Gravenhurst Council Highlights - Nov. 21, 2023

Gravenhurst-based Provincial Open Water Swimming Championships reports successful event

Al Shaw, representing the Provincial Open Water Swimming Championships, appeared before council.

Shaw thanked the town for its support of the championships, which took place July 15 and 16 at Gull Lake Rotary Park.

Specifically, he recognized staff for their help navigating the special event permit process.

He said the event this past summer marked the best year ever.

Shaw said they had close to 500 participants.  

Mayor Heidi Lorenz thanked Shaw for sharing the positive feedback.

Watch the presentation.

See Swim Ontario to learn more about the event.

Proposed battery energy storage system presentation

Representatives of Toronto-based SolarBank Corporation appeared before council.

The purpose was to provide an overview of the company’s proposal for a battery energy storage system in the municipality.

The roughly 10-acre site would be east of Clear Road and north of Coopers Falls Road.

Dr. Richard Lu, president and CEO of SolarBank, led the presentation.

The proposal, if approved by the Independent Electricity System Operator through an RFP process, would involve construction of a 120-megawatt/480-megawatt hour battery energy storage system using lithium battery technology. The system’s components would be fully containerized.

The system would be independently connected to the Ontario grid.

The system would be charged by the local grid overnight and would supply power to the grid at times of high demand.

Mayor Heidi Lorenz thanked the company for its presentation and noted council will review a staff report on the proposal and requested support resolution at the Nov. 29 Planning Council meeting.

Watch the presentation.

Learn more about SolarBank.

Hospice Muskoka presentation

Donna Kearney, executive director of Hospice Muskoka, made a presentation to council.

Kearney wants the town to support the hospice organization’s provincial request for additional base funding.

The organization would like base funding for 10 beds and two nurse practitioners.

Council members thanked Kearney for the presentation and commended hospice for the valuable service it provides.

Mayor Heidi Lorenz said council will consider hospice’s request for support at the December council meeting.

Watch the presentation.

Learn more about Hospice Muskoka.

Exotic animals educator granted bylaw exemption

Amanda Foley of Amanda’s Exotic Animals made a presentation to council members.

She gave an overview of the company, which provides education on various exotic creatures.

Foley is looking to bring exotic animal education programs to the municipality.

Later in the meeting, council approved an exemption to the Keeping of Native and Non-Native Animals Bylaw.

The exemption will allow Foley to bring her educational program to town.

Read the related staff report.

Watch the presentation.

Learn more about Amanda’s Exotic Animals.

Resident raises concerns about proposed religious centre

Robert Hancock, a local resident, spoke to council about a planned Hindu religious centre on Canning Road.

Hancock said he is concerned about how the centre will impact people living in the neighbourhood.

The centre is a project by Veda Shastra Cultural Sabha Inc.

Committee of Adjustment received a minor variance application from the proponent on Nov. 17, which was subsequently approved on the recommendation of staff. See the staff report.

Watch the deputation.

Chair Lehman reviews district’s new strategic plan

Jeff Lehman, chair of the District of Muskoka, met with council and reviewed the district’s new strategic plan.

The plan contains four priority areas: our communities, our services, our team, and our environment. Each area contains objectives and action items for the district to work on.

Review the strategic plan.

Watch the presentation

New bylaw officer appointed

Council passed a bylaw formally appointing Michael Briggs as a municipal law enforcement officer for the Town of Gravenhurst.

Briggs joined the town on Nov. 13.

See the related staff report.

Read the related bylaw.

CedarCoast Timber Homes granted sign bylaw exemption

Council approved a sign bylaw exemption for CedarCoast Timber Homes.

The exemption applies to a new sign the company plans to erect at its Highway 11 location.

Bert Bongers of CedarCoast Timber Homes discussed the request with council in October.

The proposed sign design includes parameters that require an exemption from the bylaw.

A related staff report notes the exemption is minor in nature.

Read the related report to learn more.

Learn more about CedarCoast Timber Homes.

Road salt report received for information

Council received the Winter Operations Salt Management Report for information.

“The purpose of the Winter Operations Salt Management Report is to provide… a brief overview of the town’s operational practices as it relates to the application of salt and winter abrasives as we enter winter maintenance season,” director of infrastructure services Andrew Stacey said in the report.

Read the staff report to learn more.

Watch the related discussion.

Roads deemed complete, now assumed by town

Council received for information a staff report stating the roadways within the Whispering Pines subdivision in Kilworthy have been deemed complete.

The subdivision is a 55-lot rural neighbourhood between Kilworthy Road and Picard Lane.

“The developer 1637737 Ontario Inc. has now satisfactorily met the requirements identified within the current Municipal Services Agreement, for reaching substantial completion,” said Andrew Stacey, director of infrastructure services, in the related report.

Later, council passed a bylaw to assume Xavier Road and North Xavier Road.

See the related bylaw.

Review the related staff report

Update: Short-Term Rental License Report

Council received the Short-Term Rental License Program Report for information.

“The purpose of the Short-Term Rental License Program Report is to provide an update…as the first year of the Short-Term Rental licensing program concludes,” said Kayla Thibeault, director of legislative services, and Melissa Halford, director of development services, in the joint report.

The town launched a licensing program for short-term rentals in January after receiving direction from council.

All short-term rentals must have a license to operate in the municipality.

Thibeault and Halford stated the first year of the licensing program has gone well.

“At the conclusion of the 2023 season, the Town of Gravenhurst has issued 133 STR licenses, which exceeded the estimated budgeted amount of 125. STR operators are required to submit license applications on a yearly basis, so this number is anticipated to grow for subsequent years,” they said.

The fee for a STR license is set at $750 with no changes included in the 2024 Fees and Service Charges Bylaw. At 133 licenses provided, the revenues of the STR program for 2023 is $99,750. The revenue collection has been included within the Legislative Services Operating budget.

Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT) dollars collected to date from Short Term Rental properties is $75,800. The municipal-portion of this revenue is kept in a special reserve fund and will be allocated to tourism-related projects around the municipality as part of the 2024 budget process.

The report notes that for 2024 the town will continue to streamline the administration of the licensing program.

Read the staff report to learn more.

Watch the discussion.

See our short-term rental accommodation information page.

New ice allocation policy

Council members received the Ice Allocation Policy Review and Update Report for information and approved the new policy for the 2024-2025 season.

The policy was created in collaboration with the Town of Bracebridge as there are several organizations that use both ice pads.

The process of ice allocation has evolved over time due to changing demographics and progressing opportunities for the community.

The updated policy is more detailed and comprehensive, ensuring a clear and decisive process to allocate ice time going forward.

Incorporated in the new policy are several new initiatives to improve the process for the users.

The following highlights the list of significant changes:

  • A conflict resolution strategy to assist in resolving any conflicts that arise during allocation.
  • The ability for regular season organizations to modify/return ice for the regular season prior to September 30, after which time ice cannot be cancelled during the regular season.
  • The ability for sanctioned organizations to cancel ice time during their playoff season only.

See the related staff report.

Watch the related discussion

Muskoka Watershed Council update

The town’s representative on the Muskoka Watershed Council, Councillor Peter Johnston, provided his monthly update.

Watch the update.

Council approves motion regarding floating homes

Council members approved a resolution from Councillor Erin Strength.

The resolution calls on Transport Canada to redesignate float homes from “vessels” to “float homes” to allow provincial and municipal governance of the use of these structures.

See the resolution.

Mayor Lorenz monthly update

Mayor Heidi Lorenz provided her monthly update to council.

She noted the Light up the Wharf event on Friday, Nov. 17 was well received in the community.

Mayor Lorenz thanked everyone who helped make the evening possible.

She also noted the Community Awards Ceremony at the Gravenhurst Opera House takes place Nov. 22.

She also reminded people that overnight parking regulations are now in effect.

Watch the update.  

Council Highlights

Council Highlights is prepared as an overview of the council meeting. For the official record, please refer to the agenda and minutes on the town website at www.gravenhurst.ca.