Council Preview

By John Swartz

Orillia councils’ Monday afternoon meetings begin at 3:15 p.m. with a closed session. The subject is an update on legal matters regarding the Grape Island lawsuit. The is a report in the open session discussed below.

The first item on the 290 page, 4 p.m. committee agenda is the new Leacock Museum master plan. The document takes up 254 pages of the agenda. It’s quite detailed, but the initial recommendation is the plan be received in principal, and that a operator be found to manage the cafe. The additional wording of ‘on site’ suggests the City does not want a chain operator managing from afar.

The cafe is currently operated, and has been, by catering companies, and the service has been differently provided in the past according to the capabilities  of chosen caterers. Staff believes running the cafe and special events has been too much for smaller operators and those functions should be separated.

The consultant, TCI, and one of its study partners, Fisher Hospitality, recommend, “it requires a named franchise with brand recognition to draw people to the site.” They also believe with, “a long-term lease, the expectation would be that the franchise would also make a financial investment in the infrastructure improvements proposed to Swanmore Hall.”  There are recommendations for additions to Swanmore Hall, but they are off in the distance. The 33 recommendations are divided into short, medium, and long-term goals.

One of the prominent recommendations appears to be to dilute the association of Stephen Leacock from the museum by renaming it The Old Brewery Bay National Historic Site, with Home of the Stephen Leacock Museum as a subtitle.

Another is to leave the ownership and management as it is. The consultant provided information on several types of ownership, various mixes up to and including selling outright to another entity. Each scenario provide with data and experience from other similar museums, showed diminishing returns, except for turning it over to Parks Canada in whole. The consultant noted that Parks Canada has not recently assumed any historic sites, and does not have a plan to expand their holdings, so that option is a non-starter.

With such a large report, obviously getting into the weeds is more than a council preview can adequately handle. Look for more in-depth analysis in upcoming Art/Culture and Entertainment columns.

Out To Launch

The next agenda item deals with the Forest Avenue road allowance and boat launch.  This has been an issue for many years and is the subject of a statement of claim by Grape Island residents (which is the subject of the closed session mentioned above)

Monday’s report deals with the dock. The proposal is to repeal current municipal policy on the dock, and when council passes a zoning amendment the City buy a dock at an estimated cost of $60,000.

In 1956 council approved Grape Islanders to install a temporary, seasonal dock and staff is recommending keeping that. The difference with this proposal is the City buying and installing the dock each year to create access to all, not just Grape Island residents. The road allowance and all road allowances are public property and often, as in this case, extend in to the water. As long as Grape Islanders own the dock they are permitted to install, they want to keep use of it to only Grape Islanders.

Additional cost over a 15-year span include $75,000 for installing and removing the dock each year and maintenance at $12,500.

Hunter Valley Road

The City owns property used as a call center it wants to sell. However, the official plan designated two parts the property differently – Employment Lands/Business Park/Industrial – and one of the parking lots is designated Parkland and Major Open Space.

Staff say the situation is a result of a mapping error for the 2011 Official Plan. They are not two properties and the designation should be Employment Lands/Business Park/Industrial for the whole parcel.

Staff foresee a problem trying to sell property with two Official Plan and zoning designations. This move is permitted as a minor change to the Official plan, but a public meeting will happen October 26 for the zoning change.

Centennial Drive Project

Staff want $236,000 added to design costs for work on the Centennial Drive reconstruction project. Three things are driving higher costs beyond the original scope of work awarded to Ainley Group consultants.

The Elgin Street pumping station location was subsequently finalized and road work on Elgin and Cedar Island Drive is necessary now. Another consultant, Aquafor Beech Ltd., determined under the City’s new stormwater management approach, three more stormwater quality control structures are needed. Third, planned soil testing revealed some soil samples exceeded guidelines and staff authorized additional drilling to get a better picture of what soil was a problem (routine drilling was done this summer and waiting for council to approve additional drilling would have cost more money and delayed the project because drilling rigs need to be booked well in advance). On the latter, staff expect the additional drilling cost will result in cost savings later to remove soil (i.e. remove less = less construction cost).

The approved budget is $694,670 and approving an increase will bring it to $930,670.

This council meeting is a video conference and the chamber is closed to the public.  The public can watch it live, on Rogers TV.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)


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