By John Swartz
Orillia council meets today at 2 p.m. The first order of business is to reveal who the 2022 Citizen of the Year is. There are 6 people nominated. They are Cam Davidson, Ruth Watt, Madeleine Fournier, Ruth Fountain, Stephen Davids, and Sylvia Smith.
This award used to be announced by the Packet and Times (the award was a creation of the paper) on New Year’s Eve. When the Packet folded the award was temporarily taken over by the City (at the suggestion of SUNonline/Orillia) in 2018 to award the 2017 class. Since then the award has usually been made at council in late January or at its first meeting in February.
The next item on the agenda is a deputation by Jill Tettmann, Todd Young, and Lynn Strachan of the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka. The YMCA (with a $4 million expansion opened 2012 – built with a multi-million dollar community fundraising campaign) closed in 2020 and was subsequently sold. Soon after the YMCA’s Geneva Park Conference Centre was sold. Both netted tens of millions of dollars. All the while the YMCA proposed to build a $45 million facility in Barrie’s downtown. Those plans were abandoned this year for a site in Barrie’s south end.
The deputants will tell council they still serve 1200 people in Orillia (childcare, day camps, immigration and youth employment services). They also say they created the Skid Watson YMCA Scholarship in 2022. They intend to hold 4 community engagement sessions this month (2 at the Orillia Public Library, August 19 and 20) to find out what gaps exist and how the Y can fill them.
The documentation provided does not indicate they will be asking the City for funding and are appearing to publicize the engagement sessions.
Council will break from the public to meet in closed session. The purpose to is to discuss a staff report on organization structure, in particular in the business development department, and get council input for the review.
When council returns the first item is related to the closed session. Councillor Tim Lauer has a report of an ongoing economic development review and is asking council to create a working group. The group would be made up of Mayor Don McIsaac, and councillors Ralph Cipolla, Whitney Smith and Lauer. Their stated mission is to provide a report in October on the direction the City’s economic development efforts should take.
At budget this year, council approved spending $55,000 on a consultant for the review. A consultant has not been named.
The next report is from the clerk’s department about a proposal from the Orillia Rowing Club to relocate their operation from Tudhope Park to Kitchener Park. As part of that plan they want to build a clubhouse at their expense and are asking the City to negotiate a 100-year lease at a nominal amount and for council to support its application for a Trillium grant for construction costs.
The City’s plan for Tudhope Park does not include the rowing club. Staff recommend council support the rowing club’s plan, but also say the club has not accounted for all the costs of construction, or whether they can build anything on the shoreline of Lake Simcoe. Staff also notes City policy is to lease at current market rates for periods not to exceed 5 years duration under City policy, and futhermore 21 years under the province’s Planning Act. On that count staff recommend a 5-year lease, with one renewal option, at market rates. Of course council can override and choose another rate and term.
The Mariposa Folk Festival is the subject of the next report. Staff are recommending a 4-year grant amounting to $33,550 in 2024, $32,000 in 2025 and $33,000 in 2026 ($30,000 for 2023 was approved at budget), along with waiver of city policy to collect park rental payments and user fees in the amounts of $8,110 in 2023, $8,885 in 2024, $9,519 in 2025 and $10,475 in 2026.
Staff also want authorization for create and execute a Memorandum of Understanding related to those grants. The last MOU expired in 2022 and included grants of $50,000 annually. The festival has also contributed $20,000 toward park improvements. The MFF asked for a 5–year agreement, but staff thinks these kinds of things should not exceed a council term.
On that note, the next report from staff is for council to grant a 20-year agreement with Enbridge Gas Inc. for a franchise agreement. This will allow Enbridge certain rights to provide and service natural gas in the City. Enbridge recently was approved for a rate hike and there has been push back from other municipalities for off-loading some expenses to taxpayers for things like relocation of utilities. The City has been and will cover 35% of such costs.
The new meeting structure now puts correspondences and reports of previous committee meetings together. As in the past any item can be pulled for separate discussion and voting.
Of note on the list is a letter from Uber Canada about their recent entry to the Orillia market, but they want the City to revisit the Vulnerable Sector Check Requirement to be more like the ones the company operates under in the GTHA (whatever that is). Uber uses the term harmonize, which in political discourse usually means weaken.
Another letter from a developer, LIV Communities, is destined for a report from the development services department. The letter is either not compatible with applications the City has, or is heavily redacted; it’s almost incomprehensible, but it appears the developer is asking for some concessions relating to construction of a road in the Inch Farm subdivision. The developer says the cost to construct the first phase is $7.5 million and they want to either not do some aspects, defer others, and combine some portions into one exercise to save money.
Of note in the committee report, council agreed to cover $189,787 of back taxes for Hillcrest Lodge from the tax rate stabilization reserve and to grant a property tax exemption until Dec. 2024, which is believed to give Hillcrest time to negotiate their way out of a less than advantageous new interpretation from MPAC about the property.
Correspondence not on the consent agenda includes a report from development services about the annual road resurfacing and sidewalk replacement program. Councillor Lauer wants a change in the plan adopted at budget. Council increased the budget by almost $1 million and added some projects beyond staff’s recommendation. Two roads added for resurfacing are Clayborne Place (a one block stretch off East Street) and Precision Drive. Lauer would like to replace them with West Street from Coldwater to Colborne Streets.
Lauer would also like the list staff has updated to include ‘user friendly’ choices. This could be taken to mean replace staff picks with the roads we actually have issues with driving on.
Council has a motion to approve reducing securities on the Raising the Roof affordable housing project (Federal Building downtown) to 30% of the value of securities (of staff calculations?) and to grant $129,250 toward the purchase of the land.
Councillor Luke Leatherdale wants to reconsider a motion from the 2023 budget relating to the garbage tag program.
Councillor Whitney Smith has an enquiry motion for staff to report “An analysis of the potential benefits, risks, costs, and processes required to increase the maximum permitted building heights in all lands,’ in the downtown core.
This council meeting will not be on Youtube. Instead you can watch it on Rogers TV.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia; Images Supplied)