Tuesday night’s Council meeting is packed with a broad range of items. With a bit of rest after the 2015 budget it seems Council is prepared to tackle some of the bigger issues facing the Town. Because there is so much on the agenda I have listed only the more interesting/important issues. The agenda summary for the meeting can be found on the Town’s website. For the full agenda with attachments you will need to contact the Town directly (oops, they aren’t open Monday, so you will have to wait until Tuesday to get a response). Or you can get a copy directly through the ‘TOPS Agenda Packages’ link at the top of this page.
I’m glad to see the Town is starting to move on the railway issues, Items 9.2.2, 9.5.3. I would like to remind people that the infamous Chicago gangster Al Capone was finally sent to prison on tax evation charges, not murder, although he was responsible for the death of many. Let’s remember that as we work with the railways. Let the railways pay for the privilege of abusing Parry Sound and other municipalities by taxing their assets. I estimate their Parry Sound assets are worth about $15 million which would mean an additional $225,000 in annual tax revenues for the Town. The railways are public companies that make billions in profits. The Big Box stores pay local taxes on their buildings and land, so do the smaller businesses downtown. Imagine what the tax revenues from the railways’ physical assets would mean to the many communities that are regularly abused by the railways’ callous approach to how their operations impact people and the environment.
There is much more on the agenda including purchase by Public Works and the annual Drinking Water Supply Report that won’t be mentioned in this post. Check the agenda package for complete information.
4.3 – Parry Sound Area Chamber of Commerce. Re: Request for tax relief – 4th 1/4 2014 & 2015 (on this evening’s agenda Item 9.4.4). Note – I’m a board member of the Chamber so I will state that any comments made on this site are mine alone and do not reflect the opinion or position of the Chamber of Commerce.
4.6 – Z. Crafts, N. Collins & G. Mason. Re: 2.3 acres of land adjacent to new Parry Sound Public School (on this evening’s agenda Item 9.4.7).
4.7 – Minister of Transportation. Re: Highway winter maintenance. This simply advises the Town that the Province has reviewed the recommendations of the report from the Auditor General and will be responding with an action plan within sixty days.
Resolutions and Direction To Staff
9.2.2 – Taxation of Railway Properties. Resolution. Whereas the Assessment Act, RSO 1990, c A.31 S.30 (3) states that structures, substructures, superstructures, rails, ties, poles, wires and other property on railway lands used exclusively for railway purposes shall not be assessed; Whereas the Municipal Act. O.Reg 387/98 provides a “Right of Way” in the district of Parry Sound of $38.89/acre can be levied by the municipality; Whereas the Canadian National Railway Company (CN), and the Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (CP) are publicly traded private companies with operations throughout North America; Whereas both CN and CP operate over 67 acres of rail property, including 7 bridges, which have costs well in excess of $38.89/acre; And Whereas the Province of Ontario has not updated the “Right of Way” since 1998; Now be it resolved that the Council for the Corporation of the Town of Parry Sound requests that the Province of Ontario review the methodology for the levying of municipal property tax on railway assets; And further that the Town’s preferred methodology would be to levy tax on these assets based on Current Value Assessment similar to the taxation of other commercial properties; And further that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Premier of Ontario, the Ontario Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM), the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA), MPP Norm Miller, the City of Toronto, the Municipality of Carling, the Municipality of McDougall, the Municipality of Seguin, the Municipality of the Archipelago, the Municipal Finance Officers Association of Ontario (MFOA), the Ontario Municipal Taxation and Revenue Association (OMTRA). I’m glad to see that the Town has picked up on this issue. I hope they have the courage to move this issue forward. Yes, it will take courage. The railways, like Al Capone, are not loathe to use intimidation to get their way.
9.4.1 – Bill 73 – Town of Parry Sound Comments. Resolution. That the May 19, 2015 report, Bill 73 – Town of Parry Sound Comments, be endorsed by the Town of Parry Sound Council, and forwarded to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Specifically, the Town has concerns with the following proposed modifications, and request they be omitted from Bill 73: Limiting a minor variance application for 2 years after a zoning amendment is passed in response to a privately-initiated application; Removing the ability to apply for amendments to a zoning by-law for 2 years after comprehensive zoning by-law update; and Removing the ability to apply for amendments to an official plan for 2 years after a new, comprehensive official plan comes into effect. This is why you need to read the details. Town Staff has clearly picked up on a number of issues with Bill 73 that need to be amended to allow for normal and reasonable development within the Town and all other municipalities.
9.4.3 – Parry Sound Beerfest: Noise By-law relief. Resolution. Beerfest is back on the agenda and it coincides with the Rotary’s Dragon Boat Festival.
9.4.4 – Parry Sound Area Chamber of Commerce. Resolution. That further to a request from the Parry Sound Area Chamber of Commerce, Council provides one-time funding to the Commerce’s financial recovery efforts in the amount of $6,342.18 to be allocated to the Municipal Assistance Program budget which would result in actuals being over budget and, that the Chamber of Commerce advise Council of the outcome of its efforts to obtain financial support from the Area Municipalities. Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Enough said!
9.4.5 – 2015 Municipal Assistance Program Allocations. Resolution. The analysis is provided only in the full agenda package. Expect that Council will make their decision in the closed session and provide the figures in open session rather than debate the merit of each group in a public forum, which would be certain to make more enemies than friends.
9.4.6 – Rezoning Application – Z15-01 – General Amendment to Parking Requirements. By-law and Resolution. That the same application fee for Cash-in-Lieu of Parking Agreements be used for “Offsite Location for Parking Spaces – Residential Renovations” as per Section 4.30 (j) iv) of By-law 2004-4653, as amended. That one year from the approval of this By-law, staff return to Council to provide an update on the standing of this Zoning By-law amendment. Staff will track complaints and the number of applicable new residential units in an effort to measure the success of this amendment, and recommend either the continuation or removal of this provision. This reduces the burden on the Town and property owners wishing to create more downtown residential units. I suspect it will largely be an ‘honour system’ that hopefully won’t be abused.
9.4.7 – Request Council’s Approval in Principle for a Naturalized Park Space. Resolution. THAT Council support in principal the request from Zach Crafts, Nicole Collins and Greg Mason as follows: i) that the 2.3 acre lot beside the Parry Sound Public School described as remain a naturalized space with a simple loop trail; ii) that the Town be the landowner of the property and act as the insurer; iii) that the Town work in partnership with the Near North District School Board to provide a joint use agreement for the school to use the property; and iv) that the Town set in place park status on the property, which will remain that way in perpetuity; and That details of the above be brought to Council by September 2015. I understand the value and merit of this request, a naturalized park next to a school is obvious. I do wonder about how much non-revenue generating property Parry Sound is expected to provide for the area public good. Parry Sound has very limited land that can be developed, yet it is home to the District hospital, retirement centre, public service offices, provincial offices, …. All of which pay little or no property taxes, but require considerable infrastructure. I believe one of the reasons for the particular aerial truck purchased by the Town related to the hospital’s needs. Yes, but these tax exempt institutions create jobs that increase the population in Parry Sound which results in more property taxes. Well not really, many of the people working at these non-taxable enterprises live in the low tax communities that surround Parry Sound. I have no issue with this proposal, I just wonder how we Parry Sound residents will recoup the cost of supporting all of these initiatives that benefit the much larger community. Seguin property taxes are one-third those of Parry Sound and they have five times the assessment and more than one hundred times the area. Sigh! Wait, one solution would be a local income tax levied on wages earned in Parry Sound that would be offset against paid Parry Sound property taxes, perhaps 0.5%. I have had that type of levy when I worked in New York City and Collegeville, PA. It helps pay for the required infrastructure to support these institutions.
9.4.8 – Response to Proposed MNRF Wetland Assessment for Louisa Street. Resolution. The Province is looking to assess and probably increase restrictions on land that can be developed in Parry Sound related to wetland protection. The Town is not in a agreement, and I agree with the Town’s position. Let’s take more land out of development and continue to take what’s left for more non-revenue generating initiatives. No, let’s not.
9.4.9 – 2015 Rotary Dragon Boat Festival. Resolution. It’s scheduled for June 13th.
9.5.3 – Railway Blockages. Whereas the Grade Crossing Regulations outline the process for addressing the repeated obstruction of a grade crossing, And Whereas the Town of Parry Sound has documented numerous recent repeated crossing blockages in the Town of Parry Sound, Therefore be it resolved that the Town of Parry Sound considers these obstructions of the grade crossing to create a significant safety concern. Direction (For Direct Staff Follow-Up): That the Director of Emergency and Protective Services circulate this resolution to the Minister responsible as well as CN and CP to start the conflict resolution process including mediation if necessary. You go Staff. You need to stand up, or be prepared to be shot down.
10.5.1 – No Smoking By-law. It’s back again for approval. See the council package for the details.
You need to pick your fights. In my opinion the major fights the Town should pick relate to the railways and the ‘squatters’ on the waterfront – the oil companies and the provincial offices. Little steps can lead to big gains.
See you Tuesday night.
Mid-morning sun on James Street. (Parry Sound in Black & White)