Jeff Green | Nov 04, 2015
Commercial fee holiday nixed by province
For 11 years, building permit fees have been waived for commercial construction in Addington Highlands. The idea was to encourage commercial enterprises to locate in the township, and the permit holiday was advertised on the township website. It no longer is.
On several occasions members of North Frontenac Council brought the idea of matching the permit holiday in North Frontenac, mainly because the commercial hubs of the two townships are located on either side of Hwy. 41 in the vicinity of Cloyne, and businesses on the west side of the road had an advantage over those on the east side.
But every time the idea was raised, staff in North Frontenac hastened to point out that a commercial building permit holiday was not allowed under the Ontario Municipal Act.
It turns out that North Frontenac staff were right, and in the last couple of weeks Addington Highlands received a letter from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs informing them that they must re-instate the fees.
While the permit holiday was no secret, it had never been formally brought to the ministry's attention until they received a letter.
“They would not say who informed them about it,” Addington Highlands clerk, Christine Reed, told Council at their meeting on Monday.
Reed added that the township could bring back the holiday if they institute a Community Improvement Plan, which would allow them to collect the fees and then grant back all or part of them as part of an economic development strategy.
“It involves a process, however, including an Official Plan amendment and other measures,” said Reed.
“I don't think it has brought a whole lot of new businesses to Addington Highlands over the years,” said Reeve Henry Hogg, “it just meant savings for existing businesses who did upgrades they were probably going to do anyway.”
While the fees are, apparently, now required for commercial building in Addington Highlands, they may be going away in North Frontenac. North Frontenac is instituting a Community Improvement Plan in the entire township, and will be in a position to offer grants to businesses to offset those fees.
Report on Organizational Review deferred
Council received a report from Craig Davidson, a consultant based in North Hastings. Davidson was also the former Chief Administrative Officer of Hastings Highlands until his contract ran out in 2014. The report was based on a session held with all members of Addington Highlands Council and Clerk Reed on October 22.
Based on the session, Davidson wrote, “It was noted that there is a general lack of accountability in the present municipal structure and at times council does not know items like how they are performing financially compared to the approved budget and that, especially in the office, there was the inference that all employees report to council; in other words, no one is responsible to anyone other than to council.”
While he said that some members of council thought that “perhaps what is needed is an office manager”, he added that from his own perspective “What is needed is more of a manager of the municipality rather than one who is managing the office activity only.”
Other municipalities in the region employ a Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). All staff operate under the authority of the CAO, whose job it is to interpret the policy goals of Council within the confines of the Municipal Act, and direct staff to carry those policy goals out.
However, as was pointed out in the report, Addington Highlands Council has been wary of adopting such a system. “There was a fear noted by some that the CAO model was tried in a neighbouring municipality with little success ...”
The two-page report was received by Council for information, and while the report talked about next steps, no further meeting was scheduled at this time.
Grudgingly, interest waived for late payment of taxes.
Township resident Sharon Turrin requested that interest in the amount of $31.36 be waived in her case. She wrote to Council, saying that two post-dated cheques for $627 each were sent in time for the 2015 taxes on her property but were either lost in the mail or within the township office and were never cashed. She received a notice and came in to pay the taxes, including the interest. Saying that she has never been late with taxes before and as she did send the cheques, she asked for the fee to be waived.
“It is her responsibility to monitor her bank account to ensure the cheques were cashed,” said Councilor Tony Fritsch.
“That's what I would do,” said Councilor Bill Cox.
Nontheless a motion to waive the fees was proposed by Cox, and was passed, with only Deputy Reeve Helen Yanch voting against.
“That sets a precedent,” said Clerk-Treasurer Reed.
Christmas in Flinton
“Is Christmas coming already?” said Helen Yanch as Council considered a request from the Flinton Recreation Club to put up a tree in front of the Flinton Recreation Centre/township office.
The rec. club will pay all the costs and, in the words of club director, Joel Hasler, “We assure you that every precaution will be taken to keep the tree up safely for the duration of the Christmas season.”
Council approved the request.