Monday, June 19, 2017

Fonthill East Development Progressing

Over the last two Wednesdays I presented updates about the developments in Fonthill East to residents of the senior’s apartments on Pelham Town Square. I thought I would share some of those updates here with you now.

Summersides Boulevard: 
In this year’s budget, Council re-approved the construction of a new street linking Downtown Fonthill (by extending Pelham Town Square) with Wellspring Way and Rice Road. The street will include a centre boulevard, trees, and wide multipurpose sidewalks/trails on both sides. Council named the road after Jim Summersides, a World War II veteran of the elite, joint Canadian-American "First Special Service Force," and dedicated member of the Fonthill Royal Canadian Legion.

While much of the eastern portion was constructed last year, Council recently approved the completion of the western link to Station Street this year. Initially the intersection will have a four-way stop but we plan to construct a small-roundabout there in the future.

Council is committed to constructing this road to help better link newer developments with Downtown Fonthill, the Library, Post Office, Peace Park and Town Hall.

Walking & Cycling Paths:
You may have noticed some landscaping along Regional Road 20 from the new Tim Hortons to Wellspring Way. Did you also notice a new walking and cycling path at the corner of Rice and Port Robinson Roads, leading around the new development and the Community Centre?

Both of these features exemplify Council’s commitment to making the Town more walkable and cyclable. Soon, for instance, Ontario Hydro will start burying the hydro lines along Hwy 20 – in the area from the new landscaping along the buildings to the roadway. Then, a new treed, walking and cycling path– similar to the new one on Rice Road – will be constructed along Hwy 20.

Ponds & Park:
Water from roofs, roads, parking lots and paths gets collected and fed into the several storm ponds. These ponds store, clean and cool the water and release it at a rate no greater than “predevelopment flows.” We insisted on designing the ponds without fences so that people might enjoy them better.

The East Fonthill plan also includes some parks in key areas that link watercourses and ponds. One such park, near the intersection of Summersides Blvd and Wellspring Way, was granted to the Town in a standard process called a “excess parkland dedication.” The value of the parkland was based on a property appraisal and a peer review of that appraisal. (For a copy of these documents, please click here.) We look forward to adding trails, trees, and other features to complete this park.

Council and I continue to work diligently to fulfill the award-winning East Fonthill plan which offers mixed-use development, a range of housing-types, a walking/cycling network, and protection for existing environmental features.

You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pelham’s Population Growth from the 1970s

When I grew up and attended St. Alexander School, the Fonthill Plaza didn’t exist: no Shopper’s Drug Mart or Beer Store or Giant Tiger. In fact, I have distinct memories of walking through long grass and along a warn footpath to the Pelham Library – which was situated in the basement of Pelham Town Hall! And, the school was just an “L-shaped” building in those days – before the addition in the 1990s. The octagon-shaped Church along Hwy 20 (where the current playground is) was replaced in the 2000s.

The railway tracks – still in use along Station Street – had yet to be named the Steve Bauer Trail. With the Fonthill Firehall on South Pelham, it wasn’t odd to hear the siren calling the volunteers. And, school mates crossed Highway 20 to get to a treat at the convenience store where the Royal Bank now stands.

The Post Office likely moved from its location on Pelham Street (now ForestGreen creations) in the 1980s. And, the now iconic Fonthill Branch of the Pelham Public Library wasn’t constructed until the mid-1980s.

I also distinctly remember playing in dirt piles during the building of the roads and homes on Woodstream Boulevard and Spruceside Crescent. And the Town built the then new Pelham Arena – which replaced the outdoor rink in “the Pit” – in the middle of a farmer’s field in the mid-1970s.

Looking back at the population growth, one can see the reasons for these changes.

In 1971, Statistics Canada had the Town’s population at 9,997. While Pelham’s population only grew by 99 people by 1976 (up 1%), the Town’s population took off shortly thereafter. From 1976 to 1981 Pelham grew by 1,008 people – a whopping 10% increase! From 1981 to 1986, the population grew even more – by 1,061 people (or 9.6%). From 1986 to 1991, Pelham grew by another 9.6% to 13,328 – but this time increasing by 1,163 people! That was the Town’s largest growth spurt over a five-year period.

Then, Pelham’s growth started to slow down a bit. From 1991 to 1996, the population grew by 1,015 people (or a 7.6% increase to 14,343). From 1996 to 2001, the Town grew by 929 people or 6.5%. The 2006 Census had the Town’s population at 16,155 or growing by 883 people (5.8%). While I have been serving as your Mayor, the Town grew 443 people from 2006 to 2011 (up 2.7%) to 16,598 and now to 17,110 in 2016 (up 512 people or 3.1%).

Just like we hear a few people complaining today, I remember a few folks in the 1970s and the 1980s and the 1990s expressing concern about the Town growing too quickly.

And, while we are projected to grow by about 850 people (or 5%) to 17,960 by 2021, Council and I will continue to work together with you to ensure we maintain our community’s small-town feel – just as the Town did during our growth in the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.


You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Community Centre Recap about Indoor Pool, Twin-Pad & Fitness Equipment

Since some people asked me recently about certain elements of the Pelham Community Centre, I thought I would also answer their questions here.

Solid Business Case:
As you know, recreational and cultural services in Pelham was at a “log-jam” for decades. Numerous consultant reports outlined great desires and drew nice designs of community centres. However, none evaluated the operating costs nor tested the “business case.” It was like those former reports offered a “shiny new sports car” but failed to account for operating costs and whether the community could afford to “drive” it.


To help break the impasse, the Town hired Leisureplan International to develop a market analysis and business case study. LeisurePlan surveyed 1,091 residents about their recreation and culture habits and spending preferences. They used this statistically significant market analysis and requirements from user-groups to form the business case and their recommendations.

Indoor Pool:
Despite the expressed desire – which still continues today – LeisurePlan recommended against including an indoor pool. They stated that demand for an indoor pool was only at 50% of that required to financially support it. “To be financially viable, a significant annual operating subsidy would be required from the Municipality in the order of $1,000,000 per year.” This is in line with other municipal pools; the Kiwanis Aquatic Centre in in St. Catharines, for example, costs $1.6 million net per year (expenses $2.36 million; revenues $734K). An extra $1 million for an indoor pool would mean about a 9% increase in property taxes for the average residential property, plus another 3% for financing the construction costs. (Please see pages 48-49 of the St. Catharines 2017 budget by clicking here.)

Double Arena:
While LeisurePlan initially estimated that a second arena wouldn’t be financially sustainable until 2023, arena users questioned the completeness of their data and the Architectural Design Advisory Committee questioned the feasibility of a phased design. LeisurePlan considered the missing information and concluded in June 2015 that “a second ice pad would be utilized 69%-77% during prime time” and recommended providing a second ice pad by 2018. In July 2015, Council agreed with that recommendation and directed that the design include two arenas.

It’s a good thing we did because we are already tracking to exceed that demand projection for the second ice pad. In March, the Town signed binding five-year usage agreements with local minor hockey and figure skating associations to use 100% of the Accipiter Arena and more than 90% of the Duliban Insurance Arena during prime time.

Fitness Machines:
LeisurePlan initially suggested including a fitness centre in a new centre if all fitness programs were run by the YMCA. They made this recommendation because of the extensive Pelham membership at the YMCA. Listening to the concerns of the Design Committee and local businesses over this plan, the Town issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to operate the community centre to the private sector in June 2015. Since no firms replied to the RFP and because of the increased difficulty of completing with discount ($10 per month) fitness centres, the Town removed the fitness centre component from the Community Centre design, ended discussions with the YMCA in November 2015, and will operate the facility for less than $200,000 per year.

I am pleased that we are constructing the Pelham Community Centre based on a solid business case analysis and that will serve as our community’s gathering place and recreational space for people of all ages and abilities for decades to come.


You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Donations “Overboard” at Ninth Annual Mayor’s Gala

Because of the generosity of sponsors, donors, and participants, the sold-out Ninth Annual Pelham Mayor’s Gala netted $23,600 for four worthy charities and groups!

(L-R) Pete Behring, Treasurer, Pelham Minor Baseball;
Joe Maggiolo, Board Chair, OneFoundation for NHS;
Anne Kirkpatrick, Program Manager, Niagara Nutrition Partners;
Mayor Dave Augustyn; Brenda Langendoen, Program Director,
Horse Cents for Kids. (Credit: T. Lyons.) 
This past Saturday, community volunteers hosted the “Sail the Seven Seas” themed gala at Lookout Point Golf & Country Club.

The Gala showcased great music (thanks to Notre Dame Jazz Combo), exquisite food (thanks to Chef Abby), an amazing live auction (thanks to generous donors), and time to mingle and catch-up with other “passengers.” And, with Ross Macfarlane as emcee and Kevin Jacobi as the nautical quizmaster, the event was a “swashbuckling” great time!

Yet, these festivities supported the work of four local groups.

Horse Cents for Kids provides access to horses and the therapeutic and life enhancing attributes for children 5-18 years old, regardless of their financial circumstances. With the support of the community, the Gala will donate $5,000 to give children from less fortunate families – but who love horses – the opportunity to attend the summer riding program or the Wild West Summer camp. In addition, Bayshore Group generously offered to donate an additional $2,400 to Horse Cents during the Gala!

Niagara Nutrition Partners oversees more than 200 breakfast, snack, and lunch programs in 150 schools throughout Niagara! Amazingly, they help more than 17,000 students each day to fulfill the simple notion that if students eat right they learn right. Thanks to the Gala, NNP will receive $5,000 to support the recently initiated nutrition program at EL Crossley High School.

OneFoundation for the Niagara Health System raises funds to acquire the equipment and technology needed in all six of the Peninsula’s hospital sites to support a wide range of in-patient and out-patient services. Since doctors and medical technicians use their eight-year-old ultrasound equipment 7-days a week for emergency and in-patient exams, the Foundation identified they urgently need to purchase replacement equipment for the Site in Welland. The Gala will donate $3,500 toward this ultrasound equipment.

Pelham Minor Baseball Association provides organized youth baseball for Pelham residents aged 4-18. Their dedicated volunteers offer the opportunity to learn the love of the game and the importance of teamwork while players take part in healthy competition. Since 2017 registrations unexpectantly increased by 36%, the Gala will donate $7,500 to help replace equipment that has reached end of its useful life and also extra equipment needed to meet increased number of players.

Since 2009 and thanks to the generosity of sponsors, donors, and attendees, the Pelham Mayor’s Gala has raised more than a $250,000! These proceeds have supported more than 30 charities, not-for-profit community organizations and service clubs that play a vital role in shaping and improving the Town of Pelham.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Pelham Changing Through the Years

Since Statistics Canada recently released additional information from the 2016 Census, I thought I would write here about the demographics of Pelham. And, since they also provide information for communities from the 2011, 2006, 2001 and 1996 Census, one can compare the make-up and changes of our population over a twenty-year period.

As you may know, Pelham is among the fastest growing communities in the Niagara Peninsula. Since our formation in 1970, we have grown from 9,855 to 17,110 in 2016. That’s a 74% increase!

Other large population increases include Grimsby at 80%, West Lincoln at 76%, and Lincoln also at 74%; compare this with the entire Region’s population which grew by only 33% during that period.

During the last 20 years, Pelham’s population grew from 14,345 in 1996, to 15,275 in 2001, to 16,155 in 2006, to 16,598 in 2011, to 17,110 in 2016. That’s more than 19% population growth over 20 years.

But, the story becomes more interesting when one looks at age groups.

For example, our Town’s population of children and youth (aged 24 and younger) declined slightly (6%) in raw numbers over the last couple of decades. This cohort numbered 4,820 in 1996 and 4,515 in 2016. The number of children and youth represented more than 26% of our population last year and essentially matched the proportion across the Niagara Peninsula (which stood at 27% of Niagara’s total population in 2016).

What about our seniors – those aged 65 and older? In 1996 there were 1,925 seniors in Pelham; in 2016 Statistics Canada counted 4,175. That’s a 117% increase! Seniors now make up 24% of our population. That’s up from 13% in 1996. Across the Region, the proportion of seniors was 21% in 2016.

Statistics Canada provides some very broad categories for comparison over the last 20 years. For example, Pelham’s population aged 25 to 54 (the “working-age” population) declined just over 8% from 6,095 people in 1996 to 5,595 in 2016. This working age group counted for 33% of Pelham’s population in the last census.

So, broadly speaking, where was the majority of our growth concentrated through the last 20 years? Those 55-and-older grew a phenomenal 104% from 3,400 in 1996 to 7,010 in 2016!

(It is important to note that these demographic changes result from both new residents moving here, others moving away, and from the aging of current residents.)

While one must be cautious about broad comparisons from relatively small sub-sets of our population, these numbers obviously show trends. Please rest assured that Council and I continue to consider these demographic realities as we provide public services and develop community economic development initiatives.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Too Long to Release Integrity Reports

An odd thing happened at Regional Council last week. On a vote of 14 in favour and 11 against, Council nearly did not approve the agenda for our April 28 meeting.

What does that mean and why?

The first order of business for any municipal council is to approve the agenda – that is agree on what to discuss and consider during the meeting. It’s usually approved without fanfare and the meeting begins.

But last week, after some other Councillors and I outlined our concern that the Chair neglected to include three Integrity Commissioner’s reports, 11 Councillors spontaneously voted against the incomplete agenda.

You may recall that, after some high-profile public protests, Council reinstated an Integrity Commissioner (IC) on December 8, 2016 and forwarded four Code of Conduct complaints about Regional Councillors. As others made subsequent complaints, Staff forwarded them to the IC.

On February 2, 2017, the IC submitted two reports to the Region on investigations about the conduct of two Councillors. In each case, the IC did not find a breach of the Code of Conduct and did not recommend any action by Council. Therefore, Staff simply published the reports to the public and Council on March 24.

Since then, a Regional Councillor revealed that the Integrity Commissioner investigated him and completed three Code of Conduct violation reports. Further, Staff revealed by email that the IC filed these reports to the Region on February 14, 2017.

In essence, this means that the Integrity Commissioner completed three investigations, determined that a Councillor(s) breached the Code of Conduct, and issued reports to the Region in February with recommendations on how to handle the contraventions.

Why is this important? To use a hockey analogy, if there is bad behaviour on the ice, the referee blows the whistle, stops the game, and makes a ruling. In this case, the referee has blown the whistle, and now we need to know why.

At our meeting last Thursday, I asked the Regional Chair to explain why these reports were not included on either the March 2, March 30, or April 27 Council meeting agendas. (Why did I ask this? With knowledge of these three reports, it is ultimately then the Chair’s responsibility to “ensure the appropriate placement of items on the agenda.”)

Unfortunately, more than 10 weeks later, the reports have yet to see the light of day.

By the end of last week’s meeting, Regional Council directed Staff to include any future Integrity Commissioner reports automatically on the next/subsequent Council agenda. Thankfully, this means that the February reports will finally be dealt with on May 18 – our next meeting.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Pelham’s 2017 Residential Taxes Increase by 2.3%

Two months ago, I wrote about how Council approved our 2017 Operating Budget. Since the Province issued the property tax rate for Educational purposes last week, I can now provide you with an update on the total 2017 residential property tax bill.

You will recall that the amount of property tax you pay to the Town of Pelham, to the Region, and to the Province (for Education) is not solely based on the Market Value Assessment of your property; we multiply your assessment by each of these three tax rates and add them up for your total bill.

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) – the Provincial body that sets a value your home and property – re-evaluated and assessed all properties in the Province as of January 1, 2016. While this amount will be used as the value of your home in 2017, MPAC phases in any assessment increases evenly over a four-year period.

Despite the recent double-digit home value increases and seller’s market, the MPAC assessment is to represent your property as of January 1, 2016. Further, the Town re-adjusts the tax rate down to compensate for the average overall increase in residential property values across the Town.

Now that the Region draft-approved the property tax rates and ratios and that the Province set their rate this month, we know that the combined property tax increase for an average residential property (valued at $316,400) in Pelham will be 2.3%.

Please note that this 2.3% is what folks term the “pocket-book” increase – the amount it cost an average residential property owner by adjusting for the average MPAC increase.

How do we measure whether that amount is “affordable” or not?

One independent way to judge whether Pelham’s taxes are “affordable” or not, is to compare them with inflation. For example, the Bank of Canada calculates that, over the last 11 years, inflation increased the value of goods and services by 19.7%. Over the same period, Pelham’s combined taxes for the average residential property in Pelham increased by 20.1% -- only 0.4% above inflation.

And, this 20.1% includes the equivalent of approximately 1.1% (in 2016) to fund the Pelham Community Centre. And, it also includes our annual increases for improved infrastructure – approximately 1.7% over the last three years of this 20.1% was for increased sustainability – supporting new roads, pipes, and other capital improvements.

Pelham Council and I continue to direct staff to ensure that we only minimally impact you and other property tax-payers while we increase the level and quality of services in the Town.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

No Changes to Cherry Ridge Park

A large group of residents attended our Council meeting last week in anticipation of the discussion about a potential agreement with the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) for partial renovation and joint use of Cherry Ridge Park.

The DSBN is in the process of consolidating the former Pelham Centre School (grades 4-8) and E.W .Farr Memorial School (grades K – 3) to create one, grades K – 8 school at the former E.W. Farr site. The consolidation required classroom additions and renovations including a new gymnasium, a learning commons, parking and bus drop off. This construction is well underway and the Board hopes to open the renovated school this September.

With this expansion, the school’s soccer field was eliminated. In order to leave the natural
topography and existing toboggan area of the school property, the Board approached the Town to enter into a community partnership. They proposed building a soccer field partially on school board property and partially on the public park lands.

Councillors considered this possibility in a report to the June 6, 2016 Committee of the Whole meeting and, on June 20, Council approved the authorization of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Town and the DSBN to negotiate an appropriate agreement.

As part of these negotiations, the DSBN proposed a draft redesign for the Park and their lands late last Fall.

At the request from the Town, the Board sent a letter and a survey to immediate neighbours and other Cherry Ridge residents in February. They also surveyed all families of students. As a result, the survey results included comments from both groups making it difficult to determine the comments from the residents of Cherry Ridge.

In March, however, Council received a petition that contained the names and signatures from most Cherry Ridge residents. The document outlined the concerns of neighbours and residents about the soccer field as part of the Park and petitioned Council not to approve the change.

Staff met with and corresponded with DSBN Staff to determine how they would address maintenance, complaints, and abutting neighbour concerns. After much deliberation, Town Staff recommended last week that the Town not proceed with the proposed partnership and the DSBN landscape and construct the soccer field solely on school property.

Applause broke out when Council agreed with the Town Staff recommendation and voted unanimously not to proceed with development of a shared soccer facility at Cherry Ridge Park.

Councillors and I sincerely appreciated the feedback from residents in Cherry Ridge and from across the Town about this issue.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Anchors Aweigh for Ninth Annual Mayor’s Gala

It’s gratifying when people support local charities that improve our community; it’s fun when people get dressed up for a great time. The Annual Mayor’s Gala combines both opportunities!

On Saturday, May 27, 2017, community volunteers will host the Ninth Annual Pelham Mayor’s Gala. This “Sail the Seven Seas” themed gala will “set-sail” from Lookout Point Golf & Country Club at 6:00 PM.

In addition to activities that you might expect on a “swashbuckling” voyage, we will showcase great music, exquisite food, an amazing live auction, and time to mingle and catch-up with other generous “passengers.” No doubt, the event will be a great voyage!

Yet, these festivities have a purpose.

Since 2009 and thanks to the generosity of sponsors, donors, and attendees, the Mayor’s Gala has raised more than $230,000! Proceeds have supported more than 30 not-for-profit community organizations and service clubs that play a vital role in shaping and improving the Town of Pelham. With these funds, the Gala has helped youth and seniors, helped provide special education, supported children and women’s centres, and funded arts, cultural, and sporting initiatives.

The Gala also founded the Pelham Community Fund through the Niagara Community Foundation. Donations toward the fund’s principle may be given from not only the Mayor’s Gala, but also from anyone in the community. As you update your estate plan, for instance, you may want to donate to the Pelham fund – and your gift will assist the community in perpetuity!

The Mayor's Gala Committee is seeking applications from local organizations serving residents of the Town for the proceeds from this year’s Gala. To be eligible, an organization should: provide service/support benefitting residents of Pelham; be registered as a charity with Canada Revenue Agency, a Pelham Service Club or a Pelham based not-for-profit organization; complete and submit a formal application by noon on April 12; and not have received a donation from the Mayor's Gala fundraising campaign in the previous year.

The community generously supports the Pelham Mayor’s Gala. In fact, we are grateful for the many businesses and individuals that continue to support it year-after-year. If you are interested in sponsorship, please check out the website links below.

Finally, a few “boarding passes” are still available and “cabins” are booking quickly. Please call 905-892-2607 ext. 337 to purchase your tickets or see the website for more information.

The Application for Donation Form, sponsorship opportunities, and tickets may be found at www.pelhammayorsgala.ca or via www.pelham.ca.

Our voyage departs on May 27. Anchors aweigh!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pelham Submission about Regional "Motion"

 The Town of Pelham is taking the opportunity to respond to Regional Councillor Barrick’s motion entitled “Regional Taxpayer Affordability Guidelines” and on the 30 March 2017 Agenda for Regional Council.

Pelham Council and the Town of Pelham take pride in being open and transparent; as such, we are always prepared to answer questions from colleagues and from the public. Therefore, we are pleased to provide this accurate information and firm response to the Motion.


With this memo and the many accompanying documents, we will correct or clarify each of the points expressed in the Motion’s preamble and body with information from source documents. These documents have been filed with the Regional Clerk for inclusion on the agenda tonight.

I am pleased to provide links to the document here. 

The entire document is very large – more than 330 pages and nearly 17mb. Thus, please use the following link for a PDF with bookmarks. 




(Please note: these was a glitch earlier, which has now been resolved. This link is for the entire document.)

Thanks for your interest! D

___________________________________

Thanks to Tim Denis and CKTB 610AM for inviting me to speak on March 30 about the motion and Pelham's submission to Regional Council. Please click here to hear the conversation.

Despite asking two-times to speak and address the concerns directly during the Regional Council meeting (and make reference to the Town's +330 page submission), I was not allowed to speak and the matter was referred to the June 12 meeting of the Audit Committee.

Here's a media story about that Regional Council meeting: http://www.wellandtribune.ca/2017/03/30/augustyn-accuses-barrick-of-fear-mongering

We have included the report on the agenda for Pelham Town Council on Monday, April 3. It's the same report as above, but you may find it by clicking here.