Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why Sell The Land?

You may have heard that last Monday, the majority of Council’s Planning Committee – which is actually made up of all of Council – voted to sell the Town-owned property at the corner of Rice Road and Highway 20. Yesterday, Council was to have ratified that decision.

I would like you to know my personal reasons for voting to sell that property.

In January 2005, the majority of the Council-of-the-day voted to purchase the 32 acres of land to build or relocate many Town amenities. That vision was to build a community centre that included a Twin-Pad Arena, an Indoor Pool, a Recreation Centre, a Library, and a Town Hall. The dream was to also relocate most baseball and soccer fields to the site so it would become a “one-stop-shop” for Town recreation, culture, and administration.

But, because it’s in the furthest quadrant of Town, 99.5% of all current residents would have had to drive and park on acres of asphalt. (That dream also made no reference of what to do with the more walkable sites of our current parks and facilities.)

The Facilities Feasibility Study that this Council received on April 7 dismissed that “one-stop-shop” vision.

Based on extensive participation from community groups, sport associations, and members of the general public, the consultant praised the campus-like feel of the Fonthill downtown. The presence of the Town Hall and the Fonthill Library Branch complement the downtown’s businesses and other features like the Bandshell, Farmer’s Market, Post Office, and senior’s residences.

Pointing to the thousands of Pelham’s YMCA members, the consultant dismissed the idea of a Town-run recreation centre.

And, while calling for a new Twin-Pad Arena, the consultant made no recommendation on location – despite those 32 acres.

Without any ringing endorsement, I knew we needed to sell the property.

But, I also voted to sell because we need to provide you value for your money.

Did you know that by the end of this year, the Town will have paid $493,000 in principal and more than $700,000 in interest for that property? That’s $1.2 million and not one more kid played hockey or soccer or baseball or figure-skated!

My vote was not about whether we should repair, rebuild, or replace any of your Town facilities; that report will be coming to Council on June 2.

I voted to sell the property because I support facilities and parks that complement and enhance our Town and that provide value and service for your tax-dollars.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Smarter Growth" is Good for the Environment

As you may have heard, the Region’s Planning Department held a “Smarter Niagara Summit” last week. Since I am the co-chair of the Smarter Niagara Steering Committee, I made sure I participated.

What is “Smarter Niagara” you ask?

Well, it really encourages “Smart Growth” in Niagara. “Smart Growth” is growth based on more sustainable development choices in an effort to ensure a healthy environment, sustain a strong economy, create vibrant urban centres, and combat urban sprawl.

The “Ten Principles of Smart Growth” for Niagara include:

  1. Create a mix of land uses for employment, stores and homes;

  2. Promote a more compact “built form” so neighbours get to know each other (instead of each other’s cars);

  3. Offer a range of housing opportunities and choices;

  4. Produce walk-able neighbourhoods and communities;

  5. Foster attractive communities and a sense of place;

  6. Preserve farmland and natural resources;

  7. Direct future development into existing communities to take advantage of existing community assets;

  8. Provide a variety of transportation choices;

  9. Make “smarter” development predictable and cost effective; and

  10. Encourage plans developed with strong community involvement.

The most striking presentation of the Summit was given by Thomas Homer-Dixon, a professor at the University of Toronto.

First, Homer-Dixon updated the participants on the latest and worsening climate-change data and predictions. Then, he challenged municipal leaders to play a significant role in shaping humanity's response to global warming. He said that we must start planning now for extreme storms, prolonged droughts and oppressive heat waves.

In fact, Homer-Dixon said that half of changes needed to deal with global warming must be made at the local level. He suggested that cities need to link global warming with planning, infrastructure, public facilities, and emergency preparedness.

What could this mean for Pelham? Homer-Dixon suggested that all public buildings make use of renewable energy sources. He also suggested that municipalities increase the requirements of future storm water collection systems so they can handle more frequent and extreme weather. He encouraged transit and municipal planning that makes more efficient use of land.

Because of the high price for fuel, Homer-Dixon suggested that production should be closer to consumers and that employees should be closer to work. This “buy local” and “work local” approach could mean more employment options in Pelham.

In essence, “Smart Growth” could mean that Pelham becomes more of an environmentally sustainable community.

Please see for more information about the Smarter Niagara Summit.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

How Will Your Money Be Spent?

I promised to keep you informed about how your money is spent within the Town.

Following a pre-budget consultation in October 2007, Council approved “in principal” the 2008 Capital Budget in December 2007 and the 2008 Operating Budget in February 2008. Since we now know the Region’s final Tax Policies, your Town Council was to formally adopt both budgets during this past Monday’s meeting.

The Town portion of your taxes – 33.3% of your tax bill – will increase 4.85%. The School Board portion remains unchanged and makes up 17.3% of your taxes. The Regional portion, which makes up 49.4% of your bill, will increase by 0.4%. When you add all this together, your total tax bill will increase by 1.96% – less than the 2.2% rate of inflation.

So how will your money be spent?

Your $3.8 million Capital Budget will fund many improvements, such as:
· Replacement of the Fire Pumper for Station One (approx. $400,000);
· Purchase of a generator in case of an officially declared emergency;
· Road reconstruction of Line Avenue (already started!); Effingham between Ollie and Roland Roads; Farr, Brock, and Elizabeth Streets; and Pelham Street for 300m North from Shorthills;
· Engineering design for the road and water/waste water for Haist Street between Canboro and Welland Roads;
· Fonthill Traffic Study in areas of Port Robinson, Station, and Pelham Streets;
· Repairs to the Fonthill Cemetery Mausoleum (paid by the Perpetual Care fund);
· Playground equipment renewal in Marlene Stewart Streit, Rolling Meadows, and Harold Black Parks;
· Addition of security features to the Town’s Pool;
· Loan to the Farmer’s Market Committee for hydro service installation for the Market;
· New pitching mound and bleacher replacement at Harold Black Park;
· Improvements to the Arena, including safety netting and new glass;
· Improvements to Centennial Park, including drainage and soccer catch-netting; and
· Funding for the Community Improvement Plan and Urban Design Guidelines for the Town’s downtowns.

In addition to the regular Town services to which you are accustomed, your 2008 Operating Budget also includes funds for many special initiatives, such as:
· Additional resources to better support the successful Bandshell Concert Series;
· Continuation of Monday service at the Town’s Library branches;
· Revenue neutral staff changes in Planning and in Infrastructure Services;
· Information and coordination services for a Gypsy Moth spray program; and
· Increases in road and sidewalk maintenance – ditching, patching, flushing, and cleaning.

If you have any questions, please contact me at or 905-892-2607.