By John Swartz
Orillia council starts their day of bi-weekly meetings at 1 p.m. Monday. First order of business is planning matters meeting for Official Plan and zoning amendments for a development at 1033 Mississaga Street.
The application, made by a numbered company, is to demolish the present one-story building and construct a three-storey building in its place consisting of 4 live/work units and one commercial unit on the main level. The second level would have 5 two-bedroom units (4 belong to the live/work spaces) and two one-bedroom units. The third level would have the same combination of two and one-bedroom units.
A second application for a zoning by-law amendment for property at 400 West Street North is being made by John Zwiers to permit conversion of the second level of an existing garage to living space. The garage is detached from the 4 unit main structure.
A third application for a zoning change is next. It’s for property at 111 Jarvis Street owned by a numbered company. The building already has 6 units, but was zoned for 5. This application is to legalize the additional unit.
The next order of business is a public meeting for tax appeals. There is nothing extraordinary on that agenda; most appeals are for taxes on structures that don’t exist anymore.
A deputation by Adrian Dingle, a director of the Raising the Roof housing project for 25 Peter Street North is next. The City had a motion to grant $129,250 to the group as a contribution to the purchase for the affordable housing project and to cover fees to the City related to the sale. The matter was postponed to this meeting.
This project is a plan to convert unused space in the former federal building on Peter Street (Post Office) into 40 housing units.
The public forum and a closed session follow. The closed session agenda includes three items relating to personal justification for going private. One is to create a recruitment panel for a general manger of environment and infrastructure services. The next relates to the 911 emergency reporting bureau and includes negotiations as stipulated reason to meet behind closed doors. Third are appointments to various boards and committees.
Under the reports heading, councillor Ralph Cipolla has one to create a working group to combat the opioid crisis. He proposes the committee include representation of two councillors, a representative from each of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, the OPP< the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Rama Health Centre, the Couchiching Family Health Centre, Youth Haven, a pharmacist who currently provides methadone services, and students from each of the high schools.
The purpose of the committee is to develop a strategy of actions and an education plan. The report includes a requirement to report back to council in September.
Next is a report on establishing a Community Fridge. This was before council previously and more information about partnerships was requested. The proponent, Myles Odlozinski, brought the idea to council last summer. Staff say the Sharing Place is prepared to be the project coordinator. Staff recommend the report be relieved, which means take no action, but the recommendation also includes authorization to continue working with Odlozinski and the Sharing Place.
Next, staff are presenting a few options for council to address solving Hillcrest Lodge’s recent land/banking issues.
Hillcrest asked council to retroactively provide property tax exemption. MPAC changed the exemption definition uses for the leased land the building is on, resulting in the housing group owing taxes. HIllcrest paid the City $11,633.83 which was due January 2020, but currently owes $189,787 including penalties and interest.
Hillcrest’s bank froze their escrow account, which was used to pay maintenance costs of the building. Their bank, First National also raised the mortgage payment to $27,904, which includes a monthly property tax amount. Hillcrest claims it is facing bankruptcy.
As a result of the City inquiring with the bank about the situation, staff say the bank is allowing Hillcrest access to their escrow account to cover maintenance costs, and is holding off on the mortgage payment increase because, “they know there is a proposed solution to address the outstanding back taxes.”
Staff is not recommending tax exemption because, “… (it) could place the City at risk of incurring more requests for tax relief. This could place Council and staff in a difficult position because there is no policy support for granting tax holidays for affordable housing at this time.”
They also want Hillcrest to ask Canada Mortgage and Housing and/or the County of Simcoe to over the back taxes, and to go back to MPAC, which created the problem, to re-evaluate the tax exemption status of the property.
A second option includes the same points and also creates a policy waiver on new taxes until December 2024, or such time as MPAC resolves their end, with payments to come from the affordable housing reserve.
A third option expands the above to include the City cover from the same reserve the outstanding property taxes.
Next is a report about the Hen By-law. Allowing people to keep hens in the City was permitted in 2019 and this is the update on 5-year results.
Staff say the pilot project is successful and the by-law should remain, except to remove the cap on the number of properties (12) allowed in the City. Only one complaint was received for an escaped hen.
Next is a report regarding MTO plans to replace the Coldwater Road / Highway 11 bridge. The City wanted MTO to construct a multi-use trail from the bridge to Murphy Road on the north side of Coldwater.
The ministry’s project also includes expanding the Old Barrie Road bridge and a carpool parking lot at the north east corner at Coldwater Road as well.
A number of roadway changes were done by the City as required by MTO relating to Costco coming to town. One of those was construction of a multi-use trial on the south side of Coldwater, which the City did in 2018. Then the MTO announced plans to expand the bridge and told the City it had to pay again for a new trail. MTO estimates the cost to be $356,550.
Staff maintain the province should not force costs on the City for the south side reconstruction, but the City should contribute $174,222 for the north side trail.
There is no resolution with MTO about costs, but staff want council to commit to costs for the north side and staff will keep pressing MTO on the costs for the south side, or optionally to commit to costs on both sides of Coldwater.
A report regarding municipal investments shows that the $36 million Legacy Fund resulting from the sale of Orillia Power Distribution Corp. made $648,000 in earned and accrued interest. The city is benefiting from rising interest rates on this count.
Staff also made a number of moves in 2022 with funds from the $20 million day-to-day account earning just short of $2.5 million.
Other money (unspent capital projects and reserves) invested amounting to $73.5 million earned $546,000.
Dividend and interest income relating to Orillia Power Corp. amounted to 1.3 million.
Another report asks council to establish a working group to manage the City’s interests in hosting the 2024 Ontario Small Urban Municipalities conference. The City has a few obligations of a financial nature (hosting receptions/dinners, conducting OSUM board elections) but no dollar amount is attached to the report.
Next council is being asked to receive as information an opportunity to defend a committee of adjustment decision to deny a minor variance for property at 694 Broadview Avenue. The property owner expanded a driveway 2 meters beyond zoning regulations. A previous staff report indicates staff found, despite exceeding limits, it did not have adverse effect on the neighbourhood and recommended approval.
If council chooses instead to defend the appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal, staff estimate it will cost $20,000.
Enquiry Motions and By-Laws
There are two enquiry motions. One is from councillors Durnford and Lauer asking staff to report on the logistics and costs to establish a community garden in Hillcrest Park.
The other is from councillor Lauer for a staff report on the results of the new road sanding and salting policy.
One of the by-laws will increase fees for responses to false alarms (presumably from electronic systems, though it does not specify) from $200 to $345.
Council meetings are open to attend, and Monday’s meeting can be watched live on Youtube.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)
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