|Back to Home||Feature Article - July 26, 2012|
Frontenac County Councilby Jeff Green
MNR urges “common sense approach” in complying with new rules around grey ratsnake
The Frontenac Axis Grey Ratsnake provisions have been added to the Ontario Species at Risk Act. But, as Frontenac County Planner Joe Gallivan indicated at a meeting of Frontenac County Council on Tuesday, July 24, planning departments in the affected townships, which include Central and South Frontenac and Tay Valley, will use the new regulations “as a screening tool for planning applications, and not a prohibited development area.”
The mere fact that suitable habitat for grey ratsnakes is present in a certain location will not necessarily trigger any restrictions on development, nor will a ratsnake sighting.
Active nesting grounds, on the other hand, may be subject to restrictions and the rare sites that are known as hibernacula - places where there is confirmation that snakes over-winter in groups - will be subject to more stringent restrictions.
There is a 30 mere buffer zone around permanent nesting sites and a 150 metre zone around hibernacula.
“Officials with the ministry have told me that it is very rare that hibernacula for grey ratsnakes are identified, but they are important to the survival of the species” said Joe Gallivan.
Temporary nesting sites, such as man-made nesting sites, are not subject to the same level of restrictions as permanent nesting sites are.
Gallivan also said that mapping of grey ratsnake habitat and known nesting and hibernacula locations may be provided to township or county planning departments for their use, but that as with other information about species at risk, that information is not made available to the general public.
The reason for this is that these sites are important to the survival of the species and making them public might run counter to that intention.
The ratsnake, which is Ontario’s largest snake, is the subject of a public information event that is being sponsored by the Frontenac Stewardship Council tonight at the Verona Lions Hall (see Northern Happenings on page 10).
Speakers will include Tim Wood and Kate Pitt with the Ministry of Natural Resources. The event will include general information about the snakes as well as an overview of the new regulation.
Fairmount Auditorium redevelopment steps forward
Two items on this week’s Frontenac County Council agenda concerned the Fairmount Home Auditorium. While county council approved a mere $20,000 expenditure for architectural drawings and cost estimates for a project that will likely cost $2 million or more, it was also decided that the project will be central to an application for matching funding from a federal infrastructure grant as well.
The Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund will provide almost $50 million in grants to public infrastructure improvement projects in Ontario.
Frontenac County is applying for $1 million towards the Fairmount Auditorium project, with $200,000 slated to come from fundraising and $800,000 from the County and the City of Kingston.
County CAO Liz Savill said that while Kingston City Council has not yet been informed of the project, senior administration is “thrilled” that the county is seeking federal money to upgrade the shared county-city infrastructure.
If the grant is approved the estimated cost to the county would be $320,000 but according to a staff report, that figure would be offset by the fundraising dollars.
In discussing the auditorium project, North Frontenac Mayor Bud Clayton wondered why the project is pushing ahead when “two successive councils have said no to the project.”
South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison took a different view.
“We’ve always felt that something should be done about it, but it has been a question of money. If we can get 50% funding, then we should go ahead. The auditorium is in need of repair.”
Warden Gutowski, and Councilors John Purdon and John McDougall all expressed support for Mayor Davison’s position. With Mayor Davison carrying two votes on council, the redevelopment project now appears to enjoy majority support on Council.
In the end, council approved both the application for a $1 million grant and the $20,000 expenditure on architectural drawings
Ompah project terminated – At a special meeting of North Frontenac Council on Monday, July 24, a bylaw was passed terminating the agreement between North Frontenac and Frontenac County to build a joint ambulance base and fire hall in Ompah. A similar bylaw was passed at Frontenac County Council on Tuesday.
“We’ll have to let the dust settle, and then revisit our ambulance base plans,” said Warden Gutowski.
Gone fishing – Frontenac Islands Mayor Dennis Doyle raised a question about the county's procedural bylaw because the warden unilaterally postponed the regular meeting of council. The meeting, which was originally scheduled for July 18 (the third Wednesday of the month), ended up being put off until this week, forcing Doyle to change his schedule because his colleague from the Islands, David Jones, was not available.
South Frontenac Mayor Davison said, “I was the one who facilitated that. I was given an opportunity for a fly-in fishing trip, and I took it. I think we still have a gentleman's agreement that if two members are not available the meeting would be cancelled, and John [McDougall - the other South Frontenac representative] had already said he would be away.”
“I don’t see how this fits our procedural bylaw. I had to change my schedule just to be here today. Councilor Jones [the other Frontenac Islands rep] couldn’t change his schedule. Why is that?” asked Doyle. “We should at least have been polled about this."
“In this case, I made the call," said Warden Gutowski. "I am aware it isn’t in the procedural bylaw, but we don’t always apply the letter of the bylaw. However, I was not comfortable doing it and I’m not sure I would do it in the future. We might want to reconsider our procedural bylaw to give clear direction on this kind of situation.” (See – "I’d rather be fishing, too")
August meeting cancelled – The council meeting scheduled for August 15 has been cancelled, as is customary.