The Wolfe Island Town Hall was filled to capacity where Brian Ritchie, Economic Development Consultant with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food was first on the agenda of the Frontenac Islands January meeting.
Introducing Ritchie , Mayor Vanden Hoek reminded council that in the ‘90’s Wolfe Island assisted by Bonnie O’Neil (OMAFRA) undertook a community consultation to develop a strategic economic development plan, setting 4 or 5 priorities to move the community forward and did so with some success. ”It is time to revisit the process and include Howe Island in a new community consultation.” (Transportation has already been identified as a priority and will not be included in the consultation.)
“The five stage consultation process will differ slightly for each community in that this will be a first for Howe Island,” Ritchie said. A special council committee would deliver (for pre-budget deliberations) a report to council by the end of May, with recommendations related to 4-5 priorities from each community. These would have arisen at public meetings, and been prioritized, explored in detail by sub-committees and then consolidated by the special committee leading to the final report. Brian will present a meeting time line for the township to consider. The Mayor noted the importance of economic development including job creation and assessment.
Terry Shea , General Manager Land O’Lakes Tourist Association came bearing maps, brochures and tourism information. “This is a sort of orientation for council,” he said. “Land O’Lakes is a destination marketing organization about economic development through tourism.” They have a 911 compliant map (for police and fire) and “Profile” promoting the region with the “Let’s Go” challenge, and have a sign initiative encompassing Canada’s Land of Lakes region. A Rural Economic Development grant they received allows marketers to attach themselves to the brand. Frontenac Islands (although not listed in old booklet as pointed out by Councillor Doyle) is a partner. Separate memberships exist for golf courses and other tourist attractions wishing to participate in “Let’s Go!”
A presentation on options for improving the Wolfe Island ferry service was made by Gregor Caldwell on behalf of a small independent ferry study group. It is contained in a separate article.
Next came the deferred Baynes application for a township road closure (unopened and not accessible) on Ferguson Point. The road runs through the Baynes and Smith properties. The application had originally been approved but it was found that the road had not been closed.
Baynes, accompanied by his lawyer presented a raft of documents dating back to 1878. In 1981 a land severance was approved and Baynes bought and paid for property from Holmstead Holdings with Township approval. He believed it included the town line on which he has paid taxes on for the last 25 years. “I hope history tells it all,” he said.
Baynes wants a bylaw to close the road, is willing to pay a nominal fee and legal expenses to get it properly registered and wants the land transferred to his family.
The mayor noted that on one of the documents it might appear the property is his, but only the municipality can sell a road allowance and the staff cannot find such a bylaw. “But if it was sold where is the money, who was the vendor ?” Councillor Doyle asks.
In the lengthy discussion that followed the mayor acknowledged that this is not the only road on Wolfe Island that is inaccessible to the public. Councillor Doyle does not approve of waterfront property being sold but recognizes the piece is land locked but wonders if the road was widened and opened up to the water would that change anything.
The council in 1981 approved the severance that happened to show the road allowance in the application even though they may not have had the authority to do so according to Baynes. ‘”The declaration to-day is to seek the closure of the road by bylaw and clear up the 1981 issue,” he said.
Councillor Fiene wondered if the road allowance is closed as a house keeping issue will it just be given away. Another wondered if the road would ever be of any use to the township. “ Because there is a fair amount of residential development in that area the answer is yes and no,” the mayor said.
Staff was directed to proceed with the process and a notice has been posted indicating the township is preparing to sell the land described as part of the unopened road allowance. Consideration of the bylaw will come up at the February council where verbal and written comments will be considered.
Simcoe Island resident Carol Leonard again asked council to re-instate the whole of 9 Mile Point Road on the island to a full service road. She based her case on an updated map first presented during the Official Plan process showing it as a full service road. However a subsequent map also undated shows part of it as limited service. She believes an irregular, undated and unreferenced map change happened between 2003 and 2005 without public notice. As a result she, as a 16 year full time resident, is the only resident living on 9 Mile Point Road, 6 km of which is without road service. Mayor Vanden Hoek said that the road is plowed by Sidney Eves (for the township) from his gateway to the ferry. That when the lighthouse was owned by the Coast Guard there was a private arrangement for plowing the 3km from the Eves home to the lighthouse.
After much discussion, some of it heated including Simcoe residents, a resolution by Councillors Fiene and Doyle that the road be re-instated was defeated. However council is referring the matter to the roads superintendent and the town planner. Ms. Leonard will continue her fight to have full service.
In other business: A waste management committee including Totten Simms Hubicki’s Guy Laporte , councillors and volunteers will be formed at the next meeting.
Councillor Doyle wants all recent non elected candidates serving on committees. He is concerned about plugged ditches and the municipal requirement to keep them open.
Councillor Fiene wants action about a ditch dug on a strip township waterfront property.
Deputy Mayor Norris wants a HoweIsland parking area cleared and notes illegal parking in the ferry line.
Councillors Doyle and Grant were appointed to the Community Centre Board. Grant – WI Fire Dept. Doyle- WI Medical clinic He will also chair the Big Sandy Bay Committee.
Howe Recreation Committee –Councillor Fiene.
Deputy Mayor Norris- HI Fire Deprtment.
Frontenac Islands Council meets Feb. 12th at 6:30 p.m. Howe Island.
Ferry transportation enhancement is a priority on Wolfe Island and W.I. resident Gregor Caldwell, representing a small ferry service study group (including Walter Knott and Trevor Van Allen) came to talk at the Frontenac Island council meeting. “Our group has been talking about this for a number of months and decided to put a document together for you,” Caldwell said presenting council members with the 4 page ferry option plan they had developed.
“We spoke to MPP John Gerretsen who said the province is looking for direction from Wolfe Island and we are aware that MTO is considering lengthening the ferry to increase capacity. However, we believe that the shorter route option must also be considered but as far as we know, it has not”.
Caldwell said the objectives of improved ferry service should be to - increase hourly capacity and increase frequency. The options in the IBI study were 1-no change, 2-lengthen ferry to 85 cars, 3- the existing ferry on shorter route (winter dock to Vimy).
“A lengthened ferry has serious deficiencies which could cause a one hour and 20 minute schedule due to loading and weight that translates to an hourly capacity increase of only 16% and a stretched out schedule for the traveller. Further” he said, “the shorter route has major benefits such as lower capital and operating costs from the point of view of setting it up, with no disruption in service, and is a longer term solution. “Doubling the capacity could well be a 10 year solution.”
He noted that with the shorter crossing there would be reduced congestion, fewer delays, double crossing frequency, (double the vehicles per hour) and could allow for an increase in population growth. “We feel a half hour (round trip) service is more appealing to people and perhaps Howe Island can attest to that.” Caldwell said that if service improvements came with a cost it would go down better with this kind of significant improvement in service. “We think the shorter route can provide year round better service and offer the best value for any dollars spent. With a lengthened boat we would pay for a poorer level of service,” he said. “So we encourage council to have ferry improvement as a top priority. We further ask council request MTO to take a formal study of the potential options for improvement and include the shorter route as well as the lengthened ferry and finally to undertake a thorough public process prior to a decision by council on the best option.”
Councillor Norris asks that Howe Island be included in any environmental assessment. Councillor Doyle asks about the IBI survey that indicated 60% preferred the shorter route and wonders if a faster ferry (suggested in the report) had ever been looked at. Caldwell said maybe a faster boat could travel from Wolfe to Garden Island but then would have to slow down.
Mayor Vanden Hoek has no idea about success on any option but said council is trying to restart discussions with MTO but has no idea where they will go “ once we have the format they are prepared to take we will make sure they have this document in there hands,” he said. There was no resolution passed.
Frontenac Islands faces new challenges regarding the Canadian Hydro Developers Wind Plant plan for Wolfe Island. Two notices of appeal have been submitted to the Township and filed with the Ontario Municipal Board. Both appeals list passage of the Zoning By-Law before the Environmental Screening Report (ESR) was available as cause. Both appellants have environmental and set back concerns, have indicated a willingness to mediate and are represented by Ms Peggy Smith, a lawyer with Eliot Smith.
In her appeal, island resident Sarah McDermott cites the passage of the zoning by-law as inconsistent with the vision of the Planning Act (the Act), Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) vision and the intent of Frontenac Islands Official Plan stating decisions taken by council before its passage were not open, accessible, timely or efficient and not passed in a fair process relative to the Act. As well it states minimum set-backs in section 4 of the zoning bylaw do not reflect 2005 recommendations made to council, are not based on best practices and are not in compliance with sections of the Act, the PPS and the Township’s Official Plan and fail to address issues of public health and safety.
In the absence of the ESR, Ms McDermott wants the by-law repealed as premature and “if the ESR has been released prior to the hearing, that the set-backs in the by-law be amended to reflect the issues identified in the ESR, the current practices of CHD in other places, and in recently issued policy statements and best practices across the country.”
Dr. James Day in his appeal submits that the zoning by-law is deficient because it does not consider the protection of ecological systems including natural areas, features and functions and the conservation and management of natural resources. He is concerned that a letter to the Township, forwarded to CHD, outlining concerns was not answered.
According to Day the zoning by-law allows transmission lines without consideration of the hedgerows and their protection, does not include minimum set back from wetlands, woodlots and environmentally sensitive areas, and that minimum setbacks from property lines do not consider other environmentally critical uses of adjoining property.
Dr. Day is seeking the repeal of the zoning by-law based on insufficient process and without the release of the ESR. If the ESR is released at the time of the hearing, Day wants setbacks of 1000 metres (from bird migration routes and wildlife areas) included in the zoning bylaw. He has been acquiring wetland properties on Wolfe Island to protect native waterfowl populations and notes increased flight paths, populations and new species particularly in property boundary hedgerows.
Mayor Vanden Hoek believes there has been considerable process but there is some confusion in the community. “The key point here is that the setbacks in the Zoning Bylaw amendment are what I would call default or minimum setback requirements. The ESR ( an overlay of the zoning by-law) on the other hand is submitted to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE). The issues of noise, wet land habitat, environment are for MOE resolution, and the setbacks that will come with the ESR have to respect MOE areas of responsibility, so if there are no environmental issues then the townships setbacks apply,” he said.
“ By passing the zoning bylaw, we allowed CHD to develop the site plan and to include it with the ESR. We probably should have spent more time explaining that at the public meetings or in the letter I sent to constituents. With the exception of the removal of the ‘holding provision’ the process is out of our hands.”
The holding provision does give the municipality some control over the project and to make one last effort to see that all the issues are resolved. According to the mayor an engineering firm will be brought in to do a site plan review on a whole range of issues (pole corridors, underground wires, technical issues related to township infrastructure) before the holding provision is removed. “ I believe process does work,” Vandenhoek said. “If the project has merit we will win, if not we will lose.”
Planning Consultant Bob Clark noted the township had expected the ESR to be complete but when it was not, the decision was made to use the holding provision of the zoning by-law (originally argued against by the CHD) because CHD wanted some certainty about setbacks and to avoid another approval process. “Without the ESR Clark Consulting felt and council agreed that we needed another mechanism to ensure that all of the environmental issues were addressed,” Clark said, “so we used the holding provision to make sure that all those issues were dealt before council would release the holding. We were in a catch 22 situation. CHD wanted an idea of what the setbacks were going to be. We felt it was reasonable to put those setbacks out for the public to react to. It was a useful exercise that identified vacant lands issues which we proposed be dealt with through the site plan process.”
According to Clark, the outgoing council wanted to deal with this part of the process because they had worked their way through it and, the proponent was also anxious that these things be made public. “Yes, the process was a little different than what we expected without the completed ESR but we came out with a defensible approach. We don’t think we have jeopardized the process or any of the concerns because they have to be dealt through the holding and the site plan process which we realize requires more weight.”
Regarding the appeals Clark believes there should be an opportunity for mediation with the appellants, once the site plan and the ESR are available to discuss what options and what solutions may be possible. “I think it is not in anyone’s interest to proceed to what could be a long and protracted board hearing. Our first recommendation to council will be to explore negotiation between the township, the proponent and the appellants. Even without a complete solution it will help narrow down the issues that need addressing, thus helping us work our way through an OMB hearing. This is a large project so I would have been surprised if there were no appeals.” And so the world turns!
Around Town: * The Canadian Diabetic Assoc. thanked the 20 W. Islanders who raised $3,726 from 215 donors. * Friends of Big Sandy Bay, AGM & a Turtle conservation presentation, Jan. 17th, WI United Church Hall 7pm.