Decomposing Organics and Planning

Organic Waste Disposal

South Frontenac’s waste and recycling contracts are up for renewal in 2020. One of the issues is what should be done with organic waste.

Organics waste, as any other waste, fills up our landfills, but it also has two added negative consequences. Decomposing organic waste is the major source of leachate, liquids, which can potentially carry whatever toxins are in the dump into the surrounding watershed.

The second harm done by organics is, when they decompose, they produce methane, a significantly more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. About 12 years ago the Township’s Sustainability Committee found that organic waste in landfills was likely the largest source of greenhouse gasses produced in South Frontenac.

North Grenville, a largely rural township south of Ottawa, says that in 2017 56% of their waste by weight was from organics. Any figure in South Frontenac approaching this number would make organics one of our most pressing waste disposal issues.

At the Public Services Committee staff recently recommended more consistent public education and support for backyard composting rather banning organics from dumps. This approach has been used for over a decade and many residents still organics out with the garabage. Continuing to put organics in our landfills risks increased water pollution, increased greenhouse gases and shorter landfill life.

There would be an added cost to an organic pick up and industrial composting, though Kingston does it. There will also be a significant added cost to incineration, one of the long-term waste disposal options being considered.

The province has also released a new discussion paper on waste and litter. It asks the questions: Do you think the province should ban food waste? [that would be no organic waste in landfills] If so, how do you think a ban would be best developed and implemented? Comments on the province’s proposed approach to organic and other waste disposal issues can be made on the province’s website before April 21.

Provincial Planning Uncertainty

The provincial policy framework that underlies South Frontenac’s planning decisions is currently a bit shaky.

The provincial government is trying to open the province to development. One initiative that received significant attention was the attempt to allow development in the Greenbelt around Toronto. Local opposition forced the Province to remove this piece of legislation.

South Frontenac’s Development Services Committee has passed a motion that the current approval and regulatory process does not adequately protect our lakes and wetlands and calls on the province to strengthen these rules. If this motion is passed by council it will be forward to the government.

The latest provincial salvo is a review of development charges, which may lead to their elimination. Development charges are paid by developers to help offset the costs incurred by increased growth. For instance, they could help pay for a new fire hall, an extra lane on a road, a new ambulance station or an upgraded water system.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario says, “growth should pay for itself”. If these charges were eliminated or curtailed, the costs of growth will need to be paid by current residents, making development expensive for existing property tax payers. Peel Region has recently raised concerns about the possible effect that discontinuing development charges would have on water bills.

The direction of the provincial proposals is to decrease community control over development and to make it faster and cheaper for developers.

There is very little public input into these discussions. The government is taking written comments and consulting key stakeholders on a very short timeline. It is possible that Townships will just be told that these are the new rules that limit your control of development and increase your costs.

It is helpful to write the provincial government and express your support for more local control over development, that regulations need to protect the environment and communities, and that developers should pay their share. I am presenting a motion to Council on April 2 asking for Councils support of these positions.

A Loose Water End

Council has released the details of the second legal case  involving the Sydenham Water treatment plant. It concerned small leaks in the pipes and was settled with a payment to the Township and a confidentiality agreement.

 

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Water Treatment Plant Leaks

Eight years ago, pin point leaks started in some of Sydenham water treatment plant’s pipes. During that time Council dealt with matter in closed meetings. An investigation by the Integrity Commission found that the public should have been notified that litigation was ongoing and given some more information on why. The attached report is Council’s explanation on the litigation about leaks in the water plant: Sydenham Water Plant

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Province Asking for Input on Waste Reduction

The Ontario Ministry of  Environment, Conservation and Parks has issued a discussion paper on waster and litter in Ontario.  They are taking comments until April 20.  It considers a wide variety of issues including,  litter in parks, producer responsibility, organic waste, plastic waste, recovery of materials and sustainable end markets.

Follow this link for the discussion paper: Reducing Litter and Waste in Our Communities Discussion Paper_0.

Comments can be made electronically before April 20th on the Ministry website.

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Baby Steps Forward

Community Support Increased

The Township passed its 2019 budget, 2019 Budget Package – February 19 2019 , with a nominal 2% increase in property taxes. Twenty thousand dollars was added to community grants with the understanding that it would include support to festivals and other ongoing community events and initiatives.

In the past Council has given organizations ad hoc support, like donations to South Frontenac Community Services, New Leaf link and the Inverary Youth Club. Donations to groups were also provided through a small community grant program that was over subscribed last year.

Your input is welcome on how the Township should support the softer services that build community, develop social connections and provide needed services.

Many of us are involved in some form of community group, what is needed? Sponsorships; base funding; grants; more Township equipment, like speakers, tables, canopies, photocopying; or something else you think would help. The discussions are about to start and any suggestions are welcome.

Advisory Committee for Sydenham Water

Council has passed a resolution that a community engagement plan be developed for the Sydenham Water System. The engagement plan is to be in place before any new initiatives are undertaken.

I have asked to make a deputation to the March 21st Public Services Committee on the plan and would welcome any suggestions you have.

As well as more information meetings and input on specific initiatives, one suggestion is that the Township establish a permanent water advisory committee made up largely of those that pay for the system. The committee could meet a couple of times a year and go over reports and policy initiatives, help inform the public and make recommendations.

One of the tensions with the water system is that a relatively small group of people pay for, and use, a service that is controlled by people that do not use it. A committee of users who had ongoing input into the operation of the system might help bridge this gap.

Water System Capacity

One ongoing question has been, how much extra capacity is there on the Sydenham water system? We are closer to an answer.

Utilities Kingston reports, Sydenham Capacity 01-2019, that there are 159 properties currently making full use of the water system. It also reports that there are still 68 properties not connected, 22 that are connected but have no water consumption and a further 29 that are connected with “unusually low consumption”.The population within the service boundary is 695 and there are 20 vacant lots within that area.

Utilities Kingston calculates that, if all the current potential users in the service area made full use of Township water a further 52 residences could be added to the system. This number could be increased if the 290 cubic metres of water that is lost in the operation of the water plant was reduced, or if average water consumption per household used in the calculations was lowered.

These figures are important because they will play a role in any discussion on further development in the Sydenham area.

New Official Plan

Steps are actually being taken to write a new Township Official Plan. Our planning department staff is up a full capacity: two planners and an assistant. There is money in the budget for the initial studies. And, the Development Services Committee is discussing a timeline and process of community engagement. The project is expected to take two years and it will play a major role in how the Township develops for the next few decades.

If you have any initial comments, particularly on how to maximize public input, now is a good time to make them.

Milk Lake Residents Win at OMB

Two years ago residents of Milk Lake challenged a Committee of Adjustment ruling that allowed a new building on a vacant lot to be built 13.1 metres from the lake, within 15 metres of the “top of the bank”, a regulation to protect slope stability, and too close to Buck Lake, a highly sensitive Lake Trout Lake. The ruling took a strong stand supporting South Frontenac’s 30-meter buffer protecting lakes.

The ruling, PL170550-FEB-11-2019-Decision, found the variances were not minor, that the environmental studies did not show that water quality would be protected and that there were other suitable building lots on the property that would have met the set back requirements. Congratulations to those that funded and worked hard on the appeal.

Desert Lake Causeway

Reworked plans for the Desert Lake Causeway rebuild will be coming back to a public meeting for one last round of comment on Tuesday, April 30 (tentative) with the project going out for tenders in June.

 

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Priority Water treatment, Transparency and Engagement

A Peek Through Murky Waters

Council should provide more public information on many items it discusses behind closed doors:  this is the finding of an investigation into Council’s use of closed meetings.

In most cases Council should tell the public the general topic being discussed. This finding relates specifically to a litigation at the water treatment plant that has been ongoing for six years:  a piece of information that is now public thanks to the investigator’s report. This is a second litigation about the Sydenham water treatment plant: some may remember the case involving Tottenham Sims. Up until this point the majority of Council had chosen to inform the public only that it was in litigation.

Second, the investigation found that more information needs to be reported out to the public after a closed meeting discussion.

Third, Council, in the current case, should provide information on why there is litigation on the water plant and some of the basic facts about the situation.  There is a motion coming to the next council meeting asking staff to prepare a report on why the Township was in litigation on the water treatment plant.

The only public reason given for restricting the public’s knowledge was that the information might have caused concern.  It is arguable that situations that might cause the public concern are the most important ones to make public so that rumours can be minimized, confidence in municipal government boosted and community-based solutions found.

The investigator’s general comments were that, when in doubt, the Council should err on the side of openness and make information public.

In the last two years Council went into closed session 37 times without giving information on the general content of the discussion.  I hope that this lack of transparency and openness will now change.

Water Treatment Plant Priority

The Public Services Committee is making the Water Treatment Plant one of its priorities for action this year: a valuable decision given that is still a significant issue and one that divides the community.

Issues identified by the staff for action include: a new water bylaw, well decommissioning, system capacity, a water filing station and hooking up to the system on the sale of a house.

I have moved a motion that a program of community engagement be one of the priorities.

A community engagement plan could include more openness, public information meetings, and establishing a permanent water advisory committee that includes residents who pay into the system.  Any approach will require effort, but it is necessary for the community to move forward on water treatment.

It seems likely within the next couple of decades, if we want more vibrant communities in Harrowsmith and Inverary, both areas with bad water, there will also be a need some sort of communal water supply in these hamlets: and numerous communities might also require sewage systems.  Now is a good time to find a better way to handle these kinds of projects.

Increased Budget for Community Groups

I would like to thank all the groups who took advantage of Council’s public session on the budget to present your priorities.  It helps shape how our public money is spent.

There was unanimous agreement in the preliminary budget discussions for raising the amount of money available to support community groups and events by $20,000.  While the increase is small it is a significant recognition that supporting community organizing leverages hundreds of hours of volunteer time and thousands of dollars in community donations.

Thanks for Supporting Lakes and Wetlands

Thank you to everyone who wrote letters supporting strong regulations protecting lakes and wetlands.  This issue will be coming to the Development Services Committee on February 25 for further discussion.

The 2019 Lakes and Trails Festival

Planning has started for the 2019 Lakes and Trails Festival.  If you are interested in helping out, by volunteering or making a donation, visit the Festival’s web site, https://lakesandtrailsfestival.org/, or come to the next organizing meeting on March 18th.

I hope everyone is a enjoying the snow (before it rains again), and skating on Sydenham Lake at the boat ramp. A big thank you to everyone who is making this happen.

 

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Investigator’s Report on South Frontenac Council’s Secrecy

Last summer I made a request for “…. an investigation of the decision ….. to keep the fact that …[information on the details of the problem that are not yet public]… at Sydenham’s Municipal water facility from the public.  The matter was also discussed at a meeting on July 3 and multiple meeting prior to that date over the last few years. ”

“I wish to distinguish the discussion of the legal proceedings from the fact that here is an issue at the plant.  I understand that the legal proceedings can be protected by the closed meeting provisions [of the Municipal Act] and Council has chosen to do that.  I don’t see any rational for keeping the fact that there is a problem at the plant, the general nature of that problem, and attempts to mitigate that problem….from the public.  I would like to have the appropriateness of this decision investigated. ” [edited for clarity]

The investigation has now concluded and the full report can be read at:

southfrontenac2019

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Politeness and Politics

Happy New year to you, your family and friends.  I am looking forward to working with the new Council in 2019 for a more open, inclusive, compassionate and sustainable community.

South Frontenac Code of Conduct

With politics becoming ever more dysfunctional, South Frontenac is hoping to battle the tide with a new Code of Conduct.  A draft Code was presented to Council in December.  It stems from a provincial requirement that all municipalities have Codes of Conduct and Integrity Commissioners by March, 2019.

A Code of Conduct can be helpful if it facilitates thoughtful, respectful debate, and honesty and openness in government.  It can also stifle debate and opposition.

Overall the draft Code of Conduct’s scope and content encourages positive behaviour among your municipal politicians.  A couple of provisions raises possible concerns.

There is ambiguity in the statement “….to maintain and promote trust in the Township.”  Part of a Councillors job is to question activities of the Township that they think are not in the public interest.  Some would argue that this questioning could undermine public trust in the Township.

For instance, public trust is built by the Township by having proper oversight of finances.  If a Councillor suspected that there was poor oversight, it would be reasonable, if not expected, that they would raise this concern. Calling the Township to account should not be restricted by a possible complaint under the Code of Conduct that questioning the Township’s practices is undermining trust in the Township.

Similarly, the clause “respect council’s decision-making process” has the potential to stifle legitimate actions of Councillors.  For instance, would this preclude a Councillor from supporting a legal challenge to a decision of Council? Or, preclude a Councillor from advocating to overturn a decision of Council.

Finally, the section on conflict of interest and gifts is too permissive.  For instance, it seems to allow a contractor or caterer to supply “volunteer” services to a Councillor when that contractor or caterer could be bidding for Township contracts.

Similarly, Councillors are allowed to receive gifts valued at up to $300.  Even though these gifts would have to be disclosed, that is not sufficient, if they are from a party doing business or potentially benefiting from a Councillor’s vote.

It is important to avoid real and the appearance of improper influence. The debate on Code of Conduct will continue this month.

Development Review and Lake Protection

The Province is undertaking a “fundamental review” of all aspects of the development review process with the intention of removing some of the restrictions and red tape around development.

Many in South Frontenac want properly controlled development that protects our lakes, wetlands and the rural character of the Township.

The approval process for the Johnson’s Point development highlighted the limitations of current regulations.

These regulations allowed 18 units of housing to be developed in the midst of a provincially significant wetland and a candidate area of natural and scientific interest, and on a lake that is already well-developed.

The Environmental Commissioner’s 2018 report  found that the approval process did not give adequate attention to resident’s concerns, nor does it adequately protect 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)

The legislative mandate of the Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry provided, at best, marginal protection for the environment and species-at-risk on Johnson’s Point.

On January 8, Council will be considering a motion to inform the Province about the limitations in the current process and ask for better protection of our lakes and wetlands.

Volunteer Openings with The Township

South Frontenac thrives on the work of volunteers.  They are the back bone of many services and activities vital to the community, including; the Fire and Rescue services, South Frontenac Community Services, New Leaf Link, Perth Road Crafters, the Lions Club and the many community Festivals.  You can also help by being a volunteer member of one of Township Council’s many Committees.

For a full listing of committee volunteer opportunities follow this link to the South Frontenac web-page .  Applications need to be in by January 16.

Upcoming Meetings

Monday, January 14, Township Hall, 7pm – first organizing meeting of the 2019 Lakes and Trails Festival, all welcome.

Tuesday, January 15 – Public Deputations on the 2019 Township Budget.  Comments on how your tax dollars should be spent are welcome.

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