Jeff Green

Jeff Green

Wednesday, 16 January 2019 12:31

Sharbot Lake business group on the move

Alison Robinson has remained busy since retiring as the lead realtor at Lake District Realty a few years ago. Aside from extensive family commitments and other activities, she has also kept up her involvement with the local business community, helping out when she has had time. A little over a year ago, with her husband Wayne, and neighbours Rosemary and Bill Bowick and Ken Fisher, she organixed a meet and greet event at the Sharbot Lake Retirement Centre to introduce the owner, Andrew Kovacs, to the local business community.

“When we were putting together an invitation list, we found that there are over 120 businesses in the vicinity of Sharbot Lake,” she recalled this week, during her remarks at the third semi-annual Sharbot Lake business group meet and greet this week at the Crossings Pub.

At that first event, about 100 people showed up, and during a go around doing introductions, the business owners talked a bit about what brought them to Sharbot Lake to open a business and how they felt about the community. The stories were very particular, but a theme emerged. They all said that the support of the local community had been crucial to them at some point in their business development. Something about those short heart felt testimonials, coupled with the overall energy in the room, led the group of friends who had co-sponsored the event, to start thinking about harnessing some of that energy. After a summer meet and greet in July, which introduced Greg and Arlette Rodgers, the owners of the Rockhill B&B, a business group started to form.

In a year end letter summing up the development of the group, Alison Robinson described a September strategy meeting aimed at beginning to look at the future business climate in Sharbot Lake and vicinity.

This is what she wrote, in part:

“17 people representing over 120 businesses met to strategize on Sharbot Lake’s economic development. We described our current situation as being on the cusp of change. While we continue to serve as a magnet for cottagers and tourists from around the world, one way or another, the next phases of development for Highway 7 and expansion of tourism related businesses will tell our tale.

After that September meeting, the first business meeting of the new group was organised for November. At that November meeting, some concrete measures aimed at developing the tourist potential in the region with Sharbot Lake as a hub community, were discussed. One them is a spring tourism conference engaging about 40 participants to establish a working relationship with local tourist related businesses. Greg Rodgers brought the idea to the group, and he has taken a leadership role in developing the event. Central Frontenac Township, Frontenac County and the Ontario Highland Tourism Organization – “Come Wander”. OHTO have all been approached and are getting behind the event.

At this week’s third meet and greet, which was sponsored by Bill Everett of B.E.E. Sanitation, Alison Robinson spoke about the history of the new group, as did event MC Ken Fisher, and then Greg Rodgers brought an update into the planning for the tourism conference.

Before getting into the details, Rodgers talked about how his thinking about running a B&B in Sharbot Lake has developed in the 18 months since purchasing the Rockhill B&B with Arlette.

“At first, we though of ourselves as running a B&B, pure and simple. It started to changed when I realised that we were attracting people from all over the world to our B&B. We have had visitors from 21 countries, including all of the continents with the exception of Antarctica,” he said. “I now am proud to think of us as tourist operators.”

Last fall, at the urging of Alison Vandervelde, who is half of the County of Frontenac Economic Development department, Rodgers attended an Ontario Highlands Tourism Summit in Haliburton.

Apart from seeing first hand how business in Haliburton and elsewhere in Eastern Ontario were working together to develop tourism in their region, he also saw how powerful and inspirational the stories told by tourism innovators could be. He decided he would try to bring that kind of experience to the business community in Sharbot Lake.

With help from a steering committee, a one-day conference has taken form. It is set for May the 4th at Camp Kennebec and will feature a couple of speakers and an opportunity for 40 or 50 tourist related businesses to talk seriously about the future of the region, and what they can do to take advantage of the natural beauty and build a stronger tourism industry,

“I met with someone today over coffee, another tourist operator and I told him I thought this region could be the ‘next place’. He told me that he thought the same thing when he came to the area, 20 years ago. This time, I want us to make sure we make it happen, in our own way,” Rodgers said.

The final speaker of the evening was Kelly Pender, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of Frontenac County. During his municipal career, Pender has worked as the CAO in the towns of Perth and Huntsville. He was in Huntsville when the G7 summit of 2010 was being organised.

He said that one of the initiatives that Frontenac County has undertaken, is to integrate the economic development and planning departments.

“We have seen increases in planning applications in the order of 30% per cent in recent years in both Central and North Frontenac, and making the process work for people who want to invest here is a major effort at the county and township levels.”

He also said that two transportation issues could have a drastic impact on the development of Sharbot Lake as a tourism and business hub community.

“One is the development of Highway 7. The long-term plan is for it to be expanded to four lanes, and for the communities south and north of the highway in Central and North Frontenac, it will make a huge difference if it becomes a 4 lane highway like the 416, or if it becomes a road that is more like the Thousand Islands Parkway,” he said.

“Now is the time for the business community to create a vision for Highway 7 and the communities that surround it to make sure it brings people here rather than rolling through like a 400 series highway.”

Similarly, the impact of a potential for a high frequency VIA rail train, which he describes as a 50-50 proposition, will be vastly different if there is a station in Sharbot Lake or not.

“If the Federal government decides to fund a train line, it will happen. They have the power to get it through. The only question in that case is, will it stop here or not. If they do approve it, from what I’ve been told, there will be a one-year planning window from the announcement until the plans are drawn up. That could start this April or some other time, but they like to invest in willing communities, so a group like this needs to help make the business case for a station here. What can Sharbot Lake do to make the case that people will stop here?”

Wednesday, 09 January 2019 12:18

SIU clears officers in death of Debra Hill

This Sunday (January 13th) will mark the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of Debra Hill, outside of her home near Tichborne, after being dropped off by OPP officers.

The case generated a Special Investigation Unit (SIU) investigation because of the involvement of the OPP, and it took over 11 months for the SIU to report back. The report, which is dated December 3, was released on December 20th, and concluded that charges are not warranted against the two officers who dropped her off at her home.

“I am unable to find that the subject officers showed a wanton or reckless disregard for the life of the Complainant, nor am I able to find that their conduct amounted to a marked departure from the standard of a police officer,” wrote SIU Director Tony Loparco.

The SIU report included a chronology of police communications from that evening, as well as a narrative based on interviews with the two police officers who were involved, as well as 5 other police and 12 civilian witnesses.

A set of unusual circumstances form the backdrop for Hill’s death: The weather that night was extreme. A rain, freezing rain, and snow event followed by a sudden temperature drop and high winds resulted in a cold, icy night. Police were on the rural side-road late on a Saturday night to investigate a series of break-ins at cottage properties at the far end of the road. Hill and her husband, Kevin Teal, were at a relative’s house, and as they were pulling out of the driveway to go drive a short distance to their home, a police cruiser spotted them. The car pulled into a neighbouring driveway, and Teal exited the vehicle and ran off.

Here is how the SIU report describes what happened next.

“An officer called out to him, but he did not stop. The subject officers investigated the truck and noticed the Complainant crouched next to the passenger side of the truck. The officers yelled at her to not move and drew their service pistols. The officers re-holstered their pistols when it became apparent that the Complainant was not a threat.”

They did take her into custody, handcuffed her and placed her in the back of the cruiser, and reported to the Communications centre that she was “heavily impaired”.

Eventually police took her back to the relative’s house, and talked to family members there. They were told her husband was not there, but had been, and a discussion took place about whether she should stay there overnight, but she said she needed to go home to feed her wood stove, so the police officers decided to drive her home. When they got to her house, they were aware that she did not have her key, but she told them she would be ok.

Here is how the report describes that final interaction.

“Before the officers left, the Complainant realized that she did not have the keys to her house. SO#2 asked the Complainant if she could get into her home and she replied matter-of-fact and with confidence, ‘Don’t worry, I can get into my own house.’ She hugged and thanked the officers.” (SO#2 refers to Subject Officer #2, one of the two police officers who were the subject of the investigation)

The SIU report then says “SO#2 believed she was capable of getting into her home, and the officers returned to their vehicles and drove away. The Complainant walked toward the porch and was last seen by the officers standing next to her front door.” This was at 1:20am, 80 minutes after they found her at the truck.

She was found on the front porch of her house early the next morning. Paramedics arrived at 5:37, reported “vital signs absent” and transported her to Perth hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Cause of death was listed as hypothermia. She had injuries that were consistent with a fall, but “there were no injuries to indicate an attack by a 3rd party. Her blood ethanol level was 232mg/100ml, enough for severe impairment but not enough to cause her death. Alcohol use is known to accelerate the onset of hypothermia, and the report concludes; “Death was due to hypothermia with alcohol intoxication as a contributory factor.”

The main question for the investigation relates to the decision made by the two officers to leave the scene before ensuring that Debra Hill had made it into her house.

The investigator looked into whether leaving the scene at that time constituted a “wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons” to use the language in the law.

Citing case law, which “sets out the test for criminal negligence as requiring ‘a marked and substantial departure from the standard of a reasonable person in circumstances’, the investigator said he is “unable to find that the subject officers showed a wanton or reckless disregard for the life of the Complainant, nor am I able to find that their conduct amounted to a marked departure from the standard of a police officer.”

At the very end of the report, SIU Director Loparco is a bit harsher. He noted that Debra Hill’s death has been heartbreaking for her family and has deeply affected the officers who were involved. He said the officers “made a very unfortunate decision by not ensuring that the Complainant had entered her home after leaving her on her porch, before reiterating his finding that “the Complainant’s death was unforeseeable and the officers’ conduct does not amount to criminal negligence in the circumstances.”

Wednesday, 09 January 2019 12:17

Remembering Ann Goodfellow

Last year when the word came out through the grapevine that Ann Goodfellow was not well, and this was followed by a difficult diagnosis and prognosis, it shook a lot of people in the Parham area and beyond. By the time she died last week (January 5th). It was not a surprise, but it was still difficult news for all of those who knew her.

Ann was a force in the community for many years. Many people knew Ann well, and she touched their lives. I knew her as an advertiser in the paper through the funeral home and Goodfellow’s Flowers shop that she used to run, but mostly I knew her in her role as a school board trustee.

She became involved with the school board by serving on the Parent Council at Hinchinbrooke Public School. Somewhere along the way, that involvement led her to run for the position of trustee, and she was elected or acclaimed every time she ran.

I saw a lot of her during the elections in 2006 and 2010. Because of the size of the territory she represented, she was invited to appear at all-candidates meetings in Central and North Frontenac and Addington Highlands, nine evenings over a three week period.

Each time she gave a 3-minute speech, and sat through a two hour meeting, rarely being asked any questions. In my recollection she never missed a meeting. Although it would not be true to say that she never complained about driving around the countryside after working all day, only to be ignored for two hours, but she always kept a sense of humour about it all. She ran four times, and served 14 years. The last four were the hardest but it was also the term where she made a lasting mark on the board and the community.

Ann was nervous during the 2010 election, much more so than in 2006. The PARC (Program and Accommodation Review Committee) that resulted in the construction of Granite Ridge Education Centre in Sharbot Lake, was underway. Ann was committed to seeing it through before stepping away from the board, and that's why she felt it really mattered that she get re-elected.

She won the election and spent the next two years playing a pretty delicate role. She had to stand by the board at public meetings, as parents learned their community schools were destined for closure and blamed her for it, while advocating for the interests of those same families behind the scenes. And all within the confines of a prescribed, bureaucratic process. It was clear early on that her own Hinchinbrooke School in Parham, where her kids had attended and where she got involved with the board in the first place, was destined to close. It also became clear early in the process that the new school was going to be built in Sharbot Lake, and not in Parham. Whatever she felt about that reality, Ann never let on, ever the realist.

However, when all was said and done, not only was Clarendon Central in Plevna maintained, which was not a surprise because of the distances involved, but Land O’Lakes Public School in Mountain Grove stayed open as well. And the Granite Ridge build was funded.

The Frontenac News article about the final PARC report that confirmed all of this, revealed a bit of the pressure Ann had been facing.

The final paragraph of the article reads like this: “... a relieved Ann Goodfellow made reference to the stress this has caused for her as a community member and a school board trustee as the prospect of multiple school closings was being considered. She said, “This is good. Now I don't have to move.”

Ann was convinced, even before the whole process got underway, that the only way to secure the future of education in what the Limestone Board calls “the North”, was to have a new school built. She knew it would cost more than the board could really afford or could easily justify to the Ministry of Education, which was fixated on a cost per pupil ratio for all of their expenditures.

She took a lot of pride in the role she played in getting Granite Ridge built. She played that role with a combination of discretion and commitment, patience and good will, and it took a toll. When I phoned her in January of 2014, a week after Granite Ridge had opened, to ask if she was going to run for Trustee again, she laughed pretty hard and long before getting one word out. NO!

She was certainly ready to return to working with her husband David at Goodfellows Funeral Home and enjoying the rural life that she loved, a future that only lasted four years instead of the twenty or thirty 30 that she had been hoping for.

There were few surprises at the inaugural meeting of the 2018-2022 Frontenac County Council, which was held on Wednesday, December 22, just as the Frontenac News final edition for 2018 was being printed.

North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins will serve as warden for the second year in a row, to be followed in 2020 by Frances Smith (Central Frontenac), who was elected deputy warden for 2019. Ron Vandewal (South Frontenac) will assume the warden’s mantle in 2021, followed by Dennis Doyle (Frontenac Islands) in 2022.

While all four of the above-mentioned mayors are serving at least their second term on council, four new members of Frontenac County Council took office at the meeting. They are: Alan Revill (South Frontenac), Bill MacDonald (Central Frontenac), Gerry Martin (North Frontenac), and Bruce Higgs (Frontenac Islands).

The only other major appointments that were made at the meeting were to the Kingston Frontenac Public Library Board. There are two Frontenac County resident positions on the board, appointed by Frontenac County Council. Council appointed Louise Moody from Central Frontenac to the board, and Natalie Nossal from Howe Island. Council also sends a representative from their own ranks, and that will be Alan Revill.

Warden Higgins delivered an inaugural address. He talked about the importance of the next phase of work by the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) and the focus on cell and broadband coverage in remote regions of Frontenac and neighbouring counties, a key issue for North Frontenac Township in particular. He talked about the completion of the K&P Trail to Sharbot Lake and the next phase of the trail, through North Frontenac.

He also touched on what he considers to be the very real possibility that the changes in governance that were forced on Toronto City Council in the early days of the new Ontario government last summer, was the first step in a more comprehensive municipal amalgamation exercise in the province.

“Personally, I believe it will expand to municipalities across the province,” he said, and then added that “it is obvious that amalgamation is not working the way it was intended and does not reflect the needs of some municipalities today. I believe we should be thinking about the challenge now to ensure that we are proactive and ready in the event that the province mandates restructuring.”

Among the dignitaries who attended the meeting were MP Mark Gerretsen from Kingston and the Islands, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson, as well as Lanark Frontenac Kingston MP Scott Reid and MPP Randy Hillier.

They all spoke briefly, bringing greetings and said they were committed to working with Frontenac County over the next four years.

In his remarks, Scott Reid took up Higgins comments on municipal restructuring, and said he was addressing his remarks “mainly to an audience of one” MPP Hillier, in order to get a message to the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs, Steve Clark, who had been scheduled to attend the meeting but was called back to the legislature for an emergency session.

“To try and go back and correct the errors of the past through further amalgamation, will likely bring about a further series of problems that we do not foresee.”

He said that the Canadian experience of governance that features incremental rather than radical change in structures has served the country well.

In his brief remarks, Hillier avoided making any commitments in response to Reid’s advice that municipal restructuring is a dangerous path to undertake.

Instead, he said “regardless of whatever comes up, whatever challenges the county and the municipalities have to face, I will be proud to be with you, to work with you and make sure that we have a strong collaborative approach and that we make things better for this very unique jurisdiction that is Frontenac County.”

Wednesday, 19 December 2018 12:47

Have we all been had by Canada Post?

In October and November, in response to the rotating strikes by members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), Canada Post continually updated the public about the impact of the strikes on the service. They suspended delivery time guarantees, announced that there were 500 tractor trailers full of mail sitting waiting, and eventually told foreign postal service not to send mail through to Canada. Large Internet retailers, and in particular eBay, warned that Christmas wasn’t going to come this year if the government did not act soon.

In late November, in order to protect thousands of small and medium sized companies, across Canada, who depend on Christmas sales to survive, the Federal government reluctantly rushed through back to work legislation just as Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchases were about to enter the clogged system.

This is the scenario that Canada Post promoted, and is the scenario that the government acted upon.

CUPW, on the other hand, claimed that the backlog was never as severe as Canada Post claimed. They said they did not want to cause hardship to Canada Post customers and had planned their rotating strikes to pressure the company into negotiating with them without causing the system to break down. They said that there were never any where near 500 tractor trailer loads of backlogged mail, and that the company was only claiming there were, in order to get out of addressing legitimate union concerns over forced overtime and job security at the bargaining table.

Although the national media reported that CUPW denied the existence of a huge backlog, as far as I have seen no one ever really determined which side was telling the truth. We will never know, definitely, if there was a massive backlog or a manageable one.

Obviously, The Frontenac News does not have the resources to investigate this kind of thing, but in our dealings with the local post offices we can say, anecdotally, that the parcel traffic seemed to have kept up through the strike. I checked with two local businesses that ship regularly via Canada Post, to customers around the province, across the country, and in the US. They report(ed) first that they continued to use Canada Post throughout the 5-week strike, and that the parcels seemed to be getting through to the United States and Ontario in about the same time frame as is normal for this time of year, but some locations such as BC were seeing delays. People in our office ordered items online during and immediately following the strike and received them. While this is not exactly an extensive survey, it certainly did not jive with the picture of a huge pile, thousands upon thousands of items waiting to be processed, with new items landing on the pile at an increasing rate.

Yet, even after the strike ended on November 27, Canada Post announced that parcel delivery would continue to be delayed into January of 2019, and international deliveries until March of 2019.

I, for one, was suspicious about those dates. A week ago, Canada Post announced that the backlog was not as bad as they had projected, adding that this was partly because they had received less parcels than they had expected, presumably partly because the strike caused people to use other carriers. As I write this, on December 18, Canada Post has just announced that the backlog has been cleared and the service is back to normal, three weeks to the day after the end of the strike.

While there are reasons to question how the strike ending legislation was engineered, two things can be said about how both sides have handled this latest dispute, as opposed to the contract negotiations in 2016 and the strike in 2011.

For one thing, neither side was as angry this time around as they were in 2011 or 2016. Management, taking a cue from the Liberal government, continually said they were committed to negotiating and to the issues of safety and job security, even if they did not provide acceptable solutions from the union perspective. The union said that management was not addressing the key issues, but until the end, they avoided some of the claims about union busting that were part of the rhetoric the last two times around.

The second, related point is that the union never threatened or carried out a general strike and Canada Post never locked them out. As a user of the service, the fact that, in spite of the uncertainty, the Frontenac News went out each week as usual, and that makes me feel a lot more sympathetic towards both Canada Post and CUPW.

For rural Ontario, Canada Post remains a core service, even if that is not the case in urban centres. For businesses like ours, it is quite an expensive service but remains the only viable way to get our paper out to more remote locations. The alternatives that we could use might work in the more populated south end of our readership area, but even there they are less than fully reliable, create more litter and involve excess packaging. South Frontenac Township is in the midst of considering how to deal with the problem of ‘flyer bags’ in township ditches. It was never a viable solution for the Frontenac News to become part of that problem.

For residents, the advantage of online shopping that only a robust delivery option like Canada Post offers, is of growing relevance as we confront our carbon footprint.

Ultimately, the two sides were not able to reach an agreement, and it seems inevitable that the government would have had to step in, sooner or later. They will continue to negotiate for the next two months, followed by an arbitrator imposing an agreement if they can’t find a way to settle it between themselves. We can only hope that the bitterness between union and management, which has spilled out this fall, is actually less entrenched than it has been for at least a decade.

Among local councils, Addington Highlands has been the most pro-active over cannabis regulations.

This is, at least in part, because the township was notified by residents several months ago that two separate growing operations were up and running within its borders. One of them is an open-air plantation, and the other appears to be a greenhouse operation that is just getting going.

The township heard about one of the operations from a resident who expressed a concern over the smell.

After making inquiries to the OPP and the federal government, the township found out that the operations are federally regulated medical marijuana operations. Not only does the township have no jurisdiction over them, but the federal government will not even respond to requests for information.

“The only group that has any control over medical marijuana is the government of Canada,” said Reeve Henry Hogg. “I don’t mind saying I find this rather frustrating.”

Council met this week in a special session to talk about cannabis retailing, and once again they found their options are rather limited.

“We have the ability to opt in or opt out,” said Hogg, “but if we opt in, we can’t pass any kind of zoning restrictions. The stores, which must be free standing, also need to be located 150 metres away from a school or a community centre, but we can’t impose any other limitations on numbers or on location. Any commercial location is available.”

The township will be receiving $5,000 to cover added costs related to cannabis, and if it says yes to cannabis retailing it will receive another $5,000 next year and will be eligible for funding in future years.

If the township says no, it can say yes later on, but once it says yes it can never rescind that approval

And any jurisdiction that turns down cannabis retailing before the January 22 deadline, may also be forfeiting eligibility for further funding.

“The Province is setting aside $10 million of the municipal funding to address costs from unforeseen circumstances related to the legalisation of recreational cannabis, and priority will be given to municipalities that have not opted-out. Further details will be provided at a later date,” said Ontario Minister of Finance, Vic Fedeli, in a letter to municipalities on November 20.

A week later, the Deputy Ontario Finance Minister Greg Orencsak sent a letter to municipal treasurers containing further details about municipal funding. The total amount of provincial funding has been set at $40 million, to be doled out over 2 years. Orencsak’s letter underlined that municipalities that opt out will be forfeiting provincial money.

“If a municipality has opted-out of hosting private retail stores in accordance with the Cannabis License Act, it will receive a maximum of $5,000. Please note that if a municipality opts-out by January 22, 2019, and opts back in at a later date, that municipality will not be eligible for additional funding,” said Orencsak.

The money that will ultimately be allocated from the $40 million fund, is restricted to specific uses as well. It can only be used for increased enforcement costs, increased responses to public inquiries, increased paramedic or fire services, or bylaw/policy development.

At their meeting this week, Addington Highlands Council decided to consult the public before making a decision on the matter. They will be holding public meetings, one in at the Flinton Recreation Centre at 6:30pm on Monday, January 8, and another at the Denbigh Hall at 6:30pm on Wednesday, January 10th.

North Frontenac Council will be discussing their position on Cannabis retailing at their meeting later this week.

Municipalities are not required to consider the question of Cannabis retailing in detail. The opt out option is the only one that requires municipal action. Municipalities that do not act will automatically opt in.

The North Frontenac Little Theatre Production of The Red Plaid Shirt, by Ontario based playwright Greg Wilmott, was a solid production of a play that explores a topical subject: how male baby boomers handle retirement and how that affects their relationships with their wives.

The play centres around two couples, but the central role is that of Marty, who was played convincingly by Greg Morris. Marty is a newly retired English teacher who does not know what to do with himself, and his sense of ennui provides the impetus for the comedic plot twists that propel the action. Of the other three characters, Marty’s wife Deb, played in a suitably befuddled manner by Sharon Rodden, has the most to do. Her transition to retirement seems to have been seamless, but reacting to Marty’s new neediness throws her off balance, forcing her to ultimately adjust her own lifestyle somewhat.

Marty’s friend, Fred (the always comical John Stephens) is an already retired accountant, whose transition to retirement enabled him to pursue his own peculiar hobby, hypochondria. Meanwhile, Fred’s wife, Gladys, played with a mixture of frustration and irony by Kelly Meckling, would like to more with her life than listen to Fred’s ever-expanding list of ailments. Gladys also serves as a sympathetic ear to Deb. Fred does his best, whenever he takes a break from his obsession with the possibility that he could perish at any moment from some unusual ailment, to help Marty get through his state of unease.

Marty thinks the solution to his funk is to buy a motorcycle and hit the open road. Deb is fearful that Marty is being reckless and will get hurt, since he has never been on a motorcycle, and also feels left behind. She encourages Marty to try wood working with Fred before doing anything foolish. Gladys would like to see Fred be more active, and would also like him to focus on more than his own health. Wood shop doesn’t go that well since both Fred and Marty lack skill and interest, but when Fred comes up with a project that really speaks to home: making a coffin, the plot of the play is able to spin out from there.

In the end, the characters all change in a way that is consistent with their own goals, and the two couples are set off on a new path. The production itself played up the humour in The Red Plaid Shirt, and the ensemble acting made the relationships between the two couples ring true.

Although the play has a decided urban, privileged class bias (most retired or semi-retired men in Frontenac County don’t need to run out and buy a red plaid shirt and many have money worries as well as concerns over what to do with themselves when they wake up in the morning) it still touches on some realities that resonated well with the audience on Saturday night (December 1) when I saw it.

The play marked a return to directing from long time Little Theatre mainstay Pam Giroux, who last directed a production about 30 years ago, but has been on stage dozens of times since then in a variety of roles and is also serving as NFLT President this year. Under her direction, the versatile set by Carol Pepper and Steve Scantlebury allowed for relatively quick transitions between scenes, with simple props creating a café, a woodshop and even a life drawing class, while the central location of the action, Marty and Deb’s Living Room, remained in place.

The Little Theatre’s spring 2019 production will be the new musical, The Boy Wonder, which is set in New York in the 1930’s. It was written by long time NFLT lighting director Jeff Siamon, with songs from the great American songbook, by the likes of Irving Berlin and George Gershwin.  The casting call for that production will come in the new year.

Members of NFLT and interested community members are invited to a Public meeting held at the United Church Hall in Sharbot Lake on Tuesday December 11 at 7 p.m. We will be brainstorming ideas for our celebration year starting January 2019.

Long a critic of the local conservation authorities, going back to his pre-government days with the Ontario Landowners Association, MPP Randy Hillier is now taking steps to try and curtail some of the activities of both the Mississippi Valley (MVCA) and the Rideau Valley Conservation Authorities (RVCA).

Last week, he sent a letter to Rod Phillips, the Minister of Environment, Conservation, and Parks, which talked about his “growing concerns with the activities” of the two authorities.

“Unfortunately, I have to question the viability retaining these Conservation Authorities in their current form,” he wrote.  

He takes the position that the two authorities do a poor job satisfying their core mandate, to manage dams on local lakes and keep water levels within acceptable parameters, and to “oversee development in floodplains and proximity to provincially significant wetlands”.

He said that both the MVCA and RVCA have “increased their focus on expanding consulting services while neglecting their core responsibilities”

He urges the minister to repeal the section of the Conservation Authority Act which allows conservation authorities to enter into contractual relationships with local municipalities to provide a range of services, including septic inspection services among others.

Hillier also sent the letter to local municipalities, including North and Central Frontenac, requesting a motion of support to be forwarded to the minister.

The letter sites three cases in which, according to Hillier, the authorities provided poorly conceived technical review services in their consultant role for municipalities that led to delays and increased costs for developers.

The MVCA and RVCA issued a joint response to MPP Hillier’s letter on Monday, November 26. The response, which was sent to the local townships says the authorities “would be pleased to respond” to the specific assertions made in the letter, offering to appear before Council to do so. It then goes on to provide an overview of the services that the two Authorities provide and the legal and contractual basis they operate under.

The letter points out that the services provide a level of expertise to municipalities that “can lead to cost-efficiencies, streamlined delivery and better service for applicants and the environment.”

The response also says that “providing additional services to municipalities with respect to planning and development does not take significant resources away from other conservation authority priorities as fees are collected from applicants to cover, or to offset the cost of these services.”

Randy Hillier’s letter to Minister Phillips made reference to one specific case that is relevant to North Frontenac, dealing with the K&P Trail.

“As a recent example, when concerns about much needed repairs to the K&P Trail were brought to my attention, my staff was advised by the MVCA that there was no money to do the necessary repairs because the budget had been spent litigating a claim against the MVCA.”

Paul Lehman is the Manager of the MVCA, a job he has held since 1989. He will be retiring early in 2019. In an interview early this week, he addressed some of the points made by Randy Hillier in his letter. In particular, he was asked about the K&P Trail case.

He said that the MVCA owns about a 40km section of the trail, running from just north of Snow Road in North Frontenac, and east through Lanark and into Renfrew County. The section of trail was owned by the Province of Ontario, under the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture. The MVCA first got involved in maintenance on behalf of the Ministry in the 1980’s. The trail was transferred to MVCA in the early 1990’s and for the first few years the province provided some financial support for maintenance, a situation that ended in 1996.

“From that point on we have maintained the trail as a recreational trail, working with the snowmobile associations and the Ottawa Valley ATV Club to keep it going. We only have limited resources devoted to it, about $5,000 per year,” said Lehman.

The authority was indeed approached by a landowner on the trail this summer with concerns over flooding, Lehman said.

“The landowner was using the trail to access to their property. We only deal with the trail as a recreational trail, not as an access road.  We did have a local contractor look at the culverts in that location, and they were not crushed but were blocked and we had them cleared, but that is all we can do,” Lehman said. “It is not in our mandate to maintain a trail for access to a neighbouring property, only as a recreational resource.”

There has been a legal case along the trail, near the border between Lanark and Frontenac County for a number of years, Lehman added.

“That is a case where a neighbouring landowner encroached on the trail, and the MVCA initiated a court case. We needed establish our ownership of the land, which did cost a fair bit of money. The case is settled, pending a survey, and we had to use our general funds to cover the legal costs.” Lehman said.

When the Hillier letter came up at North Frontenac Council last week, a proposed motion of support was deferred. When it came up at Central Frontenac Council this week, it was defeated.

The Mississippi-Rideau Septic System Office, which is jointly managed by MVCA and RVCA, provides septic re-inspection services for the voluntary inspection program, on lakefront properties in North Frontenac. The same office will be delivering the mandatory inspection program in Central Frontenac. It also provides all septic inspections, for new and existing properties, in Tay Valley. Inspections for new construction in Central and North Frontenac are provided by the Kingston Frontenac Public Health Unit.

The Ontario Local Appeals Tribunal (LPAT) has given Frontenac based developer Terry Grant, subject to a set of conditions, approval to develop a 12-hectare parcel of land in the hamlet of Hartington into a 13 lot subdivision.

The Hartington Subdivision project was first proposed in 2013. At that time the plan was to build a 49 lot subdivision, within and to the south of the hamlet.

Local opposition to the project surfaced from the start, mostly centred on concerns over water supply and drainage in the vicinity, and the planning process dragged on.

The planning issues have been further complicated because Frontenac County is responsible for subdivision approval, but South Frontenac Township is responsible for the necessary zoning amendment changes.

In the summer of 2015, in response to community concerns, the application was amended, becoming a much smaller, 13 lot proposal, all within the hamlet area. After a series of delays, some having to do with the potential impacts on the building site from contaminated ground under a former gas station located close to Hartington, Terry Grant decided to launch an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board. The appeal was launched against both the township and the county in early 2017 on the grounds that the process had taken longer than prescribed in provincial law.

Subsequent to launching the appeal, the county has provided draft approval for the project, but the township, over the objection of its own planning department, rejected the application for a zoning bylaw amendment.

The whole process has outlasted the Ontario Municipal Board, which has morphed into the LPAT. The LPAT hearing took place in May of 2017. Representatives from Frontenac County, South Frontenac Township, the developer, and the Hartington Community Association (the citizens group that opposes the proposal) all had standing in the hearing.

A series of engineering consultants reports from the proponents and opponents, as well as peer reviews of those reports that were ordered by the township and the county, were presented to the LPAT panel, and lawyers and planners for the various parties also presented evidence.

The decision took 18 months to be delivered. In the end the ruling was clear. The draft plan of subdivision is approved, and the township has been ordered to amend its zoning bylaw in accordance with that approval.

When contacted this week, developer Terry Grant said that he “is pleased with the decision”. He added that he will be releasing a written statement about the matter in the near future (which will be published in the Frontenac News).

In explaining the decision, LPAT panel member M. Sills referred to one of the key expert witnesses for the Hartington Citizens Coalition, the hydrogeologist Wilf Ruland, who raised concerns about water quality and quantity in the vicinity of the new subdivision, the impact of new wells on an already compromised aquifer, and the potential for contamination from the former gas station.

“The issues/concerns advanced by Mr. Ruland indisputably give cause for apprehension,” said Mr. Sills. “However, while unyielding in his challenge and criticisms of the work and

opinions of the other hydrogeological experts, Mr. Ruland has not produced

any tangible evidence to support his own contentions. He has not been on the property

and he has not undertaken any actual site investigative work or performed any testing.

“The Tribunal notes that many of the concerns/issues raised in the evidence of

Mr. Ruland were addressed in the evidence/reports/data provided by other expert

witnesses, or will be addressed through the Conditions of Draft Plan Approval. In some

cases, the investigative work completed actually invalidates assumptions made by Mr.

Ruland.”

Finally, Sills concluded that the water issues in the subject property are not insurmountable.

“In this case, the best-available technical evidence that has been placed before the Tribunal indicates that the supply demands for quality drinking water can be met, and that appropriate stormwater management measures are available. The Tribunal is satisfied that sufficient water quality and quantity investigation and stormwater management study has been advanced to warrant the granting of conditional Draft Plan Approval.”

Newly re-elected South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal, who voted in favour of the plan of subdivision when it came to a vote at Frontenac County, even though his own South Frontenac Township Council had decided not to support it, said he was also pleased with the decision.

“This is good news for the township. It also shows that our planning department gave us good advice when they recommended that we approve the zoning and support the subdivision application to the county,” he said. “The new council will need to get to work on our Official Plan update in order to try and avoid these kinds of situations from coming up in the future.”

With the 13 lot subdivision now approved, the option exists for Terry Grant to dust off his plans for further development in Hartington.

He still owns the 32 hectare parcel south of the hamlet which he had been planning to develop when all this started back in 2013.

In other South Frontenac related news, another contentious development issue might be winding down, the Johnston Point Plan of Condominium in Storrington District on a shallow bay of Loughborough Lake.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has issued an “Overall Benefit” permit after the developer, Magenta Corporation, providing offsets for the impacts of the development on the habitat of threatened species, the Grey Ratsnake and the Blandings Turtle.

That might be the final bureaucratic hurdle for that 18 lot project, 15 of which are part of the land use condominium while 3 were pre-existing. 6 of the lots have already been provisionally sold in what is being marketed by Magenta as an “exclusive waterfront community” , pending final planning approval.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018 10:27

Homelessness survey in Frontenac County

Back in April, staff from the City of Kingston oversaw two distinct processes which were designed to provide a snap shot of the scope of the homelessness reality in the City of Kingston and in Frontenac County.

In Kingston, City staff worked with the United Way, who oversaw a one-night Point in Time (PiC) of homeless Kingstonians. They counted people in shelters and in locations where homeless people tend to sleep, using all the skills of the social service workers and others who work in the field, to come up with as much information about numbers of people and other details.

“Obviously,” said Ruth Noordegraaf, Manager-Housing and Childcare “you can’t go around Frontenac County in one night looking for homeless people, so we used a different method.

Over a two-week period from April 9-20, in collaboration with Southern Frontenac Community Services, Rural Frontenac Community Services, and Addiction and Mental Health Services KFL&A, local social service staff administered an enumeration survey during regular interactions with clients.

In the rural area, homeless individuals and households are more likely to be living with friends or family or in shelters which are not intended for long-term accommodation (e.g. recreational vehicles, hunt camps, cabins, etc.)

Surveys were done in 2013 and in 2016, using the definition of homelessness in the Canadian Observatory of Homelessness, “those whose accommodation is temporary or lacks security or tenure” which would typically include those “couch-surfing” with friends or family or other forms of housing that is unstable or inappropriate for long-term accommodation. The 2013 survey determined there were 54 homeless people in Frontenac County, and the number in 2016 was 30.

Although the 2018 number, 61, was higher, Noordegraaf does not look at the number comparisons as very useful in this case.

“The lower number in 2016 does not mean that it is necessarily on the increase, it could be because our process is getting better,” she said.

In fact, Noordegraaf thinks continuing improvement in surveying for homelessness in Frontenac County could mean that it will continue to be difficult to compare one era to another, but the value of the information that is gathered by the survey is significant nonetheless.

“Some of the detail in the report will feed into the review we are currently undertaking,” she said. The City of Kingston embarked on a ten year homelessness prevention strategy for the City of Kingston and the County of Frontenac five years ago, and is now involved in the 5 year review of that ten year plan,” she said.

The 61 people who self identified as homeless in 2018 represent 37 households. 15 are dependent children, 54% of the respondents are men, 46% are women, and 16% are youth between 16 and 24 years old. Just over half of the families, 51%, cited social assistance as their primary source of income. And 81% said that a lack of income is a barrier to securing permanent housing.

17 of the 37 homeless families in the survey (46%), identified themselves as First Nations of Indigenous descent. In the 2016 census, 5% of respondents in Frontenac County identified themselves as indigenous. However, as the release concerning the homelessness survey points out, “it is important to note that Indigenous individuals are usually under-represented in census counts.” Nonetheless, 46% is a high percentage.

Perhaps less surprising is the finding that 81% of the families identified the presence of a mental health issue in their family. 35% identified an addiction, 37% a physical disability and 43% a chronic or acute medical condition.

None of the respondents said they were immigrants or refugees, but almost 1/3 of the families said they had moved to Frontenac County within the last year.

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