Fire Service Survey Update: Focus Group from survey to meet January 22

Fire survey input gathered – next step is focus group on January 22

Update January 18, 3:30pm: Muskoka Lakes Fire Chief Richard Hayes wants to thank all those who completed the survey about municipal fire services. He says those who did the survey and said they wanted to be part of a focus group about fire service planning will be contacted directly. He says the group is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, January 22 at 7pm at the Port Carling Fire Station, 1 Lee Valley Drive (the Fire Plan survey input period is now finished).

Update December 30, 12 pm: Fire Department officials advised today that some issues with the fire service survey have been resolved.  The suggested survey deadline is Jan 10. Original article below.

muskoka news, news about Muskoka, firefighters, Bala, Muskoka Lakes, Murphy, Save the Bala Falls, Muskoka News Watch, Norah Fountain
Photo courtesy of MyMuskokablogspot.com

Posted Dec. 23, 3.30pm: The Township of Muskoka Lakes is looking for your input about how important Muskoka Lakes Fire Service is to you and how it might be improved.

Residents have until Friday, January 10, 2014 to respond to an online survey, which a Township release today says will help gather input to “ensure focused action that continues to meet the diverse needs of all residents.”

Click here to start survey now >>>

The call for input comes at a time when the Township is building a 10-year master plan to guide operational improvements and enhance how fire service is provided throughout the community.

Home on fire May 9, fires, Muskoka news, Muskoka Lakes Fire department, emergency planning, Milford Bay
Just one of a few dozen structure fires fought by Muskoka Lakes Fire this year (on Lake Muskoka May 9, 2013)

“The Master Fire Plan is all inclusive,” says Fire Chief Richard Hayes. “We want to ensure we are providing a service that properly meets the “needs and circumstances” of our community.  We have not received any formal complaints for our service. In fact, we do receive thanks for the service provided. While most people really don’t want to use our service, they are happy to see us when needed.”

At the same time Township is seeking public input, the amount of budget dedicated to fire service has prompted hard questions from three Township Councillors.

At Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, Councillor Phil Harding said he had a huge problem with the fire department budget making up 38% of the township budget, demanding that the 38% be justified. He suggested it might be time to rethink how the Township is serviced. He also questioned why other municipalities can provide fire service for significantly less than Muskoka Lakes.

Councillor Ruth Nishikawa added she’d like to know if people would be happy with just a fire chief alone, noting the fire department at first wanted only a part-time secretary. According to Chief Hayes, the fire department presently has four full-time personnel and about 130 part-time firefighters (with a full roster, that number can grow to 155 part-time fire fighters).

Mayor Alice Murphy suggested the fire department “endeavour to save foundations. We are about saving foundations.” Councillor Ron Brent fired back that it’s not just the single structure that firefighters want to save, but they’re also trying to stop fire from spreading to neighboring homes and cottages.

“If you don’t get there quick enough, you can lose more cottages, and they’re also protecting lives. Lives are irreplaceable. I’m offended by that comment,” he said.

Muskoka news, Muskoka fire, Huckleberry Rock, Milford Bay
Smoke above Milford Bay: Huckleberry Rock on fire July 25, 2012

In an interview later, he added he felt the “foundations” comment was an attempt to further dispute the money needed by the fire department and belittle their results. “The department does much more than look after house fires,” said Brent.

After repeated questions about fire service and related costs, Councillor Don Furniss, who was chairing the meeting, tried to bring the fire question portion of the budget discussion to an end and move on to other areas that also have an impact on budget. This action set off a governance debate with Mayor Murphy regarding how many different questions a councillor can ask. She quoted Robert’s Rules as specifying questions are not limited if it is on a different subject. Councillor Harding chimed in to support the level of questioning, saying ”if a fire department is 40% of the budget, it should be 40% of the discussion.”

Some MNW readers may recall the public outcry in 2000 when a District restructuring plan considered closing fire stations in Muskoka, including Muskoka Lakes. That plan was designed to increase efficiency and control cost. Those pressures haven’t changed: the cost of fire service continues to increase for a number of reasons, some of which may include new demands on training, and equipment needs, along with the sheer amount of calls for service.

Fact: In 1999, there were 998 Fire/Rescue calls and 327 Medical Assist calls across all of Muskoka. Source: Restructuring Report June 2000 via One Muskoka. Compare that to the estimated numbers in Muskoka Lakes alone? It’s estimated the Muskoka Lakes Fire Department does about an average 500 calls per year with just over a third of them being for medical responses. (Note: Fire Chief Richard Hayes provided these numbers as estimates only to MNW as he was out of office at time of call).

More about the survey: Deadline for input January 10, 2014

The survey release today reads: “Muskoka Lakes Fire Rescue has a proud tradition of assisting residents and effectively responding to emergency situations. Please take the time to complete this survey. Your confidential responses will help to ensure focused action that continues to meet the diverse needs of all residents. We ask that you complete the survey no later than Friday, January 10, 2014.”

The survey asks questions, such as:

  • What are the things that make you most proud of Muskoka Lakes Fire Service?
  • What would you say are the top three issues facing our fire service today?
  • Over the next 10 years, if you could do up to three things to improve how the current service is provided, what would those things be?
  • Would you be willing to participate in a special focus group to discuss improvements to the service? This focus group will be meeting Monday January 20th, 2014 at Port Carling Fire Station 7:00pm.

The survey also asks people to give their opinions on how fire services should be ranked, covering a range of services, from fire fighting and emergency planning to hazardous waste response.

To respond to the survey, which takes only a few minutes, and does not require your name (unless you express interest in joining a focus group), click here.

About Muskoka News Watch: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you appreciate us keeping you informed with comprehensive articles such as this one, consider tossing a few dollars our way via the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page. Or tell potential advertisers about us. We also encourage you to submit comments to this story: please provide name and email so we know you are human: only your first name will appear on the comment.

 

 

 

Lakeland Power lends hand in southern Ontario ice storm

Lakeland Power says power on for its customers, sending help to southern Ontarians without power; Hydro One still dealing with some local outages

Update Dec. 30: Lakeland Power and Parry Sound Power Crews returned home late on Dec. 29 after helping Veridian connections in the Ajax area. The crews had been in  southern Ontario since Boxing Day after the ice storm took out power to hundreds of thousands of people. Photo shown by crew lead hand Greg Boyd shows trees damaged by  ice. With Greg was Curtis Healey of Parry Sound Power and Kevin Robertson of Lakeland Power and two trucks (a 50- foot bucket truck material handler and a digger truck).

Posted Dec 23, 12.15pm: Lakeland Power and Parry Sound Power are helping out our neighbours to the south who were hard hit by the ice storm. A crew is on its way to help restore power to people in Southern Ontario.

In Muskoka, company officials say there was little damage affecting their service from the storm that hit this past weekend. There was a minor outage on Friday night in the Muskoka Falls area that put 20 customers out of power for about three hours.  On Sunday, there were two separate outages, one on Beaumont Drive in Bracebridge, with about 50 customers out for three hours, and another on Muskoka Pines with 30 affected customers lasting about five hours. Parry Sound had no outages.

Hydro One is working on some remaining outages that have left people without power on Healey Lake and on Browning Island.

Computer virus sports OPP logo; police warn about clicking on pop ups

Virus may cost you money for nothing and hold your computer hostage: recent complaints say fraudsters using OPP as a way to suck you in

Posted Dec. 23, 11.30am: A type of ‘ransomware’ that stops you from using your computer if you click on a pop up displaying the OPP badge has the provincial police warning people to think hard about whether OPP would ever make contact that way.

Members of Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Anti Rackets Branch say a variation on so-called ‘ransomware’ is hitting close to home for them.

“I find it very concerning and that the criminal use of the OPP logo requires investigation. Always use common sense and be very suspicious of ransomware messages,” says Deputy Commissioner Scott Tod, OPP Investigations and Organized Crime.

“Ransomware rips data and personal information needed to fuel further criminal activities, such as credit card fraud and routing payments to offshore accounts from the victim’s computer. The best way to go is to stay away from suspicious websites in the first place,” adds Detective Inspector Paul Beesley, OPP Anti-Rackets Branch.

‘Ransomware’ is a fraudulent threat to online security has been around since 2006 but only surfaced in Canada in late 2011. This malware is first installed by visiting malicious websites set up by criminals. The ransomware produces what has been called a “Police Trojan” or “scareware” because a notice pops up that appears to come from a law enforcement agency. Two recent complaints indicate the well-known O.P.P. shoulder flash – the logo seen on the uniforms of provincial police officers – is on the pop-up to amplify the perceived threat and come between unaware people and their money.

The message is a false accusation of accessing child pornography or other file-sharing websites and subsequently tells the consumer that a fee needs to be paid via money transfer or credit card to unlock the computer. When the victim submits their payment details, the criminals then steal and use personal information, fuelling further criminal activities.

In 2013, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) received 2828 reports from Canadian consumers who have reported receiving the ransomware pop‐up message. Of those, 129 victims were identified as having lost a total of more than $15,800.00 – roughly $122.50 per victim. In some instances, complainants indicated children were using popular social media sites when the ransomware message appeared while others saw the pop-up threat while viewing free TV online. This infection is easily distributed tens of thousands of times and relies on the fact that even if only two per cent fall victim to the scam, it is still a very good rate of return. It’s believed more than 97 per cent of victims are reluctant to report the crime.

Signs that you may have encountered ransomware

  • A pop‐up message or banner with a ransom request.
  • A user cannot usually access anything on the computer beyond the screen.
  • Sending money outside the traditional or mainstream banking system.
  • Sending money to “unlock” a computer.

Tips to protect yourself from ransomware:

  • Never click on a pop-up that claims your computer has a virus.
  • Update your anti-virus software often and scan your computer for viruses regularly.
  • Don’t click on links or attachments in e-mails sent to you by someone you don’t know.
  • Turn on your browser’s pop-up blocking feature.
  • Never download anti-virus software from a pop-up or link sent to you in an e-mail.

If you suspect you or someone you know has been affected by ransomware, contact your local police service, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).

OPP WARNING: FRAUD…Recognize itReport it…Stop it.

MNW EDITOR NOTE: The same warning goes should you ever get a phone call saying from the “Cross Border Fraud Squad” or similar such bodies. Our offices received such a call in October, and a Google search shows there are legitimate Cross Border legal authorities, but these calls are fraudulent. Demand a phone number and tell them you are calling police to report them. And report it to the Anti Fraud Centre. That’s about all you can do, but it should stop the calls.

 

MPP Norm Miller calls for resolution to PSW strike

Personal Support Workers picket Miller’s office: MPP calls for speedy resolution

Posted Dec. 19, 4.30pm: Now in the second week of a Personal Support Workers strike, Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller is concerned that the strike is going under the radar during the busy holiday season.

“I’m surprised the strike is not getting more attention in the mainstream media,” says Miller, noting that while local media is covering the strike actively, major newspapers like the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail have not done the same. “There hasn’t been an article on the strike in the Toronto Star since December 13th. It’s unfortunate that this strike is not getting the attention it deserves from the media and from the government.”

To see pictures of Personal Support Workers picketing Miller’s office, click here to read Bracebridge Examiner article Dec. 18.

4,500 PSWs have been on strike since December 11th, affecting 48,000 of people who depend on PSWs for their homecare (according to the union, SEIU Healthcare). PSWs make 15$/hour and have not seen a wage increase in 5 years, amounting to a 7% wage cut when inflation and the cost of living are taken into account.

“PSWs have been picketing outside my office over the past week. I have had a chance to meet with them and with some of their clients,” says Miller. “I am very concerned that vulnerable people, including seniors, are no longer receiving much needed care while the strike is going on.”

“The priorities of this government seem out of whack,” he says. “Just last week the Auditor General reported on outrageous salaries at OPG, where 62% of employees make over $100,000 a year, and here we have important caregivers struggling to get by, and providing some of societies’ most vulnerable people with vital homecare and support.”

Miller called on the Health Minister to ensure that Red Cross Care Partners and SEIU Healthcare return to the bargaining table, and is hopeful that a swift and fair resolution can be reached by both parties. The Personal Support Workers have been on strike since December 11.

OPP vs Bracebridge high school students equals good cheer for Food Bank

BMLSS and OPP take to the ice for good cause: Manna Food Bank

Note: Check back later as MNW is promised pictures of great moments on ice!

Posted Dec. 19, 3.55pm: The students of Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School (BMLSS) faced off against the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) of Muskoka hockey team in the name of charity today.

The charity hockey game took place at the Bracebridge Memorial Arena this afternoon. The students and members of the public donated food or money to watch the game. The BMLSS team skated hard and won the game 9-5 against the OPP.

Donations totalled $62 dollars cash and over 200 food items were collected. The organizers at BMLSS and the OPP would like to thank everyone who donated to make the game a success, Hammond Transportation and the players who participated.

The food donations have been given to the Manna Food Bank located at 345 Ecclestone Drive in the Town of Bracebridge. The donations will be used by the food bank to help residents in Muskoka who are in need of assistance during the holidays.

For more information regarding the Manna Food Bank visit: http://mannafoodbank.ca/

Muskoka Lakes Zoning Bylaw Update: Staff to recommend changes at meeting Jan. 20

Update: Township staff recommending changes to proposed zoning bylaw at Planning Committee of the Whole Meeting Jan. 20

One POSSIBLE change due to public input: On January 20, planning staff will recommend to Council that the boat storage provision (that would allow no more than two boats be stored)  be removed and dealt with through the property standards by-law and by-law enforcement.

Exemptions to the bylaw are also being addressed. The staff report states “Although this [exemptions] provision remains the same as in By-law 87-87, it is worthy of pointing out. All amendments and minor variances granted since 1985 are to remain in effect.”

Stay tuned as the zoning bylaw continues to progress. Even though the input period has ended, planning staff have assured the public that they can continue to provide input and/or register objections up until the bylaw is passed by Council. However, the earlier te better if you wish to comment as there is no need for Township to re-issue the proposed bylaw for public input and your comments may not be reflected in the final document. Members of the public also have the option of requesting to delegate to express their concerns. Tomorrow’s meeting may provide an idea of when the bylaw may be complete enough, given changes, for Council to vote in favour of the zoning overhaul. At a meeting in November, the consulting group working on the overhaul stated Council hoped to approve the revamped bylaw early in 2014.

Confirmed: Township can accept written submissions until bylaws passed — door still open for OMB appeals beyond Jan. 6 input deadline

Posted Jan. 10, 5:30pm: While the deadline for public input published on Township comment sheets was January 6, the Township of Muskoka Lakes confirmed today that comments can continue to be provided — and documented — on its proposed new zoning bylaw. The proposed bylaw created Waterfront and Community Zones that come with some new restrictions from the present bylaw #87-87 that was drafted in the 1980s. According to Director of Planning David Pink, as long as comments are made before the bylaw is passed, those making the comments could still appeal the bylaw, if necessary, to the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board) Hearing.”

“Although the municipality has requested comments be received by January 6, 2014,’ says Pink, “the proposed draft comprehensive zoning by-law will be considered by Planning Committee of the Whole and Council at a number of meetings in 2014. Any member of the public has the ability to delegate Committee or Council at any of these meetings or continue to submit written comments.  Committee or Council can make changes to the by-law right until it is passed. My understanding is that provided comments have been made prior to the passing of the by-law, one may be party to an OMB Hearing.” Pink notes an input deadline date had to be advertised for the purposes of the municipality moving forward with this process. Previously, he has also pointed out that many of the concerns arising now have been included in the bylaw since it was reworked two years ago.

The Township Strategic Plan had listed passage of the overhauled zoning bylaw as a 2013 target.  (See Jan 19, 2014 update above this article for mention of expectation to pass bylaw in early 2014).

According to Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing web site, “The Planning Act encourages early involvement and the use of mediation techniques to resolve any conflicts. Make sure you make your views known early in the planning process by making an oral submission at the public meeting or a written submission to council before it passes the by-law. If you don’t, you are not entitled to appeal a by-law after it is passed.”

Note: The Strategic Plan did not attach a budget estimate for updating zoning bylaws but net departmental expenditures for the bylaw and fire prevention together in 2013 were more than double the estimated expense. One explanatory budget note states consulting fees for the zoning review have been partially offset by a transfer from reserves. The public has one opportunity to speak to the 2014 Budget on Tuesday, January 21 at 7pm. A draft budget can be viewed by clicking here.

Original Post: Muskoka Lakes residents have until January 6 to have their say on Zoning Bylaw 2014-14: Bylaw could ban more than two boats on a property, add building restrictions, stop some home-based businesses…

Commentary by Norah Fountain Posted Dec. 19, 2013

If you’re not a municipal planner (and maybe even if you are one), it can be hard to understand the potential ramifications of a zoning bylaw overhaul. And that’s what’s been happening for the past couple of years at Township of Muskoka Lakes – an overhaul of zoning and related rules in our Township.

boats, muskoka news, winter, boat storage, planning, zoning bylaw
One boat stored OK, but add a canoe and kayak on your property, and you could be breaking proposed new bylaw

This commentary is not a call to panic about what the bylaw means for our future, but it is a strong reminder that the rules are changing when it comes to what you can and cannot do on your property.

The Township has held public meetings and wants our input, so let’s see if I can tickle your interest as the end of the public input process draws near.

  • Do you have more than two boats stored on your property?
  • Thinking of a starting a home-based business in a community or waterfront zone?
  • Do you keep a mobile home on your property?
  • Do you know what your property will be zoned as under the new bylaw?

If you answered yes to any of the first three questions or no to the last, you may want to take a close look – and quickly – at proposed zoning bylaw 2014-14. Residents of Muskoka Lakes have until January 6 – only seven remaining business days away – to get their comments or objections in to the Planning department (18 days from now, but will you remember to do it over the holidays?).

If you don’t make that deadline, and you later find out you’ve been breaking one of the new rules, there may be little you can do about it.  And if you do not comment now, you cannot appeal the new bylaw to the Ontario Municipal Board.

  • TO READ PROPOSED ZONING BYLAW click here: TML Zoning Bylaw 2014-14
  • TO DOWNLOAD COMMENT SHEET (to print & fill out): Bylaw Comment Sheet
  • Email address to email your concerns to planning: Zoningbylawreview@muskokalakes.ca

Background on input gathering so far and public response: Part of the zoning bylaw made headlines after a public meeting on the Narrow Waterbodies bylaw 2012-56 which is part of the complete zoning overhaul. (See Related Articles for the public response at that meeting in May 2012).

It then went through three different drafts and in the past year alone, two public opportunities to learn more occurred: an open house in June, 2013 and a public meeting in November (See Cottage Country Now story under Related Articles). On December 2, 2013, the Township put up a link asking for ongoing input until January 6, 2014.

Know the new rules that may affect you

But residents who have not taken the time to review the 122-page document may find some surprises in there that they might have not expected in a zoning review. Some readers have told MNW they just figured their residential zoning wouldn’t change anything for them, noting media focus had been on waterfront issues, but then some of them took time to crack the document…and came across items such as:

>No more than two boats stored on property (this means any type of boat – canoe, kayak, motorboat, etc).

3.26.3 Storage or Sale of Boats: The storage or sale of boats shall only occur in an area specifically zoned for such. This provision shall not apply where a maximum of two boats are located on the said lands solely for the purpose of sale or storage and complies with the required yards.”

What does that mean? Does it mean you can’t store more than three boats on your property and there is no definition of ‘boat’ so it can mean a motorboat, canoe, kayak and so on. Hopefully some simple clarification will help here (if some one speaks up about it). If you store your boat because you plan to use your boat, maybe that’s different. But it’s not clear. The same goes for this next section on mobile homes.

>No mobile homes stored ‘permanently’ on residential property. Question: How long is ‘permanent’?

“3.27.1 Permanent uses: No person shall use land for the purpose of erecting or placing thereon a mobile home or mobile unit.”

There is some discussion in the bylaw about temporary use of mobile homes on commercial lands, but it is not clear whether you can leave a mobile home on your property or what length of time constitutes permanent. One mobile home owner expressed concern about leaving their mobile home on their residential town property while travelling in wintertime. Being a bit unclear might be a good thing depending on your perspective – it provides flexibility of interpretation of the bylaw. But not knowing what you can and cannot do will likely not be a good enough excuse if someone complains about your mobile home in your drive or on your property.

>Exclusions on home-based businesses in new Waterfront and Community Zones – 3.13a

“In the Waterfront and Community Zones, the Home Based Business includes only the following permitted uses: professional/personal services; artisans/studios; day care; bed and breakfast; repair services (excluding vehicles, water crafts, heavy equipment, and aircraft repair).”

This one makes me personally cranky. We don’t have much space for business in Muskoka Lakes and often people who want to move into their cottages full-time do it with a view of running a business from home. We also have people who do some vehicle repairs in their home garages in our communities. I can think of a few people who might want to raise this question and ask if they will have to apply for a minor variance if they don’t get their business up and running before the bylaw passes. Does this mean if you’ve always had a business you don’t have to worry about this one? I’d still write a note to planning if you need clarity on whether your present home-based business fits well within these guidelines. For example, I run a home-based business that easily slides into the professional services category. But let’s say someone upholsters boat cushions, and does this business from their waterfront home? Is that an excluded watercraft repair? Not pointing fingers here – just trying to come up with a comparison.

>No storing cars without current licence plates unless in a garage or well out of sight of the street or other properties.

“Unless otherwise specifically permitted in this By-law, the parking, storing or locating of unused or discarded motor vehicles without current license plates is prohibited in all zones, except that:
a. vehicles may be stored inside a private garage; and,
b. one such vehicle may be stored in a screened space that is not visible from any street or adjacent lot.”

No doubt the intent of these various bylaw sections is to effect some property standards that neighbours of people with lots of old rusty vehicles and things on their lawns might like to see in place.

But without clarification, many Muskoka Lakes residents might be in contravention. Back to the boats: How many islanders do you know who have more than two boats? As well as their boat to get to and from the island, for example, they may have an antique boat and a canoe – likely many have more than two boats. While some pay for storage elsewhere, others store them right on their islands.

The Township has listened already to input and made some changes

The Township has done what it is required to do to gather public input. It has made changes to the proposed bylaw as a result of some of the input it received. Sun shelters will now be allowed, for example, as long as they meet the bylaw requirements when in an earlier draft of the bylaw, sun shelters would not have been permitted.

The Township Planning department has been quite busy – if you want to see all the changes that have come up from input, etc, click here to see MEMORANDUM OF CHANGES. If you really want to compare, click here for link to existing bylaw 87-87.

CAN WE ASK FOR AN EXTENSION? An excellent question from an MNW reader. In the past, the Township itself has asked other authorities — such as the provincial government — for extensions for public input to make sure everyone has a chance to be heard. Perhaps Council should consider doing the same for constituents in this matter.

I have another question: How does a Property Standards Bylaw work with or differ from a Zoning Bylaw when it comes to following the rules or becoming exempt from them? That’s a question for a planner or Municipal Affairs and Housing Ministry to answer. Muskoka Lakes does have a Property Standards Bylaw 99-34. One overlapping section that caught my eye: the rule regarding inoperable vehicles, for example, is similar to the new zoning bylaw that refers to ‘abandoned’ vehicles without current licence plates.

So I ponder, do ‘Property Standard-like’ rules even belong in any municipal Zoning Bylaw?  I look forward to any comments from experts who may be out there on that one. Meantime, here are a few quick tips again on what you might want to do if you are a concerned property owner or prospective owner/business in Muskoka Lakes:

ASK QUESTIONS AND/OR VOICE YOUR CONCERNS

  • Email Planning or print out and fill in the PDF Comment Form. Bylaw Comment Sheet. Get it in to Township Planning before Jan. 6. The Municipal Affairs and Housing ministry also suggests making a written submission to Council.
  • You can request to make a delegation to Council later which might influence some change (if they allow you to present concerns after the fact), but if you don’t provide input before the Jan. 6 deadline, you can’t appeal to the OMB if you should ever need to do that.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

  1. All comments are expected to be included in a report to planning committee and/or special committees for review. There may be requests of the Planning department to make changes.
  2. The Council will eventually vote to approve or reject the bylaw.
  3. Once approved, Council gives notice of it passing within 15 days.
  4. People who meet the requirements have up to 20 days after the notice of the bylaw passing to appeal to the OMB via the municipal clerk (OMB fees apply and the appeal fee is $125 but more fees can apply. See OMB Fee Schedule).

In the future…

You can always apply for a minor variance or a zoning amendment if you want to build something or start something that seems to be out of the bounds of the zoning bylaw, but Council may choose to reject your application. And again, if you don’t speak up now, you likely won’t get far with the OMB either.

Bottom line. It pays to be aware and there’s no harm in making your concerns heard. In the future, when you want to start up that little business from your waterfront home, or build that bunkie for your grand kids in the back 40, or rebuild your dock, you may be glad you spoke up now.

Related Articles:

May 28, 2013: Restricted Waterbodies Bylaw Punishes Majority for Sins of Few

November 20, 2013, Cottage Country Now: Township Seeks Input for Zoning Bylaw http://www.muskokaregion.com/news-story/4227404-township-seeks-input-for-zoning-bylaw/

About Muskoka News Watch: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you appreciate us keeping you informed with comprehensive articles such as this one, consider tossing a few dollars our way via the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page. Or tell advertisers that want to target Muskoka that Muskoka News Watch regularly attracts over 10,000 visitors each month. We also encourage you to submit comments to this story: please provide name and email so we know you are human: only your first name will appear on the comment.

Tractor trailer in ditch on Hwy 11 SB at Beiers Rd, no one injured. Be careful out there!

Several accidents reported again on Hwy 11 today – OPP say slow down; The OPP is also offering holiday shopping tips to ensure you get the best — and most legitimate — deals

Posted Dec. 17: 4.43: The Bracebridge OPP detachment is reporting Highway 11 is now clear southbound at Beiers Road in Gravenhurst after a minor tractor trailer crash.

Police say a tractor trailer was merging onto Highway 11 Southbound from Beiers Road and drove slowly into the ditch. There was no one injured. The right lane of Highway 11 Southbound was blocked for a short time by the tractor trailer. The OPP blocked Beiers Road as a tow truck pulled the vehicle back onto the roadway.

As of 4:30pm today, the highway is clear of the tractor trailer. Police are reminding motorists drive carefully and to heed these winter driving tips:

  • Slow down, Stay alert, well rested and sober.
  • Leave plenty of time to reach your destination safely.
  • Drive according to the road conditions.
  • Remove all snow from every window and mirror on your vehicle
  • Remain in control of your vehicle.
  • Leave extra stopping distance.
  • In an emergency call 911.  Use 1-888-310-1122 for all non-emergency enquiries.
  • Stay in your vehicle if you are stuck, call for help, and wait for help to arrive.
  • Before heading out Dial 511 for Ontario Travellers road information line

HOLIDAY SAFETY TIPS FROM THE OPP

For many people, the holidays see an increase in shopping and socializing. The OPP is also offering up the following tips to get you through the holidays safely.

If you’re shopping online, ensure you do some research before you hand over your credit card information to purchase an item:

  • log on to the company website yourself – do not enter through an emailed link
  • check the Better Business Bureau www.bbb.org/ <http://www.bbb.org/> to see if they have had any complaints about their company
  • look for a padlock icon in the upper right corner of any page asking for your credit card information to indicate it is a secure website.

If you’re shopping in person, follow these safety tips:

  • try not to take your eyes off your debit or credit card when someone else is handling it
  • make sure store employees only swipe your card once
  • keep watch of your personal belongings at all times – don’t leave your purse unattended
  • if you must store your purchases in your car, make sure they’re in the trunk
  • park in a well-lit area and don’t leave valuables where they can be seen to reduce the risk of theft from your vehicle.

Tips for keeping your home safe include:

  • if your Christmas tree is visible from the outside, consider not placing gifts under the tree until the last minute
  • once the presents have been unwrapped, consider taking boxes for things such as computers, electronics and televisions straight to recycling yourself – no need to alert a thief to what new toys Santa brought you by leaving the boxes outside your home.

The Bracebridge and Huntsville OPP detachments would like to wish everyone a safe holiday season.

Thinking ahead to 2017: How should Canada celebrate 150th?

Tony Clement asks Parry Sound-Muskoka residents to put our party thinking caps on: 2017 marks Canada’s 15oth anniversary of Confederation.

Posted Dec. 11, 11:44am: Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement is encouraging people across Parry Sound-Muskoka to take part in the national dialogue on how Canada should celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, today launched the Canada, Clement, Muskoka, Parry Sound, 150th anniversary of confederationcoast-to-coast-to-coast consultations to seek Canadians’ views on how they would like to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. And Clement wants to make sure his constituents know their input is desired.

“As we shape the plans for Canada’s 150th anniversary, we want a celebration that reflects who we are as Canadians, where we came from, and what we can give back,“ says MP Clement. “The approaching 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017 is an opportunity for all Canadians to celebrate our shared history and values, which have helped us forge the greatest country in the world.“

Canada 150 is being billed as an occasion to build and strengthen the nation and to engage Canadians in shaping our future. The public can participate in this national dialogue by taking part in the online forum at Canada.ca/150.

Roundtables in communities across the country are to be announced at a later date.

Careful driving today. Two collisions had routes closed in Muskoka: OPP issue driving advisory

Muskoka, weather, road conditions, muskoka news, tractor trailer collision, accident
Snowed In!

Update: 130 pm Dec 11: Peninsula Road and Highway 117/Cedar Lane ramp now OPEN after tractor trailers in the ditch had them closed this morning; careful today!

OPP and Muskoka Lakes Fire Department have confirmed roads now open again after closures this morning caused by tractor trailers sliding off road. See below.

ORIGINAL POST re CLOSURE BELOW

Posted Dec. 11, 11.05 am: Peninsula Road is closed due to a tractor trailer accident north of Port Elgin Road. The Muskoka Lakes Fire Department will advise when the road can be open again. Fire Chief Richard Hayes estimates “a couple more hours 1) for the wrecker to arrive and 2) to actually get the trucks back on the road.”

This is a second tractor trailer to slide off a roadway in Muskoka today. The southbound ramp at 117 and Cedar Lane in Bracebridge is also closed after a tractor trailer slid into the ditch there. The OPP is warning of poor road conditions across our region with reports of cars sliding into ditches and slow traffic on major routes.

If you have an event today, do call ahead to be sure it is still on as there are a number of cancellations. Thank you to MNW readers who emailed us about accidents on the roads today.

OPP issue winter driving advisory

Press Release from OPP at 1.29 Dec. 11: The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Bracebridge detachment is reminding motorists to practice safe winter driving for the next few days as heavy snow is expected to bring inclement road conditions. The public is encouraged to avoid driving in these conditions and stay close to home.

There are no road closures at this time and any closures will be reported to inform the public. There have been numerous drivers today that have lost control of their vehicles, ending up stuck in the snow. There have been no injuries reported. The OPP and tow truck operators have been working to assist these drivers in getting out of the snow. Motorists are asked to take caution when approaching an accident scene and watch for pedestrians.

The motorists in the Bracebridge area should expect hazardous road conditions and poor visibility. Driving conditions can change rapidly at this time of year and the OPP is issuing a reminder to slow down, pay attention and exercise winter driving safety.

Winter driving tips:

  • Stay alert, well rested and sober.
  • Leave plenty of time to reach your destination safely.
  • Drive according to the road conditions.
  • Remove all snow from every window and mirror on your vehicle
  • Remain in control of your vehicle.
  • Leave extra stopping distance.
  • Move over for Emergency Vehicles but not Winter Maintenance vehicles.
  • In an emergency call 911.  Use 1-888-310-1122 for all non-emergency enquiries.
  • Stay in your vehicle if you are stuck, call for help, and wait for help to arrive.
  • Before heading out Dial 511 for Ontario Travellers road information line

Note from MNW: Visit the Ministry of Transportation website for info on road conditions (Select Northeastern region for Hwy 11 and 400) or check out www.weathernetwork.com for weather and more Road Condition updates.

Norm Miller’s paved shoulder bill passes second reading at Queen’s Park

Update: Paved Shoulder past second reading on Thursday, Dec. 12 – now goes to committee. Keep watching Miller’s bill progress in 2014.

Miller Set to Debate Private Members Bill on Paved Shoulders for Provincial Highways; Bill 137 gets second reading Dec. 12

Posted Dec. 9, 11:30am: Parry Sound – Muskoka MPP Norm Miller is not letting any moss grow on his push to get highway shoulders paved.

Muskoka politics, Green Party, Parry Sound Muskoka MPP Norm Miller, Muskoka, Progressive Conservative, Ontario politics
MPP Norm Miller

He held a media conference this morning to raise awareness on his bill that would require a minimum one-metre paved shoulder on designated provincial highways that are to be rebuilt or resurfaced.

Miller was joined by Eleanor McMahon, Founder and CEO of the Share the Road Cycling Coalition, and Teresa Di Felice, Director of Government & Community Relations & Driver Training for the Canadian Automobile Association.

This is the third time that Miller has introduced a paved shoulders bill. In 2010 Bill 100 passed 2nd reading with all party support. In the fall of 2011, he introduced similar legislation, Bill 9, which passed first reading, but was removed from the Order Paper when the Provincial Legislature was prorogued in October of 2012.

Studies have shown that paved shoulders have a positive impact by increasing opportunities for cycling tourism, while at the same time drastically reducing the occurrence of recreation-related accidents on highways.

“Implementing this bill will have numerous positive effects. By making our provincial highways safer, recreational and transportation opportunities for uses such as cycling and walking will continue to increase,” states Miller.

Seeking All Party Support

“By expanding Ontario’s existing cycling network, we can also increase tourism opportunities, especially for active transportation in the province. This will undoubtedly contribute to the Provincial economy, just as it currently does for Quebec,” he adds. “I have had discussions through the all-party cycling caucus on this topic, and also am pleased to add support from the Green Party of Ontario. I am hoping that this will help the Bill garner tri-party support, and ultimately improve safety and encourage cycling in the province.”

“I continue to appreciate the support that has grown to see this proposed legislation put into law,” says Miller. Bill 137 will be debated for second reading on the afternoon of Thursday, December 12, 2013.

Words of support for Miller’s bill:

“Ontario’s doctors would like to congratulate MPP Norm Miller, Parry Sound-Muskoka, on the introduction of the Paved Shoulder Construction and Bicycling Act, 2013, and the required amendment to the Highway Traffic Act, which would help create safer roadways for cyclists across Ontario. Ontario’s doctors are committed to working with the province to create a safer and healthier Ontario. As such we strongly encourage all MPPs to support the legislation given its ability to better the health of the population through safe cycling.”
Scott D. Wooder, MD, President, Ontario Medical Association

“With more than 16,500 km of provincial highways in Ontario and more than 90 per cent of Ontario residents living within 10 km of a provincial highway, this private member’s bill would provide the environmental supports required to boost our population’s participation in active transportation. The availability of paved shoulders on our highways, along with appropriate signage and other safety features, would serve to enhance active transportation opportunities across the province. This bill is in keeping with the province’s new cycling strategy. I believe that the passage of this bill would signify a very sound societal investment.” Dr. Charles Gardner, MD, CCFP, MHSc, FRCPC, Medical Officer of Health and Chief Executive Officer, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit

“Investing in paved shoulders is a life-saving measure that will enhance safety for all road users – particularly vulnerable road users — cyclists and pedestrians. In addition to safer roads for all, paved shoulders will encourage not just Ontarians to cycle more, but will attract tourists. It is an investment that makes economic and financial sense that will enhance economic development through tourism, serve to create jobs in communities across the province and lower road maintenance costs to taxpayers as studies show that shoulder paving extends the life of roads. We applaud Mr. Miller, and encourage his colleagues in the legislature to support this Bill.”
Eleanor McMahon, Founder and CEO
Share the Road Cycling Coalition

“The Ontario Safety League fully supports this bill. For 98 years the Ontario Safety League has not hesitated to champion or support positive efforts that will have an impact on road safety in Ontario. Like previous bills supported by the OSL to encourage seatbelts, driver training and to address HTA amendments all Ontarians will benefit from this Bill’s adoption by the Legislature. Road Safety has always been a non-partisan issue in this Province and I call on all members of the Legislature to see the safety value of this bill and support it.” Brian J. Patterson CFE, President and CEO, Ontario Safety League

“Across Ontario, our network of roads and bridges are the lifelines of our economic prosperity. This piece of legislation is a much needed, innovative approach that supports sustainable and active transportation methods on our already existing network of provincial roads.” Ashley De Souza, Director Government Relations, Ontario Road Builders’ Association

“CAA supports Bill 137, the Paved Shoulder Construction and Bicycling Act.  Paved shoulders, and amending the Highway Traffic Act to make cycling legal on paved shoulders, will make improvements for cyclists riding on provincial highways.  If passed, the Paved Shoulder Construction and Bicycling Act will provide additional safety benefits to our members, both as motorists and cyclists, and roadside assistance workers in the event of a bike or car breakdown. Simply put, more space on the side of provincial highways leads to safer roadside working conditions when delivering CAA’s Roadside and Bike Assist services. The safety of all road users is a top CAA priority and we support MPP Norm Miller’s Private Member’s Bill for its road user safety improvements.” Teresa Di Felice, Director, Government & Community Relations & Driver Training, Canadian Automobile Association, South Central Ontario

“Bicyclists and pedestrians are extremely vulnerable and need to be protected from harm as they continue to share our roadways with the motoring public. This is an important step to guarantee the safety of all road users.” L.G. Beechey, Deputy Commissioner, Provincial Commander Traffic Safety and Operational Support, Ontario Provincial Police

“Without a doubt, paved shoulders on our highways will benefit rural Ontarians; and they will also be a great boon to Toronto riders, vastly increasing the range, safety, enjoyability and ease of excursions into the countryside. Cycle Toronto endorses the private member’s Bill 137–Paved Shoulder Construction and Bicycling Act. We fully support the paving of secondary highway shoulders to a minimum width of one metre; and as a corollary, we recommend such amendments to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act as are necessary to make it legal for cyclists to ride on secondary highway shoulders.”
Jared Kolb, Executive Director, Cycle Toronto

 

Quick Facts

  • About 15 to 20 cyclists are killed on Ontario roads every year, with roughly a third in the Greater Toronto Area.
  • In June of 2012, Ontario’s chief coroner published the first ever province-wide investigation into cycling deaths which included the recommendation:
    • The Ministry of Transportation should identify the development of paved shoulders on provincial highways as a high priority initiative.
  • Analysis of safety benefits of paved shoulders in Iowa indicated paved shoulder reduced total crashes: 8.9% immediately and 15.9% after 10 years.

 

As of 5pm Dec.7, all SB Hwy 400 lanes now open after 2 tractor trailers collided

Update Dec. 7, 5pm: All lanes open now on 400 SB north of 38

Update Dec. 7., 3:30pm: One lane open now SB 400 north of 38

The OPP are reporting that Highway 400 Southbound has one lane open, and traffic is again moving with periodic closures while emergency workers clear the damaged tractor trailers from the area.

Two tractor trailers collide; Hwy 400 SB lanes closed north of Hwy 38

Hwy 400 SB closed at Iroquois Cranberry Growers Road (as of 12:30pm Dec. 7). 

Posted Dec. 7, 12.45pm: The OPP report two tractor trailers have collided on Highway 400 Southbound near Iroquois Cranberry Growers Road in the Township of Georgian Bay. No one has been reported injured.

At this time south bound lanes are closed due to all lanes being blocked by the collision, but emergency vehicles are working to open a single lane. Expect delays through that area.
Traffic is being re-routed at the Highway 69 exit.

 

Lakeland Power and Parry Sound Hydro merger official

Two year deal in the making done: Lakeland to have over 13K customers

Posted Dec. 4, 12:35pm: Shareholders of Lakeland Holding Ltd. (Lakeland) and Parry Sound Hydro Corporation (Parry Sound) have unanimously approved merging their electricity distribution, generation and energy operations under Lakeland Holding Ltd.

green energy, hydro, natural resources, Swift River, Bala, Muskoka, Save the Bala Falls, Lakeland, Parry Sound, hydro power, green energy, Bala, NIMBY, NIMBYS, protestors, Bracebridge Generation, Muskoka, waterpower, Moon River, Flood
Power plant at Bracebridge Falls

Lakeland Power will have a customer base of 13,100 customers. The merger is subject to Ontario Energy Board approval. The shareholders for Parry Sound Hydro approved the merger last night: Lakeland shareholders approved it on November 19.

“We are very pleased to become a partner with Lakeland as our values and goals are aligned”, says Roger Alexander, Chair of Parry Sound Hydro Corporation, who will become a member of Lakeland’s Board of Directors. This sentiment was echoed by Lakeland Chair Tom Peppiatt, saying, “this merger emphasizes our ongoing focus on our customers while allowing continued growth of Lakeland to increase shareholder value, profitability and dividends to our shareholders.”

Lakeland Holding with its subsidiaries Lakeland Power, Bracebridge Generation and Lakeland Energy/Networks, will be owned by the municipalities of Bracebridge, Huntsville, Parry Sound, Burk’s Falls, Sundridge and Magnetawan.

The merger took almost 2 years to negotiate and early on in the review it became clear that Lakeland and Parry Sound were a good fit both operationally and strategically, according to the announcement made in a press release today. Chris Litschko, CEO of Lakeland. anticipates “our customers and shareholders will benefit from synergy savings and cost avoidance over the next few years, as most of all external services can now be brought in‐house and duplication of many functions can be rationalized.”

Bracebridge Generation will have a green waterpower generation capacity of 11.2 green energy, hydro, natural resources, Swift River, Bala, Muskoka, Save the Bala Falls, Bala, NIMBY, NIMBYS, protestors, Bracebridge Generation, Muskoka, waterpower, Moon River, Floodmegawatts with the addition of the Cascade Generation plant in Parry Sound. The Town has wanted to upgrade this plant for the past few years and with Bracebridge Generation’s expertise will increase the Cascade Generation plant capacity from 1.2 megawatts to 3.2 megawatts at an estimated cost of $16.6M. “This upgrade to provide clean, renewable energy is a priority as work has already commenced with plans to start construction in 2015”, says Litschko.

Lakeland Energy/Networks will also be able to provide fibre optic communications and IT products & services in Parry Sound.

“We have worked closely with Parry Sound staff over the past few months and look forward to them bringing their expertise and experience to the Lakeland family of companies”, says Litschko.

Concludes Peppiatt: “This truly is a win‐win merger for Lakeland, Parry Sound and our customers and we look forward to working with our new Parry Sound shareholder.”

Related Article: Waterpower industry honours Bracebridge Generation