Meeting held May 16, 2023
Petition for Municipal Office in Verner
Council received a petition from residents in Wards 6, 7 and 8 that the former municipal offices in Verner be re-opened. The petition was brought by Coun. Fern Pellerin, and will be discussed at the next meeting in June.
Repairs to Abitibi Road
A petition was delivered to Coun. Dan Gagné requesting repairs to Abitibi and Montreal roads. Coun. Gagné said, “It’s more than just about potholes.” Manager of Public Works Shawn Remillard responded that both roads are already on the capital works projects for this year that will “address the concerns of the constituent. The drainage works will be done by our crews.”
No expansion of service to Quesnel
Following a request for expansion of water services to Quesnel Road in Sturgeon Falls, Shawn Remillard submitted an interim cost analysis, minus costs of geo-technical survey and any rock removal. The cost was a whopping $853K, which would have to be borne by the residents, adjusted to their lot frontage. There are a potential 34 lots. Of the 27 addresses petitioned, only 8 responded in favour. The cost would be closer to $1M and Mayor Kathleen Thorne Rochon pointed out, “That improvement still gets charged to 100% of houses.” Coun. Roch St-Louis wanted to know if a non-response by householders was equivalent to a “No”. No-one could ascertain definitively if there was an appetite among homeowners to take on the costs.
Coun. Jamie Restoule noted, “I won’t speak for them, but I think it seems like a very high cost … almost $25 grand per household. That’s not the full suite, that’s just the water itself, and I don’t know if you’d have 34 happy taxpayers if that bill came in if we went ahead with this.” Coun. Kris Rivard agreed, saying the idea was brought forward by one resident. The suggestion was to let the 34 landowners know what their costs would be, and let the matter live or die depending on their response. Coun. Gagné pointed out, “The petition doesn’t have enough support. So technically, unless we come back and they have over 50% of the people that are actually signing an agreement with the petition, I think that’s where it should be at this moment.”
Public Beach Bylaw
Community Services Director Stephan Poulin submitted a draft bylaw that would restrict how public beaches are used. The bylaw was drafted in response to noise and disturbance complaints by neighbours. The bylaw would restrict public access “between the hours of 11:00 PM and 7:00 AM … anyone caught at our beach area would be considered trespassing,” said Poulin, noting that discussions had already taken place with the OPP and bylaw enforcement.
Council members questioned other areas of the bylaw. Mayor Thorne Rochon asked about pets, “Are the animals not permitted in the water anywhere at a public beach?” Poulin said, “We’ve had complaints where there’s a number of children swimming and we’ve got dogs running through and it’s creating concerns and issues, so [a pet] must be on a leash.” Both the mayor and Coun. Rivard wanted to know if a dog on a leash was allowed to “dip their toes” or “drink water”. Poulin responded they don’t want dogs mixing in the swimming areas. Rivard seemed to find this excessively restrictive and asked about Clear Lake beach, to “have a designated spot where people could let their dogs drink from the lake.” Poulin said it was up to Council.
Coun. Gagné brought up the matter of BBQs, that coal BBQs are very common in the south and many sites provide fixed BBQs and cooking areas, while this proposed bylaw does not allow beach cooking. Poulin noted this would be easier to allow at Clear Lake, but the beach on the Sturgeon River was more problematic. He also cited safety and fire considerations. Councillors Rivard and Pellerin both found the BBQ rules too restrictive, noting that a beach experience can be enhanced by a family BBQ, and Pellerin making the point that not everyone has access to a lakefront property and they should have the ability to enjoy public access. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a problem there with BBQs. …It’s nice to go near the water and they can’t afford it and they don’t know anybody else [with a cottage].” Poulin said the bylaw could be adjusted, but “We also want to make sure that people are not leaving food because it does bring in animals and … we’re mindful of not creating more issues such as forest fires or litter.” Pellerin insisted that he has never seen a problem in Verner. Mayor Thorne Rochon suggested consulting with the fire chief regarding fire bans and any other concerns.
Coun. Restoule suggested moving forward with the bylaw and adjusting it in response to public concerns, reassessing as needed. “I don’t want to be the party pooper, but I think there’s more opportunity for challenges that arise from this… I don’t always want to think the worst, I think there are great family opportunities there as well. Start somewhere and see where it goes and if we see, you know, a groundswell of residents saying we want this … maybe use it as a pilot site on one of the beaches and go from there.” There are three municipal beaches in West Nipissing.
Pellerin asked Poulin point blank about the beach in Verner, “Did you ever have a problem?” Poulin responded, “We have overnight noise, parking issues, garbage issues, we do have problems at all three of our beaches; ATVs, motorized vehicles, loudspeaker noise… complaints from nearby residents.” Regardless of those complaints, the general response was that the bylaw may be too restrictive. Rivard said, “The thing with the BBQ is, I believe nobody should have a BBQ on the beach itself, but … I really like the idea that Coun. Gagné brought up… Maybe in the future we could set those [BBQs] up near a picnic table and it would add value … give a spot for families to go enjoy the day.” The policy was accepted with the understanding that adjustments can be made in the future.
Community services update
Community Services Manager Stephan Poulin provided an update just prior to the May long weekend. “Municipal boat launches will all be available for public use, with the exception of the museum boat launch; the water levels are extremely high. We ask that boaters launching their boats take appropriate caution. There are a lot of debris and logs out there… The museum, the ground is again too soft to allow trucks and boats to back up… All of our other boat launches in various communities are going to be available to the public. …The floating docks will not be installed anywhere where we have floating docks; Lavigne, Cache Bay, Minnehaha Bay… because of high water levels and we’re going to delay that beyond the long weekend. As for the marina… it will be staffed… Slips for the season will not be available… Current debris, high water levels, is making it impossible for us to do it safely. Our gas pump at the marina will not be available … Our RV dumping stations are all open and available for use. Our splash pads will be open by June 1st. Our baseball and soccer fields are ready. Our garbage receptacles and benches in all of our usual locations are in place. Porta potties at all of our parks and playgrounds and sports fields will be installed and in place… The two remaining playgrounds to be completed are Lavigne and Janen Street… projects will be completed by June 9th. We will be shutting down our complex pool and gym. We normally do our 2-week shutdown end of August. We are doing it from May 29th to June 11… because we have …the installation of the new heat exchangers. So, we are trying to avoid having the facility shut down twice… Our shutdown consists of a thorough cleaning our pool… mechanical repairs and maintenance in both the gym and the pool and our showering facilities… Our Community Services staff are …creating programs such as line dancing, and we’re working as community partners with the WNGH Run For Health held at the museum in June. We’re involved in PRIDE activities … We’ve got ongoing swimming lessons. We’re also working with community groups and volunteers on community enhancement and beautification and we’re also planning for Canada Day activities.”
CCL wants bins removed
Council received a letter from Centre communautaire de Lavigne (CCL) to have the recycling bins situated in the parking lot of the multi-purpose park removed to make more parking available. Other concerns were wild animals entering the area, abuse of the bins with regular and toxic waste rather than just recyclables, and problems with snow removal. The bins were installed at the request of former council without any formal studies concerning need, according to Alisa Craddock, Manager of Corporate Services. “It’s unfortunate that in some of our areas, like Crystal Falls, they don’t have any other option, but any unmanned station certainly becomes problematic.” Council agreed. The recycling bins will be returned to the town for swapping out with older bins in other locations.
“We get at least one query a week with regard to ‘Can I put a sea can / shipping container on my property?’ Currently they’re not permitted in any of the commercial zones,” said Clerk Ducharme. Proposed changes to the zoning bylaw would stipulate that in urban areas, a sea can is not allowed as an accessory structure unless it is covered in siding and enclosed (hidden), with all the usual building setbacks applied. They are allowed in a shoreline residential zone if the lot is 1 acre or larger, and it can’t be in the front yard (by the water). With an open building permit, you can have one on your lot during the construction for storage of equipment and tools, for a limited time. The zoning bylaw modifications were approved.
Council Vacancy amendments
Council agreed that vacancies that may come up be filled by appointment, with a couple of additional consideration. Coun. Anne Tessier asked that any party interested in filling a vacant council seat still be required to get at least 25 signatures from the specified ward, a standard which currently applies to those candidates entering the municipal election process. That proposal was approved. The mayor also asked that it be clarified that if the mayoral seat is vacated for any reason, that a councillor who wishes to apply for that position not be required to give up their council seat until they are approved. If they are not approved, they would retain their council seat. A motion to defer until the amendments could be added into the policy was accepted.
Field Outdoor Rink requires additional funds
Tenders for the Field outdoor rink project were opened and the approved submission, by Capital Construction, came in at $1,138,459 plus HST, approximately $450K more than budgeted. Alisa Craddock suggested going forward anyway, using funds from the Community Services reserve. There was a suggestion from Stephan Poulin to apply for further funding, but this could delay the construction, and costs would continue to increase. Coun. Restoule noted that if they didn’t proceed, they would have to return half a million in affirmed funding to the government, losing a structure for which the municipality would end up paying 50-cents on the dollar. Coun. Kaitlynn Nicol, who represents the Field area, noted, “I know it’s a lot of money, but on the flip side, it’s exciting to see we’re at this point after the many years of dedicated volunteers … They fundraised and fundraised and advocated for a long time for this. And I think that the upgrades will extend the life and that’s going to offer a year-round use to the facility for all of our wards.” After some deliberation it was agreed that delaying the project was not going to save any money.
Coun. Rivard said, “Something else on the positive side is Field… They never got a splash pad or all these other things that other communities may have got … I haven’t seen …much, I guess investment in terms of capital for Community Services …in Field. So this would be a great thing that they could use year round; their outdoor tournament, their carnival… It’ll enhance their summer programs, maybe markets, things like that. So, I do see a lot of positives out of this project and with that funding… the $0.50 on the dollar to get a facility like this for just over half a million of taxpayer money seems like a pretty good deal.” Council agreed. The motion was carried and Field will get their rink cover.