Endings and Beginnings

As the new Council starts its work, two long anticipated decisions on important developments in the South Frontenac, Johnson’s Point and the Hartington Subdivision, were released.

Johnson’s Point

The Johnson’s Point subdivision is a 15-house development next to a provincially significant wetland (PSW) on Loughborough Lake. It was approved two years ago with a requirement that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (MNRF) undertake an assessment of species-at-risk on the point and make orders to protect them, a process called granting a benefit permit.

A general summary of the benefit permit orders was released to the public last month. Despite a broad community interest in a healthy environment and a strong local interest in this development the detailed permit is only released to the developer. This raises questions on how the implementation of the benefit provisions is to be monitored and how they are to be incorporated into the Condominium agreement.

The benefit permit summary suggests that one of these conditions may weaken provisions protecting the shoreline that were already agreed to by the Developer, the Township, the County and the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). This concern may just be an artifact of the general nature of the summary information and is being investigated. The rest of the conditions continue a long tradition of the MNRF’s Benefit Permit system providing, at best, marginal protection for the environment and species-at-risk.

One early sign that there might not be adequate protection for the area’s environment was when the developer’s environmental assessment did not identify any species-at-risk on the point. Subsequent reports found Grey Rat snakes and Blanding’s Turtles. Surveys commissioned by local residents also identified Myotis Bats and Whippoorwills.

A second red flag was when the OMB did not give adequate attention to the resident’s concerns, a fact identified in the 2019 Ontario’s Environmental Commissioners report (page 55).

The report also identified shortcomings in the ‘no negative impacts’ restriction on developments close to Provincially Significant Wetlands:

“For example, a subdivision that is built adjacent to a wetland may not cause immediate negative impacts, but eventually, the cumulative impacts from this expansion, such as road salting, fertilizer runoff, leaking fuels, wildlife predation from domestic cats and recreation overuse (e.g., from off road vehicles and mountain bikes), can severely degrade wetland functions”. (page 25)

Shortly after this report was released the provincial government introduced legislation to eliminate the office of the Environmental Commissioner.

The take home message is that legislated protections for the environment, while occasionally helpful, are weak. It is also important to note that, while far from perfect, there were important gains made in the conditions of approval for the Johnson’s Point condominium, protections made because of local pressure. It is now up to the MNRF, the County and the Township to enforce these.

The Hartington Subdivision

After waiting for the better part of two years the OMB supported the Hartington subdivision, a controversial proposal to develop 13 housing units off of Boyce Road near the K+P trail.

The decision came down to a couple of points. First the development was in Hartington which is identified as an area for growth in South Frontenac’s Official Plan. Second, it was ruled that the controls in the Conditions of Approval were sufficient to protect the community’s ground water and control storm water run-off.

The take home messages from this decision include, be careful what you put in your official plan. If we don’t want development in certain areas, this needs to be said. The Official Plan should identify where and what kind of development we want in our Township. Second, South Frontenac has many areas of questionable water quality and quantity and there is nothing in the Official plan to address these concerns. Third, the importance of enforcement is again highlighted.

Upcoming Issues

Cannabis

Council needs to make a decision by January 22, 2019, on whether to allow retail cannabis stores in South Frontenac.

Please comment: Do you think that Cannabis retail stores should be allowed in the Township?

2019 Budget

The Township’s 2019 draft budget will be released on January 15 and the public is welcome to comment on January 22 though deputation to full Council, or directly to your Councillors.

New Official Plan?

It is likely that sufficient funds will be included in this year’s budget to start a full community-based review of the Official Plan. This is long over due: the last one was done in 2000. The discussions around Johnson’ Point, the 30-meter lake protection bylaw, and the Hartington subdivision indicate that our current Official Plan may not reflect the current views of what want in our Township.

Merry Christmas to all my Christian friends, happy Hanukkah to all my Jewish friends and happy holidays with our family and friends to all of us.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Council Secrecy and Lake Protection

Thank you very much for the continued support.  Over the last few months I enjoyed visiting most homes in the district and talking about the future of the Township.  I hope that your feedback, both positive and negative, and your involvement on important issues will continue over the next four years.

During the election campaign two issues, council secrecy and lake protection, both election issues, were also issues happening in the decision-making world.

The Public’s Right to Know

The Municipal Act says that Councillors have an obligation to make Councils open and accountable.  The Act also gives six, soon to be nine, specific circumstances when a Council can keep information from the public.  Even in those circumstances Council has the option of debating some or all of the issue in public: unfortunately, an option rarely chosen.

A few times in the last year an item has appeared on the Council’s closed session agendas which simply reads something like: “Kurt Pearson – lawyer – verbal.” (October 2, 2018 Council Agenda)

The law is clear that when dealing with legal advice Council can discuss this information in private. While this makes sense in terms of legal advice and tactics. It is also important that the pubic know, at least in general, the topic of litigation.  Without this basic knowledge there is no ability to question the appropriateness of keeping information from the public.  In the case(s) being discussed it seems that there was never a public report on a potential problem: so total secrecy.

New accountability rules require all municipalities to have an investigation procedure for possible misuse of the permitted secrecy provisions. South Frontenac chose to use an “Investigator” connected with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

In this instance I see no reason to deny the public access to the basic facts of the(se) situation(s).  I have asked for a formal investigation of whether South Frontenac Council has abused the secrecy provisions by keeping the topics of litigation private.

The investigation is ongoing and when the report is issued I will report the findings.  This is the first time an investigation of this kind has been undertaken in the Township.  It is a learning curve for all concerned and it will give some indication of how much the law protects the public’s right to know.

5 Feet, 30 Meters and 20 Years

Last July, a property owner with an old one-story cottage, five feet from the shore on a highly sensitive lake-trout lake, applied to the Committee of Adjustment, and was granted, permission to double the size of the cottage, moving it from a seasonal cottage to a possible year-round residence.  I was one of two votes against.

The permission to build a two-story cottage five feet from the lake was related to the OMB decision on replacing an existing building within 30 meters of a lake-shore. Every resident has the right to apply for a variance from the rules of development.  When the rule was no development within 30 meters, variances were for how close to the lake a house or renovation could be. After discussion with the owners, most requests were granted with concessions to protect the lake.

With the OMB ruling the conversation has changed from how close to the lake to how big beside the lake.  The Committee of Adjustment is meant to grant approvals for variances that are minor and in keeping with the intention of the Official Plan and other planning documents.

All property owners also have the right to appeal any Committee of Adjustment ruling.  The results of these appeals will help set the parameters on how big development can be that is close to the lake, but there will be bigger development closer to lakes.

If it happens a few times a year, in 20 years our lakes will look different and the health our shorelines will be more compromised. Instead of slowly improving our lakes we will see a slow decline.

Most people in South Frontenac want healthy lakes. They want natural shorelines, clean water, and abundant wildlife and fish.  A common phrase used by residents is that “we don’t want to be like Muskoka”.  The timeline we need on lake protection policies is 20 to 30 years. A significant question in the Official Plan review is how do we protect our lakes and shorelines?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hard Topping Gravel Roads

At the Perth Road all-candidates meeting there were numerous questions on a schedule for hard topping gravel roads.  There is no specific schedule.  The intention of this Council, and previous ones, is that over time, most, if not all, roads would be hard topped.  The priority roads would be primarily determined by traffic counts and budget considerations.

Last fall the Public Works department presented to Council a list of all the Township’s gravel roads and their traffic counts. The traffic counts in this table are a little uneven and they do not take into consideration the many traffic counts that were taken this past summer.   The table does not have any traffic Counts for Leland Road at the west end where the hard topping ends, which are important to get and will be higher than at North Shore Road.  An updated list will hopefully be presented by December, before the start of next year’s budget deliberations.

Use this link for the table of gravel roads and traffic counts: Attachment B -Traffic Counts Summary 2010-2017. 

In my December 2017 newsletter I made the following comments on gravel roads and the choices for hard topping:

Last summer Public Services suggested a halt to resurfacing gravel roads for five years due to the cost of Road 38 repairs.  After some discussion Council requested a list of gravel roads and their priority for hard topping.  Instead, the Public Services Committee recommended hard-topping Carrying Place Road and Deyo’s/Bunker Hill Roads.

Despite repeated requests, there was no rational presented to support this recommendation. Traffic counts were submitted late in the budget process which supported hard topping Massassagua Road and Burridge Road South.  Carrying Place and Deyo’s/ Bunkers Hill Roads have the third and fourth highest traffic counts.

Early in the process Councillor Sleeth had argued that Carrying Place Road would have significantly increased traffic due to a new approved subdivision. This makes sense but it has still not been provided as a formal rational.

Deyo’s/Bunker Hill Roads do not have the same defense. If the idea is to create another main north south route in the middle of the Township – hard topping will do that – it is not clear that it is a good idea.  It certainly is not one that has been debated and decided.    In 2018, a master traffic plan will be done that should provide an answer to questions like that.  To hard top this lower priority road before we have that advice and decided on its recommendations seems premature.

There is another alternative that may work better for more people. Rather than targeting two roads for the full treatment, Council could increase ditching, drainage, quality of gravel and grading on the many gravel roads that become difficult to drive after heavy rains, which are happening more often.

This key recommendation on roads looks a bit like the backroom politics of old days, rather than the open and accountable government that our strategic plan says we should be working towards and that residents want. What ever policies we support, including in the budget, need to be adequately rationalized to Council and the public and decided through open, informed debate.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Planning, Cost Over-Runs and Offices

Long Time Planner Retires

Lindsay Mills the Township planner for the last 15 years, has retired. Council has retained a recruitment service, “head-hunters”, to find a new planner and Director of Development. If you have planning questions or applications you still take them to the Township Office in Sydenham and, when needed, planning services will be contracted from Frontenac County.

The Old Scofield Camp

An emerging planning issue is development at the old Knights of Columbus camp, the Scofield Camp, at the south end Buck Lake’s South Arm.

Last year a locally owned company purchased the camp and proposed a 16 seasonal-cabin / three family-cottage development. The owner was told by the Planning Department that this proposal was incompatible with the zoning and could not proceed.

The site is zoned Community Facility, a very restrictive zoning which essentially allows non-profit community projects.

This spring some roads were constructed on the site. Subsequently, Township representatives have talked with the owner and reiterated the kind of uses that are permitted. The Conservation Authority has also been asked ensure that the work being done does not require permitting due to its proximity to a highly sensitive lake trout lake.

At this point the expectation is that the owner will work within the limits of the existing bylaws and planning process. If you have concerns please pass them along.

Johnson’s Point

Council recently approved the Condominium agreement for the Johnson’s Point development which, once the developer signs it, sets out the conditions for development and allows the Township to monitor the development. As of July 3, the developer had not signed the agreement.

A notice of motion has been introduced at Council to reconsider approval of the Condominium Agreement at the August Council meeting. There is no reason to rush into approving the agreement if the developer is not going to sign it.

Construction Cost Overruns.

Two major projects, Bedford Road between the Sydenham Dam and Alton Road, and the Harrowsmith junction project, both with budgets over a million and a half dollars, have had some problems.

The Harrowsmith project is $400,000 over budget. Some of the extra cost is due to unexpected problems, some the result of a Council decision to purchase a contaminated property, demolish the building, and improve sight lines at the corner, and some, almost $150,000, is due to a poor design by AECOM, the contracted engineering company.

No figure is yet available for the Bedford Road project. Again, some of the problems stem from a design from a contracted engineering firm that missed a few points.

The priority is to finish both projects before considering if any action for possible cost recovery. Council has also asked the Public Services Committee to report back on why the Township is getting substandard designs, and what can be done to improve the quality of designs used in the tenders.

Township Administrative Building

The Township will likely need additional administrative space in 5-7 years. The offices are already crowed and projected staff increases will make the situation untenable.

A discussion has started between Frontenac County and the Conservation Authority about cooperating on a new building for both organizations. Township Council was asked if they wanted to join these initial discussions and make it a threesome.

Neither the Township Council nor the public has had a discussion on what would be best for the Township. Some considerations would be accessible to all Township residents, the Township’s image, ease of use by staff, integration with other Township facilities, and cost. Among of the reasons Sydenham has worked well as site for the Township Hall is it proximity to the geographic center of the Township, and the beauty and history of the buildings.

Initial discussions suggest the new buildings would have to be on a major road, in the County, and as close to the 401 as possible. This location would put a new building at the southern end of the Township and probably on either the west or east side.

When talks with other parties focus on the potential savings it is easy to end up with a solution that is driven by possible cost savings rather than what is best for the Township. In a straw vote, 8-1, Council agreed to enter discussions on a joint administrative building with the County and The Conservation Authority.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

I am Seeking Re-election

I am seeking re-election as Loughborough District Councillor.  I would like your support.

Over the last four years, I have enjoyed working with you for a more open and informed Township, good services, a better environment, responsible growth, action on climate change, fiscal control, reduced inequality and vibrant hamlets.

There is much more to do. I am committed to being a strong voice for a vibrant rural community.

Together let’s make South Frontenac a community that is open, affordable, sustainable and provides opportunities for our children and grand-children.

Local Control of Local Decisions
Over the next four years we need to gain control of our community’s development.

The majority of politicians who make decisions on subdivisions and condominiums in South Frontenac are not from South Frontenac.  They are members of Frontenac County Council and they are not accountable to South Frontenac residents.

Leaving Frontenac County in control of these important developments favours developers, reduces community input and increases cost.

I believe the people who make the decisions on subdivisions and condominiums should be elected by the residents of South Frontenac. It is only democratic.

A New Official Plan
South Frontenac needs a new community-developed Official Plan. The last full reworking of the Official Plan was almost 20 years ago. It is time.

Everyone should be informed, consulted and listened to.

  • how should we protect our lakes and wetlands?
  • how many hamlets do we want?
  • what kind of development do we want and where should it go?
  • how can we promote local agriculture and food production?
  • how should we respond to climate change?
  • should we have special development rules in areas of poor water quality and quantity?

Residents need to be directing our community’s development.  We need a new Official Plan.

The Last Four Years
In the last four years I have:

  • Opposed the Johnson’s Point wetland development.
  • Supported major new projects for Loughborough: the Perth Road Fire Hall, Bedford Reconstruction, Salmon Lake Culvert, Desert Lake Causeway.
  • Removed the Sydenham water system penalty fee.
  • Worked with Lake Associations to stop 40- ft lake frontage lots.
  • Supported greater funding for community groups.
  • Opposed 15% to 25% increases on large road contracts.
  • Written a monthly councillor’s report.
  • Held constituent meetings in Sydenham and Perth Road Village.
  • Responded promptly to phone calls, emails and concerns.
  • Worked hard for better public notice provisions.
  • Helped organize South Frontenac Rides and the Lakes and Trails Festival.
  • Raised issues of climate change, invasive species and septic systems and worked for local solutions.
  • Focused on lake protection.
  • Fostered thoughtful, respectful discussion of issues.
  • Fought for winter maintenance on all assumed Township Roads.

I look forward to working with you on these and other issues over the next four years.

The Campaign
If you would like to help my campaign you could:

  • Take sign.  Please send me a note if we could put up a sign on your property.
  • Donate.  New rules require more smaller donations.  If you would like to help out, please contact me about a donation.
  • Talk to your neighbours.
  • Vote.  To get on the voters list go to voterlookup.ca.

Thank you for your consideration.  If you have any questions or comments please contact me.

I look forward to seeing you around the Township,

Ross

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment