Council Preview

By John Swartz

Orillia council meets Monday, March 25, at 2 p.m. The first order of business is a portion of their time has been carved out for a special meeting of council for tax appeals.

This is an annual event and usually involves delisting properties from tax rolls because the status changed (i.e. the house is no longer upright, or a change in tax rate classification from say, residential to commercial)). Sometimes property valuations through MPAC changes and taxes caused overcharging and have to be refunded.

This year a total of almost $80.159 is going back to property owners is relatively low compared to previous years. While the exact reason for changes is not always evident, it appears Green Haven Shelter is getting a $72,000 reprieve on taxes.

See a separate analysis regarding a deputation by the Canadian National Fireworks Association and the proposed fireworks by-law here.

After the public forum council goes into a closed session with two items on that agenda. One is regarding annual staff reviews, the other regarding appointments to the new police services board, to be known as the Couchiching OPP Detachment Board.

Back in public councillors Jay Fallis and Jeff Czetwerzuk have a report asking council to support a resolution for the Province to get moving on energy performance green building standard amendments to the Ontario Building Code.

Several of the new standards the province said they would implement by summer 2023 are part of the City’s Climate Change Action Plan. The motion presented is similar to motions passed by the City of Toronto and King Township.

Next is a report council asked for about the feasibility and cost of installing a sidewalk on the south side of Fittons Road between Jamieson Drive and Fitton Heights. This area is just south of Monsignor Lee Catholic School and is on the hill.

There is a sidewalk on the north side of Fittons. This new sidewalk on the south side would not connect to existing sidewalks leaving gaps to sidewalk portions closer to Laclie and West Streets. Being on the hill, many properties have higher grades and there would have to be retaining walls installed as well. In short it would be very expensive.

Staff also say installing a pedestrian crossover at Jamieson would be problematic. There isn’t enough turning traffic to meet benchmarks. There also is a crosswalk at Peter Street, which is close by and has a crossing guard during the start/end of school. Staff recommend receiving the report, which means do nothing, or alternatively giving them direction to prepare a report for the 2025 budget.

Next, last September councillor Durnford ask for a report about updating the City’s clean and clear by-law to be more in line with climate change goals, specifically regarding yard maintenance.

Many people want to have naturalized yards, or pollinator gardens which occupy most a yard. Some people think not mowing and letting things grow qualifies as naturalized. Some others don’t know what kinds of plants they are allowing to grow and some of these are invasive plants that should be controlled.

The current by-law does not provide enough distinction between letting things go and intentionally planting wild flowers and ornamental grasses. The motion recommends some changes be made to clarify things (i.e. not leaving it up to the interpretation of a by-law officer who may not be familiar with plant species) and giving residents some guidelines about what is intentional planting and what is expected for ongoing maintenance.

The motion also recommends consulting with the environmental sustainability working group to establish policy for naturalizing boulevards.

By-law changes would also included increasing the fine from $5,000 to $50,000 ($100,000 corporations) for storage of domestic or industrial waste as it applies to the clean and clear by-law.

Money, Money, Money

A report from treasury about tax arrears is on the agenda for information. In 2023 8.14%, or $6.8 million is in arrears. Staff outline what happens when taxes aren’t paid for periods greater than 3 years, instigating a tax sale.

This takes time and the City until 2023 did not charge interest on late payments, creating a cashflow burden on the tax levy (i.e. the city still has to pay its bills). Staff outline they have a program to encourage payments or arrangements for payment as a preferred course, which has had some success, rather than waiting out the timeline to force a sale.

In 2023 135 residential properties and 11 commercial/industrial properties accounted for payments in arrears

Also from treasury is a report on council remuneration for 2023. Three new councillors (Durnford, Leatherdale and Czetwerzuk) accounted for the bulk (avg.  $5,400 each) of extra expense beyond salary because of attendance at conferences (AMO, Good Roads, etc.). This is typical for first year councillors. Only Mayor Don McIsaac did not claim expenses.

Treasury also has a report outlining investment income for 2023. Projections were exceeded. Income comes from various sources and ownership of Orillia Power Generation Corp., the legacy fund from the sale of Orillia Power Distribution to Hydro One, and GIC’s for reserve amounts and daily cash reserves are the primary investment funds.

All together the City earned $8.9 million. The City has been riding a wave of high interest in recent years, resulting in substantial returns, But, staff project interest rates on investments will fall this year. A 1% drop in interest rates will translate to a 20% drop in gross returns.

New Police Services Board

Staff have a report about the change from the Orillia Police Services Board to the Couchiching OPP Detachment Board effective April 1.

The province changed legislation forcing amalgamations according to detachments rather than municipalities and communities to reconstitute boards.

The new board includes one elected representative, one non-elected citizen representative from each surrounding township and 2 provincial appointees for a total of 10 members.

Counicllor Cipolla will be the City’s elected representative if council accepts this report. The closed session item will determine who the citizen representative will be.

Enquiry Motion

Councillor Lauer has one for a report about plans related to detours for Laclie Street reconstruction. Last week’s council information package had an item containing most of the information Lauer is asking for.

The first phase (Neywash to Borland) will have finishing touches (last layer of pavement, restoring landscaping and finishing sidewalks) beginning April 1.

The traffic detour will be the same as last year and Orillia Transit is being rerouted according to this diagram:

Orillia Transit detour beginning April 1

The work on the next phase, Borland to Parkhurst Crescent, will begin a few weeks later. When that starts the planned detour route for all traffic looks like this:

Traffic detour when Laclie reconstruction phase 2 starts

Council meetings are open to the public or can be watched on the City’s Youtube channel.

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


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