Council did well to get finished by 9:30, despite the addition of three unscheduled deputations that took almost half an hour in total. For the most part discussion was disciplined and on topic. There were no deferred items. Council continues to come together as a group and make headway.
A short preface to these notes. It seems council needs to start thinking about what type of vision and sense of place they have for Parry Sound. Remember the old joke for which the punch line is, “We’ve already defined what you are, we’re now simply agreeing on the price.”? Well council needs to decide whether the town ethos is ‘anything goes if it brings business to town’, or if we want to raise the general standards of appearance to establish ourselves as a ‘quaint’ little near north town that attracts visitors with its charm. It’s not easy to be quaint with a lumber and rail history, and the consequences of decades of associated neglect and abuse. It will take work and purpose. We can look to the some of the towns in Muskoka for a sense of what this means and looks like. A couple of the agenda items should force council to put together their vision of the town. But I suspect they won’t. They will look at each item as a ‘one up’ issue with no consideration of the bigger picture, and what the net sum of all of their decisions will be. It’s not function or form. It’s function and form.
Closed Session Follow Up
It seems council has selected a new Director of Public Safety based on their ratification of a contract. We’ll need to wait for the formal announcement. No names were mentioned.
Correspondence and Deputations
Correspondence – the invitation for council representatives to attend a joint meeting of the West Parry Sound Health Centre Board was received.
There were three unscheduled deputations.
The first related to council’s recent decision to return the issue of ATV use in town to staff for further review. The speaker felt that the topic had not been fairly reviewed with little opportunity for public input. Council assured the speaker that the matter had not been dismissed and would be reviewed further. They didn’t mention that staff would not be able to get to the ATV issue until late summer at the earliest, given more pressing issues.
The second deputation was in reference to council’s decision to turn the application for a realtor’s advertising sign on a downtown building. After some discussion and questions the individual was advised to request a reconsideration of their application.
The third deputation provided council with an update on the activity of the Tower Hill Gardeners, a volunteer group that has been working to complement the activities of town staff with the Tower Hill garden. It was reported that the Tower Hill Gardeners, www.towerhillheritagegarden.org, put in more than 600 volunteer hours last year. The presenter requested council support agenda item 9.5.1, the proposal for volunteers to rehabilitate the Tower Hill Ranger’s Cabin.
Council approved a new board member for the Parry Sound Downtown Business Association (DBA) Board of Directors.
Resolutions and Directions to Staff
9.1.1 – council approved staff’s recommendation to forgo the construction of an animal shelter based on cost and the service provided in Bracebridge by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) – Muskoka Branch. There were expressions of general support for this type of service but an acknowledgement that it was not possible without the financial support of the surrounding communities.
Council approved $3,500 for a spay/neuter program. It was noted that very little of this amount was likely to be spent because there was no community support to house the feral cats for the necessary period after their surgery. This was in part due to concerns about transmissible diseases, and the reality that feral cats really don’t like being kept in a ‘recovery room’. They can be feisty.
There was discussion and approval for staff to look into a method by which the feeding of feral cats could be ‘discouraged’. If you feed them they will stay, and they will breed. There’s no balance of nature when cats are fed and left to their own devices. Having grown up on a farm, and having had barn cats to keep the rodent population down, I came to realize that the cats survived only as long as they were fed by us. Nature took its own course if humans were left out of the equation. If you want a cat, have a cat, and take on the associated responsibilities of feeding, vaccinations, providing a home, and spay/neutering. How would the community feel if an individual were to start feeding sea gulls downtown? How about bears? (Oh wait, we know how people feel about bears.)
Council approved the sale/scrapping of the animal trailer after considerable discussion. The issue debated was whether it was reasonable to sell the trailer for its intended use given its unsuitability for animal care. Staff advised that if re-purposed, the trailer was likely to be stripped down and only it’s chassis reused.
9.1.2 – council split on the issue of two new ‘sitting’ areas in the downtown. The sitting area in the Gibson Street parking lot was approved with an understanding the DBA and town would discuss adjustments to the location so as to ensure appropriate sight lines for safety. (Hey, sitting at this ‘parkette’ one would have a great view of advertising right across the street ;-).)
The James Street ‘pop up parkette’ was turned down on the basis that it would take critical parking spaces and might create a safety hazard.
9.3.1 – there was approval for the proposal from staff regarding paperless council meetings through the use of electronic documents. It was agreed that the expense would be included as part of the 2013 budget discussion. Note: the next budget meeting, hopefully the last, is scheduled for April 233d, starting at 6:30 PM. There was a brief discussion of what should and shouldn’t be considered for pre-budget approval. I’ll offer my thoughts in a general sense next week.
9.4.1 – a resolution in support of signs on the CN trestle over Bowes Street was carried. I’m not in agreement but let’s see how this evolves. As a professional in the area of sales, marketing and advertising, I would suggest that advertising only works if it attracts attention. So if you want people who are driving into town to not focus on the road as they merge from two lanes to one, put up something to catch their attention. And I’m waiting for the first person with an RV/load who realizes too late that their vehicle doesn’t fit under the trestle to complain/sue that they couldn’t see the height limit sign because of the advertising. But of course, adding advertising will help beautify the town as at least one councillor seemed to suggest. I guess you could claim that we are a ‘border’ town and need to take on that appearance. Perhaps the border between Seguin and McDougall? This all goes back to the vision that council has for the town. Commerce or community? Commerce and community?
9.4.2 – the revised resolution for transferring town property on Fleck Street to a developer for the the building of an affordable triplex was approved. This was approved last year but needed revision to meet regulations concerning the transfer of property for below market prices to a private business.
9.5.1 – council approved a proposal by a citizens’ Ranger Cabin Restoration Committee to restore the Ranger Cabin on Tower Hill at no cost to the town.
9.5.2 – the DBA proposal for a raised garden at the foot of Jukes Lane was carried. Council also approved staff’s recommendation that the DBA consider other locations for additional raised gardens.
10.1.1 – by-laws to increase set fines for by-law traffic violations and to revise overnight parking areas were approved with limited discussion.
10.3.1 – council approved an agreement with Vianet for upgraded internet service.
10.3.2, 10.3.3 – both bylaws setting the tax ratios and tax claw-backs were approved by council.
There was a bit more that isn’t covered here. Check out the actual council minutes for a summary of all the decisions. For additional background take a look at my council meeting preview notes posted on this site.
A Comet Sets Over Parry Sound
(click for larger view – it’s worth it)