The following is a collection of quotes and photos reported in the Huntsville Doppler and Huntsville Forester during my past 4 years on Town Council.
“I am all for more tourism,” said Coun. Bob Stone. “But, no pun intend, I’ve had more noise about this than anything since I’ve been on council.”
He said he thought the event would do more harm than good.
“I can’t support it,” he said.
Coun. Bob Stone argued that green projects might be costing taxpayers more today but will likely show long-term benefits.
“I think it may be true in the short term, but in the long term it’s better for us. There will be a tipping point, and if we can be ahead of the game with green energy we can benefit from those higher dollars being paid out right now. I think it’s a great project,” said Stone.
Councillor Bob Stone says a destination marketing fee for Huntsville is a ‘win, win, win’
In my opinion it’s an opportunity that should not be missed. It costs them (hotels) nothing. That money would then be used to increase tourism, and hopefully, in the off season. By doing this it frees up money the Town is now spending on things like Ironman, which cost over $90,000 this year, for things like roads. It’s a win, win, win. The taxpayers win. The hotels win. And the Town wins. It makes so much sense to me.
COUNCILLOR BOB STONE
Bob Stone, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, explained why the idea didn’t get far in response to a councillor question.
“Let me first explain what a destination marketing fee is. It is simply a two per cent fee that is added on for staying at a hotel. So a $150 bill would be an extra $3 fee that would be used for tourism purposes,” explained Stone. “The problem lies, and this was the discussion at economic development, the town cannot impose this fee so it must be voluntarily entered into by the hotels. The committee thought it would be difficult to get the hotels on board so it chose not to put any effort to that effect.”
“Clearly the parking in that area is a mess and by delineating the parking and changing part of where people are parking now back into grass areas everybody wins. We get more park and more parking and the traffic flow is clearly defined,” said Stone.
I would like to clear up some misinformation spread in the press recently. The proposed changes to the River Mill Park would see an INCREASE in the amount of grassed area and an increase in parking spaces and better traffic flow. When the park was created the land owners of the property between the dock and the park would not sell to the Town. It has since been purchased by the Town and we want to turn this into MORE parkland. While reclaiming this for parkland we have an opportunity to create badly needed parking spots along the roadside of the park. This will encroach about 2 meters into the park. Both of these actions will have a net increase in grassed area.
“I heard loud and clear of the passion for this jewel in our downtown. I’m content to not put parking spots here only if we can find additional spots elsewhere downtown. By losing these parking spots it’s dangerous to our downtown and our businesses,” said Stone.
“I’m a monarchist, and I love this idea. I can’t wait to see it,” said Stone.
(Forrester newspaper cover photo)
Councillor Bob Stone took his turn at the dunk tank on June 25 at the Carnival and Live Music Fundraiser for The Table Men’s Shelter.
Coun. Bob Stone speaks to residents about their ideas for improving the parking situation in Huntsville’s downtown.
“We all know it’s a problem. The consensus has, in my opinion, come to the point that if we can direct the employees of the businesses away from the two major parking lots that will probably free up enough spaces that the tourists won’t have difficulty finding a spot and that’s the objective,” said Stone.
Coun. Bob Stone has been fielding ideas and discussing parking around the downtown for some time now. He said there is a serious need for increased enforcement around River Mill Park. Stone specifically highlighted workers at the nearby businesses, who he believes will illegally park, get ticketed and then just pay the fine.
“I think part of the problem is tickets are only $15,” said Stone. “If people get a ticket once a week, they are paying $15 for parking right next to a business they are working in (and it) seems to be OK with them.”
But coun. Bob Stone said those in the economic development committee objected to the $3,000 cost to offer the streaming service.
“They suggested this is way too expensive and we could do it ourselves for a lot less money and a lot less effort. They also spoke about the use of Facebook Live, which would allow for comments and questions from the public about what they were watching. And what’s proposed here won’t allow that,” said Stone.
“We want to preserve the viewing of the stars,” says Councillor Bob Stone. “It’s one of the major reasons why tourists visit Huntsville. (The bylaw) is also about being a good neighbour – we all know people who have lights that are too bright. Our objective is to address these issues.”
Stone acknowledges that 10 years is a long time.
(The compliance period) was discussed at council and some wanted a shorter amount of time, but this gives everyone lots of time. Rather than enforcing the bylaw on existing fixtures immediately, we want to educate people and encourage them to change them on their own for all the right reasons.
COUNCILLOR BOB STONE
Councillor Bob Stone said the bylaw is about protecting the environment.
“When we minimize light pollution, we are protecting the natural environment and maintaining a view of the night stars that most tourists rarely see,” said Councillor Stone.
“We are not asking anyone to get rid of their outdoor lighting; we’re simply asking them to make sure the light is directed where it is intended and nowhere else,” Stone said. “In the vast majority of cases, your lighting can achieve the purpose for which it was intended and still be dark sky-friendly and in compliance with the bylaw.”
Councillor Bob Stone wasn’t mincing words at Monday’s council meeting. He said he’d heard from dozens of constituents and read hundreds of comments on social media from people in the community unhappy with the location of the art installation, Pipe Man.
Councillor Bob Stone asked that the location of the Pipe Man art installation be reconsidered, at Monday’s council meeting.
“Sometimes council must make controversial decisions for important reasons, this isn’t one of them,” he said. “The people have made it loud and clear that they are not happy with the location of this gift.” Stone moved a motion forward asking that staff work with the creators of the Pipe Man statue and “find a more suitable location.”
Councillor Bob Stone put the motion on the table after reporting on some of the negative responses he has received.
“One lady told me she was sad and disappointed with council that we have destroyed the real art, which is the river itself. Some times council must make controversial decisions for important reasons – this isn’t one of them,” said Stone.
“The people have made it loud and clear. They are not happy with the location of this gift.”
Councillor Bob Stone:
Here I sit just a little over half way in my first term as Town Councillor and I am only now feeling that I fully understand my role and how to be effective. It is an unenviable and unappreciated job with little rewards. Yet I do enjoy the challenge and the opportunity to make positive change for the town I love.
Best – One of the best things that Town Council achieved this year was the passing of a Dark Sky By-Law which allows the residents, visitors and all future generations to enjoy the stars and northern lights which have been slowly eroded away. Another highlight this year would be the construction of the bandshell in River Mill Park.
Worst – The worst of Town Council in 2016 would be the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in regarding the train station. I also need to mention the most unfortunate death of Paul Fenc, one of Huntsvilles’ vulnerable citizens. “…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” ~ Hubert H. Humphrey
What would you change? If I could change a decision of Council this past year it would be our decision on the location of the Pipe Man statue. In spite of our best intentions the public has made it clear that they don’t like it. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to rectify our mistake.
Dreams, hopes and aspirations for 2017? I have many hopes and dreams for the coming year. They are:
-See development on the site of the Empire Hotel which would reinvigorate the whole downtown.
-Implement a Destination Marketing Program to help our businesses substantially better market our tourism sector.
-Reinvent Muskoka Heritage Place so that it becomes a hub of activity and lessens the huge financial burden on our residents.
-Get fibre internet access to the rural areas of Huntsville.
-Use the promotional video produced by the Economic Development Committee to attract new businesses to Town.
-Sell the Waterloo Summit Centre for the Environment to relieve the huge financial burden on the residents.
-See an exciting reinvention of local health care that is sustainable and remains in Huntsville.
-Fill the serious and immediate need for low-income housing in Huntsville.
Happy Hogmanay and may 2017 be a great one for Huntsville.
“The Economic Development Committee wanted to create something that would attract businesses to come to Huntsville either in whole or in part,” said Councillor Bob Stone, chair of the Economic Development Committee. “One of the initial pushes was to contact people who already have a hook to Huntsville – they either visit or have a cottage here and a business in southern Ontario – who might be frustrated driving home on Sunday night and would like to bring part of their business here. This is not a tourism piece. It’s solely about bringing business to Huntsville.”
The video includes clips from local business owners expressing why they love to live and work in Huntsville. “We thought about the types of businesses that might do well in Huntsville, especially with our one-gigabit internet service and wanted to have a sampling of different markets represented,” said Stone.
“This is a for-profit business. I think it’s wonderful for the town. We win because it’s great for the town. They win because it’s very profitable. I don’t think it’s up to us to relieve the fees and charges, so I’m afraid I won’t be in favour of this,” said Councillor Bob Stone.
Councillor Nancy Alcock, who also chairs the committee, was away. In her stead, Councillor Bob Stone chaired the committee. Before calling a vote on the proposal, he expressed his own opinion on the issue and said: “Three times we’ve asked the proponents to reduce the height and they keep bringing the same thing, the same height back. I think we would fundamentally change the nature of Huntsville if we start to allow the buildings to dominate the nature, trees and vistas and I think it’s a slippery slope.”
“It would appear that they have aligned themselves with the Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce and I have a really hard time helping to fund them if they’re helping to promote Bracebridge in some manner,” argued Councillor Bob Stone.
Councillor Bob Stone said at the May Huntsville council meeting he would be asking for an update at every council meeting until the internal report is released. “It’s paramount to our most vulnerable people and they said they would get back to us very soon, and it’s been months,” said Stone.
Councillor Bob Stone said he wants to see the RFP go forward and suggested that Accelerate Muskoka could also submit to the RFP.
Let’s just get all of the information. Isn’t that what we do? Get all the information so that we can make the best decision for the taxpayer. COUNCILLOR BOB STONE
Councillor Bob Stone had a different take. He said contrary to Shumacher’s stance, he did not think that the original intent should be considered when weighing the proposals the Town receives. “That ship’s sailed,” he said.
Aitchison asked whether Stone would give it any weight at all. “No I probably wouldn’t,” he responded, adding that revenue for the Town and the creation of permanent, full-time jobs are a priority for him. “I would weigh the financial criteria, certainly 30 per cent (out of 100 per cent) at the very least.”
There was also talk about the possibility of selling the building, but some, like Councillor Jason FitzGerald, pointed out that once it is sold to a business, council loses control over what goes in the building.
“I would simply answer you have to vet the business plan to its fullest extent and that’s the whole point of a business plan,” replied Stone.
Aitchison asked who would do the vetting of a business plan and when Councillor Stone volunteered, he said, “I’m sure that’s your fiduciary responsibility round this table,” to chuckles from some councillors. Aitchison also cautioned about looking at the mere financial aspect of a proposal. “If someone comes along and says I’ll give you $15 million for it but I plan to put a brothel in there. What are you going to do, Councillor Stone? Check the business plan out?”
“At the February council meeting we asked Mr. Matthews and Haig, of the Port Sydney and Utterson chamber, if they intended to amalgamate with the Bracebridge chamber. Their answer was ‘No, we only wish to collaboratively work with them.’ A few weeks later, after they received $5,000 from the Town of Huntsville, they announced that they are in fact amalgamating with Bracebridge,” said Stone.
I find the timeline and their actions highly questionable. I submit their new partner should have the pleasure and responsibility to fund at least half of their responsibilities. HUNTSVILLE COUNCILLOR BOB STONE SPEAKING ON THE MERGER BETWEEN THE PORT SYDNEY AND BRACEBRIDGE CHAMBERS
Councillor Bob Stone said he isn’t prepared to spend any more staff time or money on the issue. “I think we should admit it as a mistake and move on.”
Councillor Bob Stone said he is pleased to hear the station will retain its exterior historical look. “I think that we have done kind of a crappy job running it, making it vibrant and I think entrepreneurs will do a hell of a lot better job than we’ve done.”
“The elephant in the room is… will acute care and emergency services remain in Huntsville?” asked Huntsville Councillor Bob Stone. He said he thought MAHST would be making that decision as part of its attempt at transforming health care in the area. “I thought the composition of MAHST was broad enough and the objective in part was to make that decision. Now I understand there’s supposed to be a new task force created where MAHST will have a seat at it, but they will ultimately decide if we have emergency services here. Was the objective missed as part of MAHST?” he questioned.
“We’ve waited long enough,” says Stone regarding investigation into sexual assault cases dismissed by police
Councillor Bob Stone hasn’t forgotten and he’s still waiting for an answer.
“It’s been over half a year since we found out about the high numbers of unfounded sexual assaults, and I think if the OPP are concerned at all about public perception, they should at least give us an interim report, if not the full report, very soon,” said a frustrated Stone at Huntsville Council’s August 28 meeting. He asked Huntsville CAO Denise Corry to contact the OPP and tell them, “we’ve waited long enough.”
Councillor Bob Stone wasn’t in favour of he idea. “I think it was wonderful for the 150th of Canada. It’s cute, it’s fun, but personally I would like to see it go at the end of October.”
Councillor Bob Stone said Simpson might have a point as it pertains to the required purchase of the shore road allowance but defended the municipality’s practice of requiring a site plan approval.
“I think you have an argument about the demand to purchase the shore road allowance, however with the site plan control this is our opportunity to right some wrongs that the property owner has done. If they come for an application we now can say, ‘hey, you built too many buildings’ or ‘you’ve cut down too many trees’ or ‘you have to have more vegetation at the shoreline’ and that site plan control is one of the reasons we have some of the best water in all of Muskoka,” said Stone
“Beast of a building. Small piece of property. I empathize with the residents living at the water in the shadow of the giant. I recognize there’s a 180-person petition against this particular application. Then I’m sitting here really struggling with it. It’s a little too close to the water for my liking, too high for my liking and so I still don’t know where I stand on it. If it were one storey less, I’d be OK with it,” said Councillor Bob Stone. He also talked about the need to remove trees in order to build. “We ask them to plant another tree and it takes another 50 years to get to that height. That’s what’s going through my head. I still don’t know how I am going to vote,” he added.
“Huntsville is a bit of a black hole in the snowmobile world. They pass us right by along with all their money so we are trying to look at ways to get them to hotels and restaurants it’s not easy at all we are pulling out all the stops,” said Stone…Stone said the big problem is just providing access to Huntsville. With one minor exception, there really isn’t a place for them to drive up to the hotels, restaurants and gas stations they would need.
“It’s a real conundrum,” said Stone. “We are dealing with district roads, town roads and properties. Then there’s Highway 60, which is provincial so there is no easy answer for it to work at all. Every level of government needs to play along and be on the same page.”
“There is no bylaw preventing snowmobiles on town roads — that’s the good news,” said Stone. “However, snowmobilers don’t like to go on roads because it wrecks their skis, but if it’s just scooting across a road to get to the other side I think they would do that provided they could use a boulevard or something like that to get where they need to go.”
“We’re missing a lot of winter money and that’s when our businesses need it the most,” Stone said.
Councillor Bob Stone chats with residents Marion and Keith Austin
Councillor Bob Stone was at the celebration of Muskoka Landings 15th anniversary and congratulated staff on their accomplishment. “I heard some of the staff have been here since the start, that’s amazing,” he said speaking to those at the celebration. “We hope to see Muskoka Landing expand and be here for decades to come.”
Councillor Bob Stone, who chairs the committee, said he had had many property standards complaints about that property. “It looks like a junk yard very often and I hope through site plan that we can’t expect more of the same.”
Before closing the public meeting, Councillor Bob Stone had this warning. “We have a proposal from Muskoka Rock coming to expand their property just north of there. We are coming to collisions between residential and heavy industrial. We need to be aware that they are coming closer and closer together and we should decide which one we want to grow and which one we don’t because they are incompatible together.”
Councillor Bob Stone argued that they need to listen to constituents on this issue.
“The people yelled and screamed and I believe we are now saying we made a mistake. We have real information from the survey to say yes a whole lot of people really don’t want it, at least at that location,” said Stone.
[ In spite of the survey where 90% said it should move ] Bob Stone, Karin Terziano, Brian Thompson, and Jonathan Wiebe voted to have Pipe Man removed. Det Schumacher, Dan Armour, Jason FitzGerald, Nancy Alcock, and Mayor Scott Aitchison voted to keep it for now.
Councillor Bob Stone is optimistic about the potential for redevelopment of Huntsville’s Brendale Square Plaza following $750,000 in upgrades being made to by Clark McDaniel to the Main Street East core plaza. – Roland Cilliers/Metroland
Huntsville Coun. Bob Stone praised the company for the redevelopment and saw the move as potentially being the start of a far bigger development in the area.
“Planning is looking at having eight university students from Ryerson University do a design charrette of Brendale Square to discuss possibilities of what can be done over there. McDaniel’s redevelopment here and the advent of the microbrewery about to go into the old dollar store may be the stepping stones that get us some fabulous redevelopment here,” said Stone.
Councillor Bob Stone, who has been anxiously awaiting the findings of police, said he’s satisfied “that things weren’t horribly wrong in the first place, but I’m thrilled that you used it as an opportunity to be so much better. But most importantly, to the survivors out there, you need to know that you will be heard, protected and cared for with compassion.”
The following article was published in the Huntsville Doppler January 11, 2018.
A Councillor’s Dilemma
By Bob Stone
I’m often asked if I enjoy being on Town Council. Usually I reply “Yes, it’s always challenging and I really enjoy helping constituents with their problems”. Let me share with you a recent example that describes the type of difficulty that I, as a Councillor, regularly face. What appears to be obvious and the right thing to do is often complicated and can’t be achieved.
Recently, I received a call from a constituent who was exasperated by the Towns’ claims process. There also appeared to be a problem with a Town policy that I didn’t even know existed.
On November 19th Huntsville had a beautiful Muskoka snowfall. Right on cue, the Town snowplows took to the roads and as always, did a great job. However, one plow that was clearing the roads downtown happened to hit a maintenance hole (manhole). The cover, and the ring that holds it, broke free. The heavy metal ring rolled down the hill, straight into this young lady’s car.
At this point you might say to yourself, as I did “Well, accidents happen, but it is reasonable to presume that the Town’s actions caused damage to personal property, therefore the Town should fix her car”.
As it turns out, the Town’s policy is to only pay for damages if the Town was “negligent” (adjective: failing to take proper care in doing something).
The lady was advised by the Town’s insurance adjuster that the Town was not negligent in this incident and she should contact her own insurance company to have her car fixed.
The damage was estimated at just over $2000 to repair her car. She would probably have to pay a deductible amount of $1000 out of her own pocket and a claim may cause her insurance premiums to increase. The repercussions of the Town’s actions are making her spend money for something that was absolutely no fault of her own.
This didn’t seem right to me, so I requested a meeting with the Mayor and Town Staff to get to the bottom of this policy and hopefully help this lady. The Mayor was sympathetic and wondered if we could self fund situations like this, knowing that our insurance company would make premiums rise even more outrageously if we included this type of situation under our policy.
At our meeting, staff explained that we get hundreds of calls from residents about a myriad of issues, and cited damage to cars from potholes and trees that fall from town property onto private property, etc. They explained that it is often heart wrenching for them to implement our policy when a resident on the phone explains their existing hardships and now has to deal with a problem that was not of their own making. I heard that if we self-funded a policy, that reimburses residents for such things, we would need a qualified adjuster and additional staff requirements to evaluate and administer these claims not to mention a significant pot of money to pay for them.
So now I’m left with the question; Should Council consider implementing such a plan at great expense to Huntsville taxpayers or do we make this lady pay for something that wasn’t her fault?
Jan. 2018 on Minimum Wage Increases
Councillor Bob Stone chairs the Town’s Economic Development Committee, he sits on the board of the Downtown BIA and is the former owner of Christmas Tyme on Huntsville’s Main Street. He said while he’s concerned about the hardship that some small businesses will face, and consequences such as price increases and cut backs on minimum wage hours, in the long run he thinks raising wages will benefit society at large. “Today businesses are hurting… the economy is not that great right now anyway, and now to throw this on their backs – they are just pulling their hair out… Ten years from now, looking back on it, I think the ones that will survive will be better for it and so will the people,” said Stone.
“If previous governments were better, we would have been at this point a long time ago. This huge jump is painful, absolutely. But now, this is what I like about the legislation is that once this is done we don’t have to visit this anymore. No more devastating jumps in minimum wage for small businesses, it’s going to be the cost of living year-upon-year and that’s going to move with the economy, so we never have to have this pain again,” opined Stone.
In terms of some of the other changes in the legislation, like two paid sick days, Stone thinks it will help level the labour field.
We have great disparity between the haves and have-nots. You’ve got the union employees and the publicly funded employees and you’ve got everybody else. The unions and the government employees have been getting enormous (benefits)…12 sick days and they use them as holidays and make sure they use them all up, every year, and the little guy who is working at Tim Hortons gets nothing. If he doesn’t show up for work, he gets nothing even if he has to go to the doctor or have some surgery. So, does this bring it more in line? Yes.COUNCILLOR AND FORMER BUSINESS OWNER, BOB STONE
“Society is heading towards a basic income for all, I think. It’s even been suggested that maybe that would’ve been the proper step for the province to take at this time but it may be a little premature. Let some others experiment with that to see if it flies,” he said. “I hope small businesses survive and I hope they’re being good to their people.”
March 2018 Speaking to Health Care Task force
Yes, I am going to be speaking to the task force and the hospital board. One thing that is on my mind is that I fear this public meeting is less about information gathering and more about checking the box that says consult with the public, but I hope they are listening and I suspect most of the messages will be speaking to the same issuesHUNTSVILLE COUNCILLOR BOB STONE
Stone said he is against the single-site, centrally located hospital model, out of the three models being considered. “Even if it appears that it is the best thing for the hospital itself, I believe it would absolutely devastate our economies in both Huntsville and Bracebridge.
“It’s about the economy, they (hospital administrators) need to look beyond themselves. Don’t be so myopic to think it’s only about health care because the economy would be devastated and I think that a new build at both sites in some fashion and refurbishing old is possible. It’s not sexy, like a big shiny hospital, but I think it’s the appropriate move that we maintain two acute care facilities, how they look, I’m not sure but we need two emergency rooms with supporting services which are diagnostic and surgical services,” said Stone, adding that other services can be distributed between the two sites. “I think that could easily be worked out.”
March 2018 Deputation to Healthcare Task Force
(View my whole deputation under Video Link)
“Two of the five stated criteria for evaluating future models are municipal impact and community support. … Why, then, is the one-hospital model being discussed? … I implore you to not waste any more time and energy on that model.”
— Bob Stone, Town of Huntsville councillor
March 2018 On Motion to Dismiss Hospital CEO & Board
Council then turned its attention to the motion. Councillor Bob Stone said he had reservations about it. “I have no tangible evidence that the CEO or the board have a clandestine agenda but the poor communication and closed door discussion have left everyone worried, including thousands of people on social media,” he said, adding that by presenting the motion a message has been sent loud and clear “that the people and this council are prepared to do anything it takes to keep two acute-care facilities. I am not convinced that the CEO and the board have manipulated the process,” said Stone who voted in favour of tabling of the motion.
April 2018 On Vote to have Province Dismiss MAHC Board
Coun. Bob Stone was the lone councillor to vote in opposition. He argued that an approach that seeks to work with the MAHC board is a better approach.
“I think this is several months too soon. I think waiting for the task force to come back with hopefully the answer we are all looking for then as [Bracebridge mayor Graydon] Smith said working together to achieve our common goal. I have no real evidence that the board is doing anything wrong – that they are lining things up against us,” said Stone.
May 2018 On Filing Nomination Papers
A well-known local is aiming to represent the community once again but in a slightly different capacity.
Incumbent Coun. Bob Stone filed his nomination papers for a district councillor position on May 1. In the previous term, Stone represented Ward 1 and said it was a great experience.
“It has been fun and controversial, and I’ve enjoyed helping constituents with their problems for sure. As far as running for district, I want the rest of the picture. I want the rest of the puzzle and to help Huntsville be better,” Stone said.
He believes the No. 1 issue facing the community in the coming term is unquestionably the hospital
“Saving our hospital addresses the economics of Huntsville and the safety and security of our citizens. It would be tragic and devastating for our town for us to not have the hospital in the municipality,” said Stone.
A longtime entrepreneur within the community Stone is now focused on public office.
“I’m a full-time councillor. I am there to go out meet constituents, deal with staff and problems that come up day and night and I enjoy helping people,” said Stone.
June 2018 On Downtown Streetscape
“It’s a great opportunity for us to do more than just the roadway — let’s do everything,” said councillor Bob Stone who is part of the Streetscape Project steering committee.
“We can do the trees, talk to the businesses about the façade, and hopefully reinvigorate the downtown with all kinds of infrastructure including trees.”