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Councillor - Town of Blue Mountains

Council Chamber News – April, 2015

As April comes to a close, I will have served more than 100 days in office.

Reading, writing and arithmetic have been a big part of my workload, especially in becoming more effective and learning the ‘ropes’, as they say. There has been a steady political diet of lectures, seminars, workshops and training sessions, mostly on municipal governance and how to conduct myself as a Councilor i.e. procedures, code of conduct, code of ethics, rules of order, rules of debate, etc. Add to this the many long Council, Committee and Board meetings, my duties as a Councilor translate into almost a full-time job.

Being the only real newbie on Council, I’m often asked “so, how’s it going?’. Usually, never being lost for words, this is a difficult question to answer.

I came into office with great expectations, ready to make a big splash and lobby for changes in our handling of local municipal affairs. However, I realize now that the wheels of government don’t move as fast as I want them to move, especially when Council has been somewhat fragmented over the past three months due to sickness and holiday departures. However, I believe that changes will come but my proposals and recommendations will need to be cleverly crafted.

I must say that everyone at the Town Hall (staff) has been great and they have treated me well as I work through my learning pains and ask ‘many questions’.

Oh, my answer to that difficult question – “So far, I’m more of an advocate than a politician.  However, I expect to be more effective in another 90 days, as I better understand the process of ‘politicking’.

Now for some recent and continuing developments over the past month

1)         As part of the Budget process, be prepared for some changes in community service fees and charges for municipal services and facilities. Although a number of fees have been reduced to reflect end user affordability, user flexibility and community benefits, the Harbour fees continue to rise and are considered the highest in the region at $59 per lineal foot (docking) to pay for infrastructure debt. Tourism will benefit as the cost associated with large Special Events has been reduced to $1,000/event from $1,500/event. Overall, the Town will generate another $16,000 through increases in fees and charges. There are no proposed changes to Tomahawk, which will continue to be subsidized by the taxpayer.

2)         Speaking of events, we may see more musical concerts at the Beaver Valley Community Centre. Meridith Brown, formerly your hostess at Bridges Tavern, is proposing concerts for 200-300 participants, with the first one involving the ‘Walkervilles’ and being planned for Friday May 8th, 2015 from 8.p.m. until 1.00 a.m. Council approved her request at its April 8th Committee of the Whole meeting, however, it remains uncertain whether these concerts will get ‘off the ground’. We wish Meridith the best!

3)         A new legislative Water Financial Plan has been approved by your Council (LINK). This plan examines the Water System Needs and Revenue Requirements and the Financial Model and Budget Process over the next 6 years (2015-2020). The report states that we are in a great financial position with no increases projected for 2015-2017 and 3% annual increases projected over 2018-2020 (this conservative estimate assumes no unforeseen capital expenditures during this period).

4)         With the ink still drying on our new Official Plan, the Planning Department wants the Public and Council to review proposed changes that would allow increases in the height and density of developments through ‘Bonsuing” (LINK to Report). They say that bonusing is an important tool that would help us obtain defined community benefits without requiring the use of tax revenue. Hmmmm? Is this just a way to justify ‘intensification’? What about the character of the community? Should bonusing be a privilege and not a right of the developers? Should bonusing be brought to Council for approval, prior to an application being considered complete, and not negotiated by staff? Many questions need to be answered and an important Public Open Session to discussed this issue will be held on May 6th .

5)         Council has decided to retrofit all our light fixtures with LED bulbs (means light emitting diode for all you technicians, more efficient light bulbs for all us simpletons). The proposed LED bulbs can be up to 90% more efficient and can significantly reduce the Town’s energy use. The net cost of the project will be $408,700, to be paid through internal financing with a pay-back through savings in 5.5 years. We are also told that this retrofit program will provide significant environmental benefits – reducing power and greenhouse gas production. (LINK for more information).

Issues of On-going Concern

1)         In my last news report, I reported that MTO wanted total relief from the Noise By-law to permit construction noise along Hwy. 26 (between Thornbury and the Town of Collingwood boundary) after the permitted hours or during the night between 7.00 p.m. and 7.00 a.m. from the fall of 2015 to the fall of 2016. Total relief means allowing blasting, milling, pulverizing, paving and the installation of culverts during night time periods. Your Council (except me) has approved this exception, subject to the consultants advising everyone through the media and the Town website. In my opinion, the people along Hwy. 26, or in close proximity, are in for some interesting and trying times.

Quick Hits

1)         Look for of a new grain and legume milling, packaging and delivery facility (Gibraltar Mill) to operate out of the old Ice River Springs Bottling plant located at the corner of the 4th Line and Osprey/Blue Mountain Townline. The new plant will process local agricultural products and employ up to 15 people.

2)         Tenders for the Thornbury West End Road Improvement Project (or commonly known as the Sobeys Project) finally went out on April 15th, 2015 with an expected closing date of May 7th, 2015. Does this ensure the project is moving ahead? –NO! If the lowest tender bid exceeds estimated costs (still at $2.8 million), then who will ‘front-end’ the difference – Sobeys (probably not) or the taxpayers?

3)         The Planning Department requested and received approval by Council (by McKean, Halos, Ardiel and Gamble) to mediate a settlement with the Appellants of Mountain Springs Resort that would allow The Lodges at Blue Mountain to administer 125 off-site Short Term Accommodations (STAs) from the gatehouse building for three years, with a provision to easily obtain permanent status. I asked that all off-site STAs be Licensed but it was rejected by McKean, Ardiel and Halos – I wonder why?

4)         Look for the former Bayview Park campground area to be renamed Cedar Grove Park to help promote the Cedar Grove Labyrinth. (LINK)

5)         As you know, The Town received a Silver Medal Bicycle Friendly designation from an organization called Share the Road Coalition. To help continue promoting us as a “Bicycle Friendly Community”, Council has agreed to purchase and install appropriate signs to be placed at the gateways to our municipality and at major/strategic locations. (LINK)

Upcoming Events

1)         A Public Information Session and a Special Meeting of Council Re: The Proposed Sanitary Servicing of Hoover Lane/Teskey Drive Project, are scheduled for May 4th at 9.00 a.m. and 10.00 a.m., respectively (LINK). This has serious cost implications.

2)         A Special Meeting of Council, Re: The Council Strategic Planning Process, is scheduled for May 6th at 10.30 a.m.

3)         A Public Meeting Re: ‘Bonusing Guidelines’, is scheduled for May 6th at 7.00 p.m. (LINK).