The More it Changes: The More it Stays the Same

COVID use Exposes Development Pressures

Many residents have commented on the increased number of local residents and visitors on the township’s trails and lakes.

And it may go higher. BlogTO has identified the Frontenac’s as one of “Five Cottage Getaways from Toronto that are better than Muskoka”.

The increased local traffic has been good for many of the local stores, with some having banner summers, and it is wonderful to see so many being active and enjoying the outdoors.

The extra attention also adds to the planning stress on how to control development while enhancing what makes our community special.  A problem compounded by recent provincial legislation that shifts the balance of power to developers over communities.

There has also been a noticeable increase in garbage both at private lane collection sites and just around. More boats are on the lakes, more ATV’s on the Cat Trail, more fireworks and fires in violation of bylaws, hydrofoils have been seen in significant wetlands, private property trespassing has increased, and more cars are speeding.

Tighter controls on short term rentals, like Air B+B, has been raised as one way of reducing excessive abuse of our lakes and trails. I have not received many calls to limit access to the Township:  a credit to residents who both are open to sharing and recognize that we want to visit other areas and it would be hurtful to divide our country into many small fiefdoms.

I would appreciate your comments on how to handle these potentially profound changes to our community.

Johnson’s Point Unhinged, Again

It would take a chapter length discussion on the legal and political machinations to update developments on Johnson’s Point – for more detail please contact me or read my recent comments at Council – but this is the current bottom line.

The developers have until January 29, 2021 to satisfy all of the conditions required by the Ontario Municipal Board before it can register as a condominium and move to the next step: start developing lots.

One of the conditions is that the developer obtain a benefit permit from the MNR to protect the species at risk on the Point, which was done. The second part of that condition is that all the recommendations from the Permit have to be incorporated into the condominium agreement, which council has to vote on.  To date Council has not seen a copy of the permit making it impossible to verify that all the conditions have been incorporated.

At the September 1 council meeting I presented a motion to gain access to the permit which was lost in a tie with myself, Councillors Ruttan, Morey and Revill voting to see the permit and the Mayor and Councillor’s Sleeth, Roberts and Leonard voting against.

One of the reasons given for opposing the motion was that we don’t need to see the document, staff has it and we trust that all is OK.

It has nothing to do with trust but it has a lot to do with public accountability and the responsibility of Councillors to cast an informed vote. As good as our staff are, they may not always be right.  Elected officials have the ultimate responsibility to vote and this includes being able to question staff and seeing relevant information: in this case the benefit permit.

Those who voted against also raised a series of connected concerns about being drawn into a very litigious fight between the Johnson’s Point owners, avoiding possible lawsuits, the need to keep some information secret and about not having enough time to pursue options.

While it is wise to be aware of ongoing civil disputes, it is important that if parties, whether they are developers, people upset about a public works, people involved in bylaw infractions, fence line disputes or drainage issues, are having their own private/civil problems, that Council still make fully informed decisions that they believe are in the best interests of the Township, which includes maintaining democratic practices and protecting the environment.

One solution that was raised at council 15 months ago that would have met concerns about access to the permit while keeping some information confidential was to have council examine the permit in closed session.  This option was not seriously pursued.

A Fast Speeding Update

The Public Service Committee in August discussed speeding and focused on more education and different sign posting.  While these won’t hurt, they are among the least effective policies to control speeding.  Township residents and Council need to decide whether speeding is one of those issues that we want to complain about, a lot, but in fact do little to solve, or do we want to enact a series of traffic calming measures, especially in heavily populated areas, that do work: more on this later.

About Ross Sutherland

retired nurse, researcher, public health care activist.
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