The Stockwell Report V1-E19

THE STOCKWELL REPORT

 

At the Council meeting of October 24th, 2016, Council heard a presentation on Wasaga Distribution Inc. and Wasaga Resources Services Inc. It was presented by Wasaga Distribution Inc Board members Rick Archdekin, Jim Fraser, Peter Preager, and Mark Rodger, of Borden, Ladner Gervais.

 

This presentation was addressed in The Stockwell Report of October 17, 2016, and was referred to as a report addressing “the future of Wasaga Distribution Inc…better known as Wasaga Beach Hydro.”

 

The Stockwell Report gave a brief history of the public facility. It also noted that during the last Municipal election campaign the rumour mill was that the municipality would probably be considering the sale of Wasaga Beach Hydro.

 

It went on the say that, “of those who were elected, (if my memory serves me) unanimously opposed a sale during the election campaign. In fact, I can`t recall any candidate, old or new, supporting a proposed sale at that time…However, I certainly stand to be corrected.”

 

 

Well, at the meeting of the 25th, interested ratepayers overflowed the Council chambers, the entrance foyer, and the lower floor halls of the Town Hall to show their outrage at the potential of such a sale.

 

In fact, following the presentation to Council, those in attendance were given the opportunity to address Council and clearly voiced their opposition to such a sale.

 

At this stage of the game I can`t believe that a recommended sale would be supported by Council. In my case, I opposed a sale prior to being elected, as per the attached copy of my election brochure, distributed to every home in Wasaga Beach in the Fall of 2014.

 

The rumour that a decision to sell has already been made couldn`t be further from the truth. The rumour is only used to infuriate the residents of the Municipality.

 

Council must follow a due process that clearly brings the pros and the cons of the issue to all the ratepayers of the Municipality, and allow each and every ratepayer the opportunity to clearly show where they stand on the subject.

 

This may take time and I would encourage everyone to give Council the time to do so.

 

Sometimes, democracy is slow moving.

The Stockwell Report V1-E18

THE STOCKWELL REPORT
Earlier this week two long-awaited reports were presented to the Wasaga Beach Council, meeting as The Committee of the Whole. The first was a draft report of the Corporate Efficiency Review, and the second was from the Integrity Commissioner.
The draft report of the Corporate Efficiency Review of the Municipality was presented by Oscar Poloni, a partner in the firm of KPMG, Chartered Accountants. KPMG is highly respected   in the field of municipal administration, and Mr. Poloni is well experienced in that field.
In Mr. Poloni`s covering letter that accompanies the report, he states, “As outlined in the RFP, the purpose of the review was to evaluate the organizational structure of the Town with the intention of identifying potential opportunities for the enhancement of operating efficiency and effectiveness. As outlined in further detail of the report, while the review has identified some courses of action that could be considered by the Town, the overall results of our analysis indicate that the Town currently operates with a highly degree of operating efficiency and effectiveness.”
Under the “Key Themes” section of the report it states, “Based on the results of our review, a number of themes have emerged concerning our conclusions as to the Town`s effectiveness and efficiency, which we summarize in this chapter.
The Town enjoys a strong financial position. Based on its most recent reported financial results, we consider the Town to be in a strong financial position, with meaningful surpluses that are funded through financial as opposed to non-financial assets. While the Town has taken on debt in connection with the acquisition of beachfront properties, we do not consider this to pose a significant challenge to its financial situation.”

This should ease the concerns of those citizens who constantly comment on social media of what they refer to as the present Council’s mishandling of the Town`s spending and that the future consists of huge tax increases.

 

During Mr. Polone`s presentation he commented that he clearly understood the reasoning behind the purchase of the beachfront properties and he too would have supported the position to do so at that time.
Mr. Poloni’s parting words were, “that in all my years of reviewing municipal operations, this Town’s operation is one of the best that I have seen.”
Council has now taken the report onto themselves and will no doubt be referring to it during the budget process.
The second presentation was from the Town`s Integrity Commissioner, Robert Swayze.
He submitted a letter stating that since his appointment in November of 2015, Wasaga Beach was one of his most active clients. He had 12 formal complaints in 2016 under the Code of Conduct, two of which are still in process and one which has been dismissed in confidence.
Two complaints were laid against the Deputy

Mayor that she generally does not show respect for Council in debating issues. One against the Mayor for silencing Council members in meetings, and three complaints against Yours Truly for “disrespectful comments” against the Deputy Mayor made in social media.
Two additional complaints were made against the Mayor for having meetings with prospective tenants contrary to the purchasing by-law while requests for proposals were out for bids and after proposals had been before Council.
After investigating the complaints the Commissioner agreed with the Town Solicitor that he had no jurisdiction in this area.
The last complaint to be dealt with in this report was a complaint against the Deputy Mayor which alleged that she failed to respond to a series of questions put to her by a constituent. It was the Commissioner`s opinion that it is the electorate who must judge whether a Councillor is diligent and not the Integrity Commissioner.
There are two complaints outstanding and are still in the process of being investigated.
Councillors had the opportunity to question the Commissioner on all matters, and, when it came to my turn, I  stated that I totally agreed with members of the public having access to such a process, and having their identity protected in doing so. However, I had problems with members of Council taking other members of Council to the Commissioner, and remaining anonymous while those Councillors that have been accused are publicly named, even though the accusations against them were dismissed.
I pointed out that we are all politicians and must go back to the electorate for support, should we decide to run for re-election. At that time today’s report could be used against us, and I felt it was an unfair process. I also pointed out that the notice of dismissal of both accusations against me was sent to me marked “PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL”, leaving me no opportunity to publicly defend myself.
I also stated that it has always been my belief that complaints that members may have against other members should be taken to Council rather than the Integrity Commissioner. This is because Council is a forum for debate, and all members have the right to join into such a debate.
The Commissioner replied that he too thought it best for Councillors to bring such matters to Council, however, under the Municipal Act he must keep the names of all parties accusing members of Council private.
I then asked that if I went public, giving all details of any unfounded accusation against me, would he sanction me?
His answer was that he would not invoke sanctions against me for releasing details of failed complaints.
Councillor Belanger pointed out that Councillors who choose to file complaints under the Integrity Commissioner process were using taxpayers dollars to pay for that process.
So, when the dust was settled we are left with no change in the process.  However, Councillors who have had other Councillors take them to the Integrity Commissioner, but failed to make their case, are now faced with both their accusations, and the defence of those accused, becoming released for all to see.
That just might do away with a number of Councillor vs. Councillor accusations being made in the future.

 

 

The Stockwell Report V1-E17

THE STOCKWELL REPORT

This past week the Wasaga Beach Council, in  dealing with the Development Services Section of Coordinated Committee, received a report from Planner Nathan Wukasch entitled : Official Plan Update Report # 5 of 11, Coordinated Review of

Provincial Policy Documents, Proposed Changes to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Planning for Health, Prosperity, and Growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

As this report will have a profound impact on the future land use development of our community, it deserves to be read in its entirety, as follows:

STAFF REPORT

TO: Development Services Section of Coordinated Committee

FROM: Nathan Wukasch, Planner

SUBJECT: Official Plan Update Report #5 of 11

Coordinated Review of Provincial Policy Documents

Proposed Changes to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe

Planning for Health, Prosperity, and Growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe

DATE: October 13, 2016

RECOMMENDATION:

“THAT Development Services Section of Coordinated Committee recommends to Council that it

receive the report on the Coordinated Review of Provincial Policy Documents: Proposed Growth Plan

Amendment and authorize staff to provide comments to the Province based on this report.”

BACKGROUND:

In July 2016, Staff reported to Development Services Section on the need to overhaul the Town’s

Official Plan to create a growth management strategy along with a number of other policy updates.

This report is the fifth of eleven reports on Official Plan Update matters. This OP update work has

commenced, and will be a priority for staff in January 2017 upon the completion of the Downtown

Master Plan.

The Province of Ontario struck an Advisory Panel to provide recommendations in a coordinated

review of four Provincial Plans: the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2006), the

Greenbelt Plan (2005), the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (2002), and the Niagara

Escarpment Plan (1985). Staff reported to the Development Services Section in March 2016 on the

Comprehensive Coordinated Review report, which contained 87 recommendations on six strategic

directions.

The Province has now issued proposed amendments to all four Provincial Plans, and is seeking

comments by October 31, 2016. The four Plans are generally focussed on growth in the Greater

Toronto Area and the broader Greater Golden Horseshoe. Although within the ‘Outer Ring’ of the

GTA, the County of Simcoe (and Barrie and Orillia) is included in the Growth Plan due to significant

growth pressure from people seeking the natural environment and recreational opportunities, retirees,

second home/vacation property owners, and families seeking improved quality of life from more urban

environments.

For the Town of Wasaga Beach, the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe is the relevant

plan which has a significant impact on long-range land use planning, promoting intensification and

efficient use of services in the pursuit of creating complete communities. This report focuses on the

proposed changes to the Growth Plan. The other three Plans have minimal effect on land use in the

County of Simcoe as a whole, and no impact on the Town itself as the Town is not geographically

located within their Plan Areas.

DISCUSSION:

Planning Staff attended a technical briefing by the Province in June and attended a County Planner’s

meeting in August 2016 at which the Province gave a high level overview of the proposed changes to

all of the Plans (See Appendix A). The proposed Amendment to the Growth Plan makes significant

updates to the Provincial policy context to which upper tier and local municipalities must conform.

Changes are made under 6 themes: Building Complete Communities; Supporting Agriculture;

Protecting Natural Heritage and Water; Integrating Infrastructure; Addressing Climate Change; and

Improving Plan Implementation.

Building Complete Communities

Municipal Comprehensive Reviews:

Upper tier and local municipalities must develop an integrated approach to planning and managing

growth to 2041 which will be implemented through a municipal comprehensive review. A municipal

comprehensive review is a new Official Plan, or an Official Plan Amendment that comprehensively

applies the Growth Plan policies. The Town will formally commence an update to the Official Plan in

January 2017, which will contain a growth management strategy. If approved, the Town’s Official Plan

update will include all of the policies referred to in this report.

Intensification and Density Targets:

The Province is proposing to require municipalities, through their next municipal comprehensive

review, to increase minimum intensification targets and greenfield density targets. Minimum

intensification targets are proposed to be increased from 40% to 60% of annual residential

development to occur within the built boundary area of a municipality. Minimum density targets for

designated greenfield areas (outside the built boundary) are proposed to increase from 50 to 80

people and jobs per hectare and would be planned to be achieved by 2041.

These intensification and greenfield density targets are intended to apply to the urban municipalities

of the GTA. The Growth Plan identifies a hierarchy of urban areas with respective expectations for

form and density of development. The County of Simcoe and Wasaga Beach is within the ‘outer ring’

of the GTA, and has had lower alternative targets approved for growth. The Growth Plan identifies

Barrie as an ‘Urban Growth Centre’. Collingwood, Midland/Penetanguishene, Bradford, Alliston,

Alcona, Orillia and Barrie are all identified as ‘Primary Settlement Areas’. With these designations the

Growth Plan requires 40% intensification and urban densities of 50 people and jobs per hectare in

greenfield areas.

It should be noted that Simcoe County has been permitted lower intensification targets and

designated greenfield targets than the rest of the Greater Golden Horseshoe through Growth plan

Amendment No. 1 in 2012. For Wasaga Beach, the Growth Plan currently requires 20%

intensification and 32 people and jobs per hectare in greenfield areas. These lower targets have now

been approved by the Ontario Municipal Board in the County’s Official Plan in 2016. The following

table describes the current and proposed densities in Wasaga Beach.

Intensification Target

(% residential development within

Built Boundary)

Designated Greenfield Area Density

Target (Combined People and Jobs per

hectare)

Growth Plan

(2006)

40% 50

Approved Alternative

Targets for WB

(GP Amendment No. 1

and County of Simcoe

Official Plan)

20% 32

Proposed Growth Plan

Amendment (2016)

60% 80

The Simcoe County Homebuilders Association have recently written to the area municipalities to

lobby against the proposed increases to the intensification and designated greenfield density targets.

They provide a chart entitled “What does 80 People and Jobs per Hectare Look Like?” which is

helpful to visualize the type of built form and density required to meet the proposed targets (Appendix

B). With the creation of a mixed-use downtown for Wasaga Beach, the intention is to increase

densities and create a sense of place to encourage investment. A goal of the Town’s Growth

Management Strategy will be to swing the balance from lower density single detached dwellings

towards higher density townhouses and mid-rise apartment dwellings in more compact urban form.

This could help the Town become a more complete community, meet a higher intensification target,

increase affordability, and make the existing land supply last longer. When complete, the Downtown

Master Plan will quantify a realistic goal for intensification and higher density development specific to

the Town centre.

Staff are of the opinion that it is not realistic to achieve the proposed intensification target (60% of

residential growth within the built boundary) and designated greenfield density target (80 people and

jobs per hectare in greenfield areas) at this time. Staff recommend continuing to meet the Province

and County’s approved minimum intensification and designated greenfield density targets, while

assessing whether it is feasible to achieve higher targets through the Downtown Master Plan and the

Official Plan Update and Growth Management Strategy.

Excess Lands:

Most of the Simcoe Sub-Area policies of the Growth Plan remain the same, other than the Excess

Lands Framework. Municipalities in the Outer Ring within the Growth Plan are required to identify and

prohibit development on any excess land that is beyond the 2041 horizon. The Simcoe Sub-Area is

exempt from this requirement and may designate lands in excess of the 2031 targets, provide that

certain criteria are met. However, this exemption is proposed to be cease on January 19, 2022,

meaning the Town would have to comply and complete the land budgeting exercise needed to

identify excess lands and prohibit development on them. The purpose is to encourage municipalities

to plan for and accommodate forecasted growth within the horizon of the Growth Plan.

Transit:

The proposed Amendment includes specific minimum transit-supportive density targets for major

transit station areas, depending on the type of transit to be supported. Municipalities would be

required to integrate Active Transportation networks into transportation planning to provide

continuous linkages between strategic growth areas and other key destinations. When designing,

refurbishing or reconstructing the existing or planned street network, municipalities would be required

to adopt a complete streets approach that ensures the needs and safety of all road users are

considered and accommodated. Staff support these policy initiatives as they create a healthy public

realm with a supportive network of active transportation infrastructure.

Community Hubs:

Direction is provided to create community hubs by co-locating public service facilities. The Town is

pursuing this direction for future services through the creation of a Downtown Master Plan, and have

historically co-located services at the Wasaga Beach RecPlex and SportsPark.

Employment Areas:

Section 2.2.5.6 states that employment areas within settlement areas will be designated and planned

to: a) direct any permitted commercial uses to locations that support active transportation and are

serviced by transit, where that service is available; b) prohibit residential land uses and limit other

sensitive lands uses to preserve the long-term integrity of the employment areas for uses that require

these locations; and c) integrate employment area with adjacent non-employment areas and develop

vibrant mixed-use areas and innovation hubs where appropriate. The Growth Plan relies on the

definition of employment lands in the Provincial Policy Statement (2014) which means areas

designated for clusters of business and economic activities including, but not limited to

manufacturing, warehousing, offices and associated retail and ancillary facilities.

 

The Town has already exceeded the 2031 Growth Plan employment target primarily due to

population and tourism-based employment. Employment within the Town has historically consisted of

85% population and tourism-based jobs with the remaining 15% being traditional ‘employment lands’

jobs. Hemson Consulting forecasts this trend to continue to 2031. The Downtown Master Plan will

continue to support population and tourism-based employment opportunities in a vibrant, mixed-use

Town centre. Staff are of the opinion that there is a policy gap in the Province’s approach to

employment in tourism-based economies such as Wasaga Beach. There would be no recognition of

the importance of tourism and population-based employment in mixed-use areas that provide a key

employment function in such as the main beachfront tourist area of Wasaga Beach. Staff expect that

the population and tourism-based job growth will continue and in providing comments on the

proposed Growth Plan Amendment, will seek clarity in the Province’s employment lands policy

program for tourism-based economies.

Integrating Infrastructure

The Growth Plan Amendment provides new direction that planning for infrastructure would need to

occur in an integrated manner, supported by Infrastructure Master Plans and Asset Management

Plans to ensure infrastructure is financially viable over its full life cycle. There is a new policy that

recognizes infrastructure investment as an implementation tool that will be used to facilitate higher density

development in strategic growth areas, such as the main beachfront, the downtown, and other

growth nodes within the Town of Wasaga Beach.

Other Key Policies

Staff support other policies that protect natural heritage and water resources, and address climate

change through encouraging low-impact development techniques and green infrastructure.

Improving Plan Implementation

Planning authorities are encouraged to coordinate planning matters with First Nations and Metis

communities. The Province proposes to support the establishment of a comprehensive monitoring

and reporting program for Growth Plan policies.

The proposed Growth Plan requires conformity by 2021, which would supersede the current

requirement to conform to Growth Plan Amendment No. 2 by 2018.

CONCLUSION:

The proposed Growth Plan Amendment contains comprehensive policy changes that further the

Province’s goals for building complete communities, supporting agriculture, protecting natural

heritage and water, integrating infrastructure, and addressing climate change. They seek comments

on the proposed changes by October 31, 2016.

At this time, the Town’s main concerns relate to the increased intensification and greenfield density

targets, and seek clarity on the employment lands policies. Staff recommend that Council authorize

staff to provide comments to the Province on the proposed Growth Plan Amendment in keeping with

this report.

Respectfully submitted,

Nathan Wukasch, RPP, MCIP

Planner
This is another dictate from the Province to municipalities that will tie local planners hands when it comes to local development.

The Stockwell Report V1-E16

THE STOCKWELL REPORT

As historians look back on the present term of the Wasaga Beach Council, the year 2015 will be remembered as the year that the commercial properties along Beach One were purchased by the municipality. The purchase then kicked off a major rehabilitation of not only the heart of the longest freshwater beach in the world, but also the revitalization of the tourist industry that relies on that heart to pump the life blood of the community.

Generally, the purchase was well received by the ratepayers of the municipality in spite of a vocal minority of critics.

Like life itself, only time will tell if Council`s actions were good or bad.

As we are coming to the end of 2016, another major decision has been placed at Council`s doorstep: the future of Wasaga Distribution Inc.,  better known as “Wasaga Beach Hydro”.

The elected council, among numerous other responsibilities, represents the Town Ratepayers who are the shareholders of Wasaga Geosands Inc., the holding company of Wasaga Distribution (“WDI”), and Wasaga Resource Services Inc., the owner/operators of the local hydro commission .

The day-to-day operation of the facility is directed by a small group of ratepayers, recommended by the Mayor, and appointed by Council, that make up the Board of Directors of WDI.

The sale of the facility was in the rumour mill during the last election, in the Fall of 2014. The results of that election saw only two members of the previous council returned to office, and of those who were elected, if my memory serves me correctly, unanimously opposed a sale during the election campaign.

In fact, I can`t recall any candidate, old or new, supporting a proposed sale at that time. However, I certainly stand to be corrected.

At any rate, in January 2016 the present Council was approached by the WDI Board of Directors, ”requesting direction to embark upon a process that would result in recommendations to Town Council concerning a range of outcomes that will help best leverage, or harvest, the benefits of the Municipal asset”. Upon approval to proceed with the proposed process, the legal firm of Borden Lander Gervais was contracted to assist the local WDI in preparing that process.

A July 2016 report to Council stated “Of late, the Ontario Provincial Government is encouraging Local Distribution Companies (“LDCs”) to consolidate. A number of Provincial studies point to over $1B in distribution consolidation savings.”

Minister of Energy`s comments leave little room for interpretation.

Currently in Ontario 63 LDCs serve only 30% of all customers. WDI is one of these utilities.

OEB have made regulatory changes designed to help facilitate consolidation. These changes acknowledge that both shareholder and customers must benefit from consolidation.

Temporary tax relief also provides an incentive to consolidate.

Three options have been placed before Council: Retain and Grow, Merger, or Sale.

Given the choice, I believe that a Merger or Sale would be non-starters with the average ratepayer, based on the belief that the local Board is well managed and any merger or sale would result in higher costs to that ratepayer.

What the average ratepayer doesn`t realize is that the local Wasaga Beach LDC controls less than 17 percent of the monthly hydro bill. The balance of the account is split between the cost of creating electricity (generation), the delivery of electricity (transmission), regulatory costs, and debt retirement.

In other words, only $17 of a $100 hydro bill is controlled locally.

So, like it or not, when deciding the future of the Wasaga Beach LDC, Council is faced with a decision to Retain and Grow, Merger, or Sale.

This was the subject of a report from the Town’s CAO, George Vadeboncoeur at the Committee of the Whole meeting that took place earlier this week.

After a lengthy discussion on the subject, the following resolution was passed: “That Committee of the Whole recommend to Council that it begin a public consultation process on the future of Wasaga Distribution Inc. and Wasaga Resources Services Inc. based on the analysis and recommendations prepared by the Board of Directors of the two corporations commencing with a presentation of the Report to Council at the October 25th Council meeting.”

Locally this process of consolidation is evident, for example:

Aurora – Merged with PowerStream

Barrie – Merged with PowerStream

Georgian Bay – Purchased by Hydro One

Gravenhurst – Purchased by Veridian

Orillia – Sale to Hydro One in negotiation

Parry Sound – Merged with Lakeland

Tay – Merged with Newmarket

Midland – Pursuing sale option

Collingwood – Pursuing sale option

The Board of Directors of WDI have done its homework as to the future of the Hydro Commission. It has presented Council with a well thought out study that outlines three choices of operations for the future of the local Commission.

Council has decided that the next step in considering the future of hydro operations within the municipality must involve the Wasaga Beach Ratepayers who truly are the owners of the facility.

Council is not unanimous in this decision.

However, a majority of the Committee of the Whole of Council have voted to make available to the Wasaga Ratepayers all the background information on the subject matter, hold Public Meetings throughout the municipality to listen to the voices of the residents, and organize a process that will allow the Ratepayers the opportunity to show Council their preferences before a final decision is made.

The ratepayers of Wasaga Beach, who really own Wasaga Hydro, will be heard.