By John Swartz
Orillia council has four meetings scheduled for Monday afternoon. Their day will start pretty normally with a closed session at 3 p.m. followed by the usual committee meeting at 4. Then they have a special council meeting after the committee meeting, which has a closed session as part of that agenda.
We’ll start at the top. The fist closed session has two items on the agenda and both are about land dispositions in the Horne Business Park. There is no accompanying documentation, but it’s likely the City is selling at least two more parcels of land.
When the committee meeting starts the first item is about direction council previously gave for the new bridge over Highway 11 on West Street. Council wrote the MTO wanting a barrier included in the design of the bridge to separate the pedestrian from the bike lanes. However the report deals with multi-use trails on the Highway 12/Coldwater Road bridge over Highway 11. Yes, the MTO is replacing the bridge already – and they are replacing the bridge over Highway 11 at Old Barrie Road, which, checking short-term memory, were just built within the last 10 years.
Regarding the Coldwater Road bridge, the City had an opportunity to state it’s preference for multi-use lanes in both directions from Westmount Road to West Ridge Blvd. The MTO is saying they can’t do that because adjoining land use on the north side is too close to the highway. What they will do is build a multi-use trail on both sides from Murphy Road to Highway 11, and then on the south side of the bridge from that point to Westmount Road – and the City will have to pay part of the cost. After two years of back and forth on this, Staff are telling council to endorse this plan.
There is no cost estimate and staff will have to report back to council when they have that information. Staff are also saying the MTO estimated if the City insisted on a trail on both sides of the bridge it would add about $3,000,000 to the project cost and the City would have to pay all of it.
The City is taking a page from corporate retail and online stores who charge extra when credit cards are used, essentially passing on the cost businesses are charged to buyers. They have a report from staff recommending the City institute a convenience fee of not more than 2.4% on credit card transactions. Staff say the City currently pays about $1 million per year for transaction fees.
The big item on the agenda – and on the following special meeting agenda is about the See You on the Patio program. Two things have happened so far. The Downtown Orillia Management Board decided not to listen to their customers and rejected having a pedestrian mall Friday and Saturday night all summer long. They thought doing so only on holiday weekends would do.
Then, councillors Cipolla, Emond and Campbell moved a report the next week to have the streets closed downtown both nights from July 1 to Labour Day weekend. That report was postponed at the time it was up for discussion. The DOMB subsequently revisited their previous decision and voted in favour of closing the streets on Friday evenings only.
Council has a new motion reflecting the change in dates which will close the street from 5 to 11 p.m., which really helps out the venues staying open to 1 or 2 a.m., having to stop everything to clear their patios from the street.
The motion also approves splitting the cost of operating (up to $10,000 for staff, advertising, security, etc.) and provides $5,000 for animation, which
usually means hiring musicians, unless the DOMB hires a mime or something. The money would come from the Municipal Accommodation Tax reserve.
The DOMB also has a report outlining buying a new truck. Actually, it’s a used truck, but the report says new. The reason it’s coming to council is because $15,000 of the $18,000 price will come from the DOMB reserve.
Centennial Park Boat Launch Parking
Back in December council established a working group to recommend a redesign of the parking lot at the boat launch in Centennial Park. The group is made up of Councillors Lauer, Hehn, Kloostra and Cipolla, and staff John McMullen and Ian Sugden.
They are reporting back and have landed on a design which changes the orientation on existing parking (angled) to a conventional perpendicular to the lake orientation. It also adds a lot of vegetation adjacent to the boardwalk which will effectively create a visual barrier to the lake.
The concept allows for 84 parking spots, which due to the orientation will provide straight ahead views of cars parked in front.
They had three proposed designs to choose from. There now are 108 parking spaces (or 57 truck and boat trailer spaces, which was the original intent of the parking lot decades ago, but trailers have since been banned from the lot). Two of the options considered returning boat trailer parking (17 spaces), but considerably fewer car parking spaces (26).
The discussion in the report indicates the working group considered a hybrid of the second and third options they had to work with, but in the end chose the second design as presented.
The way they were able to achieve having 84 parking spots was by expanding the boundary of the parking lot up to French’s Stand because the new roadway will be going behind French’s.
The designs were developed by Northern Lights landscape Architecture of Port Perry. The cost of this specific part of the planned improvements to waterfront parks is not provided, but has been included in the 2022 Capital budget for design costs and will be included in the 2023 budget for construction.
The last item before council moves to the special meeting is the annual approval of tax ratios. Ratios did not change last year because council adopted a zero tax increase. This year the increase was 2.98%, which averaged over two years is 1.49% each year. That means ratios are going up – except for the commercial property tax class, which will not be changed and accounts for 25% of property taxes collected.
Staff are giving council a heads up next year new property assessments (which are supposed to occur every 4 years, but were delayed because of the pandemic) are expected to change significantly and council may want to revisit tax policy and it may be wise to engage expert tax consultants now since next a new council will have this to contend with along with their first budget.
The closed session will deal with a status update on the first phase of Centennial Drive reconstruction (alongside Veterans’ Park). When they return to the public meeting, the main items are the See You On The Patio Program and to pass a number of by-laws related to property taxes. Both are time sensitive and cannot wait for the next regularly scheduled regular council meeting. Tax bills go out in June and the DOMB needs to know which way the wind blows now so they can prepare themselves for pedestrian mall activities.
Also on the agenda is the report from the just concluded committee meeting. This allows the outcomes of the primary items on this special meeting agenda to be used in discussion. Missing from the by-laws is one to allow the credit card convenience charge. This may be added to the list and if not will have to wait until the next regular council meeting in June.
The report and the motion recommendation (forwarded from April 19) regarding the mall still calls for closing Mississaga Street on Saturdays, while the one discussed above is for Fridays only. If council agrees with the prior report, this report and motion will have to be amended.
Council meetings are done by video conference and the chamber is closed to the public. The public can watch it live on Youtube.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)