Wednesday, 31 May 2017 14:08

OMB Hearings in SF

Last week, I spent one and a half days attending an OMB hearing in Sydenham which came down, in the end, to the question of whether or not South Frontenac Township Council has the authority to pass a by-law that could extinguish certain rights of “grandfathered” waterfront properties located within the currently required 30 metre setback from the high water mark.

The event involved a judge, two lawyers, two land use planners, two expert witnesses (re environmental issues), a legal assistant and a modest number of onlookers. There were two enormous tabbed binders full of plans, by-laws, notes and studies for each of the participants, and a variety of large-scale maps and charts. The sessions began at 9:30 and ran until shortly after 6:00 each day.

I took 25 pages of notes. From all this, what can one say?

The experience was, in many ways, fascinating. The speakers were all thoroughly prepared, well spoken and courteous, though sometimes a sharply ironic edge can be conveyed by the two simple words ‘my friend’. I enjoyed watching this real-life process of exploring all the nuances of wording and interpretation that can be read into the laws that both govern and protect citizens in a democracy.

To repeat what I think was said, or to try to explain the proceedings would only be an attempt to guess at the final decision and the rationale behind it. The judge’s closing comment was that “This has turned out to be a more complicated issue than I had anticipated.”

Earlier this month, a much longer, three-way OMB hearing took place in the Township over the issue of a proposed subdivision in Hartington; the developer appealed to the OMB about the County’s slowness in coming to a decision about his proposal, and the Hartington citizens group appealed the subdivision proposal as a third party. Uncertainty about maintaining the hamlet’s quantity and quality of drinking water is one of the residents’ primary issues.

Decisions on both these appeals will take time: the findings are not expected until some time in the fall.

Published in SOUTH FRONTENAC

A year ago, South Frontenac Planner Lindsay Mills proposed some ‘housekeeping’ changes to the Township’s Official Plan, (section 5.10.2). In the course of his presentation, Mills stated that, in his interpretation, the intent of the Township’s Official Plan was to “eventually have all buildings well set back from waterbodies to ensure protection of our lakes.” This was seen as a threat to all nonconforming or ‘grandfathered’ houses or cottages (those currently within the now required 30-metre set-back from the high water line) which might need major structural repairs to remain safe and functional.

“We have so much common ground,” said Jeff Peck, spokesperson for the Sydenham Waterfront Coalition; “we both want to maintain property standards and increase environmental protection. Surely we can arrive at some mutually acceptable way to achieve these goals and still preserve the rights of legal non-conforming structures. We would welcome the opportunity to work with Council to resolve this in a respectful manner, and could withdraw our OMB appeal.”

Briefly, CAO Orr was directed by Council to negotiate a settlement, but when Peck pressed for assurance that Council’s basic intent was to improve property standards and environmental protection, not to remove or push back all legal non-conforming structures, the offer to negotiate was withdrawn, on the grounds that the Township’s lawyer had advised against the Township having any discussion or negotiation of the subject with residents.

Then the OMB hearing, set for February, was set aside until May because the township’s planning department had neglected to send out 30-day notice of the hearing to all who had given written notice of their concern with the issue. This three-month delay has raised the waterfront coalition’s legal costs considerably.

The OMB appeal is now scheduled for May 25/26 at the Township hall, and is open to the public. The Waterfront Coalition has announced a general information meeting for all who are interested, at 10:00 am on Sunday May 21, in the community room of the library in Sydenham.

Published in SOUTH FRONTENAC

Committee of the Whole has been discussing the creation of a new Heritage Committee to advise and assist with matters related to the community’s heritage. Prior to formalizing such a committee, Council has asked Forbes Symon, Manager of Development Services, to arrange for public consultation.

Symon has proposed that a notice be put in the township’s weekly newspaper banner outlining the proposed role and duties of such a committee, and directing residents to the township website where they could indicate whether or not they thought that a Heritage Committee would be a good idea. Results of this survey would then be passed to Council via the Development Services Committee and then Committee of the Whole.

McDougall and Barbeau both suggested that some form of public meeting might draw out broader feedback from the community. Barbeau also asked if a text box for comments might also be added to the simple yes/no question, and CAO Orr suggested a separate open house for further community information and response might be preferable to adding another agenda item to a summer COW meeting, which usually has a full agenda.

Mayor Vandewal said it will also be important to look at whether the community would be in favour of directing some financial resources to such a committee.

CFDC Proposed Project
In the 2017 budget, Council approved a $20,000 grant for the Frontenac CFDC (Community Futures Development Corporation) to undertake an economic development initiative for South Frontenac. It is anticipated that this grant could be leveraged to secure additional funds from other sources. Discussions have focussed on designing a project that would advance South Frontenac’s local food economy. A number of food processors in Southern Frontenac have identified gaps in the infrastructure and services they need to grow their businesses.

The Frontenac CFDC has drawn up a proposal to work with the Township to survey South Frontenac producers and processors for needs and resources, and look at ways connections could be made, and needs addressed.

Councillor Sleeth warned that the focus should be broad enough to include not only organic food producers, but also ‘ordinary farms’. Symon said that the term ‘local’ was very broad, and had many meanings. COW members agreed that this project should be sent on to Council for final approval.

Enforcement of Residential Tenancies Act
As of July 2018, the province’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) is handing down the enforcement of the Residential Tenancies Act to the local municipalities. Currently, South Frontenac budgets $2,000 to pay the costs of this work by the MMAH, and it’s estimated that this should be sufficient to cover purchasing enforcement services from our present municipal by-law enforcement service providers. The township will review the actual cost of enforcement for 12 months and adjust the annual budget accordingly.

Township Road Closures Due to Flooding: Not!
Mayor Vandewal and several Councillors agreed with Public Works Manager Segsworth’s recent comment that the phones had been “eerily quiet” this past week in regard to flooded roads and washouts. There was general agreement that this was a very positive result of the preventive maintenance that has been carried out in recent years by the Township’s Roads Department.

Committee of the Whole has been discussing
the creation of a new Heritage
Committee to advise and assist with matters
related to the community’s heritage.
Prior to formalizing such a committee,
Council has asked Forbes Symon, Manager
of Development Services, to arrange
for public consultation.
Symon has proposed that a notice be put
in the township’s weekly newspaper banner
outlining the proposed role and duties
of such a committee, and directing residents
to the township website where they
could indicate whether or not they thought
that a Heritage Committee would be a good
idea. Results of this survey would then be
passed to Council via the Development
Services Committee and then Committee
of the Whole.
McDougall and Barbeau both suggested
that some form of public meeting might
draw out broader feedback from the community.
Barbeau also asked if a text box for
comments might also be added to the simple
yes/no question, and CAO Orr suggested
a separate open house for further community
information and response might be
preferable to adding another agenda item
to a summer COW meeting, which usually
has a full agenda.
Mayor Vandewal said it will also be important
to look at whether the community
would be in favour of directing some financial
resources to such a committee.
CFDC Proposed Project
In the 2017 budget, Council approved
a $20,000 grant for the Frontenac CFDC
(Community Futures Development Corporation)
to undertake an economic development
initiative for South Frontenac.
It is anticipated that this grant could be
leveraged to secure additional funds from
other sources. Discussions have focussed
on designing a project that would advance
South Frontenac’s local food economy.
A number of food processors in Southern
Frontenac have identified gaps in the infrastructure
and services they need to grow
their businesses.
The Frontenac CFDC has drawn up a
proposal to work with the Township to survey
South Frontenac producers and processors
for needs and resources, and look
at ways connections could be made, and
needs addressed.
Councillor Sleeth warned that the focus
should be broad enough to include not only
organic food producers, but also ‘ordinary
farms’. Symon said that the term ‘local’ was
very broad, and had many meanings. COW
members agreed that this project should be
sent on to Council for final approval.
Enforcement of Residential Tenancies
Act
As of July 2018, the province’s Ministry
of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH)
is handing down the enforcement of the
Residential Tenancies Act to the local municipalities.
Currently, South Frontenac
budgets $2,000 to pay the costs of this
work by the MMAH, and it’s estimated that
this should be sufficient to cover purchasing
enforcement services from our present
municipal by-law enforcement service providers.
The township will review the actual
cost of enforcement for 12 months and adjust
the annual budget accordingly.
Township Road Closures Due to Flooding:
Not!
Mayor Vandewal and several Councillors
agreed with Public Works Manager Segsworth’s
recent comment that the phones
had been “eerily quiet” this past week in
regard to flooded roads and washouts.
There was general agreement that this
was a very positive result of the preventive
maintenance that has been carried out in
recent years by the Township’s Roads Department.

Published in SOUTH FRONTENAC
Wednesday, 03 May 2017 10:28

Award winner

Just five months into her tenure as Fairmount Home’s permanent Administrator, Lisa Hirvi received the inaugural Donna Rubin Administrator Leadership Program Award at the AdvantAge Ontario annual convention in Toronto on April 21.

Hirvi received the award for earning top marks for her case study during last winter’s AdvantAge Ontario Administrator Leadership Program, which is structured to meet requirements for Long Term Care Home Administrators under the Long Term Care Homes Act, 2007. AdvantAge Ontario has delivered this program successfully for 21 years and boasts more than 1,400 participants.

Hirvi became the permanent Administrator at Fairmount Home in December 2016 after assuming the role of Interim Administrator in January of that same year.

The AdvantAge Ontario Leadership Program Award was established in honour of Donna Rubin, who was the organization’s CEO for more than 26 years. Rubin was a committed, accomplished and inspiring leader and champion of not-for-profit seniors’ care. AdvantAge Ontario represents and supports not-for-profit organizations that play a role in the provision of senior care in Ontario.

Fairmount Home is a not-for-profit long term care home, managed through the Gentlecaretm philosophy by the County of Frontenac and is accredited with Exemplary Standing, Accreditation Canada's highest designation. Fairmount Home was established in 1968 and is home to 128 residents.

Published in FRONTENAC COUNTY

Last week, a settlement was reached through mediation to end a defamation lawsuit that was launched in 2013 by former Frontenac County Warden Janet Gutowski against three former colleagues on County Council; David Jones, Dennis Doyle and John McDougall.

Terms of the agreement have not been released, and according to Gutowski details of the agreement are subject to a confidentiality clause.

“I thought it was over, and while the terms are confidential I can tell you that I was pleased it was settled and we can all move on,” she said when contacted on Tuesday, “but I just read an online article where Dennis Doyle and even John McDougall have made comments about the matter that I wonder about. I’m sending that article to my lawyer to see what he thinks. I think they are skating on thin ice to imply wrongdoing on my part, given the agreement that we reached.”

In the article, which appeared on the Whig Standard website on Tuesday afternoon, Dennis Doyle made comments about one of the underlying legal issues in the case, the idea that statements made by members of municipal councils at meetings should be considered “privileged communication” the way statements made in the federal and provincial legislature are, and thus not subject to defamation laws.

Lawyers representing the three men argued this point in the Ontario Court of Appeal in an attempt to have the law suit squashed, to no avail. An attempt to have the same matter considered by the Supreme Court of Canada was scuttled when the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case.

“We thought we should get the same privilege to speak openly in our council chamber just like they do in the province and federally,” Doyle told the Whig after the settlement, adding “are we not supposed to speak up when we see something is wrong? That’s what we are there for. That’s our job. It would be irresponsible if we felt something was wrong and we just sat there and said nothing.”

It was that final line in particular that led Gutowski to send the article to her lawyer.

In that same Whig article, John McDougall is quoted as saying, “It does seem strange to me that you can’t just speak your mind even when it’s at a time when you are a little more emotionally involved than you might want to be.”

The lawsuit itself was caused by some of the wording in a motion in May of 2013 that was put forward by former Frontenac County Councillor David Jones, which accused then Warden Gutowski of “influence peddling” over some of the negotiations that were taking place at the time between Gutowski and members of council aimed at breaking a deadlock over approving the annual county budget.

While Jones made the written statements in the motion and made other accusations of wrongdoing while speaking in favour of it before it was voted on, Doyle, McDougall and the late Bud Clayton were named in the lawsuit because they voted in favour of the motion, not necessarily for anything they said at the time. Bud Clayton’s name was pulled from the suit when he died in September of 2014.

John McDougall told the News on Tuesday that “in retrospect, if something like that ever happened again, I would probably be more careful about the wording of the motion.”

He was surprised to hear about Gutowski’s reaction to the comments in the Whig, however.

“When the lawyers asked us if we wanted to know the terms of the agreement, we said we did not want to know,  and we don’t know the terms. I’m not sure what this is all about. I do think that at some point the Supreme Court will look at absolute privilege, even if they didn’t in this case,” he said. “Personally I’d like to let this specific matter lie, and not discuss it any more,”

Dennis Doyle also was surprised when told that Gutowski thought his comments to the Whig Standard were problematic.

“Elliot [Whig reporter Elliot Ferguson] asked me some questions about the absolute privilege that provincial and federal politicians enjoy, and I said that we need to be able to speak freely at municipal council as well. Why would people put themselves on the line by running for council if they can get sued just for saying what they think.”

Legal fees for the three men facing the law suit were paid by Frontenac County, with those fees and settlement itself being covered by the county insurance policy, with a $10,000 deductible coming from county funds.

“I chose not to go that route”, Gutowski said. I felt it was a dispute between my colleagues and myself and did not want to involve the ratepayers.”

Published in FRONTENAC COUNTY

With 25 years experience working on roads crews, new Central Frontenac Public Works Manager Brad Thake hopes to be a “voice of reason” and provide the same sort of stability in the position that his predecessor, Mike Richardson brought.

“Mike was a heavy roads guy and a big bridge guy,” Thake said after his first solo Council meeting and a couple of weeks on the job. “He left the Township in good shape infrastructure-wise.”

Thake is originally from Brockville but he’s no stranger to area as much of his family is from Westport. That village’s legendary Reeve Bill Thake was his great uncle.

“I’m glad I’m here,” he said. “It’s close to friends and family and there are real people here.”

Thake started his career with a private firm contracted to MTO that covered roads in the 401 corridor from Kingston to Brockville. From there he moved on to Port Dover and started to move into management as an area supervisor before settling into Chatsworth Township (south of Owen Sound) where he was roads supervisor.

“I was even part of a declared state of emergency when Williamsford flooded,” he said. “I’ve done lots of things regarding roads from accident investigation to rebuilding and contracts.

“This is a great opportunity to make an impact on taxpayers’ lives.”

By that, he means keeping a tight lid on budgets.

“My focus is certainly going to be on roads,” he said. “(But) people can’t afford tax increases.

“Luckily, we have a fantastic staff, a great mayor with a lot of integrity and I think (Clerk) Cathy MacMunn and I have the same vision moving forward.”

He said he’s looking at a new grading program and is on board with his counterparts in the other Frontenac County Townships on landfill and waste diversion programs aiming at zero waste one day.

Thake and his wife Dana (“I wouldn’t be where I am without her”) live in Salem with a great dane, a bull mastiff and a bulldog. He has two sons from a previous marriage.

He hasn’t decided how he’ll spend his free time in the north country but after seeing all the lakes around here he said: “I may have to take up fishing.”

Published in CENTRAL FRONTENAC
Wednesday, 12 April 2017 11:36

Brad Barbeau joins SF Council

In January, South Frontenac Council invited Harrowsmith resident Brad Barbeau to fill the vacancy on Council created by Councillor Bill Robinson’s death late last year. Barbeau had been a candidate in Portland district in the last municipal election, and was a close runner-up.

“There’s a lot of ‘catchup’ to do,” said Barbeau, in reference to having been dropped into Council halfway through its term; “and I’ve been told I’m a perfectionist.” He added that his fellow councillors have been helpful, both in bringing him up to speed on current issues, and occasionally adjusting what would usually be daytime committee meetings to accommodate his work schedule. In his mid-thirties, Barbeau is the youngest member of Council, and only he and Schjerning have full-time jobs and young families.

Barbeau grew up in Madoc, moving to South Frontenac just before entering his final year of high school in Sydenham. He went on to Queen’s, and now works there as senior management in the technology section of the School of Business. He left his “spare time” position as organist and interim choral director at St George’s when his first son was born, and is currently organist at St Paul’s in Sydenham, and teaches two computer courses at St Lawrence.

Barbeau’s interest in local politics has been with him for much of his life: he married his high school sweetheart, whose father was Reeve, and remembers growing up listening to community issues being discussed at the dinner table. He’s particularly committed to the importance of farming and preservation of farmland, and feels this does not preclude well-planned residential development. He spoke of the ‘interesting mix’ of South Frontenac residents with people who have been born and grown up here living beside recently-arrived “city folk”, and the challenges this presents in fostering a sense of community. He’s intrigued with the concept of a Heritage Committee, which might be a way of helping owners of older homes to access funds for upkeep and maintenance.

And he wonders if anyone out there even knows he’s on Council, for almost no one has contacted him yet about local concerns or issues: he can be reached at: 613-376-6644, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in SOUTH FRONTENAC
Thursday, 06 April 2017 13:05

Life after politics

Ken Hook has been a pheasant farmer, the Reeve of Addington Highlands, Executive Director of Land O’Lakes Community Services, and he currently runs a videography company with his wife Kathy. He is also an athlete, and a pretty good one, it turns out. Recently, he had an unexpected win in the Hamilton Around the Bay 5K running race on March 26th where he placed 1st in the age 60-64 division in a field of 51 runners. Overall, Ken placed 172 in a field of 2385 runners.
Last summer, Ken qualified in Ottawa at the 2016 Canadian Triathlon Championships as one of the top 10 athletes in his age category which enables him to compete as part of Team Canada at the ITU World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands, September 14-17, 2017.

Ken's event is the "Sprint Triathlon" which is a 750m swim, 20K bike and 5K run which takes under 2 hours to complete. Ken trains in the Cloyne area and swims in Skootamatta Lake. He will be competing in several running races and triathlons in Ontario prior to the Rotterdam event. (Information provided by Tracy Hook, a proud brother)

Published in ADDINGTON HIGHLANDS
Thursday, 06 April 2017 11:10

Pumper/hauler questions inspection plan

Central Frontenac Township’s plan, which is now under review, to licence pumper/haulers to do inspections on septic systems “won’t work,” says a long-time area pumper who does 30 per cent of his business in Central Frontenac.

“They’ve opened up a hornets’ nest,” said Dave Orser, who began helping his father with the family business in 1963 and took it over when his father retired. “South Frontenac tried this a few years ago and I was quite involved in it. It won’t work.”

Orser said he has two main concerns.

First, he’s concerned he’ll lose business if he’s put in the position of having to ‘fail’ a system.

“If I come to an area and turn down a system, I’ll never pump another system in that area again,” Orser said. “People will say ‘don’t get Dave, he’ll turn you in. Is the Township going to accept the liability for the pumper losing business?”

His second point is that the $20 fee the Township will pay for the inspection just isn’t enough.

“I’m not going to do inspections for $20, especially when you get $100 for a real estate inspection,” he said. “Inspections take time and that cuts into the number of pumpings I can do in a day.

“A good day now is about 10 tanks but depending on the distance I have to travel and the complexity of the inspection (like for example if a filter at the weeping bed has to be dug out and checked) that could be down to five.”

It’s not that Orser is being critical or that he doesn’t care about he environment. He considers all the lakes in this area as ‘my lakes’ and he’s been known to ‘recommend’ that a system owner take steps to correct problems.

“If I see something suspicious, I’ll say ‘you gotta do something’ and most people do,” he said. “If I see it a second time, then I’ll tell the Health Unit.

“They’re all my lakes.”

Orser also sees plenty of problems on the horizon if people are forced to replace aging systems.

“I’ve had a lot of calls and there are a lot of older people in a panic about this,” he said. “Just because a system is 40 years old, it doesn’t mean it’s not still working.

“I’m still pumping systems my dad put in.”

But he worries what will happen to seniors on fixed incomes, given that most new systems are in the $15,000-$20,000 range and newer technologies can cost even more if they use electricity to operate such as the Waterloo Biofilter.

“I know I’d be in trouble financially if I had to replace my system,” he said. “And what if you’re on an older 100 x 100 lot? There might not be room for one of the newer systems.”

He doesn’t think Township subsidies or 80-20 type loans will work either.

“You could have 600 people coming for help replacing their systems,” he said. “How is the Township going to pay 80 per cent of that? And let’s face it, for single seniors who only have their pension and a few dollars put away, they’re never going get $20,000 paid off.”

Orser said he thinks the best solution is for municipalities to hold off on making plans until the Province actually passes the legislation and then to lobby them for inspectors. “It is my one hundred per cent hope the township will hold off,” he said. “Then, if the province decides to pass this, the Province can hire the inspectors who will accompany the pumpers and to the inspections.”

Published in CENTRAL FRONTENAC
Thursday, 06 April 2017 11:04

Addington Highlands Council, April 3

Something you don’t see at a municipal council meeting very often is a resident making a delegation and going to bat for a neighbour.

But at Addington Highlands regular Council meeting this week in Flinton, Amos Shiner did just that.

Shiner took exception to the way Larry Knox has been treated with respect to the enforcement of the yard clean-up bylaw.

Knox has been instructed to clean up his Hwy. 41 property. Shiner said a bylaw enforcement officer visited Knox March 1 and gave him until April 17 to comply.

“Larry has been in the hospital for lung surgery and I’m here asking for an extension,” Shiner said.

Shiner said allegations that nothing had been done were untrue as Knox had “taken a pickup load to the dump.”

Shiner also said there were extenuating circumstances in that some of the metal to be removed was still frozen in the ground.

“I’ve talked to many people who are not happy with the way this was done,” Shiner said.

Shiner said the incident has raised other concerns for him and he plans to do something about them.

“Our bylaw does not comply with the Charter of Rights (and Freedoms),” he said. “One person (the bylaw enforcement officer) has the authority to enter anyone’s property and act as judge without appeal.

“We feel bullied by this bylaw so we’re taking petitions (and) you’re going to see a lot of me until this bylaw is changed.”

Shiner also said he has issues with other municipal statutes including the Official Plan.

Council thanked Shiner for his presentation.

Published in ADDINGTON HIGHLANDS
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