A sidewalk for Cedar Lane and a complete reconstruction of Old Victoria Road have jumped to the front of the line when it comes to infrastructure repairs in Bracebridge.
On Tuesday, the Town’s general committee debated upcoming public works projects and decided to bump the two projects – which were not scheduled to take place for several more years, up to 2018.
Coun. Rick Maloney said an active transportation trail for Cedar Lane has been in the works for years, but has continually been kicked down the priority list as the town waits on the long delayed construction of a proposed gas station on Cedar Lane. Maloney said the $80,000 trail will connect pedestrians to Macaulay School and the system of trails around Wilson’s Falls.
Mayor Graydon Smith spoke in favour of moving the complete reconstruction of Old Victoria Road in Vankoughnet from 2021 to 2018. The mayor argued it was better to invest the $178,000 to completely redo the road than to keep patching it up every year only to have it washed away by flooding.
Committee voted in favor of pushing both projects forward but Coun. Mark Quemby voted against, saying he didn’t approved of the process.
“We hire engineers and consultants and then we as councillors say this road is worse than that road,” said Quemby. “We’re shooting ourselves in the foot. Leave them alone and let the professionals do what they do best.”
The projects must still meet final approval during 2018 budget deliberations.
Aces plans significant expansion
Aces Waste Management is planning a large expansion of their operations on Rosewarne Dr, Bracebridge general committee heard on Tuesday.
Councillors were considering Aces site plan, which involves a three phase process.
Phase 1 is the construction of a new 36,000 square foot building. Phase 2 is the demolition of an existing sorting facility, and the construction of a 40,000 square foot addition to the new building constructed in Phase 1; and Phase 3 is the renovation of the existing office building and shop.
Although the facility doesn’t have direct access onto Highway 11, it does have frontage on the Highway and Coun. Don Smith said the standard vegetative buffer wasn’t going to be enough to block the view of the waste facility from the highway.
Six feet is the standard height for the tree buffer, but Smith said with the building up on a hill, six feet simply wouldn’t do the trick.
Staff pointed out that six feet was the minimum for planting and the trees would eventually grow taller. Smith agreed to take it up with staff before the site plans goes for final approval before all of council next Wednesday.
Hospital, Clock Tower stops to be cut
The Town of Bracebridge is set to axe several transit stops.
On Tuesday, the Town’s general committee looked over a one year review of their public transit services.
Findings of note brought forward by staff included the fact that total ridership from August 2016 to August 2017 was 11,792 passengers.
Twenty per cent of riders are age 55-64, 18% of riders are age 25-34, and 14% of riders are age 75 and older. The average number of boardings per day was 42; and 45 % of riders use the bus 2-4 times in a month.
Staff also suggested the elimination of several stops, including the Clock Tower in the middle of town and South Muskoka Memorial Hospital.
Walt Schmid, the Town’s director of Public Works, said the route was already running too slow, and those two stops in particular were eating up a lot of time because of traffic issues.
Coun. Don Smith said those stops were crucial and staff needed to rethink ditching them, despite the extra time required.
General committee approved the new route, but it still needs to pass at the council meeting next Wednesday.
Vacant rebates could be scraped
The Town of Bracebridge’s general committee is backing plans to scrap rebates for the owners of vacant buildings.
Under the current system, owners of vacant buildings can apply for a 30 per cent reduction on their property taxes.However, due to changes at the provincial level enacted last year, municipalities have been given much more flexibility to make their own rules, and now the District of Muskoka says they want to scrap the vacancy rebates entirely. Communities like Parry Sound and Kawartha Lakes have already moved towards cancelling their vacancy rebates.
Tuesday morning Bracebridge general committee said they’re behind the plan as well.
Mayor Graydon Smith said it’s an issue he’s contacted about on a regular basis. Many see it as a way for building owners to sidestep paying their fair share of the Town’s taxes and shift the burden onto residential taxpayers, he said.
Smith said it’s important to make sure building owners make use of the other Town programs that are in place to help them – such as the Community Improvement Plan.
If approved by the District, the changes are set to take effect Jan. 1, 2018.
Santa’s Village Road plans revealed
A controversial road reconstruction for Santa’s Village Road in Bracebridge was brought before the Town’s general committee on Tuesday.
Representatives from the engineering firm of RJ Burnside presented several potential plans to the councillors.
According to the District of Muskoka, the road is in need of a major fix due to problems with drainage, surface and base conditions, erosion and active transportation. However, there has been significant concern from neighbours in the area that reconstruction could harm the environment, limit access to the river and potentially increase vehicle speeds on an already dangerous section of roadway.
Burnside brought forward seven potential plans – which included a range of options – from a separate active transportation trail alongside the road, to the installation of curbs and gutters, to more guardrails.
In the end, the preferred option was one which narrows the two lanes of traffic, but adds paved shoulders.
It was felt that this option provided a safe space for motorists to pull over but also a shoulder for bicycles, although it was pointed out that bicycles are not technically allowed to used paved shoulders for biking.
It was felt that by retaining the existing sharp curves in the road, narrowing the lanes and potentially adding rumble strips, concerns over excess speed could also potentially be alleviated.
The plans will be taken to Bracebridge’s public works department for further review, and another public meeting is planned for Thursday, Oct. 12 at the District offices in Bracebridge at 6 p.m.
Parking spots under the microscope
Several parking spots in Bracebridge are now on the chopping block following Tuesday’s general committee meeting.
The discussion began after the owners of the Drumkerry at the Falls condominiums asked council to remove parking spaces from either side of their entrance. In a letter to council they said the area is dangerous due to a lack of visibility and is even worse in the winter.
Coun. Don Smith said he went to the area to check it out and fully agreed with their concerns. He said that intersection was just one of several with similar problems related to blind spots.
Public works staff were tasked with looking into the specifics of removing the spots, and Smith also asked them to take a closer look at other parking spots in town for similar problems.