Highlands East tax rate increases 2.23 per cent

By Darren Lum

The following are briefs from Highlands East special meeting of council on March 2 via YouTube, featuring the finance 2021 budget. The budget estimates bylaw will be approved at the March 9 regular meeting of council. 

Presented by CAO and treasurer Shannon Hunter, the tax rate increase for homeowners in Highlands East is 2.23 per cent for this coming year. This increase includes assessment growth, which could mean new homes, additions etc. 

“When assessment growth converted to dollars would be approximately $41,314 [in additional funds to the municipality],” Hunter said.

Along with councillors Suzanne Patridge and Cam Mackenzie, Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall thanked Hunter for her work on the budget and recognized the tax rate increase.

“The fact we only came up with a two-per cent [increase] has got to put us in an awesome position and it doesn’t sound like we’ve compromised anything so thank you again,” Ryall said. 

Wilberforce tennis court rehabilitation

One item for discussion by council that needs to be addressed, Hunter said, are the tennis courts in Gooderham. There is an allocation of funds in the budget to remove the outside rink, which was in place year-round, to return the space back to a tennis court so there is one tennis court and one pickleball court. She points out a group has requested the rink’s boards be removed from the tennis court and have them placed beside the fire hall. She adds it was believed volunteers for the rink didn’t step in because of the challenge of accessing a water source to flood the rink. At this point, there are not any volunteers in place to help with the rink at this point and there hasn’t been any consultancy with the fire department. 

Following Mayor Dave Burton’s question about where the rink will be moved to, Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall said it’s more important to just remove the boards and store them somewhere temporarily for now so the tennis court surface can be rehabilitated.

“I think the whole idea of the rink, although it’s an important issue, I think it’s going to take more time to deliberate on and I think for the time being park that and save the boards if they’re savable and then move with a plan to resurface the second court over there. That’s what I’m suggesting,” Hunter said. 

Herlihey Park is moving forward

“We pretty much have most of the money in the budget to finish Herlihey Park. Unfortunately, for a lot of reasons a lot of our time has been done with planning for Herlihey Park in getting the design and our drawings. We’re hopeful this year with the money we have available for Herlihey Park that if we’re unable to arrange the work internally we have the funds to put this out for tender to have the park completed. As a minimum, the parking lots and walking trails will be completed in 2021,” Hunter said. 

Police budget for this coming year has gone down by $51,819.

While council accounted for a total police expenditure of more than $1.25 million in 2020, costs came in well under budget, totalling $1,143,793. This coming year the police expenses budget is reduced to $1,209,642, which Hunter said is determined by the province.

Planning department looking to add new position

Hunter said the hiring of a junior planner will improve efficiency at the department because this person can help answer questions and coordinate with town planner Chris Jones, and process applications, which is currently being divided among three planning staff members. She adds this new person can help with reviewing and dealing with pre-applications for planning, which has had the building department “swamped.” It should reduce workloads for staff and costs for planning because there will be less work required of Jones, who is the third-party planner.

Ryall said a new planner will help with how there are more and more people moving here to live from the GTA, which puts greater demands on municipal services, he said.

“We’re going to end up with a lot more people applying for a lot more stuff to be done up here and still we’re not going to have a difference in the window we have. We only have a fixed period of time which we process this stuff and I think some of it is legislated so we don’t have a whole lot of choice there either. I think this planner is going to speed up the process as well as consolidate some of the work. I firmly believe it’s something we need to do,” he said. 

Hunter points out Highlands East is the only municipality in the county that doesn’t have a on site staff planner.

Township opens communication about Centre Lake application

The Highland East Council is taking the lead when it comes to alerting the public and stakeholders in the area about an application by two landowners to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to have the disposition of 200 ft of Centre Lake shoreline for the purpose of facilitating resource-based recreation development.

Highlands East planner Chris Jones recommended council take this action because it will “create an opportunity for people and stakeholders to provide comments directly to the municipality,” he said. 

“This follows some of the suggestions from the ministry, but I think the salient point here beyond sort of notification and social media … in this period we’re in is there are no public meetings or public open houses as we traditionally are familiar with so if council wants to pick a date and schedule a special meeting of council for the sole purpose of allowing for public input with respect to that disposition … I think council can use to inform themselves. As to who out there might have an interest, concern, comment with respect to this process,” Jones said.

The disposition of crown land is guided by the area-specific policies within the Crown Land Use Policy Atlas (CLUPA). Two primary approvals are required: an amendment to the CLUPA and consideration of Crown land disposition by the MNRF under the Environmental Assessment process (Class EA for Resource Stewardship and Facility Development Projects).

The recommendation council is undertaking as a minimum is to send notice by direct mail to landowners within two kilometres of Centre Lake, shoreline associations in the municipality of the former township of Cardiff, including Bicroft, to indigenous groups or associations with cultural interests in the area; notice by direct mail or email to local trail organizations and recreational organizations such as Paudash Trail Blazers Snowmobile Club, Crowe Valley Conservation Authority  and the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust; schedule a virtual public open house as a special meeting of council so the public can comment on the proposed disposition; post signage on the site at the boat launch and appropriate locations in the Village of Cardiff and have notifications published in local print media and on the municipal website. 

Jones said this is just the first step in the sequence related to the disposition application.