MNBP Reporter’s Notebook: Reserved Parking on Little Cove Road; Conflict of Interest; Boat Tours

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By John Francis, Bruce Peninsula Press

The Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula had three Council Meetings in December: regular Meetings on the 13th and the 20th plus a Special Meeting on the subject of parking held on the morning of the 13th.

The parking meeting began with a delegation by Scott Hellyer of Scott’s Home Hardware in Lion’s Head. His presentation and Council’s response are detailed on page 3.

A discussion of paid parking in Tobermory followed. 

Parking on Big Tub Road has been a hot-button issue for quite a few years. Paid parking was introduced there in 2021 along with a dramatically reduced number of spaces.

Some are demanding further reductions in parking. Councillor Smokey Golden spoke against this idea. “We can’t keep cutting people back at Big Tub and elsewere; all we end up doing is having people driving around looking for a spot.” She was amenable to moving a few spaces to avoid blocking laneways but she stressed the importance of not making further cuts to available parking space.” 

“We’ve already cut access in half; I’m not going to support further cutting back until we get another option.” She dismissed the idea of shuttle buses as a solution: “We don’t have a shuttle. We don’t even have a parking lot we could run one from”.

Deputy Mayor Debbie Myles pursued the idea of shuttle buses, noting that public shuttle buses have never been tried. Couldn’t they run out of the Legion Street parking lot?

Councillor Golden pointed out that Big Tub light is a small area with a limited capacity. There’s no place for people to spread out. The reduction in parking spaces helped to relieve overcrowding. A shuttle bus would simply bring more people to an area already at capacity.

No decision was reached.

Council quickly agreed to implement a ParkPass (parking reservation) system on Little Cove Road near Tobermory. The system at McCurdy parking lot in Lion’s Head has worked very well and the situation at Little Cove is similar.

The Conflict of Interest finding against Councillor James Mielhausen was addressed at the regular Council Meeting on Dec 13. Integrity Commissioner Harold Elston attended (on Zoom). 

Councillor Mielhausen was found to have had a conflict when he supported a proposal by Blue Heron Company to build a new parking lot on Hay Bay Road in Tobermory. The conflict arose from his adult daughter’s employment at Blue Heron, where she is one of approximately a hundred employees. 

Councillor Golden spoke in favour of accepting the Integrity Commissioner’s report, taking direction from it and moving on. “I think we’ve given this enough oxygen.” She praised the letter from the integrity commissioner. It’s hard to find good people to run for council, she continued. We need people who are invested in our community. In a tight-knit community, the subtleties of what does and does not constitute a conflict of interest can be very complicated.

Mayor Milt McIver followed Councillor Golden’s thread. “This is a learning curve for us all; James should have declared on this and didn’t. He has learned.”

Integrity Commissioner Elston pointed out that the conflict arose from a mistaken understanding. A reprimand can take many forms. “Today’s discussion might qualify as one of them.”

A motion to accept the Integrity Commissioner’s Report and take direction from it was passed.

Deputy Mayor Myles requested a recorded vote and voted against the motion. “I look at this differently,” she said. “I’m here for the public. There need to be consequences.”

The Dec 20 Council Meeting had a 432 page Agenda but lasted less than an hour.

One item on the Agenda was a Zoning Bylaw Amendment Report from the municipality’s Chief Building Official. It states that “The current Zoning By-law 2002-54, as amended doesn’t clearly define the Commercial Tour Boat Operation and the appropriate zone designation.”

The Report recommends passing a housekeeping amendment to add a new definition for “Commercial Tour Boat Operation” for the purposes of making it a permitted use in C1 Zones. The Bylaw Amendment would also set out the parking requirements for Tour Boat Operations.

The Report explains the protocol for advertising and public meetings for such housekeeping amendments. The process could be complete in time to pass the Amendment on February 28.

The Agenda for Council’s Jan 10, 2022 Meeting includes a letter from the Siskinds Law Firm on behalf of “Big Tub Harbour Citizens Committee”. The letter states that “a commercial tour boat operation use is not permitted in the C1 Commercial Zone 1 zone as set out in the Municipality’s Comprehensive Zoning By-law” and is therefore prohibited.

The letter recommends a long list of studies and conditions that should be undertaken to determine whether such use should be permitted in the C1 Zone in Northern Bruce Peninsula.