Council Reports: September 24, 2007

September 24, 2007
Committee of the Whole Meeting: 9:00 a.m. – 8:47 p.m.
Regular Evening Meeting: 7:00 p.m. – 8:31 p.m.
All Members of Council present.

CONFIDENTIAL / CLOSED SESSION: 5:22 p.m. – 6:20 p.m. and 8:31 p.m. – 8:47 p.m.

MARK AITKEN, CAO SIMCOE COUNTY, SPEAKS TO COUNCIL RE WASTE, LANDFILLS AND SITE 41: After giving general comments about County services, Aitken supplied a little history about County landfills. Apparently problems surfaced in the 1980s all across the County – illegal dumps, garbage that spilled beyond dump sites, burning, use of quarries and the like. The County assumed responsibility for landfills in 1990 and gradually brought them up to appropriate standards. Recently the County has instituted a number of programs – blue boxes, the mining of landfills, bag limits — that have reduced the volume of garbage going to landfills. Right now, Aitken estimated that the County would have seven years of space available, were both population and garbage flow to remain constant. But of course both will change: population will rise and garbage volume may fall when the green bin organics program begins next September. And various initiatives should further decrease the volume – diversion of wood (for wood chips), shingles (for asphalt), drywall (for kitty litter), disassembly of electronic equipment (for precious and expensive metals) and so on.
Members of Council argued that the County should be taking a leadership role in investigating new, adventurous strategies for dealing with waste – by looking to Europe for models, by investigating environmentally friendly technologies rather than landfills, by adding retrieval of methane gas to the plans for Site 41. But Aitken kept returning to the need for landfill space; he seemed not to grasp that landfills are no longer appropriate and that the County should be proactive and innovative. He was content to watch York and Durham come up with new technological solutions, and then, possibly, to follow their lead.
Regarding Site 41, Aitken reported that tests have revealed that the underlying clay layer is at the right density and moisture level across the sample area. He expects the landfill to be receiving garbage by next fall.

COMMITTEE OF ADJUSTMENT ANSWERS QUESTIONS: Appointed by Council, the Committee of Adjustment has been given the power to make decisions about requests for minor variances from the Township’s Official Plan. Judy Hibbs, Chair of the Committee, told Council that in making decisions, the Committee took into account the kind of precedent that would be set, the right of property owners to improve their properties, the views of neighbours, advice from the Township’s planning department, and, particularly, what was observed during the visits the Committee paid to each site under review. Other members of the Committee are John Kerk, Bill Sweenie, John Turner and Gibb Wishart.
Councillor Nigel Warren is the member of Council who most frequently expresses concerns about Committee decisions, so it was he who guided the discussion. He asked why the Committee regularly allows variations from the minimum lot size required by the Official Plan as long as the lot is able to accommodate both a well and a septic system – and was told that many cottages were in bad shape and needed to be replaced, and others had been in a family for a long time and expansion should be allowed, particularly if the expansion were made on the cottage’s existing footprint by adding a storey.
He asked why Environmental Protection zoning was so frequently ignored – and was told that in the view of the Committee, EP zoning was broad brush zoning, and that fine-tuning was supplied by the environmental assessments commissioned by the applicants. They said that no such assessments have been rejected.
He asked about the Committee’s views regarding applicants who put up a building or made a renovation and then asked for forgiveness of infringements of rules (something that came up frequently when an owner wanted to sell a property) – and was told that when the building was well constructed, the Committee’s impulse was to accept it, but if a deck were in the wrong place, they would insist that it be removed.
Council asked the members of the Committee to prepare a report suggesting changes to the Official Plan that would address recurrent problems.

DISCUSSION OF ORAL PRESENTATION BY JOHN AND ELLY MARION (OWNERS OF THE CONTENTIOUS FENCE IN BALM BEACH): In an oral presentation to Council earlier in September, the Marions asked questions about three matters that affected their enjoyment of their property: the introduction of live musical entertainment on the Surf Restaurant’s patio adjacent to their property; the involvement of private citizens in beach cleanups at Balm; and threats against their fence at the public meeting on fencing.
At this meeting, as Council and the CAO discussed the questions, numerous points were made. It was felt that some of the issues concerned private (as opposed to public) property matters and were thus outside the control of staff and Council. But some were definitely in the public domain. Councillor Nigel Warren asked that responses given by staff to five questions posed in the Marions’ July 27th letter be given in writing, and Mayor Breckenridge asked that Council be copied on all responses that staff makes to letters addressed to Council.
Councillor George Cornell urged everyone to see the situation at Balm Beach as an opportunity to improve community relations – possibly by implementing more of the ideas in the Balm Beach Master Plan and by getting liability insurance to cover community volunteers who want to participate in beach maintenance under township staff’s supervision. The ensuing discussion suggested that both suggestions would be pursued.
Staff and Council expressed frustration that these issues were consuming so much of their and the OPP’s time. Mayor Peggy Breckenridge urged members of the Balm community to work together.

RECREATION MASTER PLAN ADOPTED: Council adopted the Master Plan, subject to several conditions (for discussion of the proposed Master Plan, see the Report on Council for December 5, 2006):
that public consultation be sought prior to any significant expenditure or change to community recreation programs
that the Community Recreation Committee be consulted prior to the sale of existing designated parkland
that beach access be improved on existing road allowances, blocks, walkways, and that opportunities be explored for purchasing beach property for the enhancement and improvement of Township owned waterfront parks, and
that consideration be given to opening hitherto under utilized or undeveloped shoreline parkland.

BUILDING ACTIVITY DOWN: There has been a dramatic decline in building activity in the township in comparison with 2006. Where in 2006 total construction value stood at $27,440,000 at the end of August (on 453 building permits), this year the value stood at $25,334,000 (on 371 building permits), and would have been $7 million lower if not for the inclusion of one project, the Lafontaine retirement complex, Le Villageois.

BUDGET DELIBERATION DAY CHANGED: The date of the first day of budget deliberations has been changed from Monday, November 19, 2007 to Thursday, November 22, 2007 at 9 a.m. in the Council Chambers.