Much Ado About Talking

Community Consultation

Councillor Ruttan and I held a community town hall in Perth Road village. The discussion among the 30 residents who attended was lively, respectful and wide ranging. I want to thank those who attended. Your input is necessary to make governments and community’s work. Click here to read the meeting notes.

We have taken action on a couple of issues raised and will report to all participants, and anyone else who is interested, in a couple of months. We also plan to hold similar town halls in other parts of Loughborough district later this year.

Disappearing Meetings

Two years ago, Council decreased the number of Committee of the Whole meetings in favour of smaller committee meetings. This change raised concerns that there would be less input and oversight on Township issues from the whole Council, the public and the media.

In February the Committee of the Whole meeting was cancelled; as were the Development Services and, the Recreation and Leisure Committee, and the Corporate Services Committee did not meet. The Council meetings were both under an hour. While some of these cancellations were due to on-off events, most were due to lack of agenda items and continue a trend to shorter and fewer meetings. When the sub-committees do meet, they often discuss issues which would benefit from input from all Councillor’s but are only three Councillors can talk. The sub-committee meetings are almost never attended by members of the public or the media.

It is time to have an evaluation of the new committee structure: the community is not well served by less debate and scrutiny.

High Speed Internet Plans

Currently, only 46% of rural Eastern Ontario meets the Canadian Radio and Televisions Commission’s standard for internet access with South Frontenac having its fair share of these areas. the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) recently updated Frontenac County Council on the next steps to improve internet access. Click to see the slide show: EORN Presentation

The next step is a $213 million investment over the next five years to achieve the goas of 99% cell coverage (10% currently have no cell coverage), 95% with standard definition internet access and 85% high definition access. Of that $213 million dollars, 71% or $152 million is public money.

These coverage targets do not consider that if you live in area served by a Bell tower you may not be able to get Telus or Rogers reception. Similarly, access in areas served by other companies’ towers may be limited. Effectively an individual resident will have less access to internet services, and any benefits of competition, than coverage targets identified by EORN.

Considering that these projects are largely paid from public money it is reasonable that all towers be required to carry all providers. So far, this is not a requirement.

The next step, to increase service to the standard of 50:10 (speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 10 Mbps upload) would cost a further 500 to $700 million. Many new provincial and Federal programs are being applied for.

It is a slow and frustrating process.

Regional Services

Over the last few years South Frontenac has been cooperating more with the other Townships in areas like landfill monitoring and road maintenance. The four Frontenac County Townships have received a 150-thousand-dollar provincial grant to study other opportunities for regional cooperation. The benefits of cooperation are significant, though our biggest potential partner is the City of Kingston and they are not involved in the study.

A goal in all the Townships should also be to also maintain good local public input and oversight of any coordinated regional service delivery. Increased regionalization might require a review of governance.

Wilmer Road Boat Ramp

One of the concerns raised was the safety of the Wilmer Road boat ramp into Sydenham Lake. It was reported that part of the steel mesh had broken. We have written to the Cataraqui Conservation Authority (CRCA), who owns that ramp, and asked them to investigate.

A bigger concern is that with the increasing number of closures of the Sydenham Boat Ramp to facilitate community events (Canada Day, Lakes and Trails Festival, the Sydenham Canoe Club regatta) the Wilmer Road ramp is the only public access to the lake and it needs an up grade. We have also asked the CRCA to re-evaluate the maintenance and re-development plans. The Township may also need to include some extra resources to make this ramp a suitable access to Sydenham Lake.

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High Speed Internet Access Plans

On January 29, the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN), the organization tasked with bringing high speed internet access to Eastern Ontario, updated Frontenac County Council on the next steps. Click here to view their presentation:

EORN Presentation

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February 8 Town Hall Meeting Report

On February 8, 2020, Councillor Ruttan and I held a Town Hall in Perth Road Village to discuss any municipal issue of concern to residents. About 30 people attended and there was a lively discussion that filled the two hours.

The following are the short form notes on what we heard on topics raised by meeting participants. Immediate actions are to give this list to staff for their consideration and to send a letter to the Cataraqui Conservation Authority alerting them to safety concerns with the Wilmer Road boat ramp into Sydenham Lake. More follow-up on specific points discussed will be provided over the next few months.

Thank you to all who attended and participated.

TOWN HALL February 8, 2020, what we heard:

Official Plan
. accommodation of growth
. concern about becoming a township of “exurbs”
. maintaining sense of community
. get residents involved in this community where they live

Property Standards Bylaw
. compliance vs. lifestyle
. who decides?
. diverse opinions expressed
. guidelines vs. open ended
. structure township service
. reasonable – expense
. create positive community feeling
. use of volunteers to help people clean up property if owners agreeable
. Free drop off of “junk” at dumps if clean-up warranted
. education and enforcement
. Is there a number/agency to call to get help with property maintenance?

Septic Inspection
. lake vs. non-lake location
. regular maintenance is pumping every 5 years
. inspection program
. what if some issue is identified?
. rebate on taxes program to help with repairs
. do we know where all septic systems are located
. RFP for pumping tanks
. general agreement that something needs to be done to make sure septic systems are working properly and water resources are protected

Dumping Garbage on Private Property
. who is responsible for cleanup?
. dumping on township property
. possible township bin at Dean Smith and Leeland Road intersection. Is that piece of property Township owned?

Climate Crisis
. concern expressed that the Township is not doing enough
. suggested to work with Nature Conservancy of Canada,
. create parking lots to encourage shared commuter driving
. electric vehicles for township

Political Will
. how do we make sure the public will is heeded by politicians at all levels

High speed Internet
. still a problem, can anticipate increased access if grants applied for through the Eastern Ontario Regional network are obtained

Old Perth Rd Fire Hall Site
. what are the future plans for this site? Township has no immediate plans for selling. Possibility of housing was raised

Water Access to Sydenham Lake e.g. Canada Day
. limited access when the Sydenham ramp is closed
. need to engage the Conservation Authority to fix up the Wilmer road ramp. There is a damaged steel grate.
. Also, no access to Eel Bay for ice fishing huts and limited water access in summer.

Roads
. North Shore Road to be resurfaced
. Perth Road being used by commercial trucks – enforcement and/or limiting this use. Will this lead to widening of the road? Opposition expressed.
. Billy Green and Leeland require work
. Eel Bay Road just past Charlie Green is a terrible piece of road
. who approves new roads being bulldozed on private property which compromise the environment and species at risk

Old Scofield Camp
. What is happening? Would the Township consider buying? Is this a good idea?
. Questioned the inclusion of commercial clubs in zoning.

Communication with Township Roads Department
. a direct line to roads complaint desk rather going through the automated attendant

Seniors Housing and Transportation
. need more affordable housing, though Perth Road may not be the best place for seniors housing
. coordination of services for seniors
. need some sort of transportation service for those who cannot drive

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Protecting the Public: Septic Development

Septic System Inspections

The staff’s next-three-years work plan, accepted by Council, includes “develop cost effective approach to septic concerns.”

South Frontenac residents have had a longstanding concern about contamination from septic systems. These concerns have been heightened by blue-green algae blooms and recent research identifying our area as one of Ontario’s deteriorating-ground-water-quality hot spots, a fact behind the controversial water fights in Sydenham and Hartington.

The Federation of Ontario Cottagers Associations (FOCA) and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) recently held a webinar (view the webinar) that examined existing voluntary, discretionary and mandatory Ontario septic inspection programs.

One of the discretionary programs in the Algonquin Highlands found that 57% of the systems were older than 20 years and about 25% of all systems, and 62% of holding tanks, had some sort of code contravention.

Many of the contraventions were relatively minor, like solids occupying more than a third of the tank or no holding tank haulage agreement: problems often easily fixed with routine maintenance. A few were more serious, like no alarms on a holding tank, and rusted metal tanks.

Key conclusions from the webinar were:

• Education is key to a successful inspection program.
• Voluntary programs do not find the septic systems most in need of inspection.
• Residents fear the cost of needed repairs.
• Many older septic systems are not in municipal records.
• Inspection programs only find deficiencies that already exist.
• Many good programs are already operational.

Developers to Hire Own Building Code Inspectors?

The Ontario government has raised the possibility that developers could hire their own building code inspectors, rather use the ones employed by municipalities.

The proposal is consistent with other changes made by the Province to make it easier for developers to proceed as they like and harder for communities to control their development.

Inspections that are independent from developers allow inspectors to step outside the conflict between a company’s mandate to make a profit and the extra cost of protecting the public. Regardless of how good inspectors are, if the company is paying their salary, when it comes to judgment calls, of which there are many in any program, an inspector who wishes to be called back by a company will tend to make those calls in favour of the company rather than in favour of the public.

There is also the matter of liability. What happens if a building code violation is inadvertently passed by the developer’s building inspector?

I can illustrate this circumstance with a personal story. The first two winters we were in our home there was significant heaving in part of the house. Some investigation found that there was no foundation below grade in one corner of the house. We were the second owners of the house. A letter at the time of purchase confirmed that the house had been passed by the Township’s building inspector.

When these facts were established the Township accepted liability and its insurance paid to fix the problem.

When a house is passed by the developer’s inspector and something goes wrong who is responsible? What if the problem does not come to light until years after the building’s completion? What if the company or building inspector has gone out of business? Do we need to set up a new bureaucracy to police the police and insure them?

The current system provides a focus on public interest, clear accountability and long-term responsibility if an error is made. As with all program’s improvements can be made in the inspection process but these should not include allowing developers to inspect themselves.

Upcoming events

Councillor Ruttan and I are holding a Town Hall on Township Issues for the Perth Road area on Saturday, February 8 from 10am to noon in the Harris Hall. Everyone is welcome.

A group of Sydenham residents is organizing a free children’s ice fishing derby on Sunday, February 16, 10-4 off the Point Park in Sydenham. Register here.

South Frontenac’s Family Day Festivities are being held at the Piccadilly Arena on Monday, February 17 from 10 to 2. Everyone is invited to attend for a free day of fun winter activities.

The first organizing meeting for the Fourth Annual Lakes and Trails Festival is on Monday, February 24 at 7pm in the Sydenham Library Community room. Come out and help improve this community Festival, or send along your ideas.

 

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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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