A quick look at the agenda for the upcoming Council meeting on the 20th might suggest there is little of any great importance, but that’s why it’s worth digging down a little deeper. On inspection of the council meeting package (available at the library and town office) a number of interesting facts and figures pop up. And there is also a brief mention of the Parry Sound Power in another of it’s many ‘configurations’ and acronyms. Nothing of any great substance is revealed but there are hints of a ‘big surprise’ that seems to be in the offing.

I have summarized below some of the issues and information that struck me as more interesting and revealing. Reviewing the council package and attending the council meeting is the best way to understand what is actually going on. While I believe there is nothing nefarious, there is much going on that never makes the local media.

I won’t be at the council meeting this week, traveling on business, so I’ll be asking for some feedback on what went down. Unfortunately I don’t subscribe to Cogeco cable so I can’t watch the delayed feed. And while the Town receives a copy of the proceedings they claim they are unable to allow me to review the recording. This seems to be at odds with my discussions with CogecoTV but I’ll wait to see what council and staff propose regarding social media and greater transparency before making a bigger issue out of denying the public access to open council session recordings. (Let me know if you make a recording of the meeting that I might be able to borrow.)

Interesting and Notable Agenda Items

There is a closed meeting agenda item related to the Parry Sound Power Gen – Power Generation Project. “Something coming on, I don’t know what it is but it’s getting stronger” – with apologies to Blood Sweat and Tears for use of their lyrics. There is more on Parry Sound Power below.

There is correspondence from Lis McWalter, Chair of Board of Directors, Parry Sound Downtown Business Association (DBA) requesting that council review and approve an expansion of the DBA boundaries. The map was not made available in the council package provided to the library but I suspect the DBA proposal is to expand their boundaries further down both Bay and Seguin Streets. Ms McWalter is also scheduled for a deputation on the subject.

Item 9.1.1 is a resolution requesting that some provincial financial support for tourism promotion be redirected from Regional Tourism District 12, Explorer’s Edge, to Georgian Bay Country (GBC). Apparently the financing provided to Explorer’s Edge may be only be used for regional rather than municipality targeted tourism activities. They are also not permitted to provide direct funding for municipality targeted tourism as conducted by GBC. Thus council is being asked to approve a request to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport to redirect funds to Georgian Bay Country.

Item 9.4.1 requests council to direct staff to advertise the proposed Property Standards By-law. This is a big deal in my opinion. Nothing will be implemented pending public input, but this by-law as I read it will provide the town with sweeping authority to require residents to keep their properties up to reasonable standards. It seems a step in the right direction but I urge everyone to read and understand the scope of the by-law and its implications. And of course provide your comments to staff and council so that they can be considered before a final by-law is approved.

Item 9.4.2 is interesting and provides insight into how the town’s official plan impacts local development. This resolution recommends turning down a request to develop a multi-residential dwelling at 139 Louisa Street. This area is currently zoned industrial rather than residential and town staff in their analysis and recommendation does not feel rezoning is appropriate or consistent with the current town plan.

Item 9.6.1 is a resolution to reduce the “Unfinanced Capital Outlay” for the Stockey Centre by about $63,000 as a result of certain fund raising revenues and the capital surcharge on ticket sales. This may prove to be a little controversial given the 2012 budget squeeze that Parry Sound is experiencing.

Item 10.4.2 relates to the new public school. This proposed by-law seems to approve the rezoning of the properties in question to permit their use as a school area. Additional information has apparently been provided to the town concerning the practical aspects of the new school plan (traffic, parking, etc.) and its impact on the local community. The updated plan seems to be generally acceptable to the town staff.

Item 10.5.1 proposes an increase in the upper limit of tax increases, from 5% to 10%, to permit appropriate taxation of the real value increase of properties. Apparently some properties in town have been sheltered from taxation on the Current Value Assessment (CVA) of their properties because the reassessment of their properties a few years ago would have represented an unreasonable increase in taxation. This by-law would allow for these properties to be brought better in line with others in town.

Item 10.5.2 proposes there be no change in the tax ratios for properties in Parry Sound as a function of their designation. It’s worth noting that the base rate for properties is 1.0, and is applied to properties designated as Residential. The corresponding rates for other classes of property are: Commercial 1.66x, Industrial 1.51x and Farmland 0.25x. There seems to be a favorable tax treatment provided to new multi-residential properties which are taxed at the same rate as those classed as Residential.

Item 10.5.3 sets the increase in water and waste water rates or 2012 and beyond. Water rates are planned to increase an average of 2.8% annually over the next nine years. Waste water rates are expected to rise 6.1% annually over this same period. Ouch, but no big surprise. I guess you could of course move out of Parry Sound to Seguin and reap the benefit of lower taxes and the joys of a well and septic tank. No thanks. The increases are what’s required to provide the service. Let’s hope we will see more development that can lower the average cost per property

Last but not least the council package included minutes of the Parry Sound Hydro Corporation minutes for January 30, 2012. If you think the Town of Parry Sound Council minutes are light on details you should take a look at these. Three interesting points: Rob Mens was appointed to the board of two of the subsidiaries, the offices are being renovated, and there was a February 15th deadline on the PowerGen project that was dictated by “procurement constraints”. Any idea what this last item refers to? I don’t and we are not likely to be told.

Those are the notable items on the agenda. Enjoy the meeting, I’m sorry I won’t be there. And remember there is a special open meeting of council on the 21st, starting at 6:00, to review the 2012 budget. I will definitely be there.