DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Local residents expecting a resolution to the ongoing debate surrounding the township's revised firearms discharge by-law were left waiting on Monday, July 15, as the matter was tabled until later this summer.
Council Chambers were flooded with stakeholders in the matter, which has seen residents in the vicinity of Uxbridge Shooting Sports draw a line in the sand over the proposal, which would see increased hours at the Conc. 4 facility.
The motion to table the matter until council's meeting in August was put forth by Ward 2 Councillor Pat Molloy, who also asked that staff split the by-law in two. One half would deal with shooting ranges in the township, while the other half would deal with issues surrounding farmers' ability to shoot predators causing their livestock undue harm.
"There are still a lot of questions that haven't been answered, and we should table (this by-law) until our August 12 meeting," said Councillor Molloy.
After hearing from the audience, Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor was of the opinion that portions of the by-law dealing with farmers being able to shoot predators on their property were unchallenged by local residents.
However, Ward 4 Councillor Jacob Mantle sought to continue the process, explaining that significant progress had already been made in the lengthy by-law review process.
"I would rather continue with the process. I think that we are close to finalizing some of the key issues in having this by-law resolved," commented Councillor Mantle. "We'll have debated this issue for over a year."
Councillor Mantle's protests would go unheeded as other members of council sought to further review the matter.
"You can't rush something through, it has to be done right," added Ward 1 Councillor Bev Northeast.
Mayor O'Connor also commented on the need to draft a by-law that will meet the needs of all community members going forward.
"If we're going to make changes, we have to do them right and have to do them fairly," said Mayor O'Connor. "We have to come up with something that both sides can agree to, and I expect there will be some give-and-take on both sides."
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Despite an unsuccessful attempt at appealing a solar farm slated for an agricultural property in Greenbank, Scugog Township - along with a local resident - have launched separate appeals of a similar development proposed for a Shirley Rd. property, citing the agricultural and environmental significance of the lands in question.
The appeal by the township was announced during a rare summer meeting of Scugog Council on July 10, during which councillors opted to appeal the 10 MW solar development, slated for a parcel of land south of Port Perry.
Earlier this year, the township launched and then subsequently dropped an appeal of Solray's Cragg Rd. solar farm, after it was determined that for the appeal to have succeeded, the township would have had to meet a very specific test, pertaining to whether a given development 'will cause serious harm to human health or serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment,' as described by the MOE in the notice of the preliminary hearing.
Although changes to the provincial Green Energy Act in 2012 have since prevented solar and wind energy projects from being constructed on farmland zoned for non-agricultural purposes at the municipal level, both developments were awarded Ontario Power Authority contracts prior to the changes, exempting the projects from the amendments.
The Shirley Rd. development, initially proposed by Skypower Limited, has since switched hands to Canadian Solar Inc.
The appeals are expected to be heard in early August.
According to Mayor Chuck Mercier, council is moving forward with the appeal on the grounds of potential negative impacts from the development on the property, which contains a number of environmentally-sensitive features including wetlands, forest and savannah.
"The property has a number of environmentally significant and agricultural features," said the mayor, "whereas the farm in Greenbank was about the agricultural designation. With that property, we appealed and then, on legal advice, entered into negotiations - with Purple Hill, we don't know what to expect. The municipality has been very firm with the province that we are not in favour of where this development is."
Canadian Solar spokesperson Suzanne Wilson declined to comment on the appeals.
The development has previously drawn criticism from local residents living in the vicinity of the proposed facility, some of whom have formed a citizens' group known as the Purple Hill Preservation Alliance (PHPA).
While the group has stated that it supports the partial use of the land in question (which overlaps the provincial Greenbelt and Oak Ridges Moraine) for agricultural purposes, it hopes to also see it preserved for local water supplies and wildlife, including three endangered species sighted in the vicinity - the Bobolink songbird, the whip-poor-will and the Stinkpot turtle.
According to the PHPA, the solar farm will impact wildlife by acting as a barrier to natural migration routes, as well as through light pollution from security lights.
Jacqueline Visconti of the PHPA, who launched the private appeal with the support of a number of residents and environmental groups, said that while she is not opposed to solar energy projects, she wishes to see the project stayed until a number of issues pertaining to the environmental features are resolved, adding that the setbacks from the environmentally-sensitive lands as currently proposed are not enough and in some cases, reduced, from the original plan.
"It's right there in the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan," said Ms. Visconti of the required setbacks. "It's very strange that these developments are allowed to go through like that. There's nothing in it for me, but if you alter the water flow, the plants and animals could die off."
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: A wee bit of Scotland is returning to Uxbridge this weekend as the Highlands of Durham Games take over Elgin Park.
Starting on Friday, July 26, and running until Sunday, July 28, Uxbridge will once again be home to a celebration of all things Celtic, including bagpipes, highland dancing, heavy games and much more.
For organizer Steve Harrison, the Games are a labour of love, and he is once again looking forward to the Celtic celebration, albeit with a hint of reservation.
"This is going to be my last year with the Games," Mr. Harrison told The Standard. "It's been a fantastic experience over the past five years, but I think it's time to walk away. We had some challenges early on, but we were able to save it, and are in a position to have the Games continue well into the future. I have loved doing it for all of the people who have come out to the park over the past 18 years and enjoy all of the laughter and fun that comes with the Highland Games."
One of the centrepieces to the annual Highland Games is the Highland Dance competition, which draws entrants from across the province.
"Our dance competition is the second largest in Ontario, and it's so great to see all of the dancers come to Uxbridge and showcase their talents," said Mr. Harrison.
The Scottish showcase begins on Friday night at 5 p.m., and runs until 11 p.m. On Saturday morning, the Games resume at 9 a.m., running until 11 p.m. and on Sunday, Elgin Park will be bustling with activity from 9 a.m. until the close of the Games at 7 p.m.
Tickets for the Games are $15 per day for adults with free admission for children under 16. Weekend passes are also available for $25.
Your ticket does more than just get you into the games. It could also net attendees one of several valuable prizes including a trip for two to Scotland, an iPad, a gas barbecue courtesy of Canadian Tire Uxbridge and other great prizes.
The Standard will also be on hand with a booth on Saturday - come over and say hello!
The event also serves as a fundraiser for many local groups including Canadian Tire Jumpstart, 1st Port Perry Scouts, Teen Start, the Foster Memorial, the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society and the Bonner Boys.
"Giving back to the community is truly what it's all about for me and being able to share the wealth with organizations that do so much good in the community," added Mr. Harrison.
For additional information on the Highland Games, please visit www.highlandsgamesofdurham.com.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: Police are reminding local residents and business owners to make sure that their properties and vehicles are locked and secured, after a number of recent break-and-enter incidents in Scugog Township.
Recently, a number of Port Perry businesses were broken into over the last month, in some cases more than once.
According to an employee of one local business, the suspects appeared to have only removed a quantity of change and to cause mischief, taking a digital picture frame and throwing it onto the front lawn of the property. She added that other businesses in the area of Casimir St. and Mary St. in Port Perry that have been broken into reported similar activity.
"It doesn't appear that much was taken," said Rachel Moriarty of Studio 165 hair salon, one of the affected businesses. "It's mostly just that they're entering the stores."
Ms. Moriarty added that the salon was previously broken into earlier this month, as were some other neighbouring businesses.
Police are investigating the incidents and remind residents and business owners to be aware of such activity during the summer months. A complete list of break-and-enter prevention tips for homes and businesses are available under the Public Safety section at www.drps.ca.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: Motorists of all ages will have the chance to see first-hand the dangers of distracted driving and speeding in an upcoming road safety event in Port Perry.
RoadWatch Scugog is holding its 'Nine and Three and Stay Hands Free!' event from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 27 in the parking lot of Vos' Independent Grocer, located at 1874 Scugog St. (Hwy. 7A) in Port Perry.
According to RoadWatch spokesperson Kristi Van Kessel, the event is designed to inform drivers of the various dangers behind the wheel, such as speeding and texting, which will take place inside an enclosed video driving simulation.
"You can tell people all you want about these dangers, but the best way is to show them," she said.
The free event, funded in part by the provincial Ministry of Transportation, is open to the public.
This is the first public event put on by the new RoadWatch Scugog group, which reformed last year after disbanding in 2011.
According to Ms. Van Kessel, this event will be the first of many in the years to come. Although RoadWatch has made numerous appearances at community events throughout the year, including booths at local car shows and the Port Perry Fair, Ms. Van Kessel said that the group hopes to engage the public even further.
"Since our revitalization, we try and make appearances at various events around town, but we still get some people coming up to us and asking what RoadWatch is," she said.
In 2012, the first full year of reporting for the new committee, Ms. Van Kessel said that a record 114 reports of dangerous driving were filed, with 2013 already on its way to top that number. Many of those reports, she said, have been filed on-line through www.drps.ca. While paper forms can still be filled out at various locations throughout the township (including The Standard office at 94 Water St. in Port Perry), many residents have opted to file electronically due to convenience, said Ms. Van Kessel, which has helped increase the number of overall reports.
"We've been getting involvement from a lot of new people," she said, adding that many reports have come from local crossing guards. "It's also helped that people can now file those reports on-line."
BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Get your napkins ready, because Ribfest will be returning to Elgin Park this weekend for three days of great food and fun for the community.
For organizer Steve Harrison, Ribfest is truly a labour of love, and he is looking forward to another great year for the event, since that is what keeps him coming back year-after-year to stage the event.
"I just love doing it for the people who can come and enjoy a day of laughter and fun," Mr. Harrison told The Standard. "Hopefully, we will be blessed with great weather and can do even better than last year, which was already fantastic. Organizing the event is like a jigsaw puzzle, and it all comes together beautifully."
Uxbridge Ribfest opens for business on Friday, July 19 at 11 a.m. and runs until 11 p.m., On Saturday, July 20, the gates will again open at 11 a.m. and remain open until 11 p.m., finally, on Sunday, July 21 gates open at 11 a.m. with the event coming to a close at 7 p.m.
The Standard will also be on hand at Ribfest handing out bibs to keep those in attendance neat and tidy.
There will be plenty of dining options at the event as five ribbers - Camp 31, Chop Shop, Horn Dawgs BBQ, Texas Rangers and Sticky Fingers - are expected to take part in the event.
And, as Mr. Harrison notes, these are not your typical backyard barbecue ribs.
"These guys are real professionally trained chefs, and they really know what they're doing," Mr. Harrison said. "One vendor even has a vegetarian option, so there really
is something for everyone."
In addition to great food, there will also be great fun in store for Ribfest patrons as the midway returns, as well as a dynamic lineup of acts to entertain those in attendance, including several local performers on the bandshell stage. Julien Kelland, Brett Kingswell, Robyn Ottolini, Alli Walker and The Little White Lies are just a few of the acts slated to perform at Ribfest.
"We try and keep the acts as local as possible and they are so talented. We are really blessed to have these great people to perform at Ribfest and excited to share their talents with the community," added Mr. Harrison. "There's got to be an atmosphere to the event, not just great food, but amazingly talented acts on stage as well. People can come and relax and have a great day in the park."
Ribfest organizers remain committed to the community as a whole, and will be providing funds to various community groups, including Canadian Tire Jumpstart, Bonner Boys, Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario, 1st Port Perry Scouts, Foster Memorial and Teen Start from revenues at the event.
"Giving back to these community groups is truly what it's all about for me," Mr. Harrison commented. "We need to give back and share the wealth."
The competition amongst the ribbers for the various awards handed out is always fierce, and this year they will be competing for a special award at Uxbridge Ribfest - the Best Ribs Dave Kasza Award.
Mr. Kasza, a longtime Legion member who spearheaded bringing Ribfest to Uxbridge, passed away last year, and organizers saw fit to memorialize him with this special award.
"Last year, I had the pleasure of working with Dave Kasza and it's always fun to see the gamesmanship at play amongst the ribbers for the awards that are handed out," said Mr. Harrison.
Ribfest marks the start of a busy stretch at Elgin Park, as the Highlands of Durham Games are set to take place the following weekend. Attendees can get a head start on the celebration of all things Celtic at Ribfest as $15 single day tickets and $25 weekend passes will be on sale throughout the weekend.
Your ticket to Highland Games will also provide entry into a draw for many great prizes including a trip to Scotland, an iPad, a camera, a barbecue courtesy of Canadian Tire, Body Fit memberships, Celtic Life magazine subscriptions and more. Weekend passes are also now available at Canadian Tire Uxbridge.
Through the hard work of many, events such as Ribfest are able to take place, and Mr. Harrison is grateful to have such great community partners assisting with the event, including Pace Credit Union, located at 99 Brock St. West in downtown Uxbridge.
"Pace Credit Union has been so good to us right from the very beginning, and they deserve a huge thank you for all that they do to help stage our events," added Mr. Harrison.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Special considerations given to gravel pits and golf courses during property value assessment drew the ire of council recently.
At their meeting on the morning of Monday, July 15, representatives from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) appeared before council to provide an update on the assessment process.
Over the course of their presentation, MPAC representatives Joe Regina and Mike Porporo detailed the process regarding assessments for golf courses and gravel pits that drew council's ire.
As the pair explained, gravel pits are valued based on a variety of land uses and do not take into account the value of any aggregate materials contained within the site.
"In a gravel pit, you have acres and acres of land being used for a variety of uses. So we rely heavily on information from property owners," said Mr. Regina, who added that only active areas of gravel pits are taxed as industrial land.
Meanwhile, golf courses are subject to revised values based on changes within the marketplace.
"There appears to be increased supply, but declining demand for golf courses, and the market determines value," explained Mr. Porporo. "It's been evolving over the past 10 years and we're realizing what's happening out there and assessments reflect what's taking place in the industry."
These rationalizations did not sit well with councillors who derided the practice.
"I find it totally unacceptable that you go to two industries and ask 'would you like to lower your taxes?' Give me a break, why not go to residential areas and ask the same thing?" pondered Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor. "This may force us to fight with the aggregate industry instead of working with them."
Mayor O'Connor added that the municipality could stand to lose more than $500,000 in annual revenue due to the wrinkles in the assessment process and noted the strain such moves may take on the residential tax base.
BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: After deferring the decision for several weeks, Scugog Council will finally award the contract for an operational review of the township's fire department.
During a rare summer meeting last Wednesday (July 10), councillors discussed the review contract in a lengthy closed session, after which council opted to award the contract to Dillon Consulting, as was previously recommended by Fire Chief Richard Miller. According to the chief, the review will encompass the department's service delivery, including areas such as fire response and prevention, administration and training and mutual aid agreements.
The July 10 meeting was organized following a June 24 decision by council to defer the awarding of the review contract to the firm. In that previous decision, councillors criticized the increased price tag of $50,000 - $10,000 more than originally budgeted - quoted by Dillon as well as the lack of a more specific timeline.
Mayor Chuck Mercier said that councillors needed more time to discuss the item, which will also be the initial part of a larger fire department master plan to be undertaken in 2015, a document that would examine broader issues such as population growth in the township and how it will affect fire service.
"The discussion we've had is that this is a much bigger review than others we've done before," said the mayor regarding the decision's deferral. "But we can either start it now or wait until 2015."
According to Mayor Mercier, a final price for the review will be negotiated by CAO Bev Hendry, although he expects the cost to ring in at close to the $50,000 quote.
"There are some items we could remove to reduce the cost, but we've been advised by our legal department to not pursue that," said the mayor.
As for the review's timeframe, the mayor said that the township is hopeful that work begins by early August, with an anticipated conclusion prior to the start of the township's 2014 municipal budget discussions.
"As this review is important," said Mayor Mercier, "the last thing you want to do is rush a consultant. Our goal is to have it done in time for the budget cycle and we anticipate it will be done by then."
BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
SCUGOG: The Township of Scugog's financial report from 2012 has been published. On June 24, 2013 at council, it was determined that the township is in the black and doing well to pay off its debt. Alex Richardson, auditor with the BDO, spoke to the report.
"Expenses came in $100,000 less than budget. The township is working off its debt and in 2013 it will be gone," said Mr. Richardson. "The township is working on long-term capital investment plan." Council discussed how the township is doing in comparison to other municipalities.
"Infrastructure renewal is a big driver, many municipalities get behind the eight-ball in this matter and end up gaining debt because the roads get old," said Mr. Richardson. "I think the township has kept up to pace with this and we are in a very strong position." Mayor Chuck Mercier seemed pleased with the details of the report, saying "I am glad that we will be debt free, not in perfect shape but in good shape. We have good opportunities with our waste management plant moving forward, to gain some growth. We're in a good position to move forward and grow without the monkey of debt on our backs."
Licensing of Cats
The Township of Scugog will not be licensing feline pets at this time. Last month, a question was raised regarding whether or not an amendment to the Animal Control By-Law should be made. If this amendment went through, cat tags would be available for purchase for residents to license their house cats, at a cost.
Port Perry Secondary Plan update
Council has voted to form a steering committee for the Port Perry Secondary Plan, which aims to upgrade sewage and water facilities for Port Perry.
Given the growing size of Port Perry's urban zone, the township has approved planning to go underway. The sewage plant will be made to accommodate an additional population of approximately 4,000 people and water and sewage access are hoped to be expanded into Port Perry's employment area.
The committee comprised of Mayor Mercier, Councillors Danson and Hancock, and representatives from the Region of Durham Planning Department and Kawartha Region Conservation Authority to oversee the project.
"I can't express the value of this six month planning exercise to ensure our growth in the future," said Alex Richardson, Auditor with BDO. "One of the key parts of the planning to be done is to look at the forecast of demographics in the township, considering seniors and delving into the co-housing project."
This committee will begin working out figures on topics such as sewage capacity, development and guidelines, and any new zoning or by-laws that must be considered.
Mr. Jim Dyment of MHBC Planning and Urban Design has been retained to assists township staff with the preparation of the Port Perry Secondary Plan.
If the Port Perry Secondary Plan is approved, formal meetings will be held and information distributed during September 2013.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Uxbridge's wealth of artistic talent will take centre stage at Elgin Park this weekend as part of the first-ever Uxbridge Music and Arts Festival.
Organizers are hopeful that the event, which begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 13, will provide the opportunity for local artists to share their work with the public and bring awareness to the diverse talent of Uxbridge residents.
"There is so much talent in Uxbridge, and I've noticed a lack of opportunities to showcase. So we came up with the idea to allow the showcase of this amazingly talented town," said organizer Leo Gallard.
The event will bring together a wide range of performers, including local musicians, artists and theatrical performers.
The Music and Arts Festival is also looking to give back to various chartities in the area, and has partnered with Africycle for the event. Admission is slated to be $10 in advance, and $15 at the gate, but attendees can get in free of charge with a donation to Africycle, which will have their bus on hand at Elgin Park to collect donations.
"We wanted to do everything we could to support that charity," Mr. Gallard said of the Uxbridge-based group that sends bicycles to Malawi in East Africa.
A wide range of local musical acts are confirmed to appear at the event, including Air Marshal Landing, Mumbai Standstill, Matt Gunn, Geoff Holt, 1985 and Julien Kelland, Taylor Landry, Hotpoint Automatic and the Brian Milroy & Simon Lockie Band.
There will be more than just music and arts to entertain visitors to the festival, as organizers have also included several games on the schedule of events. In addition to horseshoes and a bocce ball tournament, those in attendance can take part in a cheese tasting contest as well as a slow bike race.
Advance tickets are currently on sale at Blue Heron Books, located at 62 Brock St. West in downtown Uxbridge or Ineo Studios, in Technology Square at 282 Main St. North.