2021 Township Budget and Gravel Road Traffic Counts

Gravel Road Traffic Counts

2021 South Frontenac Township Budget

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Budgets, Bother and Byways

36.6-Million Dollar Budget Proposal

A 36.6-million-dollar draft 2021 budget has been presented to Council.

The budget identifies the real priorities of the Township, what it is prepared to pay for; and, it directly impacts all residents both through services delivered, and taxes and user fees paid.

The proposal is that expenses in 2021 will be 21 percent higher than in 2020 with the bulk of revenue coming from a large draw on reserves, 9.3-million-dollars, and 20.7-million-dollars raised by taxation, a 2.18 percent increase. After phased-in-assessment the average tax bill will increases 2% or $32.25 for a property assessed at $271,013.

Capital construction highlights are:

  • Road construction – $7 million.
  • New fire hall (Battersea Road) – $2.2 million.
  • Arena upgrades – $1.3 million.

The large operating budget categories are:

  • Roads – $7.5 million.
  • Winter maintenance – $2.5 million.
  • Police -$3 million.
  • Solid waste management (garbage) – $2.8 million.
  • Township operations – $2.3 million.
  • Fire and Rescue – $1.8 million.
  • Parks and recreation -$772 thousand.
  • Planning – $447 thousand.

Some smaller items of note are:

  • New official plan – $145 thousand.
  • Costs associated with 25 new volunteer fire fighters (about $150 thousand).
  • Lake Studies – $60 thousand.
  • COVID support – $250 thousand.
  • Climate change adaptation/mitigation -100 thousand.
  • Staffing changes that create two light equipment operators for winter control and summer road side mowing, a financial analyst and an administrative assistant for Fire and Rescue, and net increase will be 1.8 new FTEs (full time positions) – $109 thousand in 2020, about $150 thousand yearly.
  • Two tractors with mowers for roadside mowing – $460 thousand.

The entire draft budget can be found at: https://www.southfrontenac.net/en/town-hall/munic.aspx.

What do you think of the Budget?

Your comments on what is missing, what is too much and the overall direction of the budget are welcome.

If you have questions, I would be happy to try and answer them, or after January 4, Louise Fragnito, the Township Treasurer, 613-37603027 ext. 2328, can provide more complete answers.

If you would like to make your comments to all of Council there is a special meeting, January 12, set aside for pubic deputations on the budget.  It will be a virtual meeting and you can register online to speak, or, after January 4,  contact the Clerk, Angela Maddocks, 613-376-3027 ext. 2222.

Your written comments before January 12 would also be very helpful.

Progress on Road-Side litter?

An ongoing Township problem is road side litter from people throwing away garbage, signs haphazardly erected and left to rot, and organized littering by ad bag newspapers.  Council has discussed this problem many times and after numerous rounds of unsuccessful negotiations progress may have been made on newspapers thrown into ditches and at the end of lane-ways.

There are two newspapers distributed free in the Township.  Frontenac News uses the mail service so all their papers end up in mail boxes.  Some of Kingston This Week’s papers are left in mail boxes but many are thrown, if lucky, into the end of driveways, but are often left under mailboxes, in ditches or on the main road.

Discussions between Township staff and Kingston This Week have produced a written proposal that will see Kingston This week distributed in community newspaper boxes in a variety of hamlets around the Township.  Kingston This Week will deliver their papers into mail boxes, expect where it is not safe to do so.  The Township has not received a list of unsafe locations.

While not perfect, it still allows some littering and gives one of the newspapers the unfair advantage by being able to litter without penalty, it might keep some newspaper garbage off the roadside.

I and the Township need to know if there is still a problem with newspapers being left in places where they are an eyesore or a nuisance.  If the problem continues Council will consider various legal options to stop this littering.

Council is also waiting for a staff report on signs along roads.

If you do not want Kingston This Week please call them, 613-544-5000 ext. 547144, and they should stop delivering to your address.

Gravel Roads

The Public Services Committee is going to have a discussion on how to maintain and upgrade gravel roads.  Gravel roads were primarily used as summer access roads, but with more and more people living full time in all parts of the Township, the number of families and the amount of time they rely on these roads has increased.   Many of these roads, Leland, Maple Leaf, Billie Green, Eel Bay and Shales, easily come to mind, have poor foundations and drainage, and are often difficult and dangerous to travel on. Planning a way forward is needed. I am glad the committee will be starting that process and I hope they will invite comment from the users of these roads.

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Putting Out Fires

Public Consultation

Last month, Council defeated a motion to defer the Open-Air Burning Permit Bylaw to allow for more public consultation.

The proposal for a permitting system was presented, in general terms, to Council in the summer. The “meat and potatoes” of the proposal, the actual details, the wording, was presented to Council on a Friday to be discussed and voted four days later, two of which were the weekend.  This is a common process for motions.

When awareness of the bylaw circulated through the community a wording error was found. Other questions were raised about why there was a fee for recreational fires and what about burns in the winter.   A period of community consultation could have addressed these simple concerns. It also might have identified other solvable problems with this bylaw, or identified a different approach to address the issues raised by the Fire Chief: community safety, cost savings, use of volunteer firefighters time and environmental pollution.  

Instead, the outcome was a motion to reconsider the bylaw, which passed, and a pending motion to rescind the bylaw leaving the problems unaddressed.

The proposed added user fee for garbage bag tags was also about an important issue, reducing waste, and presented on a limited timeline: four days between the proposal and the vote. This is not enough time for Councilors to consider how the words on the page might translate into effects on people’s lives.  It is certainly not enough time for a full discussion in the community.

For better or worse, many, if not most, residents don’t take an active interest in the affairs of Council. They depend on the Township to make a reasonable effort to bring to their attention issues before decisions are made that may concern them.

In fact, most issues that come to Council are relatively uncontentious: both on Council and in the Community. Nonetheless there are issues when it is important to have wider public comment and it is difficult ahead of time to distinguish the two. The added time taken to consider all motions is not onerous, will make better laws and make a stronger community.

Township staff have increased information flow to the public through Facebook, Twitter, an updated web page, email lists, public meetings and surveys.  Two other suggestions that might help are: 

  1. Bylaws need to be passed in three readings; I gather this is a legal requirement.What Council usually does is have all three votes in one night.This does not make sense. The idea of three votes on an issue to structure in delay for reflection and comment. If Council even had the first reading at one Council meeting and the second and third reading no sooner than the next meeting, that would give increased time for public comment.
  2. The public notice for Council and Committee of the Whole meetings could include bullet points of the items to be considered.

I am sure there are other changes that would increase public input before votes are taken.  Some community associations and business have a person assigned to watch council agendas, but they still need time to consult before offering an opinion.

If you have other ideas on how to improve consultation, pass them along.

Yes, consultation can get messy.  All communities have a variety of opinions, some of which are mutually exclusive.  At the end of the process a decision has to be made and everyone may not be happy. Yet, it’s important that everyone has an opportunity to have their say and that there concerns have been considered.
Besides the democratic reasons for getting more input, there are many interested, knowledgeable and experienced people in the community who can help make proposals better.

COVID Relief

Staff, at Council’s request, has brought forward a proposal to create a $250,000 fund to help those people and businesses negatively affected by COVID. The funds will be administered by three existing community groups that have experience providing assistance within guidelines worked out with the Township.

One difficulty is that some of the people hit hardest by the COVID restrictions and illness are those that don’t rely on social assistance.  They are families who usually have regular jobs, often well paying, or at home businesses.  Their savings are being drained coping with extra costs and loss of income. 

There is also the problem of local non-profit organizations that have had reduced fundraising or income and families that have had extra costs caring for dependents at home as day programs have been curtailed.

If you know of areas of need and how to get them support please pass the information along.


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South Frontenac’s Garbage Proposal Would Increase Inequality

A proposal coming to South Frontenac Council on November 17 would make families buy all their bag tags.  Currently South Frontenac gives families 50 tags a year at no cost to the property owner.  

The new garbage proposal will disproportionately affect those who produce larger amounts of household garbage with few options for reduction, for example: families with young children and families with at-home medical needs (incontinence, wound care, ostomies).  The waste from these families is not optional and they tend to be families with more economic challenges.  Young families have increased over all expenses and the income earners are often starting their working years. Families with illness often have reduced incomes and higher expenses.

Council’s goal has been to keep municipal tax increases to 2%.  Charging a fee for an essential service is really a tax increase above 2%. If Council wishes to do this it should be done directly.

A significant part of the motivation for this user fee is the increased cost of garbage collection: a reality Council needs to deal with directly though general taxation or policy changes.  We should not be imposing an extra tax that will likely increase inequality and negatively affect many families.

Our society has a very serious waste problem. It is a structural problem. Our recycling system is broken: much of what we “recycle” ends up in landfills. Companies are permitted to produce items using wasteful practices; we need a right-to-repair law, limits on packaging and single use items. And, we need an increase in our organic waste composting services.

Doing what we can to reduce waste is important, but not at the expense of increased inequality: a growing and serious problem.  

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Water, Fire and Earth

Shoreline Tree Cutting Bylaw?

In the last few years clear cutting shorelines in the Township has caused considerable public concern. 

The land adjacent to Dog lake was cleared before the Shield Shores Condominium development proposal was introduced.  And, last winter a steep slope on Sydenham lake was cleared.

Residents often questioned why this clearing was allowed?  Some of the confusion stems from the fact that conditions placed on minor variances, lot creation and sub-divisions often include provisions to protect shoreline vegetation.

Sadly, there is no broader protection in municipal or provincial legislation for trees along lakes and rivers.

Staff reported on options for protecting trees at the October 26 Development Services Committee. The Committee asked staff to prepare a more detailed proposal for a bylaw that would prohibit tree cutting within 30 meters of navigable waterways and significant wet lands with a limited number of exemptions, for example, creating access paths to the water and clearance for buildings.  The next proposal will come to a Committee of the Whole meeting.

Open-Air Fire Permit Bylaw Passed

Last month I reported on a proposed bylaw to require permits for open-air fires in the Township. Many of you commented, both for and against.

At the Council meeting I proposed that the bylaw be deferred to allow for public consultation.  Council defeated the deferral and passed the bylaw.

The bylaw recognizes two kinds of outdoor fires.  One is a “recreational fire”, the kind most of us would have for a marshmallow roast and to sit around with friends. Recreational fires require a once-a-year permit.  When this permit is obtained, at an initial cost of 15 dollars, people will be required to confirm that they have looked at the bylaw and understand their legal obligations for safety.  It will also collect emails and contact information so when fire bans go into effect, people can quickly be notified.  There are no further requirements for recreations fires through the year.

A second class of fires, “open-air fires”, for example, burning brush piles, and fires in barrels and drums, will require both a yearly permit and a notification, at no extra cost, each time there is a fire.  These fires are more dangerous and notification to the fire department will allow greater monitoring and fewer false alarms.

Aggregate Pit Taxes

Some aggregate producing municipalities in southern Ontario have started a campaign to increase the taxes on aggregate quarries.  A 2017 change in the property tax structure set by the province means that active gravel pits, which are often very profitable, pay less property tax than single family homes and small businesses.

A media release from the County of Wellington states, “Arbitrarily classifying gravel pits as among the lowest forms of farmland sets an artificial cap on these producers’ valuations and keeps their property taxes well below what they should be paying. In turn, residents and businesses are subsidizing the break that gravel producers are getting.”  They argue that municipalities in Ontario are losing millions of dollars in tax revenue every year which negatively impacts their ability to provide services.

The province, as part of their drive to open the province for development, has also proposed that municipalities be barred from trying to recoup the cost of damage done to roads from aggregate mines.

To find out more about the campaign for fair taxes on aggregate mining and to support the campaign go to: https://www.facebook.com/fairtaxesontario/

COVID Continues

We are well into the “second wave” of the COVID virus and hospitals are starting to fill up.  As in the first wave, Frontenac and the Kingston area have relatively few infections.

Most local residents are following public health guidelines.  At the same time residents are being imaginative in finding ways to get outdoors and make our community work. For example, some have organized street closures to allow families to participate in Halloween and maintain safe distances. And the Township has started a Halloween house decorating contest. The Friends of the Cataraqui trail, working with public health advice, is organizing a family friendly Rudolph Run on the trail. The event will take place on November 21 and all participants will receive a red-nosed mask.  

As we push back wilderness boundaries and become a more interconnected, populated, world, we have seen an increase in communicable diseases. I think we are on the cusp of creating a new normal that incorporates enhanced methods of infection control into vibrant communities.  It will require patience, compassion, and innovation, but over the millennia human societies have done it and we will do it again.  It is great to be part of a community that is up to the challenge and will help led the way


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Open-air Burning Bylaw

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Boats to Budgets

Buck Lake Boat Ramp

The redevelopment of the Buck Lake boat ramp was discussed at the September public services meeting. 

The Public Services department would like to start making detailed plans for the project but wanted clarity on whether the Committee thought the ramp should be at its current location off of Perth Road at the bridge or whether the Township should again try to purchase the old Schofield camp for a new public access point.  The committee gave direction that the ramp should be replaced at the current location and to not proceed with the Schofield property.

2021 Budget

We are entering the 2021 budget preparation season. The budget will be about thirty million dollars. Usually Council would pass the 2021 budget before 2020 ends, but delays caused by COVID have pushed the projected passage date into early January 2021.

For the past few years Council has had a policy of increasing the budget approximately 2% a year.  These increases have maintained very sound Township finances and allowed for the expansion of programs as our population has increased.

Council seems inclined to provide this direction to staff again: develop a draft budget with a 2% increase.  The first staff proposal for capital works will be coming to Council in November. Now is the time to start making comments on what should be included or removed from next year’s budget or general comments on how the Township raises and spends money.

After the full draft budget is presented to Council on December 1 there will be a special meeting for public deputations on next year’s budget: tentatively scheduled for December 8, 2020.

Community Safety Zones

A proposal will be coming to Council to create “Community Safety Zones” on roads adjacent to St. Patrick, Harrowsmith, Prince Charles and Loughborough public Schools and Sydenham High school.  Fines will be doubled for violations in these zones. 

While this is a good idea, it will not likely have a great impact on speeding.  In Ottawa, when they put speed cameras in school zones, many of which are community safety zones, in the first two weeks of operation the cameras produced 7645 tickets for speeding with the highest speed being 89K in a 40K zone. It will be interesting to see if the presence of the cameras significantly reduces that number in a few months.

If we want to control speed, an increasing Township-wide problem, we will need more than signs and fines.  Without some sort of structural change, like speed cameras, speed bumps, or other traffic calming measures, many will still speed. 

Open Air Burning Permits

At the August Council meeting the Fire Chief proposed establishing a permit system for open air burning. Click here to see the Chief’s presentation.

The problems he identified that would be reduced with open air fire permits were confusion among residents and visitors about fire ban restrictions, the open-air burning bylaw, and the hazards of open air burning.  Last year there was also an increased number of complaints about fires and an increased number of uncontrolled burns with a significant cost and danger to the Township and firefights, and very high potential costs to individual residents.

The proposal is to create and automated system to issue permits for all open air burning in the Township.  There will be an annual small cost for a permit and automated phone system to register before residents burn.

The system will allow for fast dissemination of restrictions on burning, an ability to apply different restrictions in different areas and an easy way of communicating what residents’ responsibilities are while they’re burning. 

New Garbage and Recycling Contract

After much drama and last-minute negotiations Percy Snider has a three-year contract to collect garbage and recycling for most of the Township.  In-house Township staff will collect on the other routes. The cost is $62.50 per household for garbage and $62.50 for recycling. 

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Burning permit Coming to South Frontenac?

In August the Fire Chief proposed a permitting system for open air burning South Frontenac Township. This is his presentation to Council:  

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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.

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Comments on Accessing Johnson’s Point Benefit Permit

At the September 1 council meeting I presented a motion to gain access to the benefit permit for species at risk on Johnson’s Point. Obtaining that permit was one of the conditions the  developer had to fulfill to complete the condominium agreement, which Council has a legal obligation to vote on.

The second part of that condition is that all the recommendations from the benefit permit have to be incorporated into the condominium agreement.  To date Council has not seen a copy of the permit making it impossible to verify that all the conditions have been incorporated.

The motion was lost in a tie with myself, Councillors Ruttan, Morey and Revill voting to see the permit and the Mayor and Councillors Sleeth, Roberts and Leonard voting against. The following are the comments I made to Council introducing the motion:

“Sometime in the next few months Council will likely be asked to vote on the condominium agreement for the Johnson’s Point development.  That agreement has to incorporate all of the recommendations of the MNR’s Species at Risk benefit permit. It is Council’s legal responsibility to verify that all of the conditions have been met. To date, Council only has a copy of the benefit permit with sections blacked out, making it impossible to do that verification.

Since April 26, 2019 Magenta Water Front Development has been the project manager for the Johnson’s Point development with extensive powers to move the project forward.

On June 4, 2019, Magenta made a deputation to Council at which time Councilors made it clear that they wanted to see a copy of the benefit permit. Magenta, to its credit, took an emergency motion to Justice Hurley to ask for the Permit’s release.

One reason for Justice Hurley emergency endorsement on June 18, 2019, two weeks after the Council meeting with Magenta, was knowledge of South Frontenac’s need to see the benefit permit. Justice Hurley references a Frontenac News article, part of which reads:

[the] Director of Development Services for South Frontenac Township, explained …. The township needs to know that whatever is required under that [benefit] agreement has been satisfied before it can recommend that the county give final approval for the plan of condominium.

“Without seeing the agreement, we are stuck,” she said.

The Justice’s endorsement restricted public release of the document and permitted release to municipals officials who required it in order to assess the application for an extension of time for draft plan approval, or another valid legal reason. A Township councilor is a municipal official who has a valid legal reason to receive a copy of the benefit permit because they have to vote on a motion which involves knowledge of the permit.

The endorsement also makes no distinction between staff officials and elected officials. If staff officials can see the document so can elected officials, if neither can, then it will be very difficult for the Johnson’s Point development to move forward.

Finally, Justice Hurley’s endorsement includes a statement that both the plaintive and the Beaches agree that the disclosure of the Benefit Permit is required for final plan approval.

Seeing the full document in camera is an option that has been around for at least 15 months and a solution that would satisfy any concerns about the public release of the permit and allow Council to fully assess the completion of the draft conditions, which is its legal obligation.

Magenta has numerous options to releasing the benefit permit. The most straightforward approach is to simply use the June 18, 2019 endorsement and provide a copy in camera to Council. If Magenta is uncertain that the order allows that, given the ambiguity in the order about another valid legal reason, Magenta could pose an informal question to judge something to the effect ‘given the language concerning disclosure to municipal officials for another valid reason can the permit be disclosed in camera to South Frontenac council for the purpose of approving the completion of the draft plan conditions’. The worst case is the judge says “no, bring a new motion” in which case Magenta can bring a new motion for release of the benefit permit to Council. The last action took two weeks, there is 5 months before the current draft conditions expire. There is time to advance this alternative.

Without access to the Permit, Council will have to vote without full knowledge of what it is voting on, and, at best, rely on the developers and Staff reassurances that everything is OK; an abdication of our responsibility and accountability.

Council will also need to see the benefit permit for approval of site plans. It is reasonable to gain access to the permit now and fulfill all of our obligations and not rely on promises of future actions as a motivation in the upcoming vote. We have been down that road before with the signing of the draft conditions on the guarantee that the Township would gain access to the property and it did not end well.

The motion is simple: it states that Council wants to see an unredacted copy of the benefit permit before it votes and it makes it clear that Council would like Magenta to with staff to make that happen.

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