The Working Committee Mandate and Recommendations
At their December 16, 2014 meeting, the Township of Muskoka Lakes Committee of the Whole heard delegations concerning the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls. The Committee felt that it wasn’t clear what each delegation was asking from the Committee, so they asked each to later send their request by e-mail.
The proponent apparently requested (this letter was not made public) that a committee be formed, though this does not follow from their presentation. The committee that Council decided to create is called the Bala Falls Hydro Project Working Committee and this undated document issued before the Working Committee’s first meeting on February 26, 2015 describes this committee.
- The mandate is to: “Identify and recommend ways to mitigate concerns raised by Council and the community.”
- The first recommendation of the Working Committee came before the March 12, 2015 Committee of the Whole meeting and was to advise the District Municipality of Muskoka that the Township supports widening the shoulder of Muskoka Road 169 at Portage Landing (a report and the Working Committee meeting minutes are here).
The problem is that the proponent:
- Has not explained what traffic impacts there would be if there was no road widening (the only example they gave was a two-week single-lane restriction later in the proposed project).
- Has a long history of providing incorrect information.
- Plans on asking for much more from the Township (such as cutting down all the trees on Portage Landing and making a driveway entrance there, requiring an opening in the guardrail).
We feel the proponent should be required to document what they want and what they would do. So on March 12, 2015 we provided this presentation to the Township of Muskoka Lakes Committee of the Whole, asking that before they recommend the District allow the shoulder widening, the Township require the proponent to explain all of what they plan on asking from the Township; the use of which lands for what periods of time, what fence would be required to protect pedestrians, what would happen to the sidewalk, the guardrail design required as the current proposal is not safe, and so on. We also find it dishonourable conduct that the proponent is not telling the public how high and how wide their proposed building would be. They appear to be trying to get as much as possible before upsetting everyone further when they need to confirm that this thing would be too big and too ugly.
Remarkably, Council refused to require the proponent to provide any of these details, and passed the proponent’s requested resolution without knowing much about what the proponent would actually do or why they need it.
The Working Committee Itself
We also have many concerns about the functioning of the Working Committee itself. For example, two of the voting members on the Working Committee are the proponent themselves. Where have you ever heard of a government committee where the developer gets to vote for their own project. On March 13, 2015 we therefore provided this presentation to the Township of Muskoka Lakes Council. We felt it was most appropriate to equate this to a Kangaroo Court (“A tribunal before which a fair trial is impossible”), as Mayor Don Furniss established the Working Committee knowing that the input of the sole local Ward Councillor would be ignored and out-voted every time.
We are most disappointed that the Working Committee cannot fulfill its mandate (“Identify and recommend ways to mitigate concerns raised by Council and the community”) as public input is not allowed to the Working Committee and the public input to Council is so restricted. The proponent voting further makes no sense as they have no input to provide about “concerns raised by Council and the community”.
The Mayor didn’t like what he was hearing so much that he did not allow the presentation to be completed.