Blue Mountain Ratepayers' Association

Grey County and The Blue Mountains create task force to discuss issues

Grey County and The Blue Mountains are going to try and work out their differences without calling in a marriage counsellor.

At its regular meeting on April 13, county council voted to create a special task force to study issues The Blue Mountains sees as problems. Council made the move after rejecting a request by The Blue Mountains councillor Michael Martin to bring in a provincial facilitator for the discussions.

The Blue Mountains has long contended it pays a disproportionate amount of the county’s total tax levy. In his presentation, Martin said The Blue Mountains pays $13.8 million (26 per cent of the total) to the county each year despite having just 6.5 per cent of the population.

Grey County/The Blue Mountains create task force to discuss issues

The Blue Mountains councillor Michael Martin speaks to Grey County council, while other town officials listen in the gallery. – Chris Fell/Metroland

“We’re your neighbour. We have a problem. We want to discuss the problem,” he said.

Martin said the facilitator would not be arbitration or mediation, but rather a neutral voice to help the conversation move forward.

County CAO Kim Wingrove said staff would be happy to discuss any issue with The Blue Mountains, but said it would be helpful if the issues were clearly defined.

“We do want to work with you. We need to know what it is that would be beneficial in your eyes and how that would be beneficial to all of Grey County,” she said.

Part of Martin’s presentation focused on the portion of the county tax levy his town pays. Martin said The Blue Mountains does not dispute how taxes are calculated, but rather how they are spent.

Treasurer Kevin Weppler told council provincial legislation sets the tax system.

“For a $500,000 home in The Blue Mountains taxes collected for upper tier purposes is no different than a $500,000 home in Hanover,” he said.

The Blue Mountains pays a higher proportion of the county tax levy because property there is valued much higher than in other municipalities.

Councillors from The Blue Mountains urged the county to take their concerns seriously. “If we involve the facilitator at the start it would be helpful,” said Mayor John McKean. “It keeps everyone from drawing a line in the sand.”

Dep. Mayor Gail Ardiel said her town faces intense pressure from “extreme” levels of development/growth and it is important for the county to understand their viewpoint.

“We want to engage with all of you, so you can see what we’re experiencing,” she said. “Let’s just start talking. We’re coming very calm, cool and collected to get something done here.”

The Blue Mountains found a number of sympathetic ears around the council table, although the debate almost veered off into various municipalities airing their own grievances with the county. Many councillors agreed formal discussions were warranted, but did not think the involvement of a provincial facilitator is necessary.

“We’re all of the same opinion there needs to be a discussion,” said Warden Al Barfoot.

In a recorded vote, council approved a resolution not to ask for a facilitator. Instead, a second resolution was adopted to create a special task force to examine the issues. It will include staff and councillors and terms of reference will be developed.