DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Councillors recently rejected a request for a letter of no objection to a proposed medical marijuana facility in the township and have asked municipal staff to begin work on a policy relating to medical marijuana businesses.
At their meeting on the evening of Monday, Sept. 22, councillors denied a request for a letter of no objection made by CannaCare, a business which had sought to set up a 16,000 square foot medical marijuana growing facility on a 10-acre parcel of land on Davis Dr.
This was the second such application to come before council this year after councillors supported a proposed operation on Durham Rd. 30 earlier this year. As of press time, the application for that facility is still awaiting approval from Health Canada.
Several councillors took issue with the size of land in question for the proposed CannaCare facility.
“I’m not opposed to the facility itself, I’m opposed to its location on a 10-acre parcel with a building far larger than in the other application,” said Ward 3 Councillor Pat Mikuse.
Ward 2 Councillor Pat Molloy added that there are “substantial differences between the two plans. I don’t think I’d ever want one of these facilities on anything smaller than 100 acres. We have to be careful where we’re going to put these.”
In a recorded vote, councillors voted unanimously to deny CannaCare a letter of no objection.
With two applications already received, and several inquires made, Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor sought to have guidelines established by the township when dealing with this new type of agribusiness.
“We have supported one facility, but I’m a bit hesitant about supporting others regardless of who is putting forward the application because we haven’t seen all the ramifications should they get a licence,” commented Mayor O’Connor. “I’m against any others until we get one in place and can see any consequences we may not have thought of. This is a new territory for all of us.”
Many councillors agreed that minimum standards should be put in place. As well, township planning consultant Liz Howson added that such measures would aid township staff when dealing with potential applicants.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: “I don’t want to walk from above Quaker Village Public School to Uxbridge Secondary School,” School Board Trustee Joe Allin told members of council during a deputation this week.
However, that is precisely what faces many Uxbridge students following recent changes to the Durham District School Board’s transportation policy.
Representatives from the school board appeared before council at their meeting on the evening of Monday, Sept. 22 to explain the rationale behind a recent decision to eliminate bussing for students living within four kilometres of Uxbridge Secondary School.
According to local School Board Trustee Joe Allin, two factors contributed to changes to the bussing policy, which has meant a greater walk to school for students living in Quaker Village and Sandy Hook.
The first was an audit by the Ministry of Education, a ten per cent penalty equalling $2 million was applied to the board. The other was the discontinuance of special passes offered to students in the southern portion of Durham Region.
“Should the grant be restored, there is an understanding that there will be a discussion about restoring previous standards,” explained Mr. Allin.
However, councillors were quick to point out that weather conditions are drastically different in North Durham and should not be held to the same standards as communities south of Hwy. 7.
“I was appalled with the lack of understanding from some trustees about the difference in weather between North and South Durham,” commented Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor. “We don’t have the same weather as the south. They don’t get as much snow or ice or have as many school cancellations as we do in the north.”
Trustee Allin explained to councillors that there is a “myth” about the availability of public transit in South Durham.
“Durham Region Transit (DRT) is not that mature, and 60 per cent of students in the southern municipalities don’t have access to a bus that would get them to school in a reasonable amount of time.”
However, several members of council took issue with these claims, noting that any transit options are limited in Uxbridge Township.
“In Uxbridge, we get bus service two days a week, and in the south you have regular service through DRT and GO. And we’re paying the same amount for transit in the north without any of the service,” countered Mayor O’Connor. “It’s not safe for kids in my opinion to be walking these distances to school. I feel our kids’ safety issues - particularly in the winter - are secondary.”
Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger explained that he recently walked to the high school from a location in Quaker Village, a trip that took more than 40 minutes in ideal summer conditions. As well, Councillor Ballinger noted the added traffic around the area of Uxbridge SS and Joseph Gould PS that this measure has created.
“Walking 42 minutes to school is not fair,” said Councillor Ballinger. “If you collect as much tax as the township does, Uxbridge has to get some value for its money, and this is going to bring even more traffic to the area around the high school, which is already an issue.”
Mr. Allin explained that in order to restore bussing levels to their previous standards, it would take an additional $800,000 in funding. As well, representatives from the school board claimed that only 21 students were affected by the change, a figure disputed by many residents in attendance.
Ward 5 Councillor and Quaker Village resident Gord Highet, whose daughter is affected by the change in the transportation policy, also expressed his dismay with the changes.
“You are basically telling Uxbridge students they’re second class citizens and it’s okay to put their lives in jeopardy to save some money,” said Councillor Highet.
Mayor O’Connor requested that if additional funding for transportation of Uxbridge students is not forthcoming, that a meeting be arranged between school board officials, township staff, representatives from the Ministry of Education and local parents.
Trustee Allin closed his deputation by explaining that the township would be informed of any future news relating to this matter, and expressed sadness that he is leaving office - to run for the position of Regional Councillor in Brock Township - with the matter unresolved.
“It saddens me that I leave this office with this issue.”
BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
SCUGOG: The Scugog Township Action Committee, a group of involved citizens who share concers regarding increasing taxes in the Township, held a meet and greet for local municipal candidates on Sunday, July 27.
The backyard event, hosted by Cheryl Helm at her Castle Harbour Dr. home, attracted the attendance of numerous curious and likeminded residents, as well as two prospective Ward Councillors and hopeful mayoral candidate Tom Rowett.
“The STAC is just a group of Scugog residents who feel there is a need for change in our community,” explained Ms. Helm. “We formed a research group to look into financial issues in the Township, and wanted to share ideas and information.”
Ms. Helms stated that her concern began when the property tax on her lakefront home increased by 52.5 per cent over the last eight years, and that her questions to the current council have been met with concerning responses.
“After we did some research and went to Council meetings, we realized it’s time to put some new choices into the coming municipal elections,” said Ms. Helm. “Each candidate doesn’t share the same agenda, but we have the same goals in mind - the betterment of our community.”
Don Kett, running alongside Bill McKee to replace incumbent Ward 3 Councillor Jim Howard - had this to say.
“I am a 40 year resident of Scugog Township, and have spent the last 27 years living on Scugog Island - if elected, I plan to advocate for the rights of the people living on Scugog Island.
Some of my first steps have been setting up a buyer’s group for propane and fuel oil, in order to get energy and heating prices down.
Islanders have some of the highest taxes in the Township, and we don’t recieve the luxuries or benefits we deserve.
Scugog Island is different than anywhere else in the Township, and has its own special needs and requirements - I’m running as an Islander, for the Islanders.”
Jennifer Back, who is challenging incumbent Ward 5 Councillor Howard Danson for his seat, voiced the following opinion.
“Raising a family in Port Perry has been wonderful, but I am growing increasingly concerned about the decisions made by our current Mayor and Council.
I would like to work on improving roads, sidewalks and infrastructure, and bringing taxes in-line with inflation. We’re looking at another major increase next year, unless we can find efficiencies and save more money more effectively.
In Ward 5, the current Council is planning on building a park and recreation area, but they haven’t accepted input from any of the local residents. We don’t have many children in this area, and spending thousands of dollars on concept drawings for a park that was deemed ‘too expensive’ is a waste.
I am a wife, mother, community volunteer and business owner - looking to lower taxes and stop spending what we don’t have.”
Tom Rowett, hopeful candidate for Mayor of Scugog Township, is running against incumbent Mayor Chuck Mercier - at the event, he expressed his ideals of action for Scugog.
“Right now, local businesses and residents are being driven away by high taxes. We have to make it affordable for residents to live and businesses to operate in Scugog and Durham Region.
We need efficiency, accountability and respect for the taxpayers and their hard-earned money. We need to encourage businesses to grow by cutting red tape and thinking outside the box.
Our residents, business owners and farmers have some great ideas - I think the Township needs to build a platform that supports open and honest communication of ideas. If elected, I want to change policy so that Council can more easily take suggestions, and put them into action faster.
I am the co-owner of 1st Financial Centre, and last year my wife and I bought Homestead Furniture and Appliances, which has been in this community since 1976. I will bring my knowledge as a financial planner and a small business owner to the table to address the concerns of the residents of Scugog.”
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: After more than a year of debate on the subject, the new firearms by-law was passed by Uxbridge councillors this week with a vote of 6-1.
The matter, which had consumed a great deal of council's attention over the past year, sought to alter the hours of operation at Uxbridge Shooting Sports, located on Conc. 4, as well as limit the amount of noise coming from the property.
The matter was to be dealt with at council's meeting on June 23, but Regional Councillor Jack Ballinger was successful in his bid for additional time to investigate the matter before it was brought back before council at their meeting on the morning of Monday, July 14.
"I must admit that it is noisy," commented Councillor Ballinger. "It's a lot noisier than I every thought. I was hung up on the decibel levels and licensing."
Throughout the debate on the matter, Councillor Ballinger frequently commented about wanting to keep Uxbridge Shooting Sports viable and functional as it has been since being established on Conc. 4 in 1965.
""If the club will survive another 50 years, they'll have to do their due diligence," added Councillor Ballinger. "I would not want to live there with that noise. I hope that by next year that are safeguards in place to reduce the noise."
Ward 2 Councillor Pat Molloy also thought that the club will be able to meet the goal of 60 decibels emanating from the site by the deadline of Aug. 31 of next year. Another sound study will be done at the site next year to ensure compliance with the by-law, paid for by Uxbridge Shooting Sports. Township staff will review the situation next year to ensure its meeting all of the requirements of the by-law as well as reviewing any work done on sound buffering.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the gun club can achieve those goals," said Councillor Molloy. "I hope they can stay and prosper at that location for another 50 years."
In a recorded vote, all councillors except for Ward 4's Jacob Mantle voted in favour of the by-law. Councillor Mantle would later take to Twitter to voice his frustrations with what he saw as a far-reaching by-law.
"Voted against insane Shooting Range By-Law. Only one to vote no, interesting that I am the only councillor not running again... #election," Councillor Mantle said on the social networking web site.
Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor noted that the by-law process had been long and left many feeling frustrated at times, but thanked everyone involved once the by-law was finally passed.
"This was a long and arduous process, and I would personally like to offer my thanks to all that took part," commented Mayor O'Connor.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: For most, retirement offers the chance to relax, but for Uxbridge's Conrad Boyce it has brought a flurry of activity over the past year that is showing no signs of slowing down in the months ahead.
A mainstay of the local arts community for almost two decades, Conrad has been involved in many projects as an actor, director, producer, teacher, playwright, conductor, singer, set designer/builder, lighting/sound technician, editor, publisher and writer.
With four theatre projects either on the go or upcoming, Conrad has further broadened his portfolio by recently declaring as a candidate for Ward 4 Councillor in this fall's municipal election.
Originally from Edmonton, Conrad moved to the area from the Yukon in 1995, and it didn't take long for him to establish connections in the Uxbridge community.
"I had just moved from the Yukon with a friend. We were living over near Sutton and our landlord mentioned that if we wanted a true taste of small-town, rural Ontario, we should check out the Uxbridge Fall Fair," Conrad recalled sitting on the sun-drenched deck behind his home in Uxbridge. "In the fair book, there were audition notices for the Uxbridge Chamber Choir and a play with the Uxbridge Players, so I auditioned for both and got in the following week. Then, Donna van Veghel mentioned that she was looking to take a year off from conducting the youth choir, so I took that on as well. So, within two weeks of arriving, I was in a play, in a choir and conducting a choir."
In the summer of 1997, Conrad married his wife Lisa. That year, Conrad also founded the Uxbridge Musical Theatre Company, which would later merge with the Uxbridge Players to form OnStage Uxbridge, the premier community theatre company in the township. Since arriving in Uxbridge, Conrad has been involved in some capacity with more than 60 different stage productions.
In 1998, Conrad expanded his theatrical endeavours, and took on the job of putting together a summer theatre program at the Academy Theatre in Lindsay.
"I basically lost my shirt on that one, so I spent the next two-and-a-half years working in the communication department for the Ontario College of Nurses in Toronto until my debts were paid off from the summer theatre. And by that point, I'd had enough of the big city, so for the next four years I worked as a supply teacher and freelance journalist."
Then, in 2005, Conrad was at the forefront of the group that brought the Uxbridge Cosmos to the community, drawing inspiration from The Standard in launching the community newspaper.
"The Standard was definitely an inspiration for the Cosmos, and it started with a lot of help. Myself and others felt that the Times-Journal had become estranged from the community and was no longer a community newspaper. We knew right from the start that we would only distribute in Uxbridge and our stories would only focus on Uxbridge and its residents," Conrad explained.
After eight years of sharing Uxbridge stories with the community, Conrad sold the paper to its current publisher last year and embarked on a new literary venture as he penned his first book: Jewel on the Hill, the story of Uxbridge's Foster Memorial.
"Retiring from the Cosmos let me explore a lot of things I'd had on the back burner such as my book on the Foster," said Conrad. "I learned an awful lot and it was a great pleasure to work on."
Over the past year, Conrad has performed two different one-man plays based on the works of Robert Service - 'El Dorado' in the fall of 2013, and 'The Bohemian' which began its run at the Firth Line Church at the Uxbridge Historical Centre on Friday, July 11.
Based on "Ballads of a Bohemian" by Robert Service, the play was written by Conrad in 1980 while living in the Yukon in collaboration with Bonnie Lawrence, who contributed the music. The play tells the story of a fictional American poet named Stephen Poore, struggling to make a living in Paris in the years 1913 and 1914, who joins up as an ambulance driver when the First World War breaks out, and will run alongside the 'Uxbridge at War' display at the museum on select weekends throughout the summer.
Performances of 'The Bohemian' are scheduled for July 18, 19, 22, 26 and 29, continuing the next month with shows on Aug. 5, 12, 16, 22, 23, 26 and 29. Tickets for the show are $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors, and can be purchased at Blue Heron Books, which is located at 62 Brock St. West in downtown Uxbridge.
"The show kind of went to the bottom of my desk drawer for more than three decades," Conrad admitted, "since Bonnie left the Yukon shortly after we wrote it. But now a couple of factors - the centennial of the Great War, and the availability of a collaborator as excellent as she was - seem to make it an ideal time for its revival."
While Conrad admits that many of the plays he has written were for him to perform, one notable exception is 'Maud of Leaskdale' which he penned in 2011 specifically for the centennial conference in Leaskdale to commemorate Lucy Maud Montgomery's arrival in the community, and stars Jennifer Carroll as the beloved Canadian author.
The show, which runs on Thursday evenings at the Historic Leaskdale Church throughout July and August is now in its third season, and has been performed in Toronto and Charlottetown.
"Nobody tells Maud's stories like Maud herself, so I decided to make it a one-woman show," Conrad explained. "It's wonderful to be able to bring it back for a third season and have it performed outside of the community. Local heritage is the thing that drives me. In fact, most of the shows I've written have been history-based"
Rounding out Conrad's impressive list of current theatre projects, he is slated to direct the play 'Miracle Worker' at the Oshawa Little Theatre in February of 2015.
A passionate supporter of all things Uxbridge, Conrad recently decided to take on another challenge when he declared as a candidate for the job of Ward 4 Councillor. Conrad does have past experience on municipal council, as he served on City Council in Whitehorse from 1982 to 1983. As well, he feels that his experience covering council as a member of the press will give him a head start should be elected in October.
Bringing additional tourism to the municipality is one of the key issues he would like to address if he is successful in defeating current challengers Fred Bryan and Dave Granic in the election on Oct. 27.
"I want to correct the impression that Uxbridge is just the Trail Capital of Canada, because it's so much more. We've got so much to offer in Uxbridge Township to the travelling public, but no one seems to know about it. I'm really passionate about this community and want to give back."