Meeting held June 21, 2022
The council meeting of June 21 proceeded in an orderly fashion with the addition of Norm Roberge as the appointed councillor for Ward 7 (Verner). For the first time in months, items were addressed with decorum and discussions advanced.
Request for encroachment at Minnehaha
Council approved a request by a property owner to build a retaining wall on municipal land. Town clerk Mélanie Ducharme explained that the lot overlooks Minnehaha Bay and has a steep slope. The owner would like to make use of the property by building a retaining wall and accessing the land. Coun. Rolly Larabie noted, “A situation like this, it helps the municipality by solidifying the slope – I have no problem – it helps the municipality.” Coun. Norm Roberge added, “If you look at the aerial view, it matches an existing road that was up the hill that was owned by the municipality… following the existing natural contour of the road.” He noted the retaining wall would stabilize the hill so “there won’t be erosion, flooding our road with dirt…preventing any soil flowing down if there is rain, from flowing into the river – it’s a very good improvement to that area.” Coun. Chris Fisher asked if the project would match the current esthetics, to which Clerk Ducharme responded the retaining portion would be made of wire baskets containing rocks, as in other areas of Minnehaha Bay.
Mayor Joanne Savage brought up the idea of establishing a dog park, or more than one, within municipal boundaries, “whether we want dog parks in every community or start off with one or two.” She noted the issue keeps coming back to council and the town needs to look at costing and possible existing facilities and come back with a concrete recommendation. Several locations were brought up, such as unused ball fields, as well as rules and regulations and whether closing in with snow fencing was feasible.
Coun Roveda said he had consulted with local dog handlers/sitters, who voiced some reservations. The suggestion was that a local volunteer group should spearhead the initiative and that the onus be on dog owners to clean up after their dogs. “An advisory committee [of] dog lovers could work in conjunction with [Stephan] Poulin [Community Services] and then make suggestions rather than immediately jump to Alain Court… A volunteer group provides input, then move forward.”
The mayor said the objective was not to have a dog park immediately, but to look at what is involved, the cost, location and what works with the neighbours of a dog park. Coun. Fisher said he could see the need for a dog park in a more urban setting, but in West Nipissing “no-one is that far from a trail.” He added that dogs have different levels of socialization and “When you set up a dog park there is monitoring… we get into dog policing. Also, people not wanting a dog park across from their residence. I do have concerns.”
Coun. Larabie said he would support a study. Coun. Roberge agreed that the matter should be volunteer driven. “When you have volunteers working on a project – if their heart is there, they will put in the time and effort. The dog owners themselves will have very good suggestions and could coordinate with the director of community services to bring their ideas together and present a plan to council, whether this council or the next one… Consider the budget and what is involved and have a plan that is suitable – people that will want to use this park should participate in putting their ideas forward so that it reflects the needs of the people who are using it.” The matter will go to study.
Bylaw to regulate beaches
People are abusing local public beaches, creating disturbances, causing residents to write letters to council, so that the town is drafting a bylaw regulating public beaches in WN. Stephane Poulin, Director of Community Services, noted that the disturbances at night are particularly egregious to neighbours, and the draft policy would close beach facilities from 11pm to 7am. “There are campfires and BBQs and fireworks, excessive noise, garbage, overnight parking, people camping at beaches, use of alcohol, and animals that are off leash. We’re trying to address resident concerns we’ve heard of over the years. Other issues include boating, boats tying off of swimming float platforms, then boats intertwined with people trying to swim.”
Coun. Yvon Duhaime said he accepted the bylaw as presented, noting, “It’s important we get this done!” Coun. Roveda said a few things could be added, such as the requirement that children be monitored by responsible adults, that no tents be allowed, or motorized vehicles or vessels be beached or moored within swimming areas, and all beaches be signed that they are unsupervised and to be used at own risk. He said, “I think this is a great bylaw and I think we should enforce it …At least we’ll have a no-trespassing sign, and police will be able to support it.” It was clarified that once a bylaw is established and no trespassing signs posted, the OPP would be able to enforce it. Council was in unison regarding the need for this bylaw.
Request for No-Cut exemption
A request was put to council for homes on Lalonde and Concord to be exempt from the “no-cut” policy so that gas lines could be installed for those properties. The “no-cut” policy refers to no-cutting into a new road for 5 years once established. Coun. Dan Roveda noted that for these properties, the work required “couldn’t be done until spring or summer 2021 – 2022… One of the roads isn’t paved [and] they will not have a major cut in the road… If we’re going to promote housing, we have to have some flexibility – I recommend we do move forward with this.” Coun. Fisher noted that one of the roads is gravel and there is no under-road cutting, and that the municipality should be holding the gas company responsible for any repairs.
Alisa Craddock was asked to clarify the situation, to which she responded that the gas company indicated they would have to “cut a few inches into the municipal road” – an indeterminate measurement that doesn’t work for road maintenance, and “each section is a meter and a half by a meter.” Coun. Roberge noted that the town wants to encourage people to reside in the municipality, and that “the impact on the side of the road will be minimal and, as Coun. Fisher just mentioned, natural gas is responsible for any damages to the road …I support that we approve the application.”
Coun. Denis Sénécal was not satisfied, indicating the information provided was incomplete, “hearsay, here and there… I hope Public Works can put something together, give us more facts; we have no distances, don’t know what’s going on, let’s get the information to us so we can have informed decisions.” Coun. Rolly Larabie also didn’t agree, saying, “We do have a policy of 5 years. If it would be a couple of inches on the side… But Corporate Services told us a meter and a half and that is in the wheel well where traffic is passing… If it affects the traffic, where the wheels are hitting, I can’t support it.”
A vote was taken and the exemption did pass. However, it was suggested that the No-Cut Policy come back to council for review and recommendations.