DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: As candidates continue to come forward for this fall's municipal election, one current member of council recently announced that he will be stepping away from municipal politics.
Ward 4 Councillor Jacob Mantle announced at council's meeting on the evening of Monday, June 23, that he will not be seeking re-election, citing family and work commitments as the reasons behind his departure from the council bench.
"It is with a heavy heart and a bit of sadness that I announce that I will not be seeking re-election," an emotional Councillor Mantle explained.
Councillor Mantle indicated that he plans to stay involved in the Uxbridge community, and took the opportunity to thank Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor and Township CAO Ingrid Svelnis for all of their support over the past four years.
Just 21-years-old when he was elected in 2010, Councillor Mantle was the youngest municipal councillor in the GTA. As Chair of the Sustainability, Watershed and Conservation Committee, Mantle has overseen many positive environmental improvements within the township, such as leading the switch to electronic agendas for council meetings and numerous tree plantings throughout the municipality.
Mayor O'Connor thanked Councillor Mantle for his service to the municipality over the past four years, and noted that he has been at the forefront of many positive changes within the community.
"You have certainly added a lot to this council," said Mayor O'Connor. "You've added a new perspective in many ways on how a young person sees things. You've been an excellent councillor, and represented Ward 4 very well. As much as I don't wish to see you go, I wish you all the best in the future, school and marriage are more important, and I commend you."
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Just when the public thought the proposed firearms discharge by-law was out, Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger pulled it back in, asking for additional time to investigate the matter at council's meeting on the evening of Monday, June 23.
As councillors began to debate the final touches of the by-law after more than a year of debate, Councillor Ballinger sought to have additional time to meet with affected residents, and requested that the matter be tabled until council's next meeting, on Monday, July 14.
"This is a 50-year-old gun club, and we have to do what's right for the entire community," Councillor Ballinger explained. "I want to talk to all of the people out there and find out if this is about noise or the hours of operation. I don't want to see anyone put in a position that they can't get out of."
Councillors were split in a recorded vote to table the matter, with Councillor Ballinger, Jacob Mantle (Ward 4) and Gord Highet (Ward 5) all voting in favour, while Bev Northeast (Ward 1), Pat Molloy (Ward 2) and Pat Mikuse (Ward 3) cast votes in opposition. Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor would eventually break the deadlock with a positive vote to table the matter for an additional three weeks, although the mayor did note disappointment that Councillor Ballinger had waited until the "23rd hour" to make his proposal, and pledged that the matter will be resolved at council's next meeting.
"I understand your frustrations, and I'm disappointed that the councillor didn't do this prior to this late time," commented Mayor O'Connor. "There might not be any changes, it's got to come back here and it's got to be dealt with in July. We're not giving anymore time. If we have to sit here for 24 hours to get this damned thing done, then that's what we'll do."
BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
SCUGOG: The Township's fire department could see drastic changes this year, with the submission of the long-awaited Fire Organizational and Operational Review (FOOR), which began in June of 2013 and carries a price tag of $50,000.
On Monday, June 23, councillors recieved the final report from Steve Thurlow of Dillon Consulting, which may decide the future of Scugog's fire halls and those who work inside them.
Scugog's FOOR concludes with a choice of three proposed options: keeping the status quo with revisions to training for volunteer firefighters, following the 2004 Master Fire Plan's guidelines of hiring additional full time firefighters, and the option of a fully volunteer fire department.
Last week, Mariano Perini of the Ontario Fire Marshal's Office told Council that the Scugog Fire Department has made progress - gaining three full time firefighters, new SCBA gear, and an updated communications system. However, there is still a lot of work to be done.
"With a large coverage area and a small department, we need to focus on education and prevention," said Thurlow. "The best way to fight a fire is to not let it happen in the first place, the public needs to take some control with Ontario Fire Code."
The report also states that Scugog's high concentration of seniors and vulnerable persons places a strong demand on public education, alarm systems, fire code compliance, and prevention.
"To handle the increased training and education, we would like to see a full time position created for adminstrative work," said Thurlow. "We need to make sure that the schedules and manuals are being filled out by the right person, so the Chief isn't stuck at his desk."
Training methods of both volunteer and fulltime staff were a fiery topic at the meeting, with Thurlow highlighting a division between both camps being trained seperately, to better fit schedules.
Ward 2 Councillor John Hancock raised the point of having all firefighters train side-by-side to promote a cohesive response during dangerous and emergency situations.
"This is not an uncommon problem in a composite department, we have an ad hoc collection of training documents and a scattered schedule," answered Thurlow. "We need to train firefighters in supervision and give them a permanent training manual to hold in their hands - but as always, there's a monetary cost involved."
Thurlow further explained the gaps in training and record keeping which are prevalent in Scugog's fire halls, stating that "we meet minimum legislation, but if a Ministry of Health and Safety audit were to be carried out - we would likely be in trouble."
One of the most important areas of increased training outlined in the report is live-fire excercises, which teach firefighters how to respond in dangerous situations which they may not face regularily. Since structure fires have been in decline in recent years, skills need to be tested and kept sharp.
"Historically, we've been able to set controlled fires in a vacant house, but the province is beginning to frown on that," said Thurlow. "We need to access the facilities at the Ontario Fire College, or Oshawa's live fire course."
Dillon's report concludes with the aforementioned options, and an immediate suggestion to hire a handful of volunteer who are specifically available during working hours - for a total of 35 volunteers in both Port Perry and Caesarea.
"Historically, everyone used to work locally and could leave work for a call - nowadays, everyone commutes and we're left with very few responders during weekdays," said Thurlow.
With a list of options and areas to improve, and a list of suggestions already completed - the quick resolution which Mayor Chuck Mercier hoped for seems out of reach for Scugog's current Council.
"This has been a long and drawn out process, and if you ask anyone who's involved, the firefighters just want it dealt with, so they can offer input and move forward," said Mayor Merceir. "Despite my pushing, we likely won't see any resolution until the end of 2014 or later - I'd love to just make a decision, but financial matters take a lot of time and consideration."
Scugog Council has decided to schedule a public meeting in the fall of 2014, to gather public input and relay further information before making a final decision.
The pending municipal election and a possible influx of new councillors and staff members may lengthen the project's timeline, as education and updating measures will have to be taken.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Council chambers were overflowing on the evening of Monday, June 23, as the community gathered en masse to hear plans for a development on one of the township's most notable heritage properties, located at 62 Mill St.
The public meeting was held to deal with a proposed zoning amendment that would allow for a 39-unit condominium townhouse development on the property containing the heritage home built by Isaac Gould in 1866, believed to be both the first brick building in the township as well as the first home with electricity. Under the proposal, the home would be relocated on the property.
Under the current plans, the development would be serviced by a new road built off of the existing entrance to Mill St., with a gated emergency access built at the south end of the property near the gravel cul-de-sac on Water St.
According to Bob Martindale, a planning and heritage consultant for the project, the developers were not asked to submit a traffic report as part of their initial submission to the township.
As well, Mr. Martindale added that the development will offer a different type of residence in the area.
"It expands the range of housing available for purchase in an area with low density detached homes," added Mr. Martindale.
However, those points did not sit well with Rob Miller, the Chair of the newly-formed Gouldville Citizens Association. Mr. Miller asked for a full traffic analysis of the surrounding roads, as well as taking issue with the style of homes in the development, as compared to the current residences in the area.
"This will in no way enhance the existing community," said Mr. Miller. "We request that the town deny this zoning request on the grounds that it is not conforming with plans."
Local resident Ken Sherwood, the proponent of the development addressed the issue of stormwater management for the project, noting that it is still in the initial stages.
"It's difficult to design stormwater management at this stage since we don't know how many units will be built," commented Mr. Sherwood. "But, I want to assure people that whatever design happens, there will be absolutely no run-off going to existing homes in the area."
Gouldville resident, and former Scugog Mayor Doug Moffatt reminded the public of that statement later in the meeting, during the commenting portion, adding that the Citizens Association is prepared to challenge the development at the Ontario Municipal Board.
Ward 4 Councillor Jacob Mantle - who serves the area where the development is proposed - also took issue with the scope and style of the project.
"You're proposing a development with nothing in common with the existing homes in the area," commented Councillor Mantle. "The Official Plan states intensification where appropriate, and that the process we're going through here to determine if it's appropriate."
Councillor Mantle also the addressed traffic concerns of nearby residents, and the potential impact of additional traffic on Mill St.
"Through consultations with staff, traffic has come up. Mill St. is already a bypass of sorts, and in perhaps need of rehab itself. Adding two cars per household for 39 units is going to have some impact, and it's something we should look at," added Councillor Mantle.
Residents wishing to add their comments regarding the proposed development at 62 Mill St., can do so through the township's Clerks Department until Monday, July 7.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Councillors once again delayed pulling the trigger on a revamped firearms by-law for the municipality at council's meeting on the morning of Monday, June 2.
The new by-law was again tabled by councillors until the committee meeting on Monday, June 16, to allow councillors and the public more time to review changes made by township by-law manager Andre Gratton.
"I understand that people are frustrated at this taking as long as it has, but this is a new by-law, and we want to make sure everyone understands this by-law because it won't be opened again for some time," commented Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor.
The mayor noted that residents can apply to speak before council at their next committee meeting by registering with the clerks department before Monday, June 9 to ensure all local voices are heard.
"I urge you to address everything you can if you are in support of it or against it," added Mayor O'Connor.
The matter has been debated by council for more than a year, with the main sticking point of the revised firearms by-law being changes to the operating hours at Uxbridge Shooting Sports on Conc. 4.
The chief concern over nearby residents is the noise eminating from the club, which has operated in the same location since 1965.
Copies of the proposed firearms discharge by-law can be viewed by the public at the Clerks Department at Uxbridge Town Hall, located at 51 Toronto St. South.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Local residents rejoiced on Monday, June 2, as councillors voted to keep the King St. parkette intact following a strong grassroots initiative.
In October of last year, the township began exploring options to possibly re-zone the King St. parkette, and turn the parcel of land into a residential lot.
However, following vocal opposition to the plan from area residents at a public meeting in February, councillors unanimously endorsed a recommendation from township planning consultant Liz Howson to refuse the proposed zoning by-law amendment.
However, improvements to the park may have to wait until next year, due to playground equipment budget constraints following the recent decision to install an accessible playground at Elgin Park, which ate up much of the township's 2014 playground equipment budget.
"Is there any money left for playground equipment in 2014?" asked local resident Brock Clark, who was one of many who opposed the proposed sale of the park.
"I don't believe there is any money left for playground equipment in 2014," replied Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor. "It'll be included in next year's playground equipment budget."
Township Parks and Facilities Manager Bob Ferguson added that the municipality will take the age of local children into account before deciding on any potential improvements to the park next year.
"We will take into consideration the age of children in the area. After all, playground equipment is very age specific," commented Mr. Ferguson.
Jerry Oldham, another local resident who had been actively involved with efforts to save the park, noted that members of the community have been donating their time to maintain the park, in an effort to promote cooperation with township parks staff.
"I'm very happy with what's been going on, and think we can work well with the parks department," added Ms. Oldham.
The park was originally developed by the Uxbridge Optimists Club in 1970, and has served several generations of Uxbridge children over the past 44 years.
BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
SCUGOG: Sections of Port Perry's urban area are being eyed as potential targets for intensification and increased living-density, according to the Township's Secondary Plan draft, released on May 26. Due to the increased sewage and service capacity brought by the scheduled expansion of the Nonquon Treatment Plant - as many as 850 to 1,000 new housing units (living space for one family) could be in the cards for Scugog.
Scugog's Director of Community Services, Don Gordon, explained to The Standard that the primary intensification zones lay mostly along Simcoe St. intersections - Including (but not limited to) Reach St., Hwy 7A, King St. on both sides of Simcoe St., and some subdivision development in the Prince Albert area.
"We know there is pressure coming on developing Port Perry, with the Hwy. 407 extension and added sewage capacity," said Mr. Gordon. "We're trying to stay ahead of the curve, and protect our historical character - new developments will need to be attractive, functional, and in keeping with our township."
The current plan places a maximum of 30 housing units per hectare (UPH) – Jim Dyment, the Township's planning consultant, explained that this allows for little growth in Port Perry's downtown, and that the new plan will likely tighten the maximum up to 50 UPH.
"We would like to zone about 600 low density units, like single-detached homes – and about 128 each of high and medium density units," said Mr. Dyment in his report to Council. "If trends continue and family and housing sizes become smaller and smaller, we could be looking at well-over 1,000 units in the future."
As per the Township's Secondary Plan documentation, 'medium density' and 'high density' zones are intended to be built as close-knit townhouses and small scale apartment or condominium units, respectively. All buildings would remain under five stories in height.
"When the sewage plant was originally developed we had many come to the Township with plans, and many of them could not be accommodated," said Mr. Dyment. "We currently have 350 units on hold, to be constructed as soon as the capacity is available."
Upon hearing councillors' concerns regarding the integrity and beautification of Port Perry's historical homes, Mr. Dyment explained that growth and intensification areas have been specifically targeted – and that the Secondary Plan also includes marked 'established neighbourhood' zones, which should be safeguarded from instensification.
Please refer to the official Township map for specific areas.
"All subdivision layouts, houses, and architecture would be reviewed by our staff, as well as the sustainability and environmental aspects – we don't want to end up with cookie cutter houses or urban sprawl," said Mr. Dyment.
Mr. Gordon expressed that the Township's objective in this excercise is to "create a better mix of housing, close to arterial roads and locations that can support additional density - and will also give affordable opportunities to first-time home buyers and senior citizens looking to downsize in the future."
The Township of Scugog will hold a public information meeting on June 10, inside Scugog Arena – a brief presentation and a question period will be held between 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.