Council Preview

By John Swartz

Orillia council meets Monday at 2 p.m. in Gord’s Room at the Opera House. The council chamber renos are not finished.

First up is a deputation by Stan Mathewson and David Van Alstyne of Sustainable Orillia, to discuss Orillia’s Renewable Energy Strategy. They are presenting a number of recommendations the City might adopt including; power generation by hydroelectricity, hydrogen, solar, utility level wind, micro wind, geothermal, renewable natural and bio-gas, small modular reactor and energy storage.

The point of the exercise is generate locally enough power with a mix of the above to sustain our need of 62 megawatts. It’s also the argument no one technology will be an answer and the dynamics are changing quickly, so establishing research locally now about how to proceed is important to investing wisely.

Council will go into closed session and the items on that agenda are a report from corporate services about amendments to the agreement of purchase and sale for Horne Business Park Lands, and a proposal from the Orillia Rowing Club for a boathouse construction at Kitchener Park.

When council returns in public, the first item is a request from Mayor Don McIsaac to approve setting up a working group (including Pam Carter, Stephen Davids, Chris Hazel and Steve Clarke) for the purpose of establishing a Gordon Lightfoot Museum.

There has been some discussion with the estate and Gord’s wife, Kim, about acquiring some of Gord’s things suitable for a museum exhibit, and part of the working group’s agenda will be finding community partners (money) and to also include supporting events, other memorials and opportunities to name things for Gord.

According to McIsaac, such a museum could be a stand alone, or combined with another entity attraction. Options are many and much hinges on what items can be acquired from the estate.

The mayor has set a deadline of October 30 to report back to council if the working group gets established.

The next agenda item concerns councillor Jay Fallis’s appointments to some committees.  Fallis teaches at Georgian College and despite efforts to arrange class times, there are conflicts with his membership on the Simcoe County’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee and the County of Simcoe Housing Corporation Board of Directors (to be replaced by councillor Janet-Lynne Durnford, and the Human Services Business Section Committees for Social, Community and Ambulance, and Long-Term Care (councillor Cipolla to replace). In both cases those alternative appointments would end November 30 and Fallis would return as council’s representative.


A board and committee report from the Affordable Housing Committee by Cam Davidson recommends some changes to the city’s policy. This is because of Ontario Bill 23, which eliminated the City’s ability to fund affordable housing projects with development charges.

Some of the recommendations are; to remove the $25,000 cap on what the City can charge for planning, building and engineering review fees (in many cases the actual amount exceeds the cap) to which the city has occasionally provided grants to groups building affordable housing. The change would allow granting the full fee amount, if council wishes.

Another change would be to add new criteria for the cash in lieu of parking grant. This applies to projects in the downtown core where parking space is limited. The change would allow for larger grants, and effectively be internal transfers from the affordable housing fund to the parking reserve.

They also want to offer a new grant to developers of $10,000 per unit, payable only after building permits have been issued. The committee also suggests wording that no single application be allowed to be granted more than 50% of the available balance in the affordable housing reserve.

The City already provides $2.6 million to the County for affordable housing and the City’s reserve has a $380,000 balance. Clearly anticipated applications would be much greater in the committee’s view, so limiting the funds to single applicants in favour of spreading the wealth among more developers is the objective. No additional funding to the reserve is being requested at this time.

On the affordable rental units front, the next report from development services asks council to approval selling air rights on City owned land at 66 Peter Street (former OPP detachment) and 53 and 59 Colborne Street East (the adjacent parking lots). These properties are going to be the new transit terminal. Additionally council is being asked to approve zoning to allow 8-storey construction for the properties.

These changes are meant to allow construction of affordable housing by the County of Simcoe on top of the transit terminal. How that affects any designs in play, or timelines for construction are not elaborated in the report.

The next report is staff’s response to council’s (Fallis) request to investigate creating a dog park at the Carmichael Ball Diamond. Orillia Legion Minor Ball opposes using the field, but does suggest an area, with fencing could be created along the 3rd base line, or beyond the confines of left field.

Orillia Slo-Pitch also opposes a dog park for use  during the ball season, and if used as such after the ball season the grounds be thoroughly cleaned up for baseball.

Currently dogs are not permitted to run free on ball diamonds  in the city and the diamonds are locked during the off season.

Staff say Carmichael Park failed all criteria allowing dog parks (i.e.. proximity to playgrounds, schools, housing, etc.) and recommend council take no action

Related to the closed session item, council has a report to approve a lease to the Orillia Rowing Club of land in Kitchener Park in order for the club to build a boathouse.

Proposed Boathouse Location In Red

The club currently operates at Tudhope Park and has the use of a building there. A new boathouse in an area more favouable to rowing than Tudhope is estimated to cost $800,000, for which the club has applied for a Trillium Grant and expects to get private donations.

The club would like to have a 100 year lease at no cost, and stated a term of less than 40 years would hamper fundraising efforts.

Staff countered with an 11 year term (with a 10 year extension, 0r 21 years total) at a cost of $4,999.92 annually – with a 5% increase each year – on top of property taxes.

According to City policy – “One of the objectives of the Real Property Policy is “To manage the Real Property interests of the Corporation … while achieving the maximum benefit to the City, financially or otherwise.

So in other words, the City is acting like a landlord, extracting, or demanding what they think they can get, despite the fact they get nothing now because no one is using the area in question and there are no additional costs to maintain the land open, or used. Also, in other words – ‘how can we make money from this community group?”

Over the 21 years the City proposes, they would receive $178,596.26. At the top range of average costs for these boats, that is equivalent to a dozen rowing skulls.

The club, in response to staff, counter-propose at 20 year term with a renewal for another 20. Currently the club pays no rent, property taxes and the City covers utilities at Tudhope Park; the club would like the same at Kitchener Park, except they will take on the utilities, and they would like the City to waive permit costs. Counter to Staff wanting to prohibit the club asking for financial assistance in the future, the club wants the ability to ask if improvements are contemplated at a later date which benefits the club and the City.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the City had two systems for leasing land or facilities, one for commercial applications and one for community groups. It seems applying market pricing philosophy is counter-productive to the community.

Presumably, the closed session is about what terms council agrees with, and this item in open session confirms it.

The expense report for the first 6 months of council’s term is out. Councillors Czetwerzuk ($4,998), Durnford ($3,130) and Leatherdale ($2,795) lead the pack. Those three attended a couple of provincial conferences already, which accounts for a good deal of the spending above the usual amounts of less than $1,000.

Staff want council to increase the budget for reconstruction design related to Borland and Tecumseth Street projects by $50,000. Ontario regulations changed and more work needs to be done than previously needed. The original budget was for $300,000.

The last report is about road construction. The City just built University Avenue and Swinimer Drive and now they want to re-align the intersection. The project’s  best tender price from  Dufferin Construction is $1,137,000 and staff say $6575,000 more than originally budgeted is needed.

The entrance to Lakehead University is offset from Swinimer Drive and who knew Costco would create so much traffic? In short, there are a lot of accidents staff think lining up the entrance and the road will make that part of University safer.

Enquiry Motions

There are three. Councillor Fallis has tow, one for staff to provide costs for more benches and picnic tables at Walter Henry Park, and to have staff prepare a 2024 capital request for creating (by way of line painting) left turn lanes and advance turn signals at West Street and Fittons Raod.

Councillor Durnford would like a staff report update the City’s clean and clear by-law (properties) to align with the City’s climate change action plan.

Council meetings can be watched on the City’s Youtube Channel – live, or at any time afterward.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia; Images Supplied)

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