| May 14, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - May 14, 2009 Central Frontenac Councilby Jeff Green

A nice place to pay taxes but can you build there?

Gary Racine and Richard Clippindale brought a rather expensive tale of woe to Central Frontenac Council on Monday night (May 11) on behalf of the Bridgen's Island Associates Limited (BIAL).

The BIAL are a group of 14 lot owners on Bridgen's Island, which is located off Opeongo Point on Eagle Lake in the former Hinchinbrooke Township. Ten of the members of the association have built seasonal cottages on the water access island, but in 2004-2005 Central Frontenac informed the islanders that there would be no more building permits issued until a Plan of Subdivision is approved.

Members of the association “agreed unanimously,” according to a submission to Council by Racine and Clippindale, “that, in justice to our holders of undeveloped lots, we would explore with the township whether a subdivision arrangement could be approved to allow development for all our members.”

Four years and $100,000 later, the BIAL is still waiting for approval, and there may be more hurdles in the way now than were apparent five years ago.

Subdivision approval requires a zoning amendment by Central Frontenac, followed by subdivision approval by Frontenac County, and last year the Province of Ontario, through the Ministry of Natural Resources, declared Eagle Lake a “Trout Sensitive Lake” prohibiting development on newly created lots within 300 metres of the water.

According to Clippindale, the Bridgen’s Islanders have practiced environmental stewardship since the association was founded in the early 1970's. “We have been environmentally sensitive since the start, beyond or in advance of township requirements. There are no boathouses and we have mutual covenants on shoreline protection,” he said.

The 14 members of the association have paid an average of $7,000 in fees to pay for planning costs at the township and county levels, even though the township waived certain fees back in 2005. The four property owners who have never built on their lots have now paid about $20,000 each in property taxes and development fees, and as a result, the association was appearing before council with a simple request.

“We need clarity from council on this,” said Racine. “We need to know if this plan of subdivision can be approved before we go back to our members to look at our future options, legal or otherwise. If you, as a council, cannot support us enthusiastically, we would like to hear that now.”

“What is the county saying to you?” asked Councilor Frances Smith.

“They have not said one way or another,” replied Racine.

Racine also said the association held a meeting with officials from the Ministries of the Environment and Municipal Affairs and Housing, who “said they were just seeking information and did not make any commitments to us.”

“Well I for one think we should express our support for this,” said Frances Smith, and her opinion proved consistent with that of the other members of Council.

“We have a planning report coming,” said Mayor Gutowski, who read out a motion committing the township to making a decision on their part of the puzzle within 30 days.

Ultimately, the question of when the clock started on the ‘plan of subdivision’ process could be critical. Although the Bridgen’s Islanders began in 2005, long before the trout-sensitive status of Eagle Lake, the county or the two ministries involved could say their own plan of subdivision process started later, and refuse the application.

The entire matter could end up at the Ontario Municipal Board.

For their part, Central Frontenac Council seems intent on pushing the matter forward.

“We are willing to support your efforts wholeheartedly,” said Mayor Gutowski.

Cottage associations pressure Council on septic re-inspection.

At least three townships that are adjacent to Central Frontenac have set up limited septic re-inspection projects over the past five years, and in each case it was lake associations that pressured the townships into setting up the projects.

Taking a page out of that book, Terry Kennedy from the Kennebec Lake Association came before council this week to present a paper his association has prepared on re-inspections, which included a series of recommendations.

Although Central Frontenac Council is waiting for a staff report on re-inspections, Kennedy thought a submission by his association would be timely.

He proposed that Central Frontenac begin with a limited program, relying on property owners who volunteer for inspections, and progress over time towards more robust enforcement of environmental regulations.

Kennedy argued that the environment, particularly the “quality of lakes and rivers, is critical to the future success of the township and all its citizens. The environment is not just the key driver for the economy in the area; in Central Frontenac, the environment is the economy.”

Kennedy was accompanied by Jamie Saunders, who works with the Rideau and Mississippi Valley Conservation authorities and runs the septic re-inspection projects in Tay Valley and North Frontenac townships.

Saunders said that municipalities have taken different tacks on re-inspection, and the services provided through Rideau and Tay Valley cost about $90 per inspection.

Councilor Bob Harvey said, “I’ve picked up a lot of information about this over the past four or five years at conferences, and I think it’s a good idea. Last year our building inspector said, ‘really there isn't a lot of teeth in it’. We know the ministry will be giving more authority in the future, but for now people don't have to allow an inspector on their property. So we end up looking only at the good players, not the offenders. But it is a good idea.”

“I agree with you,” said Saunders, “there aren’t the teeth in the inspection program that the lake associations would like. In Tay Valley about 40% of the inspections we do show some problem that needs fixing, but only about 3% are failed systems that need replacing. Even so the education component can have enforcement value. By making cottage associations aware of how systems can fail, they can bring information to the townships. If information is brought to a chief building official, they are obligated to go and inspect, and there is a legal process that follows.”

Saunders also said that he believes the province is “moving towards mandatory inspections.”

Deputy Mayor Gary Smith pointed out the waterfront assessment is key to the township’s tax base.

“If the water gets polluted because of faulty septic systems the property values will fall and our ability to do anything in the township will be curtailed. We have a financial interest in this.”

Smith asked Terry Kennedy if Kennebec Lake Association has support from other associations.

Kennedy said he had the support of the Sharbot Lake, Eagle Lake, Bobs and Crow Lake, and Big Clear Lake Association, and the Long Lake Association will be considering it at their AGM this summer.

Council made a commitment to consider the matter by June 1.

Seniors’ centre gets help – Council agreed, after some debate, to grant $1,300 to the newly established senior's centre to help the centre cover property tax costs in their first year of operation.

Councilor Norm Guntensperger argued that this would set a precedent for other social service agencies to ask for support.

“This has to do with the quality of life for some seniors,” said Councilor Bob Harvey, “We should give them support for the first year.”

“I agree,” said Councilor Jeff Matson. “It's the first year that makes or breaks you.”

The grant was approved in a 5-4 vote.

Small Business Week and Business Breakfast – Council agreed to endorse Small Business Week, and the mayor invited members of council to attend a Business over Breakfast meeting on May 21 at Maples Restaurant to hear from Anne Prichard of the Frontenac Community futures Development Corporation on the subject of the new Eastern Ontario Development Fund granting program for businesses.

Snyder returns – Council welcomed Councilor Bill Snyder back to the table. It was Snyder's first meeting after several months off for an operation and recovery. 

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