Town looking for comments on burning bylaw

The Town of Collingwood is looking for public comment on its newly proposed open-air burning bylaw. Those wishing to speak to the proposed bylaw are asked to contact the clerk’s department. The town is currently mulling over the bylaw to replace the bylaw passed last year, which was considered restrictive and was passed without public comment. The previous bylaw didn’t allow the use of outdoor fireplaces, campfires and allowed very little outdoor burning. "I don’t wish to delay it," said Collingwood Mayor Chris Carrier. "I’m hoping we can deal with it a little more quietly. But not as quietly as we dealt with it last year." Under the proposed bylaw, residents must get a fire permit for $25, and all fires must meet fire department specifications. Residents will be allowed: • A fire for an outdoor fireplace with a spark arrestor – 15 feet away from any building, structure, property line, tree, hedge, fence, roadway, overhead wires or combustible article. • Cooking fire between sunrise and midnight that measures .3 metres in each direction and must be no less than 25 metres from any building, structure, property line, hedge, fence, roadway or overhead wires. • Special event permit, regulations will be set and agreed by the fire department. Collingwood Fire Chief Trent Elyea said the department prefers to have people use chimineas and commercial fire places, rather than just an open-air fire. "As long as it meets the requirements that we set out," Elyea said. He said people are having fires without a permit and said this bylaw will allow them to control it. "People are doing it anyway, this will allow us to regulate it," he said. If you are caught without a permit, you could be required to pay the cost of the fire department if they are called to your home. For more information visit www.collingwood.ca


Wind farm committee members appointed

More than four months after it was approved, Council has finally appointed members to its alternative energy ad hoc committee. “I have to say we are certainly a little behind the eight ball on this one,” Mayor Brian Jackson said Wednesday after council appointed six members to the committee. The committee will be made up of  Jackson, Coun. Rod Boynton, citizen members Gary Taylor and Rick Earhart, and industry members Tim Cane and Chris Olthuis. The committee will recommend local standards for alternative energy sites, such as wind farms. But the group won’t have long to study the issue before it makes its first submission. It plans to meet in about two weeks to come up with a proposal to make to the province’s standing committee April 27 for the new Green Act. Originally, the committee was to recommend standards for an Innisfil zoning bylaw. But since then the provincial government has introduced the Green Act, which is expected to take much of the local planning powers away from municipalities when it comes to alternative energy sites. There are two wind farm applications before council. Schneider Power wants the town to rezone 200 acres near Conc. 5 and Highway 400 to allow five turbines. Skypower, another alternative energy company, has applied to erect two wind-testing towers south of Fennels Corners near Highway 11. Several neighbours to the proposed wind farms, including the Cookstown Aerodome, are opposing the wind farms. Last November, Boynton suggested council strike its own committee to recommend made-in-Innisfil standards for wind farms. On Wednesday, Boynton called on the ad hoc committee to look at international standards since “there are no provincial nor national standards.” For instance, France now wants wind turbines to be set back 1.2 kilometres from the nearest home, while the current setback in Innisfil would be 300 metres.


Second racer sentenced in trucker’s death

A speeder who pleaded guilty to his part in the death of Innisfil truck driver David Virgoe will be in jail for just under two years. Twenty-one months behind bars was the sentence Justice Michelle Fuerst gave to Prabhjit Multani, now 21in Barrie court Thursday. It also includes a 10-year driving ban. “It’s a start,” said Virgoe’s widow Debbie, who now lives in Angus. “I’m satisfied that this will make people think about what’s going on on the roadways. I’m glad he’s not getting out, and I’m glad she gave him a 10-year driving ban.” Virgoe died in a Highway 400 crash June 18, 2007 after his truck was clipped by a Grand Am racing up the highway. In total, three cars were speeding up from Toronto on their way to Wasaga Beach. Multani was born in India, and moved to Canada in 2000. He was 19 at the time and had just bought his Ford Mustang a few months before the crash for $9,000. The judge noted it was properly insured, unlike his friend Naumann Nusrat’s Grand Am. Nusrat was given two years of house arrest last year after pleading guilty to the speed racing charge – criminal negligence causing death. Late last year, the Ontario Court of Appeal decided that the charge should include approximately 30 months in jail, but didn’t force Nusrat back behind bars. Before giving her sentence, Fuerst went through the details of the crime. A Grand Am, Mustang and Honda were seen speeding up Highway 400 by several witnesses, who were also cut off by the cars as they darted through traffic. “Multani’s passengers told him several times to slow down,” said Fuest. Shortly before the crash, the three cars pulled over to the shoulder, as the drivers had a conversation. The Mustang was the first to pass Virgoe’s truck that morning, and Nusrat was next in his Grand Am, which hit the shoulder while passing and started to fishtail, eventually clipping Virgoe’s truck, she continued. “Multani didn’t intend to cause Virgoe’s death, but was egregiously driving for several kilometres on the highway, causing deliberate endangerment of those on the road,” the judge said. Even though his car wasn’t the one that hit Virgoe’s truck, Multani is equally to blame for the situation, she said. When making her sentence, Fuerst had several circumstances to consider. He was initially jailed for 12 days, then released on reasonable bail conditions, which included no driving, she said. He was allowed to attend Humber College as a business student. But on April 28, 2008, he was re-arrested. Multani had gone with his mom when she drove his sister to school. After she went inside, he hopped into the driver’s seat and drove the van up a street. He made a U-turn in front of an unmarked police car and parked on the other side of the street. He has been in jail since for getting behind the wheel. Fuerst said he doesn’t get double credit for those 291 days behind bars. She did give him two-for-one time for the 12 days of his original imprisonment, and for 67 days when he was in lockdown at the Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene. Taking that 13 months and subtracting it from the 30-month minimum left her with a sentence of 17 months in jail for the main crime. However, the facts that he drove while prohibited and didn’t check in with his probation officer as ordered earned him another four months in jail. Following that, Multani has a two-year probation, 10-year driving ban and can’t associate with the other two men charged in the crime while on probation. Brian J. Patterson, president of the Ontario Safety League, was pleased with the sentence. “From a public safety perspective, it sends a message to the public. It didn’t leave any confusion (about the matter of speed racing),” he said. “The other thing she got right was she wasn’t prepared to look at the breach of conditions as a minor offence, she added the time on. She pointed out that he got reasonable conditions of bail, and he broke the law.” The third man charged in the death of David Virgoe is Ravi Badhwar. He is waiting for a June trial date.


G&M lifts visiting restrictions

Collingwood General and Marine Hospital has lifted its visiting restrictions, which were implemented the last week of March due to the outbreak of a contagious virus on the first floor of the Hume Street facility. For a period, some patients at the hospital – 10 at one point – were suffering symptoms of gastroenteritis, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. “The G&M Hospital recognizes that the recent visiting limits posed problems for the families and friends of some patients and thanks the community for its understanding and cooperation during this difficult time,” said Linda MacLeod, the hospital’s vice-president of patient services and chief nursing officer. The hospital lifted visiting restrictions Wednesday. Patient visiting hours are now 1 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., except in the intensive care unit, where the hospital said in a news release visiting hours will be determined based on the patient’s condition. While visiting restrictions have been lifted, the hospital is asking that people not visit if they are ill and those who have been ill should wait at least 48 hours after the last symptoms disappear before visiting.


Volunteer award results announced

The 2009 winners of the Order The Blue Mountains awards for 2009 have been announced and the winners will be honoured at a special reception next weekend. Steve Hoffman, a former resident of The Blue Mountains and community enthusiast, was nominated for a volunteer award posthumously by his wife. His contributions to the town were recognized and applauded by the judges. He will be awarded a lifetime achievement award, one not given out by the town before. Bill Abbotts and Rob Potter both achieved the Order of The Blue Mountains for their volunteer efforts in the arts and culture community. Abbotts was nominated for his efforts behind the scenes at countless community events such as Georgian Sound performances and Marsh Street Centre activities. Potter was nominated for his contributions to the Craigleith Depot, the Marsh Street Centre and other community campaigns. Joan Gaudet will be honoured with the order in the category of community service. Gaudet is a volunteer with Beaver Valley Outreach and a friendly neighbour. Sharon Dinsmore, active member of the Beaver Valley Outreach, earned an order award in sports and recreation for her commitment to the BVAA, organizing big events and countless hours she put in to local sports in the past. Ayla Tymczuk earned the first ever order in the youth category. She works with local youth organizations and was nominated for her actions over the past year to make The Blue Mountains more youth friendly and aware. The reception to present the orders will be Sunday, May 3 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Beaver Valley Community Centre in Thornbury. For more information on the event or to RSVP, contact Lisa Kidd at 599-3131 ext. 282.


Wilson sees red over Green Energy Act

Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson had some harsh words for the provincial government and its proposed Green Energy Act. The new piece of legislation, which could be approved in three weeks, is designed to focus on the creation and use of green energy sources and renewable fuels. One of the plans is to focus on community energy sources such as wind farms, which the government says will save money. According to the Green Energy Act Alliance, the legislation will provide lower cost energy to Ontarians. "Evidence submitted to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) hearings show that a green energy powered electricity system with a greater emphasis on conservation and efficiency would be at least 11 per cent less expensive, and potentially as high as 32 per cent less expensive, than the Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA) proposed Integrated Power System Plan (IPSP)," maintains the Alliance. Wilson disagrees. The former energy minister, who introduced competition into the marketplace, said wind farms and solar energy would end up costing more than nuclear power and clean coal technology. He said the government should be re-investing in the province’s energy plants. "If this was such a great thing, I’d have done it 10 years ago," Wilson said. "The Liberal government has managed to take the same action we did – making it easier for private sector risk takers to invest in Ontario — and use that to completely undermine a competitive market for energy in Ontario. It’s a price fix act." According to greenenergyact.ca, the legislation will see 100 mega watts of renewable, distributed electricity generation within the next 5 years, $100 million of investment in renewable energy, creation of jobs and more energy dollars – about 75 per cent – staying at home. Wilson suspects that many of the jobs will be short-term construction jobs and not long-term employment. "Some communications guy in the backroom pulled that number out of a hat," Wilson said of a proposed 50,000 jobs being created through the legislation. "You’re going to pay a huge amount of money for a small amount of eventual bang." Under the legislation, municipalities will have little decision-making power when it comes to provincially funded green energy projects. At Monday’s council meeting, Counc. Norman Sandberg suggested that the municipalities should have no say if the province is going to give them a little amount of say. Wilson said Premier Dalton McGuinty is trying to prevent NIMBYism, but in many cases, he is taking away the rights of residents to have a say into what is happening in their community. "If I were Premier McGuinty, I would be worried by Bill 150, the Green Energy Act," Wilson said. "As an Ontario consumer and taxpayer, I am frightened by it." Wilson said the municipal politicians would feel the brunt of the government’s decisions. One of the renewable fuels included in the plan is ethanol. Despite the act, Collingwood Mayor Chris Carrier said it likely won’t impact the town’s public nuisance charge application against Collingwood Ethanol. "It’s clearly been stated by the MOE that this facility is creating an adverse effect to the community," he said. "It will have zero effect."


Wasaga Beach can tap into more spending, study finds

A recent municipal study found that almost half of the money Wasaga Beach residents spend on goods and services goes outside the community. A Commercial Needs Study completed recently by John Winter and Associates found Wasaga Beach residents spend about $130 million within the municipality each year and spend another $110 million in other urban centres. The consultant calls it leakage – money that is leaking outside of the local economy. According to the report, Wasaga Beach has 45 per cent leakage. That leakage, however, has declined from 58 per cent in 1999, when John Winter and Associates did a similar study. Last year, the Toronto-based consultant was commissioned to update the Commercial Needs Study.   The municipality set out to learn how much more commercial development local shoppers could support, what type of commercial development is lacking in Wasaga Beach, what types of businesses are missing and what types of businesses will be needed in the future. John Winter and Associates updated the municipality’s commercial inventory, examined where non-resident shoppers are coming from and conducted 315 telephone interviews with Wasaga Beach residents in October. Winter recommends Wasaga Beach expand its commercial sector in order to recapture the money being spent outside the community, primarily in Barrie and Collingwood. He said adding 212,250 square feet of commercial space would mean the addition of 650 jobs, 55 per cent of which should be full-time. Commercial space has grown from 366,779 square feet in 1999 to 772,124 square feet in 2008. Winter says two-thirds of the growth was due to the construction of three box stores: Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire and The Real Canadian Superstore. The commercial vacancy rate is 3.9 per cent, down from 6.5 per cent in 1999. "The increase in commercial space means that Wasaga Beach commerce is now retaining 55 per cent of its residents’ expenditures, compared to 42 per cent in 1999," said Winter. He said considerable leakage remains to be recaptured, particularly in automotive sales and service, furniture and furnishings, home improvements, apparel and restaurants. "The spending potential of its residents is the greatest sustainable resource that any municipality has. Due to the anticipated population growth, the continuing considerable amounts of leakage, the low vacancy, the proven track record, etc… there is opportunity for more commercial space, more professional offices, more assessment and more jobs," reported Winter. "There is still the opportunity to provide more commercial space. At least another 20 acres can be expected by 2016, particularly in smaller store and service modules." Leakage could grow to a possible $164 million in 2016 if no additions are made to the town’s commercial inventory, said Winter. "Leakage recapture should propel significant commercial building even in a recessionary environment," states the report. The calculations are based on Wasaga Beach currently having a permanent population of 16,770 and a full-time equivalent population of 21,130 – Winter used an adjusted 2006 Statistics Canada figure placing the population at 15,234, then added a portion of seasonal residents and subtracted a portion of residents who go south for the winter. Winter notes Wasaga Beach has an unusually high population of seniors and seniors are not the prime consumers – young families are.


Developers give RVH land for Innisfil satellite

It’s official and they’ve signed on the dotted line. Royal Victoria Hospital now holds title to 50 acres of prime Innisfil agricultural land to some day be used for a satellite health facility. Developers Mario Cortellucci and David Braley of the Cortel Group were joined by Innisfil politicians, County warden Tony Guergis, Barrie Mayor Dave Aspden, RVH president and CEO Janice Skot and assorted other dignitaries at a ceremony Friday morning on Innisfil’s 6th Line, just west of Yonge Street. The land is part of a105-acre parcel the Cortel Group is giving away for the proposed health care centre, health sciences facility and a centre for excellence to study water purification. “It may be a chilly day, but the announcement warms our hearts. This gift of land demonstrates not just outstanding philanthropy, but also a tremendous vision, not just for Innisfil, but the region,” said Skot. “Securing land for additional health care services in the southern area of Simcoe County has been part of the hospital’s strategic plan for many years. In planning for health care, we must plan more than five years into the future.” RVH has already embarked on a massive Phase1 expansion that will double the existing hospital’s size by 2011. However, as the region’s population grows, the larger hospital is expected to be operating at full capacity by the time the project is complete. “By 2011, we will have exhausted all the land at the Georgian site,” Skot said. Braley said the Cortel group hopes the hospital satellite will be built on the site within the next eight to 12 years. “The gift of land is the best investment we can make. Our dream is that Innisfil residents will be able to access health care close to home, when they need it,” Braley said. According to Town CAO Larry Allison, the proposal is doable. “The site is on a potential servicing corridor,” said Allison. “It sits between the lakeshore facilities and the Hwy. 400 employment corridor. As we advance the final approvals for the employment lands, the land becomes viable from a servicing perspective. It’s congruent with the Town’s number one priority of creating employment lands along Hwy. 400.” Innisfil Mayor Brian Jackson said he was aware the hospital has been seeking additional property for several years. “We met with Janice Skot last year,” he said. “She met with the Cortel Group and there’s been ongoing discussions. Obviously, we’re very excited Innisfil would be considered for a hospital site. It’s long range planning but councils have always looked at building a sustainable community.” “The donation of land is an amazing gift,” said RVH chairperson Steve Blanchet, “which will allow the hospital to pursue its strategic plan, that identifies the need for a secondary site south of Barrie.” For Simcoe County Warden Tony Guergis, “the County of Simcoe is all about partnerships. This is exciting for all of us. We are fortunate to have developers who can see the future.”


Search warrants turn up stolen boats

Police arrested two men in connection with seven stolen boats found in Alliston and Adjala-Tosorontio in March. Police executed search warrants at properties in Alliston and Adjala-Tosorontio March 19, and found seven boats and three trailers, all of which are suspected stolen. Information from that search led to another property in Oro-Medonte, where April 1 police found another seven boats, a car hauler, a flatbed trailer and three outboard motors, all of which police suspect are stolen. The investigation was conducted by members of the Nottawasaga Street Crime Unit, the Provincial Auto Theft Team and the Central Region Rural Agriculture Crime Team.  Two men are facing charges of possession of stolen property over $5,000. Charged are a 30-year-old Mark Sweeney of Innisfil and a 53-year-old Raymond Arsic of Oro. They have court dates in May and June respectively to answer the charges.