being held this fall. If you can, come to any one of them:

September 21 – 9am-11 – Glendower Hall, Westport Road
October 3, 7pm-9 – Storrington Lions Club, Battersea Road
October 23, 5pm-7 – Council Chambers, Sydenham

There will also be an opportunity to online input.

Strategic Plan

Council will be considering the community input on our next three year Strategic Plan at a special Committee of the Whole meeting, Tuesday, September 10 from 9am-2. Anyone interested in the discussion is welcome to come. Recommendations from that meeting will go to a regular Council meeting for final approval.

Desert Lake Causeway

After many years of planning upgrading the Desert lake Causeway will start this month. Expect traffic restrictions for a few months. The Causeway will also be completely closed to traffic from late in the day on September 26 to September 29: that is a PA-day weekend for the schools allowing for minimal disruption while the culverts are replaced.

Emerging Items

Committees are considering regulations for cannabis production facilities, dog kennel noise and licensing of docks on public shorelines. Initial reports on these topics are in the August 26 Development Services Committee agenda. 

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