| Jun 25, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - June 25, 2009 Frontenac County Councilby Jeff Green

Frontenac County Trails Master Plans faces opposition from without, and now within.

The Frontenac Trails Master Plan, which was presented in draft form to Frontenac County Council at their June meeting, was slated to be received for information and discussed next month along with a staff prepared implementation plan.

The plan talks in general terms about a number of existing trails within the county, and touches only slightly on the most contentious trail, which has been the subject of considerable work by the Frontenac County Trails Committee, the proposed K&P trail between the boundary of the city of Kingston and the hamlet of Sharbot Lake.

The impetus for the County trails committee, which has included council members from each of the four Frontenac County townships, along with County staff, came when the County received a grant from the province to purchase the K&P rail line from Bell Canada.

The K&P trail, as an idea, has been around for years, and has been dogged by controversy. Some people who own land abutting the trail are concerned about trespassing, and about noise.

Who will pay for fencing, where necessary, has never been resolved, nor has the issue of whether the trail should be accessible to motorized vehicles or not.

Coincident with the release of the draft trails report, Bill Murnighan, whose vacation property on St. Andrews Lake (north of Godfrey) sent a package of information to the County and the media voicing his opposition, and that of his neighbours to a motorized trail in the vicinity of the lake.

Murninghan told the News that he has received no response from a letter opposing motorized trails that he sent to the County back on January 22nd, which was signed by himself and 14 others, prompting him to start up a website www.kandplandowners.com which includes an online petition.

Although there were meetings held with adjacent landowners, Murninghan says people who opposed motorized trails should have been represented on the trails committee itself.

“There is a representative from Eastern Ontario Trails Alliance, who are marketers of ATV trail usage, on the committee, but no one from the other side. An adjacent landowner should have been invited,” he said.

When Murninghan's letter was raised at the County table, Warden Janet Gurtowski said, “I didn’t receive on email from this gentleman, but he had the opportunity for consultation. I'm surprised there was a group.

Although County Council was not surprised by the opposition from landowner's who are concerned about the potential implications of the trail, they could not have expected that at three of the four council representatives on the trails committee would be leaving the committee in the wake of last week's Council meeting.

In a letter to Warden Gutowski, Central Frontenac Deputy Mayor Gary Smith outlined his grievances with concerning the Master Plan, particularly the way it was brought to the county council table by County staff before being presented to the committee, and the fact that implementation is to be handled by staff and not the committee.

To make matters worse, according to Smith, “when the Deputy Mayor of North Frontenac rose and asked to speak (on the trails issue et al) he was rebuffed by County Council.

“Instead Councillors sat and listened to two one hour staff presentations whose watch words were 'consultations with stakeholders and 'respect'. Township Councilors received neither of these ... As the result I have decided to resign immediately as a representative of Central Frontenac on the trails committee.”

Jim Beam, the Deputy Mayor of North Frontenac, refers to his own decision to resign from the committee in a letter to this the Frontenac News (Letters, The Frontenac News,  June 25/09).

Dennis Doyle, Councillor from Frontenac Islands, has also resigned from the committee.

“The report was supposed to be a committee report to Council. When it became clear it was really a staff report to Council, to be implemented by staff, there was no longer any role for the committee,” Doyle said.

Councilor Alan Mcphail, from South Frontenac Township, remains on the committee, although he told the News that he understands some of the frustrations that are felt by other members of the committee.

“I'm willing to give County staff the benefit of doubt,” he said, “and consider that some of what happened was the result of unintentional oversight as the draft was rushed to the County table.”

All four members of the committee expressed regret that the committee, which they all said had been a model of co-operation between politicians from all corners of the township, has ended on such a sour note.

It is unclear what will happen to the trails committee now that it has lost three township representatives.

Governance not on the County agenda in June

Frontenac County Council did not debate governance last week, and it is unclear when the matter will come to the table

Resolutions from all four constituent townships of the County, all aimed at promoting a change in the composition of the four member County Council to 8 or 9 members after the municupal election in 2010, were marked as “items for action” on the Frontenac County agenda last week (June 17).

When the item came up, only North Frontenac Mayor Ron Maguire thought action should be taken.

“The endorsements of the notion to increase the composition of county council is overwhelming,” he said “The future would be well served if we acted on this.

South Frontenac Mayor Gary Dacvison was hesitant to endorse a proposal, put forward by his own council, that would give South Frontenac 3 members on a 9 member Council, and each of the other townships two members.

“I remember saying that my first choice is 8 members, with the two South Frontenac members having two votes. With 58% of the population, it seems like an imbalance for South Frontenac to have less than 40% of the vote.”

“I wasn't aware that we were going to have this item on the agenda,” said Frontenac Islands Mayor Jim Vanden Hoek. We have the balance of the year to deal with this. I think we need to think about this a bit more.”

“I agree wholeheartedly that we need more time to discuss this,” said Warden Janet Gutowski. “I don't have a proposition for a bylaw at this time.”

“After hearing all of you, I'm not talking,” said Ron Maguire.

There was no direction to staff on the matter.

For a change in County Council composition to take effect in time for the 2010 election, a bylaw must be proposed by Conty Council and must be brought to at least one public meeting before being approved by County Council. It must then be ratified by the majority of the four Frontenac townships representing the majority of the population, before the end of December 2009.

County council has meetings scheduled for July, September, October, November and December, but they can meet at any other time at the call of the Warden.

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