The clock tower bell will once again ring out in the Town of Bracebridge Tue, Sep 20 2016
Town of Bracebridge councillors had a lengthy discussion during the Sept. 20 general committee meeting over the topic of the clock tower, which also generated a great deal of interest on social media last week. It was determined at this meeting, by a unanimous vote, that the clock tower will ring again.
General committee actually threw out making the chiming of the clock an exemption to the noise bylaw but will in fact amend the bylaw itself to include the clock tower as an item in the noise bylaw.
Mayor Graydon Smith reiterated a conversation made to this paper last week stating that the clock tower building is an iconic piece of infrastructure and he would be voting in favour of getting the bells ringing again. He went on to say that when the bells originally fell silent under the previous owner, it did not create the level of controversy that was created last week when the current owner Martin Sheffield, who restored the clock tower, was asked to temporarily stop the ringing until the matter was resolved.
“When people think it’s a choice by government they get their backs up,” stated the mayor.
Coun. Don Smith stated that much of the much of the interest in the clock tower is due to revitalization of the downtown core and the renewal of the clock tower is part of that excitement.
The mayor expanded to state that he did understand that the ringing of the bells were causing hardship for some people living in the downtown core; however, Coun. Lori-Lynn Giaschi-Pacini took a slightly different tact on that sentiment stating that the issue of the clock tower was a “no-brainer” and that people who chose to live in town’s urban core must be accustomed with the associated noises, which include church bells, the train and the ringing of the clock tower bell. Those wishing for a more tranquil lifestyle would, according to Giaschi-Pacini, be better suited for the rural areas of Bracebridge.
Her strong opinion on the issue included how she found out there was an issue, learning of the silence of the bells from “people on the street” as opposed to learning of the matter from town staff.
“How are we expected to govern if we have no idea what’s going on in the town office,” she questioned. She also issued an apology to building owner Martin Sheffield for the stress this has caused.
Chief bylaw officer Scott Stakiw did state that complaints about the bell were handled in very much the same manner of other bylaw complaints but because this matter involved an historic building, along with working with the owner, they did seek legal advice. However, while they were waiting on a legal opinion the complaints continued, which is why they had asked Sheffield to voluntarily silence the bell, which he did.
As per the bylaw itself and the omission of the clock tower, which had been silent for about a decade at the time the bylaw was drafted, Stakiw admitted “This wasn’t even on our radar," noting the clock tower wasn’t addressed under the previous noise bylaw either.
For Coun. Archie Buie, who proposed scrapping the exemption for an actual amendment to the bylaw, the sound of the clock has special meaning. When he first moved to Bracebridge in his early 20s he rented an apartment under the town clock. When the owner at that time was away he was asked to wind the clock and keep it going.
“Eventually you don’t hear it anymore,” he said.
Buie said he believes the exclusion of the clock tower bell from the noise bylaw was an oversight but also strongly believes that the bell is an important part of the town and its history. He said when council approved the bylaw the inclusion of the clock tower was assumed, which he said it shouldn’t have been.
“We have to let the people know that it was never intended to be this way,” he said.
It is anticipated that the decision made by general committee will be ratified by council at the Sept. 28 meeting.
But there was some concern, aired by coun. Rick Maloney, of the “flurry of activity” on social media and he hopes people will not be reluctant in future to have their voices heard if their opinions are not with the majority.
He noted those who expressed a difference of opinion were shot down, which he said is not what one would expect from the people of Bracebridge.
Historic clock tower sits silently in downtown Bracebridge Mon, Sep 12 2016
BRACEBRIDGE – The historic clock in downtown Bracebridge has stopped and according to its owner, it has been silenced by the town.
“The reason they ordered me to stop the clock was due to a few complaints about the noise from the bell,” said Sheffield in a Sept. 12 email. “The clock runs together with the bell meaning that both have to be stopped.”
Sheffield said he has a top clockmaker looking after the clock, which looks down from its perch in the historic clock tower.
“He told me that it should only operate as a unit together with the clock and bell working at the same time,” he said.
Sheffield said it would be very disappointing to lose a clock that has been part of Town of Bracebridge history since about 1912.
Although people no longer solely rely on the clock to tell the time, Sheffield said the tower itself is part of the “heart and fabric Bracebridge.”
“In other words, this clock tower is part of Bracebridge and shouldn't be ordered to be shut down,” he said.
He said the longer the clock sits idle, the higher the likelihood of damage to the mechanism.
“If I were ordered to permanently shut the clock down, then it would probably end up being sold,” said Sheffield. “But I would really hate to have to do that.”
Town of Bracebridge chief bylaw officer Scott Stakiw would not confirm that Sheffield was ordered to shut down the clock.
“We don’t disclose enforcement actions taken unless charges have been filed – in which case it becomes public record,” said Stakiw.
He did confirm, however, that his department began an investigation into the clock tower based on complaints received from Bracebridge residents and Sheffield has submitted an application for a noise bylaw exemption.
Staff is currently working on a report for council consideration, although a date has not yet been set for this matter to go before general committee.
Bracebridge mayor confident the clock tower bell will ring again Thu, Sep 15 2016
ICONIC BRACEBRIDGE CLOCK TOWER
File photo Bev McMullen/Metroland
During a telephone interview on Sept. 14, Smith said the clock tower bell exemption being missed from the town’s recently updated noise bylaw was an error. The bell from the tower that had been silent for decade until new owner Martin Sheffield rehabilitated it, simply wasn’t at the forefront of anyone’s mind when the bylaw was drafted, according to the mayor.
Although the agenda for the Sept. 20 meeting has not yet been posted, Smith said both council and town staff are pushing to have the matter addressed at that meeting. He said everyone recognizes that it’s in the best interest of the town to have the issue addressed as quickly as possible.
“I think on Tuesday this is gong to sail on through without a whole lot of concern,” said the mayor.
He said that although he understands there are some residents in town who don’t like the ringing, particularly late at night, it is an iconic building and it should ring out.
“If it’s working, it’s got to be ringing because it is a heritage piece,” he said. “It’s one of those things that if you’ve got it – flaunt it.”
He said the iconic clock tower is part of the fabric of the community and has 100 years of history in the town.
Smith said he is concerned over the backlash on social media against both council and the complainants.
“Just because someone has an opinion that is different than yours doesn’t make it wrong,” he said.
However, he does highlight that the process is working. The complaints were heard, town staff and council are dealing with the issue and the technical issues surround the bylaw in terms of the clock tower are being rectified.
Even if council approves the exemption to allow the bell to ring again, which is the anticipated result of Tuesday’s meeting, the bell will continue to remain silent until the decision made by committee is ratified at the next council meeting, slated for Sept. 28.
Effort underway to save historic Bracebridge clock tower Thu, Sep 15 2016
Mayor Graydon Smith says the town's hands were tied after the complainants pointed out a noise bylaw.
“People have come up to me and said you know what it does impact my life and I don't necessarily like it. Our bylaw department is beholden to uphold the bylaws of the community.”
The bell was previously silent for 10 years until Martin Sheffiele purchased the property a year ago.
“I fully restored the clock and have it in perfect operational order and that includes the bell too.”
Sheffield has submitted an application to the town for an exemption to the bylaw.
A committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday where Smith says a decision will be made on whether the time and sounds of the century old clock tower will resume.
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Published Thursday, September 15, 2016 5:12PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 15, 2016 6:51PM EDT
New Bracebridge spa provides flexibility for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Muskoka Wed, Apr 27 2016
It has been the dream of Jackie Gronfors for the last 20 years to have a wellness spa offering everything under one roof and that dream is coming true on April 30 when she celebrates the grand opening of Within, Life Enhancement Spa (formerly known as Tranquility Within) from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Armory Building at 8 Taylor Rd. in Bracebridge. Mayor Graydon Smith is invited to help cut the ribbon at 2 p.m.
As part of her desire to give back to her community, she is offering free yoga classes to bigs and littles to do together from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Muskoka saving them the $20 per person cost of a session instead of them paying out of pocket for an outing.
“It’s something we’ll be doing on an ongoing basis,” she said.
It hasn’t been an easy go for Gronfors who had hoped to move into the building back in December when things came to an abrupt halt when the building was deemed unsafe and work began to correct structural issues. That work is done and she was able to move in mid-March and get working at constructing her dream studio.
“Originally I wanted to be open by Christmas, that was the original plan, so I left my job with all intensions of opening,” she said, saying that it has been a long process and a long journey. “I’m very excited and just relieved to be able to finally open. It’s been a long time. It’s been a few hurdles to overcome for sure but those things make you stronger.”
Gronfors has 20 years industry experience and is stepping away from the traditional spa experience calling the new spa a ‘one-of-a-kind all encompassing wellness centre’ – it is a yoga studio that branches off into health and wellness with aromatherapy, customized facials, manicures and pedicures, yoga and fitness classes, registered massage therapy, and wellness classes and seminars she said will assist in renewing mind, body and spirit.
“There hasn’t been anything like that before in Muskoka but it is something that has been in my dreams for at least 20 years now – having a wellness centre offering everything under one roof,” she said.
For more information on Within, Life Enhancement spa visit withinspa.ca or call Gronfors at 705-646-0555.
Bracebridge clock tower now houses shopping centre Fri, Nov 13 2015
Recently Mayor Smith had the opportunity to cut ribbon for the grand opening of The Clock Tower Centre and meet many of the 14 new tenants who now call this building home.
“The clock tower has always been a focal point in our downtown, by virtue of its stature and location.” said Smith. “But with the new investment the building is receiving, it is set to become a destination point in our downtown.”
The new owner of the clock tower, Martin Sheffield, said, “I bought the building with a vision of preserving its beautiful architecture and of preserving the rare, historical clock itself. The building needed a lot of work and attention but once I'm completed, I am confident it will regain its prominence as a major destination in downtown Bracebridge.”
Sheffield went on to add that the main floor has been turned into a mini-mall with individual spaces ranging from 150 to 450 square feet.
“These small spaces have proven to be perfect for artists or other vendors who want the exposure that a downtown location provides but who do not require a larger retail space, so much so that the mini-mall is fully leased in just three short months.
There are also a number of office spaces leased to professional service providers on the second and third floors,” said Sheffield.
Several artists have established combined studios and retail spaces in the building. Onsite artists include Stan Tait (jeweller), Col Mitchell (mixed media painter), Margot Snow (painter), Christa Benedict (jeweller) and Pauline Langmaid (painter).
Sheffield himself will be operating an antique clock store which will eventually be displaying and selling unique clocks from all over the world. He also plans to have a museum-type display in the front lobby explaining the historical significance of the building.
In addition to artists, the building also houses several retail uses including a dancewear boutique, a bridal boutique, a hair salon, and a home decor vendor. Professional offices for an environmental consulting firm, a community service organization and guitar lesson studio are also on site.
The clock tower building benefited from a grant and loan from the town’s Community Improvement Plan.
The plan provides the town with a wide range of tools, including facade, sign, building and property improvement grants and loans that can assist local businesses to improve their businesses.
“We’re thrilled with the uptake our new Community Improvement Plan has received.” Stated Randy Mattice, manager of economic development. “We’ve had a total of 25 applications in 2015, to date. This is up 400 per cent over previous years’ tallies. I think this is a sign that people are feeling more confident in the economy and are willing to invest hard earned dollars to improve their buildings.”
Mattice noted, “The changes that we made to the Community Improvement Plan were based up community consultation and recent changes to the Planning Act which govern the types of incentives that municipalities can offer to businesses. The results speak for themselves. It’s great to see so many business owners working to upgrade the appearance and functionality of their properties.”
Some of the initiatives that have received financial support from the town in 2015 include:
• Signage Improvements: The Creative Cook, Worth Repeating, Muskoka Quilting, Camp Muskoka Clothing, Momma’s Fish and Chips, Footprints on Muskoka, Signatures Eatery, May-Ann’s Boutique;
• Facade Improvements: Martin’s Framing and Art Gallery, Muskoka Bearwear, Dominion Bookkeeping;
• Building Improvements: the Clock Tower Centre, 158 Manitoba Street; and
• Property Improvements: Envirologics.
For more information about the Community Improvement Plan visit the town’s website at bracebridge.ca and look at Financial Incentives (under Business/Doing Business).
Mayor Graydon Smith cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the Clock Tower Centre. Martin Sheffield (front right), owner of the building, holds the ribbon as the tenants in his new mini-mall look on. The newly refurbished clock had just finished tolling 11 a.m.