Central Frontenac Council passed a motion to declare the old Parham Fire Surplus and approved it being listed for sale at its regular meeting Tuesday afternoon in Sharbot Lake.
The motion came as a part of a proposal from Fire Chief Greg Robinson who, in his report, proposed that the “net proceeds of the sale be transferred to the fire reserve account.”
The old Parham station was replaced with a new fire station in 2016 and the old one is currently used as a warehouse for fire equipment.
However, Robinson said that the fire department has two surplus stations in Mountain Grove and the one by the rink could be used for storage as well as continue as change room for the rink. He acknowledged that there are some recreational materials in the building but the Facilities Manager assured him that they are rotting skateboard park items that will be disposed of or relocated by Facilities.
“We have received serious interest from two parties that want to purchase the old station,” Robinson said in his report.
However, there are two potential problems with a sale of the property.
The property has two neighbours, one a residential property directly west and the Township itself in conjunction with the Parham Agricultural Society on the other two sides. The property in question is directly adjacent to the fairgrounds.
In his report, Robinson said “the land severance will be about half an acre and will not impact the fairground.
Three councilors (Tom Dewey, Bill MacDonald and John Purdon) all pointed out that under the Official Plan, the minimum lot size in Central Frontenac is 1.25 acres.
Robinson said that the entrance to the fairgrounds could be moved in order to comply with the minimum lot size requirements but Coun. Phillip Smith, who is the treasurer for the Ag Society said it was the first he’d heard of the entrance being moved.
The other issue is that there is a well on the property that is used by the ball fields. Robinson said that one of the interested parties said they didn’t use much water and would be prepared to let the fairgrounds/ ball fields continue to draw water from the property. If someone else wanted to buy it, Robinson said “we’d have to drill another well” for the ball fields to use.
It is conceivable that the neighbours to the west might want to add the property to their own but in any other scenario, there is a lot of process to happen before the property could be sold including a survey, addition of property from the fairgrounds (either by moving the entrance or taking some from the children’s play area), determination of fair market value and quite likely a zoning change, depending on what the new owners might want to use it for.
Former Coun. John Purdon was sworn in to replace the departed Jamie Riddell around the Council table. Riddell was also at the meeting in his capacity as Dep. Fire Chief and wished Purdon luck “considering the size of the shoes you have to fill.”
A cost sharing proposal for land use planning services currently being provided by Frontenac County for three of the four Frontenac Townships was approved by Council at their monthly meeting on January 17.
The proposal, which calls for hiring of a senior planner on a three year contract basis with the expectation that the position will become permanent, also calls for townships who have been receiving free planning from the department to slowly start paying the full cost of the service.
And that may be a tall order.
The County Planning department has been the contract planner for Frontenac Islands, North and Central Frontenac for several years now, under an arrangement that was solidified just under 3 years ago.
In February of 2015, County Council decided that township generated planning work, including updates to Official Plan and Comprehensive Zoning Bylaws, would be carried out by the county department free of charge. The county does charge for planning work that is initiated by residents or developers, such as zoning bylaw amendments and site plan agreements. But in those cases, it is the applicant who pays the county fee. Essentially, the townships have enjoyed a free service, much to the dismay of South Frontenac Township
South Frontenac has its own department and thus covers its own costs. Since South Frontenac ratepayers cover over 60% of the Frontenac County budget, their members of County Council, Ron Vandewal and John Mcdougall opposed the scheme, which they said amounted to South Frontenac paying for their own planning and also 60% of the planning costs of the other townships
The debate at that meeting included the following exchange, as reported in the News at the time.
Councilor John McDougall from South Frontenac said “I favour a full cost recovery model, which is the fairest way to do this.”
Frontenac Islands Mayor Dennis Doyle, who was also the county warden at that time, pointed out that the two planners on the county staff were not working at full capacity, “The planners are already being paid. Any money that is raised from privately initiated planning applications will help cover those salaries, and South Frontenac gets the most benefit from that. It really is a win-win.”
South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal did not see Doyle's logic.
“I hate to say this but if we don't have enough work for the people we have, then we might consider looking at staffing levels to save money. To me, if any service is going to be offered by the county to one or more townships, it should be paid for by them. Otherwise it's not fair to taxpayers in the townships who do not use the service,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of Central Frontenac, Mayor Frances Smith said that her own council had made the decision to sever its relationship with its long serving contract planner Glenn Tunnock on the understanding that the county department would provide “free service and only private applications would be billed. If that changes then we will have to look at our options again.”
Three years later, the two member county planning team is now over capacity, in large part due to planning demands generated by the three townships, which now accounts for over 40% of their work plan.
Faced with either paying overtime, not being able to provide services in a timely manner, or hiring a third planner, county staff are proposing hiring a planner on a contract basis for three years.
Based on consultations with the Chief Administrative Officers of the member townships, recognising that any other model would “drive up costs for South Frontenac ratepayers” for a service they do not use, county staff are now proposing phasing in a full cost recovery model for the service.
Reserve funds will be used to curtail the impact on local townships budgets in North and Central Frontenac and Frontenac Islands over the next three years, after which time the program can be evaluated. But based on the way the service is being used, the projected costs as of 2021 will be about $61,500 per year for Central Frontenac, $47,500 for North Frontenac, and $36,000 for Frontenac Islands.
While this is popular with McDougall and Vandewal, it is not sitting well with some of the council members.
“We were assured that there was no need for new people if we went for this, but now only three years later we are told something else.” said Councillor John Inglis from North Frontenac.
Trying to put the situation in positive light, county Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Pender said, “the good news is that there have been more planning applications than before. Our economic development initiatives seem to be having an impact.”
Referring to what she said three years, ago, Central Frontenac Mayor Frances Smith said, “we are going back on the agreement that we would do planning for a nominal cost. I agree we need to pay more, but to pay $61,000 in year four and beyond is a lot of money for Central Frontenac ratepayers.
Kelly Pender said that the townships will have to decide whether they support this because the county cannot support the service within the current planning budget.
“We either add another planner or we get out of the day to day planning business for the townships,” he said.
Noting that the three year phase-in gives an opportunity to evaluate the service before committing to paying the full cost, North Frontenac Mayor Ron Higgins said “I have no problem supporting this.”
In the end, the proposal received unanimous support at the county table, but each individual council will be faced with their own decision whether to opt in or out.
Despite freezing rain Saturday morning, a full house turned out in Ompah to discuss proposed changes to North Frontenac Township’s Official Plan.
Many of those in attendance were from lake associations and there was one proposed change they were all glad to hear — larger minimum lot sizes and setbacks — even if the proposed changes don’t go as far as some would like.
Many of the comments were like this from Jim Holton, past-president of the Canonto Lake Association.
“We’ve been arguing for larger lots for years,” Holton said. “Water quality is not just about phosphorus.”
“Our available lakefront properties are getting scarce,” said Mayor Ron Higgins. “For example, Mazinaw Lake is at capacity.
“But I think the (County) private roads study will be good for us (and) we’re creating a best-in-class Official Plan here.”
Higgins said he’s pleased with some of the proposed changes that should encourage more affordable housing.
Planner Joe Gallivan said the proposed 250-ft frontage and 2-acre lot size with a 100-ft setback (up from 1 acre and 150-ft frontage) is “a good start” even though it’s smaller than the 1-hectare (2.2 acres) and 300-foot frontage required in South and Central Frontenac.
“It’s protecting the lake better than it is now,” Gallivan said. “(But), there’s more to it than just lot size.
“There are things like is there room for septic, how big can a boat house be, how big can a bunkie be?”
Gallivan is also including changes that will better accommodate the ‘live/work’ building where residents can set up a business in their home and sections to encourage smaller homes.
“There are now 350-square-foot homes that cost $60,000,” he said. “When I retire, that’s what I want to have.”
Gallivan said they’re also working on communal septic and water systems which would require smaller lot sizes to work efficiently.
He said after all the feedback has been considered, he expects to have a plan ready for adoption by the end of the summer.
“Council seems to like the plan so far,” he said.
It has been a long, slow, dance of sorts, but it seems that the County of Frontenac and the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) are about to come to terms over the County's first Official Plan.
Joe Gallivan, the Manager of Planning Services for Frontenac County, said on Tuesday that after a lot of meetings, emails and phone conversations, staff at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs “basically get where we are coming from as far as the kind of Official Plan that fits for Frontenac County”.
On several key issues, such as development on private lanes and setbacks for waterfront development, Gallivan said the ministry has allowed for the kind of softer language that will allow Frontenac County to both encourage the kind of development that county residents are looking for and remain within the parameters of the latest Provincial Policy Statement, which is the basis of all planning activities in Ontario.
“There are some issues of wording where I think they are off base or unclear, but most of them are not important enough for our purposes to fight over,” said Gallivan.
For that reason he recommended that Council accept most of the revisions requested by the ministry in their draft response to the Official Plan that was submitted by the County several months ago.
On 18 specific wording changes in the plan, however, Gallivan recommended that Council not make the changes suggested by the MMAH.
These include a number of measures that, in Gallivan's view, do not belong in a regional plan because they refer to specific locations, such as the Village of Sydenham in regards to water systems. These he said would be best left to the discretion of the Township of South Frontenac's own Official Plan.
Other changes are either unclear, or based on false assumptions.
In one case, for example, the MMAH would like the County to make use of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) database as regards endangered species.
“But we do not have a data sharing agreement with the MNR over that information, so we can't make use of it,” said Gallivan.
While there remain areas of disagreement, Gallivan expressed optimism for the first time in months, that the province will accept a version of the County Official Plan that is acceptable to Frontenac County Council, avoiding a costly and time-consuming appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Once the Official Plan is accepted, it will be County Council, and not the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, that will be the approval body for local township Official Plans.
Township hopes to submit plan by mid-September
South Frontenac Council interrupted their summer meeting break to hold a special meeting on Tuesday, August 11. The only item on the agenda was a statutory public meeting to gather input from council and members of the public regarding the township's draft Official Plan, which needs to be reviewed every five years.
The draft plan has already been submitted to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for comment, and was the subject of an open house in July that drew 50 people. Along with the draft plan, planner Lindsay Mills presented Council with a summary of all the oral comments from the meeting along with a number of written comments he has received, some as late as this week.
He pointed out a number of points of contention between what Council has said they would like to see in the plan and what the ministry is indicating they will accept.
In 2001, with the adoption of the first South Frontenac Official Plan, a limit of three new lots could be subdivided out of an existing lot, and Council has said it wants to increase that to five lots.
“The ministry has indicated they will not accept that but Council wants it to remain so it is still in the plan,” said Mills.
The ministry is also asking for a new provision, that both Mills and Council consider will be a detriment to township residents hoping to develop their properties without providing any improvement to the environment.
That provision is that all development within 120 metres of any body of water will be prohibited unless a full-blown environmental assessment is done.
“I think this is a problem for us. Our current practice is to seek comment from the relevant conservation authority about waterfront development and they essentially do what I would call a scoped study. If they indicate a full-blown study is necessary we require one. If this goes through it will add costs to private landowners that are not necessary and will change the pattern of development in the township,” said Mills.
As well, the ministry is requiring that “all private lanes be 'condominiumised'” said Mills, which he described as a “solution to a problem that does not exist.” Private lanes in South Frontenac are improved every time there is a new lot created on them as part of the approval process, and the township has been providing funding on an annual basis for the improvement of lane ways.
“Emergency vehicles are able to access properties on those lanes, which is what the ministry is concerned with,” Mills added.
Most members of Council had comments and suggestions to add to those from the public regarding the plan.
Councilor Ross Sutherland thought a provision prohibiting privately run common septic and water systems should be softened.
Councilor Ron Sleeth said the township should stand firm on the five lots, saying, “That has been a good model for development in South Frontenac, and is easier and fairer for property owners than a plan of condominium or subdivision.”
When asked by Councilor John McDougall if he will be waiting for Frontenac County to complete their Official Plan before submitting the South Frontenac plan, planner Lindsay Mills said that as far as he is concerned “It is full speed ahead; this has been delayed for too long. If the County OP comes in while this is in process, we will deal with that at the time.”
Members of Council and the public talked about the idea of introducing something in the plan about a “community fit” in addition to the technical requirements for a plan of subdivision.
Mike Keene, a township resident and planner with Fotenn, which is in the midst of developing two subdivisions in the township, said that the township might consider fine tuning the areas designated as hamlets in the township to fit the geography and patterns of development.
At the end of the meeting, CAO Wayne Orr said that a final draft plan will be ready for Council to consider at a Committee of the Whole meeting that is scheduled for September 8. “If that plan is acceptable, we can look at township approval on September 15, or we can put it off until later if Council wishes to do so.”
Once the plan is approved by the township it will go to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. But the process will not be complete, particularly if, as is likely, the ministry will want further changes.
A complicating factor is that once the Frontenac County Official Plan has been approved by the ministry, the County will replace the ministry as the approving body for township plans
It was a year ago when Brian Skillen came to Central Frontenac Council to fight for the right to keep his two miniature horses, Tommy and Teddy, on his Clarke Road property near Arden.
The horses are well known in the Arden/Tamworth/Tweed corridor through their appearances at public events, and their visits to seniors' homes.
However, they ran afoul of the township because Skillen's residential lot is under the 10 acre minimum for housing livestock, and a complaint, lodged by his neighbour, brought this to the attention of the township and its bylaw officer.
Skillen was ordered to move Tommy and Teddy at that time, but council relented and an accommodation was found. The Ministry of the Environment determined there was no impact of the horses on wells or groundwater, which was the neighbour's concern, and the township held the bylaw enforcement at bay as it considered fine tuning the bylaw.
Fine tuning the bylaw is not likely to take place soon, however, since the township is waiting for Frontenac County to finalize its Official Plan before starting to update its own, a process that will likely take another year or two.
Earlier this spring, a complaint was lodged against a family in Mountain Grove who were raising pigs at a property within the hamlet, bringing the issue of the 10 acre minimum lot size for livestock back before Council.
On June 9, then CAO Jim Zimmerman gave a report to council asking that the township either “adopt a consistent, fair and objective enforcement of the existing by-law, or instruct staff to not enforce the existing by-law under any circumstances ... “
Council chose to enforce the existing bylaw, which meant that not only did the Mountain Grove pigs need to be moved, but the Skillen horses, as well as four goats at a property outside of Mountain Grove, were also to be revisited.
According to Central Frontenac Clerk Cathy MacMunn, the situation with the pigs has been resolved, and a solution for the goats “is being worked on”.
As far as Timmy and Tommy are concerned however, the jig seems to be up.
“Here it is,” said Brian Skillen, as he produced a document signed by Ken Gilpin, the township's bylaw officer, ordering the horses off the property by July 20.
“I'm pretty fed up with the township,” he said. “Nothing has changed since last year when the Ministry of the Environment and the Health Unit and all the rest of them came here and said they weren't causing any problems, but now they want them gone.”
Unlike last year, Skillen is not planning to go before Council to ask for a reprieve.
“I'm not going back to them,” he said, pointing to a For Sale sign in front of his house. “I'm trying to sell the property anyway, not because of the township, but they don't help matters much, I can tell you that. All I want is for them to let me keep the horses here until I sell.”
Skillen said that he is concerned that if Tommy and Teddy are taken away they will not survive the ordeal.
“They need specific care because they are miniature horses,” he said. “If you put them on grass they wouldn't survive very long. One way or another I'll make sure they are cared for.”
Politicians from South Frontenac had been waiting for a year to find out if their ratepayers would be subsiding planning services for residents of the three other townships in Frontenac County.
At a Committee of the Whole meeting of Frontenac County Council last week (February 18) the representatives from South Frontenac were the only ones who opposed a plan whereby all municipally generated planning work done under contract between the county planning department and North and Central Frontenac and Frontenac Island township would be done for free.
The Frontenac County planning department provides service to the county, and, as of last year to local townships as well. It is funded through the corporate services budget of Frontenac County. Because it has the largest population, South Frontenac ratepayers pay 57.8% of that budget.
South Frontenac Township does not benefit from the free planning services because they have their own busy planning department already in place.
In a report to the Committee of the Whole, the County Manager of Planning, Joe Gallivan, outlined several options for payment for the services that are being provided to three of the four townships. The one that is in place, called the incremental cost model, calls for no charge for day-to-day planning work and land use policy work generated by the townships. However, all privately initiated applications (e.g., minor variance, severance, rezoning) for which the applicants are charged a fee by the townships, will result in a charge from the county.
Councilor John McDougall from South Frontenac said that he favoured a “full cost recovery model, which is the fairest way to do this. But in place of that we are willing to accept some sort of flat fee arrangement. South Frontenac pays for our own department and we pay into the county department as well, I must point out,” he said.
Current Warden and Frontenac Islands Mayor Dennis Doyle said, “The planners are already being paid. Any money that is raised from privately initiated planning applications will help cover those salaries, and South Frontenac gets the most benefit from that. It really is a win-win.”
South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal did not see Doyle's logic.
“I hate to say this but if we don't have enough work for the people we have then we might consider looking at staffing levels to save money. To me, if any service is going to be offered by the county to one or more townships it should be paid for. Otherwise it's not fair to taxpayers in the townships who do not use the service,” he said.
Central Frontenac Mayor Frances Smith said that when the county offered to do the planning for Central Frontenac, it was on the basis that the township would be getting “free service and only private applications would be billed. If that changes then we will have to look at our options again.”
When it came to a vote, all six council members from the three townships who stand to benefit from the policy supported it, and the two from South Frontenac voted against it.
One thing that North, South and Central Frontenac all have in common is lakes. There are large and small lakes everywhere and in between there are more creeks and swamps than patches of land.
Now those waterways are binding the townships in opposition to the Province of Ontario. The three townships, and Frontenac County itself, all are or soon will be at loggerheads with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs over two provisions in their respective Official Plans.
Official Plans are deathly dry documents but they do provide the basis for all the local rules that anyone who wants to do something as simple as build a shed or expand their front deck is obliged to adhere to. Since just about all the economic development in Frontenac County is based on people living in houses on water or rural lots and making their lives here, the rules that govern what can be built where are essential.
North and Central Frontenac ran afoul of the ministry a few years ago when they refused to pass Official Plans that prohibited future development on private lanes. The reason they refused was that it would mean that the vast potential of people migrating to the townships and falling in love with the land and the rural lifestyle, would be cut back to almost nothing. Only developers with deep pockets who are able to use urban planning tools such as Plans of Subdivision would be able to do business in Frontenac County.
While that model works in a small part of the county at the southern edge, i.e. within a 15-minute drive of the City of Kingston, most of South and all of Central and North Frontenac would be left with little chance of attracting new residents.
A second issue came to light last week, and this one affects South Frontenac first but will undoubtedly be applied to the rest of the county and beyond if the ministry has its way. All development within 120 metres of a body of water is to be restricted. That is what the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is recommending for the new South Frontenac Official Plan. In order to build within 120 metres of a water body a bunch of studies would need to be done, and zoning and Official Plan amendments would need to be secured. All of these add costs and time, so instead of promoting ourselves as a place to come and build a life in a place of natural beauty within driving distance of major cities, we will be putting up hurdles designed by a government that has no idea what this county is all about.
To put the 120 metre setback into perspective, residents of Verona, Sydenham, Ompah, and certainly Sharbot Lake would find it very difficult not only to build new houses, but even to extend their front deck 10 feet.
We have chronicled some of the disputes between the planning departments of Frontenac County and South Frontenac in recent months, but it just makes sense for all the collective resources within Frontenac County to be mustered together to make a strong case to be brought to the Ontario Municipal Board, which is where this dispute with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs is inevitably headed.
The province has a lot of money - and some of that money is our money, by the way - to fight us on this. We need to stick together to fight back.
As the term wound down last week at Frontenac County, the representatives from South Frontenac Council chose not to bring their concerns to the table - at least during open session - about a report from the county planning department on the work they did in 2014 as a contract planner for three of the four Frontenac townships.
“All I can say is this does not reflect what John McDougall and I were told was going to happen,” said a frustrated South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison.
At the beginning of the year, North and Central Frontenac entered into a contract with Frontenac County for planning services, which Frontenac Islands had already done two years ago.
At the time, South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison expressed the concern that his ratepayers not be on the hook for providing planning services for the other townships.
South Frontenac has its own planning department, and South Frontenac ratepayers also pay 60% of Frontenac County taxation.
At the time it was agreed that tracking software would be employed to determine what the two county planners were working on at all times, and armed with that data a user pay model for their time would be worked out.
In February, Frontenac Islands Mayor Dennis Doyle said “we would be happy to pay the full cost of the service. It will be a win-win for South Frontenac ratepayers.”
However, the report that was presented to Frontenac County Council last week, (November 19) used a different kind of model.
In the preamble to the report, the County Planning manager Joe Gallivan wrote: “The County has been using a ‘community benefit model’ in providing planning services to the townships. This model is used by other County planning departments in Eastern Ontario. It recognizes that a regional government has the ability to overcome disparities based on geography and/or tax base and tax assessment in order to provide equitable services. This is particularly relevant to Frontenac County, which has a large physical area with limited fiscal and human resources in local government.”
He compared the billing model with the one used by health units and conservation authorities, in which more populated areas subsidise the costs for more rural locations.
In line with this, the county has been providing service free of charge to North and Central Frontenac and Frontenac Islands for day-to-day planning work and land use policy work, and charging for work that is generated by privately initiated applications, which the townships charge back to the private applicants.
According to the report, 57% of the department's time was spent on county-related planning work, which includes preparing the county Official Plan, developing policy and doing approvals for subdivisions, which is a county responsibility.
The remaining 43% of the department's time was spent on work for the three contract townships. A little more than half of that work (23% of the total) was for work generated by the townships themselves, which was not charged back, and the rest (19% of the total) was spent on privately generated planning applications.
However, the revenue generated for the county was minimal, only $3,640, significantly less than the $12,000 that was projected.
The salary line in the county planning budget for 2014 is over $200,000.
Lindsay Mills said on Tuesday that he is ready to recommend that South Frontenac politicians vote in favour of approving the Frontenac County Official Plan.
Mills, who is the head of the South Frontenac Planning department, attended what he described as an “excellent” meeting between Frontenac township chief administrators, planning departments, county staff and senior officials from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing on Thursday, October 23.
However, on Monday of this week he added that he needed to see the proposed changes to the plan that resulted from the meeting.
When contacted again on Tuesday, after seeing the changes, he said that most of the “drop dead requirements for changes” that his department had identified had been made and he thinks South Frontenac can live with the document.
“I still have problems with it. I think it is too detailed, too prescriptive, and gets into things that might lead to difficulties down the road, but as they say it is a 'living document' and we can make changes if parts of it turn out to be unworkable,” he said.
He added that he had not been alone in expressing concerns and asking for changes to the document at the meeting that was held last week.
“Jenny Duhamel from North Frontenac and Cathy MacMunn from Central Frontenac both raised important points that had to be addressed. This was not only a South Frontenac issue,” he said.
Approving the draft document and sending it to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs had been expected at the regular monthly meeting of Frontenac County Council on October 15, but when the representatives from South Frontenac spoke against it, a deferral was proposed in order for the October 23 meeting to be organized in an effort to achieve a more solid consensus among members of Frontenac County Council.
That might prove relevant if, as is expected, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs seeks to make changes to the document that are not acceptable to Frontenac County.
“I can't comment on the issues between Frontenac County and the provincial government,” said Mills, “that's really for them to deal with. I can only comment on the document itself and its impact on development in South Frontenac. As it was before, I was worried that it might have stopped us in our tracks, and I am less worried now.”
Mills added that while he expects that the South Frontenac representatives, outgoing Mayor Gary Davison and Councilor John McDougall, will vote in favour of the document, he expects that Mayor Davison “will have some interesting things to say at the meeting.”