Clevelands Courting investors

Update: An ad in The Globe and Mail displayed June 27 shows Clevelands House is looking for investors.. 'Cleves' on the western shores of Lake Rosseau is one of the last remaining grand hotels of Muskoka to still have its original buildings. The ad, which positions the property as a premier development opportunity, states the investment opportunity includes the existing operations of Clevelands House, as well as The Rock and Wallace Marina.

To see a larger image of the ad, click here.


 

Updated: Muskoka Lakes Council In Training June 29

Update June 28, 11.30am: Township of Muskoka Lakes Council is taking on some extra work tomorrow, on the Friday before the long weekend. Council has posted notice of a closed session stating:

Council in Closed Session will be held for the purpose of educating and training Council members pursuant to section 239(3.1) of the Municipal Act.

Thanks to eagle-eyed MNW readers for noting this morning's earlier MNW post did not include the 3.1 section information. We regret the oversight. Here is what 239 (3.1) is in regard to:

Educational or training sessions

(3.1) <http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/french/elaws_statutes_01m25_f.htm#s239s3p1>  A meeting of a council or local board or of a committee of either of them may be closed to the public if the following conditions are both satisfied:

1. The meeting is held for the purpose of educating or training the members.

2. At the meeting, no member discusses or otherwise deals with any matter in a way that materially advances the business or decision-making of the council, local board or committee. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 103 (1).
 

For those who are interested, much of the rest of section 239 refers to procedures for an investigation. At last check, the Township had selected the Local Authority Services, “LAS”, option for investigations into closed meetings. LAS refers to the investigator service provided by the Local Authority Services branch of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (of which the Township is a member). In order to begin an investigation of a closed meeting, a person or councillor must approach the Clerk who then engages LAS. There is no way of the public knowing whether an investigation is under way or whether the Township is considering changing its self investigation policies although any results of any investigation must be made public once all is said and done.

Here is the rest of the wording for Section 239 of the Municipal Act. Remember, investigations can only occur on closed meeting items which makes it difficult for any outsider to launch an investigation when they don't know what went on in the meeting. But tomorrow's meeting is for council training only and it is doubtful it will ever be made public what the council is being trained on.

Investigator

239.2  (1)  Without limiting sections 9, 10 and 11, those sections authorize the municipality to appoint an investigator who has the function to investigate in an independent manner, on a complaint made to him or her by any person, whether the municipality or a local board has complied with section 239 or a procedure by-law under subsection 238 (2) in respect of a meeting or part of a meeting that was closed to the public, and to report on the investigation. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 104.

Powers and duties

(2)  Subject to this section, in carrying out his or her functions under subsection (1), the investigator may exercise such powers and shall perform such duties as may be assigned to him or her by the municipality. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 104.

Matters to which municipality is to have regard

(3)  In appointing an investigator and in assigning powers and duties to him or her, the municipality shall have regard to, among other matters, the importance of the matters listed in subsection (5). 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 104.

Same, investigator

(4)  In carrying out his or her functions under subsection (1), the investigator shall have regard to, among other matters, the importance of the matters listed in subsection (5). 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 104.

Same

(5)  The matters referred to in subsections (3) and (4) are,

(a) the investigator’s independence and impartiality;

(b) confidentiality with respect to the investigator’s activities; and

(c) the credibility of the investigator’s investigative process. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 104.

Delegation

6)  An investigator may delegate in writing to any person, other than a member of council, any of the investigator’s powers and duties under this Part. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 104.

Same

(7)  An investigator may continue to exercise the delegated powers and duties, despite the delegation. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 104.

Status

(8)  An investigator is not required to be a municipal employee. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 104.

Application

(9)  Subsection 223.13 (6) and sections 223.14 to 223.18 apply with necessary modifications with respect to the exercise of functions described in this section. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 104.

Report and recommendations

(10)  If, after making an investigation, the investigator is of the opinion that the meeting or part of the meeting that was the subject-matter of the investigation appears to have been closed to the public contrary to section 239 or to a procedure by-law under subsection 238 (2), the investigator shall report his or her opinion and the reasons for it to the municipality or local board, as the case may be, and may make such recommendations as he or she thinks fit. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 104.

Publication of reports

(11)  The municipality or local board shall ensure that reports received under subsection (10) by the municipality or local board, as the case may be, are made available to the public. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 104.

Tip Twist: Marriott Spa Staff Can Now keep tips

The Moose reports the The Rosseau Marriott Hotel and Spa has reversed a decision to have spa workers give up half their tips. Read The Moose story here

Original June 27 Post:

Hand over your tips or else, The Rosseau Marriott Hotel and Spa warns staff – A Toronto Star report republished here:

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1217641–hand-over-your-tips-or-else-posh-muskoka-hotel-warns-staff

 

 

Harold & Lorna Film Premieres Wed, Aug 22, The Op

Update Aug 17: They launched a legacy on water and now the Harold & Lorna story launches on the big screen in Muskoka this Wednesday, Aug 22, at 7 pm at The Gravenhurst Opera House. It's a film many local boat lovers are anxious to see about the husband-and-wife racing team that put Canada on the world powerboat racing map. Not only will people get a chance to understand an important part of our marine history better, the film promoters are also hoping to raise money for Habitat for Humanity Muskoka by asking for donations on film night. You can also donate online in advance by clicking here and then search for Habitat Muskoka to make your donation.

Muskoka Magazine will play host to an after show "Afterglow" party at Grace and Speed, the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre starting at 9 pm. Hope to see everyone there!

Original Post June 25, 2012: The Miss Canada IV Restoration Team and Muskoka Film Works Inc have launched a website dedicated to Harold & Lorna and you can learn more about the film that tells there story here: www.haroldandlornamovie.com

Offering a rich tapestry of articles, photographs and videos covering the couple’s 20-year career in the racing spotlight, the site covers the making of Harold & Lorna – the movie on their racing lives – along with the boats they raced, the team behind the boats, and the restoration of their last and fastest hydroplane, Miss Canada IV which in 1950 became the first boat to eclipse the 200 mph water speed barrier.

Director Bill Plumstead saw Harold and Lorna Wilson testing Miss Canada IV in 1949 for her debut on the world’s stage. He never forgot the experience, most notably the roar of her engine and her mile-long rooster tail. It will have been 62 years when he watches her fly over the water again this summer, this time through the camera viewfinder. Miss Canada IV is being restored for Bobby Genovese in Port Carling, Ontario by Tom Adams, using the original Douglas Van Patten plans. A 3000 hp Rolls-Royce Griffon, identical to the engine that powered the 1950 assault on the world speed record, is being rebuilt by Peter Grieve of Flight Engineering in England.

Supported by the popular “Harold & Lorna and Miss Canada IV” Facebook page, www.haroldandlornamovie.com provides in-depth information for movie fans and history buffs, slide shows, sneak previews into the movie and updates on the restoration of the race boat. When the movie is released and Miss Canada IV takes to the water late this summer, Canadian and international interest in the team that campaigned her will jump once again.
Know More:

  • Jamie Smith (Restoration Team Co-ordinator) – jds470@sympatico.ca
  • Harry Wilson (Muskoka Film Works Inc) – harry.wilson@haroldandlornamovie.com

Leon appeals Township Hirsh exemptions

Leon files OMB appeal of Council's Hirsh decision

June 25, Port Carling: Shawn Leon has filed an appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) about the Township of Muskoka Lakes Council's approval of amendments for the proposed Hirsh development in Port Carling. Leon sold the property to Hirsh and says he supports the development but has concerns about the residential space above the boathouse being higher than other boathouses are allowed to have, for example, and the way he feels Council has changed rules to allow for that development. HIs OMB appeal was filed on Friday, June 22.

Simon Hirsh of Hirsh Resort Developments is proposing more housing, retail and office space on the property (including a new boathouse). The land has been empty for years (other than for the blasted rock that many in the community complained about when Leon stopped work because of the economic conditions and delays he says he encountered from the previous Council).

In Leon's appeal to the OMB, he is questioning the Council's amendment to rules to allow exemptions for the development. Leon claims the Council has essentially rezoned the whole property and that the boathouse could become a residential development in the water, a precedent he told Council they should be wary of setting.

But he says a larger problem is a perceived lack of fairness in the way one developer or property owner is treated over another. "I never in a billion years would have gone to Council and asked for what Hirsh is getting," says Leon. "It seems to me this was all negotiated ahead of time as there has been very little discussion at Council in public." Leon also says he has concerns that the new development may even include a restaurant when he was told in no uncertain terms that there was no way he could even consider a restaurant in his planning. He also cites difficulty working with past Councils on setbacks and height restrictions. "It's like this Council just rubberstamped the whole thing," says Leon.

On Monday, May 28, Hirsh gained approval for several bylaw amendments from Township that paved the way for a boathouse with seven residences above it. According to reports in the Bracebridge Examiner, Mayor Alice Murphy referred to the land as Muskoka Lakes’ crown jewel and told Hirsh to make them proud.
The plans include a building facing Joseph Street and the Indian River with retail shops, offices and three residences, as well as the boathouse with residential space for seven units.

One former councillor (who requested not to be named) suggested that Hirsh has perhaps gained approval smoothly because his proposal wasn't all that different from the one for which Leon had already gained approval. Here is a breakdown of the main differences:

  • Height: Required height is 30 feet, previous approved amendment was 40 feet (in a different design). Proposed amendment for Hirsh: 46.5 feet.
  • Boathouse Width: Required 25% of lot frontage (76.25 feet). Proposed amendment for a new boathouse at 54.8% or 167 feet. There was no previous approval for such an amendment.
  • Boathouse Height: Required height is 25 feet, the previous approved height was 35 feet, two inches (in a different design) and the Proposed amendment now is almost 41 feet in height.
  • Side Yard Setback: 10 feet is required. The proposed amendment to allow for a new Sundeck recommends a zero setback. Note: Sundecks are exempt from front yard setback requirements and this sundeck is to be built to provide a boardwalk for pedestrian use from Joseph Street to the Indian River, a proposed use the township staff recommended be encouraged (in the staff report).

The lot frontage is 305 feet on the Indian River and the lot area is 0.9 acres.

OMB appeals are not uncommon for Township Council — they occur regularly as and there is at least one other appeal scheduled to be heard in July, for example. OMB appeals are usually the last step in a process that starts with plans taken to the Township planning department, and then circulated to neighbors who can express their thoughts on the proposed development. The proposal goes to Council to approve. If the proponent doesn't like the decision (or if opponent's disagree), they can appeal to the OMB.

The former councillor who commented on the lack of potential major differences between the site plan approved for Leon and the amendments for Hirsh says one Leon complaint does seem to ring true: that some who come before the current Council get preferential treatment over others. But the councillor would not comment on whether preferential treatment might be occurring in this particular case.

 

 

Spring Nymphs at Muskoka Lakes Library

June 19: Storytime gets wrapped with wreaths! Children in Muskoka Lakes have been gathering every Tuesday from September to June for morning craft and story time at the Muskoka Lakes Public Library in Port Carling. Today (June 19, 2012) the children and adults celebrated the last regular get together by making head wreaths to welcome summer.

The children also had great fun blowing bubbles and playing with a parachute. Then everyone came inside for a nutritious feast of fruits and vegetables. "What a great season we have had," says librarian Lorna Macfarlane. And guess what's up next?
 
Tuesday mornings will look and feel a little bit different starting July 3 when the annual summertime Muskoka Reads! series starts with guest reader Dr. Peter Jones and his (big!) sidekick, Dave the Newfoundlander dog. Each Tuesday during the summer, from 10:45 to 11:30 guest readers will be arriving at the library in Port Carling, often with ‘tools of the trade’ or an animal or two. You’ll want to make it a regular activity with your child during July and August! To keep abreast of the coming events at the Muskoka Lakes Public Library be sure to check the event calendar that can be found on the library homepage www.muskoka.com/library <http://www.muskoka.com/library>

Pink Portage now in Southern ON: Way to go, Andrew

Update July 9: Andrew Metcalfe, portaging his Pink Canoe to raise funds for cancer research, has made it to Toronto and appeared on CITY TV Breakfast Television this morning. We're so glad his story got picked up here in Muskoka (after MNW's original feature scoop) and his portage keeps picking up steam, media attention — and most importantly, donations — as he heads for Windsor.

Update: June 25: Pink Portage now on Hwy 60. Cheer on the pink canoe head (Andrew Metcalfe of Toronto) as he hikes through Muskoka down Hwy 60 and Hwy 11 as he works his way across Ontario on one long portage to raise money for cancer research.

June 19, Just East of Algonquin Park – is that a Pink Canoe head? In a bid to raise funding and awareness of the importance of cancer research by portaging across Ontario, Andrew Metcalfe is approaching the start of his Alqonguin-Muskoka portage. His sister, Laura Leonelli of Huntsville, reports he is on Hwy 60 and getting closer to the east gate of Algonquin Park.

From there he will portage across the park and through Muskoka down Hwy 11 on his way toward Toronto and then off to his finish line in Windsor. Metcalfe started The Pink Portage, portaging a pink canoe, in Kingston on June 3. He hopes to finish the 1200km trip in 40 days.

"Andrew is doing this as a tribute to our mother and grandmother who were both diagnosed with breast cancer (thankfully are in remission to this day)," says Leonelli," and as a tribute to our aunt Kristen, who unfortunately wasn't so lucky. He wanted to do something tough, something that required a lot of strength and motivation – which this is still nothing in comparison to what a cancer patient goes through on a daily basis."

Andrew's love of the outdoors and passion for portaging through Algonquin park is what inspired him to portage across Ontario for this cause. Andrew visits family in Huntsville often and his summer vacations usually include a portage trip through the park.

Adds Leonelli, "As have many, our family has seen first hand the affects of cancer and Andrew is having that motivate him every step of the way right to the finish line."

Watch for the Pink Canoe head travelling on the side of Hwy 60 and Hwy 11 for the next several days. You can Please check out Andrew's website at www.pinkportage.com and follow Andrew's progress across Ontario as he has selected a SPOT satellite GPS system for safety and to provide reliable location updates. To see where Andrew is right now, click here
 

MNW note: We wish Andrew the best and hope he can carry another great lady in his mind has he makes his trek into Algonquin Park. I have just learned today that Pamela Kern of Ottawa, the first woman to read morning news in Toronto, and a mentor of mine from the CKO Radio Network days of the late 1970s and early 1980s died from a fierce battle with cancer in late May. I'll be thinking of her as I watch Andrew's SPOT move across the map. God speed, Andrew.

Bala Falls Update: Option 1 approved pending appeals

For Update, See Post September 24, 2012: Hydro plant one step closer

Posted June 18, 5pm: About 45 people filled Township of Muskoka Lakes Council chambers earlier today (June 18) to hear yet another set of delegations on the proposed North Bala Falls hydro project. This council and the previous council have  been discussing this topic since 2004. In the first two delegations, Peter Long of the Muskoka Ratepayers' Association and Mike Webb of Moon River called on Council to re-consider its opposition to the Option 2 site which would require Township lands — although Webb noted it may be too late to raise that request again since Swift River Energy Limited (SREL) is moving ahead with its Site 1 Addendum. The public has until June 29 at 5 pm to ask questions or request an Individual Environmental Assessment of the Crown land site.

More input time requested

Save the Bala Falls' environmental consultant Mario Buszynski of Dillon Consulting told the Council it would be wise to ask for an extension to the input period. In his delegation, he said Save the Bala Falls has had only the short time since the Notice of Addendum was posted to consider a response and he has only two weeks left to review the Addendum. Buszynski added the lobby group has asked SREL to provide an extension (which the company did once before for Option 2, increasing public input time to 45 days) but SREL has said no. The group also made the same request concurrently of the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry has echoed the 'no' answer. Buszynski said the questions remaining to consider are: "is this a new project?" and have "environmental impacts been mitigated?". Sandy Currie of the Moon River Property Owners' Association (MRPOA) was up next and he told Council that the construction period would be worse under the Site 1 plan than it could have been under Option 2. He claims traffic lights will have to be set up and a concrete barrier run down the middle of Hwy 169 causing a major traffic disruption. Currie began his presentation praising the present Council for spending over $3million to protect Muskoka properties. He was referring to monies spent that in part, included the damages settlement for the Milford Manor lawsuit, and he also included the $700K spent on the Duke House in Port Carling, which was not an expenditure of present council. It was a purchase of the previous term's Council that was criticized by some current Councillors (and other want-to-be councillors) during their election campaigns. He made no reference to the previous request to District Council by MRPOA member Bruno Polewski to make the entire Moon River a heritage site, but Currie did mention the tree that has become a question of heritage beside Bala Falls would not have suffered harm should Option 2 have proceeded. While Option 2 has the green light of the Ministry of the Environment, Swift River reverted to the original Crown land site (now referred as Alternative 1A in the Notice of Addendum) last fall, claiming it could not get Council to negotiate regarding the Township lands required. According to District Council officials, the District of Muskoka will have to provide an Entrance Permit for construction on the Crown Land site and they note entrance to the Crown land site is considerably more challenging than with the Option 2 site. Swift River says it will also need a building permit from the Township.

At the time of this posting, it was unknown if Township Council had discussed any resolutions regarding the North Bala Falls in either Closed or Open Sessions although Mayor Alice Murphy told the crowd a special meeting might have to be called as Council would not meet in a regular council session until early July. There's no word — yet — on whether that suggestion will be presented as a motion to council to vote on. Sources suggest that the Township may try to get the District involved with either a request for an extension or support of any resolution they may arrive at in regard to Bala Falls. It remains to be seen whether District of Muskoka councillors will have any appetite for entertaining an issue many say they were pleased to return to the Township level last year.

In reaction to today's delegation request by Save the Bala Falls for an extension, Swift River Project Manager Karen McGhee confirmed the extension request has been rejected. She also says she is surprised that the lobby group had not — at the very least — shared or reviewed the preliminary Site 1 Addendum Draft document that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans provided to the group in October 2011.

Public comment opportunity: Renewable Energy on Crown Land Policy

An item of interest to those who want to have their say on how crown land can be used for renewable energy in the future: The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources posted its draft Renewable Energy on Crown Land Policy on June 15 to its Environmental Registry for public comment. To review it, click here. The public has 120 days to comment from June 15 to October 13, 2012. This policy likely has no impact on current renewable energy projects but it may be of interest to those near crown land sites that could be considered for development in future.

This draft policy has been developed to provide updated direction on how the government will manage Crown land to support Ontario’s renewable energy needs while balancing the social, economic, and ecological interests of Ontario. It establishes strategic policy direction for Crown land management to support water power, onshore wind power, and solar power development.
 
For more information about the Renewable Energy on Crown Land Policy Review please visit the MNR Renewable Energy webpage <http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Renewable/2ColumnSubPage/284683.html>

Closer to home, those who have opinions on the proposed North Bala Falls hydro project on Crown Land in Bala have until June 29th at 5 pm to pose questions or request an individual environmental assessment. For information on the project, please see the proponent web site: www.balafalls.ca. To read opposing views, Save the Bala Falls posts information at www.savethebalafalls.com. MNW does not endorse the information provided on either site.

 

 

Bring on the 2014 Winter Games in Muskoka – we’re going again!

Muskoka will once again play host to the 2014 Ontario Winter Games scheduled for
February 27th to March 2nd, 2014.
The Bid Committee, comprised of representatives from Bracebridge, Georgian Bay, Gravenhurst, Huntsville, Lake of Bays, Muskoka Lakes, Wahta Mohawk First Nation and Orillia officially received the news from Sport Alliance of Ontario earlier today.

The Ontario Winter Games are the largest multi-sport event in the province with over 3500 athletes, coaches, managers and major officials participating in over 25+ different sporting events. Muskoka successfully hosted the games in 2010.

“Our 2010 experience proved that we have the capacity to host a first class event of this magnitude,” says Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith on behalf of all the Mayors of Muskoka. “In addition to the obvious economic impact that these games bring to the region in the off-season," continues Smith,"they also highlight the strong spirit of volunteerism that exists within our residents. We’re very excited to once again show the province what great hosts we can be.”

Community members needed to help

The next step in the process will be for the Winter Games Bid Committee to come together to identify community members to spearhead the organizing committee. Shortly after that, the search will begin for a Games Manager who will be responsible for the every aspect of the games development over the next year and half.
The Ontario Games are a program of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport and delivered in partnership with Sport Alliance Ontario. To learn more about the Ontario Games or Sport Alliance Ontario, please go to: www.sportallianceontario.com

Bill C38 Rally brought 40+ to Clement’s Huntsville office

Update: Tony Clement's Huntsville office saw about 40 or so protestors gather as part of the #13heroes initiative to find 13 MPs who might feel a little differently about the omnibus bill. One person also waved placards at Clement's Bracebridge office and Green Party of Ontario Leader Mike Schreiner stopped by to shake his hand while on the way to a Green Party event in Bracebridge. But Clement had already made it very clear he wouldn't be on of the 13…. and of course the omniBUS has left the station now.

Shown here: Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner stops for a chat with a Bill C-38 protestor Wednesday evening in front of MP Clement's Bracebridge constituency office.

 

 

Previous post June 13: Mp Clement's office on the list to be targeted by protestors today re Bill C38 starting at 530 pm. MNW asked about the Minister's Bracebridge office and LeadNow organizers say they hope those concerned about the omnibus bill should show up at whichever constituency office is closest but no formal protest is planned for the Bracebridge office. In Muskoka, Parry Sound Muskoka NDP executive member Clyde Mobbley is organizing protest for Huntsville. He says " This government, with Bill C-38, is placing our social, environmental, health, pensions, government accountability and civil liberties for our children and their children in harm's way. This is outrageous behavior. The proper role of government is to protect our social, environmental, health, pensions, government accountability and civil liberties for our children and their children."

Here's where you get info on the stop the omnibus move: http://heroes.leadnow.ca/

Rally Details – verbatim from release & link to Huntsvlle Invite, click here:

Tell Tony Clement: “Be a Hero, Stop the Budget Bill.”

Gathering Time:
Wednesday, June 13th, 2012 @ 05:30 PM

Member of Parliament:
Tony Clement (Conservative)

Volunteer host:
Clyde Mobbley

Address:
44A King William Street, Huntsville ON, P1H 1G3

 

 

Windermere Heritage Meeting on for June 15

The Windermere Heritage meeting is on for Friday June 15, 2012 at 7 pm at the Community Centre in Windermere. The Township's Director of Planning Stephen Fahner explains it is an introductory meeting to a possible Heritage Conservation District. He adds there are no public notice requirements for initial meetings like these under the Heritage Act. According to earlier minutes, letters were being sent to all Windermere residents potentially affected. If the initiative goes forward, a more formal Public Meeting would be required in front of Council at a later date.

So spread the word — if you're interested in the history and heritage of Windermere and are curious to learn about the benefits of designating the area as a Heritage Conservation District, here's a chance to get involved. Owners of buildings proposed for designation may also want to attend to understand how the designation may affect them and their buildings, if at all (they have all likely received invitations as per the committee minutes).

Bala Heritage next step: Pre-hearing conference

Fahner continues to talk to the Conservation Review Board (CRB) about the process going forward for the proposed Bala Heritage Conservation District. He told the committee the CRB is making arrangements for a pre-hearing conference call including those who are to be included in the heritage review. That would include entities like the Ministry of Natural Resources, and CP Rail who own part of the lands noted for designation. And there's no word yet on when a public meeting for the proposed Bala Heritage Conservation District may be rescheduled. A meeting was to be held in March, but was cancelled due its timing during March Break.

Since then, there have been some changes on the Heritage Committee as Councillor Ruth Nishikawa has relinquished the Chair, and some members returned (Tom Millar); some moved on (Phil Harding); and the committee now welcomes Sandy Tozer Spence as its new Chair.
Chair: Sandy Tozer Spence                                                      Acting Chair: Mayor Alice Murphy
Members: Councillor Ruth Nishikawa
Tom Millar
Anne Polewski

Previous March 7 Post: re Bala Heritage Meeting Cancelled

Update: March 16 Heritage Meeting Cancelled. A proposed public information session regarding heritage in Muskoka Lakes to be held March 16 at 6:30 p.m. has been delayed. No new date is available, but it could be after March as the Township has told the Conservation Review Board it needs until the end of March to answer questions about who owns what parcels of land it wishes to designate.

The Township Heritage Committee has requested that the March date for the public meeting be reconsidered as it was scheduled during the upcoming March Break and interested parties may not be able to attend. The committee is also getting more money than ever before ($25K, up from $2K) from the new 2012 budget for consulting required for Heritage Districts. This may be a smart move for the committee as the Conservation Review Board wants the committee to provide more information in regard to its first batch of designation proposals that critics say were incomplete. Some objectors have expressed concern that property descriptions were sometimes vague and potentially incorrect. Plans for a heritage district around Bala Falls, for example, included designating the Shield parking lot and Portage Landing, which the Ministry of Natural Resources says is partially owned by the Crown. The Board wants to understand what land, if any, CP Rail may own – and whether the Township contacted owners before requesting designations. CP Rail and the MNR are both objecting to the designations. The Review board requested the additional information by February 24 but says the Township has asked for more time to clarify ownership questions. Township planning staff say the Township has until the end of March to respond. Meantime, there have been changes to the Heritage Committee. Councillor Phil Harding is taking over for Allen Edwards and seasonal resident Tom Millar has left the committee. For information about any upcoming public meetings or the next Heritage Committee meeting, interested members of the public should contact Committee Chair Ruth Nishikawa. The committee should be applauded for planning to get public input on the proposed designation. Councillors have said there is a lot of misunderstanding of the potential benefits and pitfalls of a heritage district. Note: as long as the Township owns the land it is designating, the municipality is free to act on — or ignore — the Conservation Review Board's recommendations. If the province does own part of the land (which MNW believes to be the case), the province could potentially stop the designation of lands it partially owns. Meantime, the Review Board says it does not know if a parking lot has ever been designated as a heritage site before, adding they don't keep stats like that.

A cool mill? Try $1.2M + $400K: questions arise as lawsuit resolves

Commentary by Norah Fountain…Milford Bay Musings & Budgeting for Bad Breaks & Potentially Good Outcomes: The news was official last week that the long standing dispute between the developer of the Milford Bay Manor land (some may recognize that location better as the PALS golf course) and the Township of Muskoka Lakes had been resolved. It was a left over matter from two councils ago that the new council had to deal with. Moose FM got the dollar scoop today $1.2 million dollars in damages & $400k paid to keep some of property). See Moose story here.

Back in February, Muskoka News Watch looked into whether the unidentified million dollar item in the budget could be Milford Manor related and Metroland reporter Louis Tam asked the question directly of council on February 7, 2012. But property is a Closed Session matter. And since the previous Council kept tight lips on that situation, it's hard to say whether this outcome was potentially better than expected. No matter who was in council, the Milford Bay Manor situation was a difficult problem to fix so we all knew a hit was coming.

Let's Do the Math: Before considering what the future might bring for this property (and others), let's do some math. There was a million dollar legal item in the budget that was unexplained. Then there was $234K for parking and parkland including $160,000 to buy parking space; $74,000 to buy parkland).

So, there's your $1.2 million settlement with $34K left over. The Moose reports another $400K is being spent on the remaining Milford Bay parcel (the golf course) and unconfirmed reports put the cost of the Bala Portage parking lot at up to $180k. Where does the extra half a million or so come from? I believe Council had huge reserves in parkland and it was designated for spending for parkland only. This gets tricky: property is closed session material but SHOULD council spend park reserves without any public input? Remember, this is a group that campaigned on openness, public input and transparency. Must go check and see if there is a line item in the most recent budget I might have missed. And if there was all that money,   why didn't Council buy off the Milford Bay situation as parkland before spending tons on lawyers? Just a thought. But hindsight is 20-20 (and I didn't dream that one up on my own: sources say that suggestion came up a long time ago).

And More Parkland to Come: Apparently there's another parkland purchase in the works for Muskoka Lakes. Sources told me almost a month ago that land had already been bought near 141. Possibly a waterfalls included, according to another (unconfirmed source). Or at least a view of Rosseau Falls. Price tag on this one so we can add it all up? Reportedly $74K.

Whether you like the fact we retained parkland in Milford Bay (personally, I do, and am happy for the Milford Bay residents that we still have a great starter golf course and hope the Township will keep it that way as many golf courses in Muskoka are not as approachable or affordable for beginning golfers). I'm NOT sure I'm thrilled about a $400K price tag for a parcel not on water though. From what I understand – and do correct me if I'm wrong – but the developer will keep the waterfront portion for development). Again, maybe there was little that could be done about the property price given the lawsuit.

On Preserving Public Access to Waterfront – can we draw parallels? Gee, would really like those two holes on the waterfront vista though (and the beach) at Milford Bay. Perhaps the legal wranglings made that impossible to avoid as well. One councillor has assured me that while the golf course remains, it will be reconfigured to still offer nine holes. How much will be budgeted to keep it going, I wonder?

Interesting how we have councillors screaming about need to preserve waterfront in Muskoka Lakes (particularly Bala given Bala Falls controversy) BUT they are thrilled about waterfront being built up in Port Carling. The Mayor has described the proposed new Hirsh development as a future crown jewel of Muskoka. It worries me that it appears some waterfront might be valued more than other waterfront depending on who's running the show, who you know, and where you know 'em. I could have sworn I heard at campaign time some wanna be councillors talk about how great it would be to keep what was then called the 'rock pile' as a needed parking lot for Port Carling (Phil Harding suggested that and it seemed like he was on to something) while others talked about keeping it as park land. Shawn Leon himself suggested in council last time he was there that some of the concerns council had when he owned the property seemed to be still in evidence today with a new owner. Yes, it was a mess and hopefully it will look good in the future even if we lose public access. (Oh, and don't get me started on the application of PERFORMANCE BONDS – for heaven's sake councillors, do you know the difference between performance and security? Can you explain it to us? Because you keep talking about them so you must know. Have you investigated why performance bonds have not been demanded from developers?). More importantly, Leon might have been getting at something deeper hidden under all the rock talk — that decisions are not being made equally depending on who is in front of council. Some could argue that's the way it is and always has been in politics — it's good to have friends in high places, but I do know this: I've never seen people treated so rudely or dismissively before at council meetings. At least not so openly. Councillors represent us all — whether they personally despise us or not and they should at least try and appear as everybody's getting a fair shake. While a candidate, the Mayor, for example, declared open season on Red Leaves and Leon yet now loves the plans for that property slice in Port Carling. I don't attend planning, so I can only assume that Council received a highly detailed site plan like the ones they've requested from other property owners. No, wait, I think I heard a Councillor say details would be forthcoming in the site plan. Hmm, who was that? It might be wise to see that detailed plan before crowning it.

Bottom line: Show us the money (all of it, not just a peek like at public budget session which to Council's credit was a good start for an inexperienced bunch). Will it cost us? If it is out of park reserves, maybe it won't? Show us how all this aligns CONSISTENTLY with a strategic plan and will aid in economic development. Show us that after this that all potential developments will be treated equally and fairly to try and avoid hefty price tags and embarassment. Except Bala Falls of course – I'm doubtful the Mayor and her fellow Save the Bala Falls affiliated councillors can put aside their prejudice on that one, ever, for the greater good of the community that will live year round with the plant. They've made that clear. But maybe they can put on a brave face on that one as they suck up the reality or at least try to act impartially on the majority of other Council business as we equally unrealistic optimists hope all good politicians might do. It's in our best interest. And in theirs.

Background Posts from Feb 28 & Feb 7 next, fyi.

Feb 28: Parking & Parking Lot Costs $234K

On March 5 (anticipated budget adoption day at Council), will we know what the Township of Muskoka Lakes is planning to buy? The next regular meeting of the Township will consider adopting the budget in its most recent version. But questions remain on exactly what taxpayer dollars are being spent on. Property matters are 'closed session' items, but shouldn't the public know what land Township has decided to buy — where that land is and what it is for. According to the budget, $160,000 is to be spent to buy parking space; $74,000 to buy parkland. Have these needs been pointed out before? No doubt. Take a drive though Port Carling on any summer weekend and you can see there could be need for some extra parking. In Bala, parking lots are used even though some are privately owned lands. So where are we getting this extra parking and is it a good use of our money? The same goes for parkland. That sounds promising. More public access to the water perhaps? The problem is, without any idea of what is being bought and where, and whether the purchase lines up to the Strategic Plan, it leaves us wondering what the Township council will unveil. It's like they're planning for a private shopping spree and then they'll have to sell us on how great these land buys are after the fact. Sort of, you paid for this, now aren't you happy? I hope we will be. The Treasurer has also said there is significant investment planned for heritage, but there's no suggestion the real estate buys and heritage are connected. The budget for heritage has gone from $2,000 to $25,000 (the committee asked for $30K). So far, the heritage committee's track record hasn't been so great given the questions about descriptions of heritage value, etc, — maybe they need this consultation money to find out if lands they're trying to designate are owned, etc, as in the case of Portage Landing and the Shield Parking Lot which the MNR says is partially owned by the Crown and the Conservation Review Board wants to know if this is indeed the case. (The question of Crown ownership is not news — it's come up several times over the past year so you would think that might have been addressed in the submission to the Municipal Heritage. Also, a recent member of the committee has at least once referred to the township as Muskoka Falls Township in correspondence with the province which also shows a lack of knowledge, but I digress). Another question to be asked at a promised upcoming public meeting — is this $25K worth spending if it will help the committee get it right? Certainly, their efforts are noble. But here's the kicker: Isn't this the same council comprising candidates who loudly decried what they called 'wasteful' spending on the Duke House? While not designated for heritage, it is historic. And I believe the public knew the Duke House purchase was a possibility before it went ahead. It just seems odd that they plan on spending more now when they complained about the only serious heritage related spending in the past 10 years. And of course, I still hear the ringing calls for "no more closed meetings" by then mayoral candidate Alice Murphy. The problem with keeping items under wraps is that the rumour mill takes over. Several sources have suggested what parking lots the Township is looking at, but the parkland is more of a mystery. Is Phil Harding trying to make good on his campaign suggestion to buy the rock pile (nope, that already sold). What about trying to buy land around the Bala Falls (nope, MNR said no to a transfer). More public water access would be great. And when we find out what we bought, hopefully we'll all be very happy with the decision of our elected councillors. Ah, c'mon, just a hint? Can we at least shake the deed envelopes?

 

PREVIOUS STORY POSTED FEB 7: Confirm or deny: could Milford Manor cost a cool mill?

Question at public budget meeting tonight: Confirm or Deny Milford Manor?

Intrepid Bracebridge Examiner reporter Louis Tam asked if he could ask a question during a public session tonight at the Township of Muskoka Lakes and he was graciously given an opportunity to do so.

But he was asking on a Closed Session legal item, so he didn't get an answer. Paraphrasing here, Tam asked: Can you confirm or deny the million dollars in the budget has anything to do with Milford Manor (apparently meaning a lawsuit everyone seems to know about but nobody outside council is supposed to know about). He was told he had already been told they couldn't talk about that but that the subject of the million dollar line item had been discussed earlier in the evening in response to Muskoka Ratepayers asking about it. At that time, when Councillor Brad Burgess suggested all would eventually be abundantly clear on that extraordinary item (the million dollar legal estimate), Mayor Alice Murphy quickly added "Or Not." Which makes one wonder if reporter Louis Tam had connected some dots.

 

Gravenhurst is a Great Town: will you support it?

Will Gravenhurst make the cut? Let's hope so! Kraft and TSN are on the road visiting 10 great towns in 10 summer days and guess what – Gravenhurst is seeking a nomination to be one of those great towns. Gravenhurst Councillor Heidi Lorenz has made a submission to the Kraft Celebration Tour. If you love Gravenhurst, you can also tell the organizers why Gravenhurst should be selected. After all, it is the town's 125th birthday and selected towns will get $25-thousand. To support Lorenz's nomination, please click here to go to the Centennial Centre – Gravenhurst page.

How the selection works

From all the submitted nominations, a panel of judges will choose 20 finalist communities. Then it’s up to Canada to decide the 10 winners via an intense 10 days of head-to-head on-line voting! Each of the 10 winning communities will receive a grand prize consisting of a $25,000 award from Kraft for the facility/project that the prize winning community endorses. TSN will help celebrate the win with a live SportsCentre broadcast from the community (date to be specified by Sponsors).

So it looks like we should support the submission then get ready to vote like mad when Gravenhurst makes the next cut. Go, Gravenhurst! Thanks to Chip Loughead for sharing the news!

 

Muskoka Lakes woman charged in senior theft

Police report a cautionary Power of Attorney tale: Police have charged a Muskoka Lakes woman after an elderly woman of Gravenhurst had her accounts drained of nearly $46-thousand.

 

The victim is an elderly resident of Leisure World in Gravenhurst and the OPP started investigating when cheques written to cover patient care started bouncing. Officers say they discovered that over 6 years, nearly $46-thousand had been funnelled out of the lady’s account. They found evidence the money was being used by the accused to pay personal bills, mortgage and car payments and even dog food along with other personal expenses not related to the victim's care. It gets worse, as police say the victim’s bills went unpaid by the accused growing the victim’s debt balance to $43-thousand.

 

Charged with Theft by Power of Attorney is 56-year-old Linda CROWDER of Muskoka Lakes. She is scheduled to appear in court on June 26 to answer the charges.

Update: Cottage fire cost now pegged at 1.2 million

Our Muskoka Lakes Fire Department went into action early this morning (June 6) to race to a blaze engulfing a cottage on North Bohemia Island, Lake Rosseau. Despite valiant efforts, they could not save it.

Early estimates suggested damages could be as high as $5 million. Muskoka Lakes Fire Chief Richard Hayes says the dollar loss "has now been formalized at 1.2-million). No one was at the cottage owned by the Hull family, and no one was hurt as a result of the fire.

Hayes says preliminary findings suggest the problem was electrical.

"We responded about 20 minutes after midnight to a call from an alarm company monitoring the fire alarm," says Hayes. "That response included Muskoka Lakes Station 5 (Minett) with their fireboat and Foot's Bay (Station 1) with their fireboat plus personnel from Windermere and Raymond (Station 7)."

Hayes says the 4500 square foot cottage marked as Unit 16 located on Bohemia Island is a complete loss.

Critical Safety Notes from Fire Chief Hayes:

1) seasonal residents should ensure their electrical systems and fuel fired appliances are checked before opening season; and,

2) the benefits of having a monitored fire alarm system really helps emergency response time.

Update: SIU investigation into Gravenhurst death over

Update on Southwood Road death from Special Investigations Unit: SIU has concluded its investigation. Found no police involvement at time of firearm discharge. See Moose FM for full update.

Previous post:

SIU looking for witnesses, details on incident:

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is probing the circumstances surrounding the death of a 57-year-old man yesterday in a home on Southwood Road in the Gravenhurst area. A post-mortem is taking place today (June 6) in Toronto.

The following is the report from the SIU to date:

The OPP contacted the SIU and reported the following:

  • At approximately 1:00 p.m. on June 5, 2012, the OPP responded to a residence on Southwood Road after receiving a call from a female;
  • While speaking to the female outside of the home, officers heard a gunshot from inside;
  • At approximately 9:00 p.m., officers entered the home and found a man deceased.

The SIU has assigned two investigators and one forensic investigator to probe the circumstances of this incident.

Anyone with information or who may have witnessed this incident is asked to contact the lead investigator at 416-622-2293 or 1-800-787-8529 extension 2293.

The SIU is an arm’s length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.

 

Ed. Note: As details emerge, it appears this may have been a tough situation all around for any person on the scene of this shooting, including the OPP who had to respond. There is no suggestion yet that this could have been a self inflicted tragedy.

 

Previous story ran on MNW:

The Bracebridge OPP detachment has released a few more details on a suspicious death at a Southwood Road residence in the Town of Gravenhurst. Earlier reports placed the finding of the body in a home near Torrance. Southwood Road (Muskoka Road 13) runs between Torrance and Gravenhurst. Bracebridge OPP report they were dispatched yesterday (June 5) after a report of a suspicious male being seen in the area. They say their investigation showed the male had entered a home and that a gun may have been discharged. Members of the OPP Tactics and Rescue Unit entered the home where they found one person dead. The province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is now in charge of the investigation.

Province fails to keep conservation promises: new report

Toronto, June 5, 2012 – Gord Miller, Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner, says the Ontario government appears to have forgotten one of the important goals of its own Green Energy Act (GEA). Mr. Miller made that observation today as he released Volume 1 of his Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report – 2011, 'Restoring Balance,' which reviews the government’s progress to date on its energy conservation promises. It also makes recommendations on how the government can fulfill its GEA commitments. The Green Energy Act gave the Environmental Commissioner the responsibility for reviewing the progress of energy conservation activities in Ontario.

To download Summary Report, click here

“When the GEA was introduced, the government said that fostering a ‘culture of conservation’ was just as important as increasing the amount of renewable energy,” notes Miller. “But three years after its passage, many of the bill’s conservation promises remain unfulfilled, or in the case of mandatory energy audits before the sale of a home, completely abandoned. Instead of fostering ‘a culture of conservation,’ the Ontario government seems intent on making it an orphan.”

The report points to 3 energy conservation promises never acted on by the government:

  1. no introduction of ENERGY STAR® standards for household appliances such as refrigerators, clothes washers, and dishwashers. This would have stopped the sale of less efficient products that consume 20 to 40 per cent more energy.
  2. failed to make energy audits mandatory prior to the sale of homes. Homebuyers currently have limited access to information about a home’s energy use. The residential sector accounts for 21 per cent of all energy use in Ontario.
  3. not yet banned the sale of the ‘inefficient’ screw-in incandescent light bulbs, which it promised to do by 2012. The federal and Ontario governments have now delayed the ban for two years.  This delay will cost Canadians as much as $300 million in higher energy costs.

The GOOD news: The report says the Ontario government does deserve praise for making the Ontario Building Code more energy efficient and for requiring municipalities, school boards, hospitals and colleges and universities to develop energy conservation plans and to report on their organization’s energy usage.

But Miller notes this is still an arm’s-length approach to conservation “that leaves conservation disconnected from people’s day-to-day lives.”

“You cannot foster a ‘culture of conservation’ in Ontario,” states Miller, “unless you take actions that actually engage the individual consumer or homeowner.”

Lock Up Your Boats & Bikes or Poof, they’re gone!

Police say they’re getting more calls about boats and bikes being stolen and want to remind people to keep their belongings locked up. A 16ft aluminum boat from a cottage on Lake Vernon's Galagher Island in Huntsville disappeared May 31. It’s described as a 16’ aluminum, silver in colour, with a 20hp 4 stroke Mercury outboard electric start motor. Seen it? Contact the Huntsville OPP or Crime Stoppers.

 

And a lunch stop at Pizza Pizza cost one young man his $600 Mirraco Muse bicycle in Huntsville last week. An arrest has been made in that theft and charges laid. Every year, Huntsville OPP report they receive several bicycles that have been taken, or misplaced through out the year, and they go unclaimed. Police suggest that when you buy a new bike, remember to record the make, model and serial number – and buy a good bike lock.