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What sems to be a rather limited agenda raises, in my opinion, a number of issues that need to be properly understood, discussed and receive the benefit of public input. A couple of the items before Council, trails and parking, have been the subject of public consultation through committees and some limited meetings. But now that the consultation process has finished, and the final recommendations have been drafted, the issues are being presented to Council for approval. But the recommendations have not been presented to the public as a whole through a formal presentation or even a posting of the recommendations on the Town’s website with sufficient time for the public to access, read, and process the implications of the recommendations and their possible implications. It’s only because I receive the full agenda packages on the Friday before a meeting that I am aware of these issues. In my opinion that is too short a time to read and reflect on the issues and provide some input. For most there won’t be enough time. By the time the public looks at the agenda online, without the supporting documents, and realizes they may or not have a concern it will not be until later on Monday that they can get the full package (assuming Monday is not a municipal holiday) and they can see what is being proposed. That probably okay for an issue like the tendered purchase of sand and salt, but not issues that will have a long term impact like parking and trails.

And there are issues that require input beyond committee, staff and consultant recommendations. So I will be making a deputation on three agenda items on Tuesday evening: 9.1.2 – Trails Master Plan Adoption; 9.2.1 – Traffic By-law amendments; and 10.1.1 – Big Sound Marina – Seasonal Slips. I offer some of my concerns in the text that follows each of the items below.

Council is loathe to go back on decisions they have made in good faith and based on what they believe is good information. Council needs to be careful that Staff doesn’t push items forward for their consideration without ensuring the public has been consulted with appropriate time for reflection and input.

Letters

4.3 – Leslie Panipak, resident. Re: Concerns about the garbage limits for apartments versus detached homes.

Detached residences get two bags of garbage per week, and non-detached get one. It doesn’t seem fair to me so long as the building is zoned and registered as being multi-unit (to avoid issues with informal rooming house type situations). Time to change the by-law I suspect.

Deputations

5.2 – Wayne Gilbert, resident. Re: Water Services.

Resolutions and Direction to Staff

9.1.2 – Trails Master Plan Adoption. Resolution. That Council adopt the Trails Master Plan, as prepared by Plan by Design, 2015 and as attached in Schedule “A”.

So how do you feel about the plan? Oh, you haven’t seen the plan, have you? A search of the Town’s website does not find the plan. It seems you need to have been a committee member to have access to the plan prior to it’s inclusion in Tuesday’s council package. And even then you need to be getting the full council package to understand the implications. Overall I think it’s a good plan, but I have one issue. It is a plan for Parry Sound trails, that is supported by Parry Sound taxpayers, but puts Parry Sound residents at a disadvantage relative to our neighbouring communities. How so? The plan recommends that ATV access through Parry Sound be permitted to connect the ends of the Park to Park Trail. That’s great and an important step forward. It means a resident of Seguin, can get on an ATV at their home, ride through Parry Sound and get to the trail that runs to Killbear Park. And a McDougall or Carling resident can hop on their ATV and ride through Parry Sound to connect to the Park to Park Trail that leads to Algonquin Park. But a Parry Sound resident will be required to trailer their ATV to either McDougall or Seguin to be able to get to use these trails. We will pay for issues related to ATV traffic in town, which is acceptable from my perspective, but we will not be able to get the benefits of being able to ride from our homes to get on the designated throughway in Parry Sound to get onto the trails. That seems wrong, wrong, wrong. Let’s not throw out the positive of ATV access through Parry Sound, rather let’s make sure Parry Sounder’s are not the disadvantaged. Will be reduced to a population of people on mobility scooters? FYI – I do not have an ATV, and I am a board member of the Park to Park Trail Association. My position is independent of the association.

In addition, there are four elements ignored by the report:

  1. There is no mention of the status of e-bikes or motorized scooters and the privileges afforded them. Can a handicapped person use their scooter on the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail (I prefer the name not be changed)? It is motorized and probably shouldn’t be permitted on the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail, but I imagine that it would not be enforced. But an e-bike might well be in violation. What is the difference? That needs to be worked out.
  2. There is no mention made of the trail beyond Champaigne Street that is used by the snowmobiles in the winter and pedestrians in the summer.
  3. There is no mention made of the trail that effectively extends the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail across Marion Street onto private property. This trail has a parking area that is maintained year round, and is very actively used, but is ignored in this report. It is a real asset that needs to be acknowledged and appropriately incorporated into any Master Trails plan. (Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell?)
  4. There is no formal acknowledgement and planning in the report for children walking and biking to school.

9.2.1 – Traffic By-law Amendments. Direction. That Council direct staff to amend the Traffic By-law to:

Allow permit parking: 12 parking spaces in St Andrews Lot; 8 parking spaces Gibson Street Lot; 8 parking spaces Miller Street Lot; 6 parking spaces in James Street Lot and 3 on Gibson Street (behind the Post Office)

Allow for 6 residential overnight tenant permit parking spaces on Mary Street adjacent to the Post Office (taxi stand)

Allow for the procurement of a day use parking permit (contractors, film crew etc.) at

$8.00/day/parking space and $4.00/half day/parking space

To allow for the continuation of free parking – 2 hours on street and 3 hours in the municipal lot and to make it an offence if an individual re-parks their vehicle within a designated zone or street.

To create designated free long term parking: 7 parking spaces on Mary Street, 8 parking spaces on north Miller, 30 spaces on south Gibson Street: and

Further that Council direct staff to create a policy pertaining to the procuring of short term (daily) parking permits for contractors, special event organizers, film crews and day users, etc.; and

That Council direct staff to commence the process to hire a contract Parking Attendant on a one-year contract to complete enforcement of the time limit regulation. This process would include a job description and a review of said job description by the Hay Group with this position being implemented in January of 2016.

It looks as though Staff is recommending that we continue with free parking, including a few ‘tweaks’ to address issues related to the need for longer term parking. This seems reasonable, but there is only passing mention that it will effectively increase our local taxes by something a little less than 1%. For the near term the plan is to drain the parking reserves before implementing the tax increase. Whether we are draining reserves, or raising taxes, the net/net is the same, Town residents are being asked to subsidize free parking and by extension our local businesses. It may be a worthwhile investment as the businesses do pay property taxes that support Town services and facilities, but let it be understood there is No Free Parking. Someone pays, and in this case it’s all of us. Perhaps we can put up signs around town that state “Thank a Parry Sound resident or business owner, they are paying for your free parking.”.

9.5.1 – Quotation – Bowes Street Retaining Wall. Resolution. That upon the recommendation of Triton Engineering Services Limited, Council accept the quotation from CSL Group Limited for the replacement of the existing concrete retaining wall on the northeast corner of the intersection of Bowes Street and Louisa Street, in the amount of $90,760.72, excluding HST, this quotation being the lowest quotation of three quotations received.

Wow, it wasn’t that long ago that the retaining wall was installed. That makes how many retaining walls we have replaced and there are how many to go? And it’s all about materials failure. In the end I estimate it will cost the Town more than half a million dollars to redo the various retaining walls (fire hall, Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail, Bowes Street …), yet some walls put in a century ago are still standing. Have we learned anything? I hope so.

By-laws

10.1.1 – Big Sound Marina – Seasonal Slips. Being a By-law to amend By-Law #2014-6428, a By-law to authorized the execution of an operating agreement between Massasauga Management Co. Inc. and the Town of Parry Sound for operation of Big Sound Marina and the Town Dock.

Okay I have a big issue here, one that I raised when the contract was first approved. The Town wants to allow the operators of Big Sound Marina to expand their seasonal dockage business by 40% to further compete with local businesses. This is so wrong. My sense is that the Town is terrified to say no in case the operators decide to walk away from the deal. They have no easy alternative for operating the facility. Heaven forbid they have to do it themselves. The Chamber of Commerce ran it for a couple of decades with far, far fewer resources than the Town, and under much poorer financial arrangement, no seasonal slips at all. But the Town can’t do it? The real issue for me is that the slips will compete with the two local marinas who pay property taxes, are responsible for funding their own capital improvements, and are required to meet tougher environmental standards because of the necessary services they provide, and Big Sound Marina seasonal dockage customers require. And to top it off these Parry Sound marinas also need to compete with several other marinas in Seguin and Carling who pay only one third the municipal tax rate. And it doesn’t take an economics degree to understand that more supply will put downward pressure on pricing. Ask realtors what happens when there are a large number of properties on the market. What is the Town trying to do – cut the throats of local businesses that pay the Town’s high taxes for the benefit of carpetbaggers? How would the Island Queen and the Chippewa III feel if Big Sound Marina made a few more bucks by operating tours out of the facility? Or what about Georgian Bay Airways if the Big Sound Marina operators encouraged charter flight businesses to operate from the facility? Let’s make sure that there is a fair competitive environment. Big Sound Marina receives a very large subsidy municipally, provincially and federally. Don’t ask the local businesses to subsidize them through lost customers, price pressures and their municipal taxes.

10.3.1 – Changes to Council Procedural By-law. Being a By-law to govern and regulate the proceedings of Council of The Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound, and its Committees, and to repeal By-law 2012-6129.

No surprises here but it would have been nice had the final by-law been included in this meeting’s package.

I will be attending the council meeting this week and will be making a deputation on the three issues noted above. It’s only ten minutes, but the points should be pretty obvious.

Potential Big Sound Marina Seasonal Client? (Parry Sound in Colour)

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