Monday, December 21, 2009

Pelham Welcomes Olympic Torch

Here are the notes for my speech at the Royal Bank in Fonthill, welcoming the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay to Pelham.

Thank you and good afternoon everyone!

On behalf of Pelham Town Council,it is a great honour to welcome you today as our community welcomes Canada – and the world – with open arms and glowing hearts.

The Town of Pelham is proud to be one of the one-thousand Canadian communities to host the Olympic Flame.

As the Flame is passed along through our streets, you’ll see a glow of excitement as our community shows our Olympic Spirit and Canadian pride.

From hockey trials and figure skating this morning, to the pre-torch parade, to activities in Peace park this afternoon, we are sharing in the Olympic spirit.

And while the flame is in our community for only a few minutes, I hope you will celebrate for hours, and remember this event for many years!

Special thanks to each the volunteers who worked hard to ensure this was a memorable and magical event.

And, congratulations to all the torchbearers who have been selected to run through Pelham’s streets.

It’s just 53 days now until the start of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The sea of red and white here in Pelham shows we are ready to celebrate with the rest of our country.

Thank you, congratulations, and enjoy the rest of today!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Next Steps Taken in New Firehall

Town staff erected a yellow sign last Friday at 766 Welland Road. The sign, which indicated that the property has started the process of being rezoned, says “to permit the development of a Fire Station.”

You see, the Town recently finalized the agreement of purchase and sale for the 4.9 acre property that is required to replace for Pelham Fire Station #2 at Welland and Canboro Roads in Fenwick.

You will recall that in August 2008, Council established a Fire Station #2 Replacement Committee. The Committee determined that the Town needs a new Fire Station for several reasons: the current vehicle bays do not have enough room for future vehicle requirements; parts of the 60-year-old building are structurally inadequate and are cracking and deteriorating; there is not enough on-site parking for the volunteer firefighters during calls; there are significant safety concerns with as firefighters backing-up vehicles into the bays after each call.

The Committee also determined that the required improvements cannot occur on the current site. An additional vehicle bay attached to the current building would eliminate vehicle parking for the volunteer fire fighters, for example.

The Committee developed a “site criteria matrix” to help establish the best location. Using the matrix, the committee evaluated existing public lands. Those lands ranked less than 55% of the requirements for an ideal site.

In December 2008 and January 2009, the committee invited public landowners to submit options for a new site; these sites were evaluated with the same site criteria matrix.

The 766 Welland Road property received the highest score – well-above all other properties.

The northern portion of the site, which is in the “Urban Boundary”, will accommodate the new ±10,000 square foot Fire Station, most of the parking, and the driveway.

The southern portion – approximately 2.6 acres – is adjacent to Centennial Park and could provide much-needed emergency access to the Park.

The Federal and Provincial investments of $990,000 each make the $2.9 million project possible.

Following the re-zoning of the property, the Town will need to hire an architect to design the facility for this specific property.

A Site Plan will also have to be approved. The Site Plan will ensure that the property’s uses fit as well as possible to the uses of surrounding properties. This Plan will likely make use of fencing and landscaping to minimize any impact on neighbouring properties.

Construction could begin in the spring of 2010 with completion in late-fall.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Unprecedented Capital Budget: Turning Years of Wait into Month of Action

You will note that I use the word “unprecedented” when letting you know about our 2010 Capital Budget. Why?

First, Council adopted your Capital Budget on Monday, November 30. That’s both the earliest ever for the Town, and the first in the Region. Since we are ahead of the rest, I hope the Town will again save money on our early tendering of projects.

Second, this Capital Budget is the largest ever for Pelham. Why is this year’s $14.5 million budget nearly three times more than last year’s $5.4 million? This budget will utilize the unprecedented investments that the Federal and Provincial Governments have promised to Pelham.

Those unprecedented investments mean unprecedented improvements for Pelham in 2010. These include revitalizing Downtown Fonthill, reconstructing Haist Street, replacing Pelham Fire Station #2, renewing and making accessible nine playgrounds, and adding-on to Town Hall.

Some of these projects have been years in the waiting. These investments will turn years of wait into months of action.

You will recall that a capital budget plans for the acquisition or rehabilitation of major infrastructure and equipment that have a long life. Such capital assets include municipal buildings, arenas, trucks and vehicles, roads and sidewalks, and water/sewerage pipes.

(The operating budget provides for the “day-to-day” expenditures such as salaries, wages, benefits, heat, hydro, and routine maintenance of buildings and infrastructure.)

So, what else is in the budget?

In addition to the projects I listed above, this Capital budget will build a better community:
• New Town Website: to improve interactions between staff and residents;
• Upgrade to Town Information Technologies: seeking Federal investment to integrate the Town’s systems;
• Investments in Recreation: including a new ice resurfacer, and significant upgrades to Centennial, Harold Black, and Marlene Stewart-Streit Parks;
• Renovations to Old Pelham Town Hall: seeking Federal investments to improve the condition of this important historic facility;
• New Library automation system;
• Engineering of Pelham Street South of College: advancing by two years this first step in reconstructing the road and adding sidewalks South of College;
• Replaces a 1988 backhoe and two trucks;
• Renews nine other streets.

Thus, your 2010 Capital Budget will continue our Town’s revitalization through the further progression of our infrastructure. Thanks to the unprecedented investments of the Federal and Provincial governments, the budget supports community spirit, prosperity and growth. It also provides responsible, well-planned, and future-focused investments in Pelham.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Next Steps in Downtown Revitalization

Since I am a perpetual booster of all things Pelham, you will not be surprised that I am excited about the upcoming revitalization of Downtown Fonthill!

You see, just last week we took another step closer to a shovel in the ground on the $2.5 million revitalization of downtown Fonthill from College Street, across Regional Road #20 to Broad Street.


The company hired to finalize the detailed engineering design held a “public information centre” regarding the street reconstruction and streetscaping improvements.

Don’t worry in case you missed it; the information is posted on the front page of Town’s website at and they are inviting your comments until December 11.

Within the study area and based on significant average daily traffic counts (of approximately 8,000), Pelham Street functions as a local arterial road. In the development of the design options, the consultants considered the need to provide some level of safety for cyclists, to maximize the pedestrian realm, to provide on-street parking, and to ensure adequate fire vehicle maneuverability.

They suggested a standard 3.5 metre lane width “based on the volume and nature of traffic and the need to meet provincial and local engineering standards for a safe roadway.” After looking at three other options, they recommended “Option 2: On Street Parking (both sides)-No Bike Lanes (except from
College Street to Church Hill Street).”

Their reasons? The design (which is also available in detail on the Town’s website) provides for the same number of on-street parking spots, expands or improves the pedestrian realm, complies with recent planning studies (like the Community Improvement Plan and Urban Design Guidelines), links with the Regional Bikeway Network, and provides additional boulevards to enhance business frontage.

I was impressed that the picture boards also included a graphic representation of how the revitalization might look. It included an image of the current situation and an image of how that area could look with the preferred design. It not only included a new road and sidewalks, but the images also removed the overhead hydro and telephone poles, added decorative lights and trees, and delineated parking spaces.

The consultant suggested that following streetscaping design review meetings in January / February 2010, the detail design should be completed in “Winter 2010”. The construction could be tendered in the spring and should be completed next fall.

And so, it will be gratifying that the vision that so many have worked on for so many years will become a reality during the next year.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Be Nice, Clear Your Ice"

Do you remember the cartoonist Ben Wicks? If so, what does he have to do with the proposed sidewalk clearing bylaw for Pelham?

Ben Wicks was a British-born Canadian cartoonist, illustrator, journalist and author. Very topical and witty, his cartoon, The Outcasts, was syndicated by 84 Canadian and more than 100 American newspapers.

In the early 1980s, Toronto promoted sidewalk clearing using an animation by Mr. Wicks. “Be Nice, Clear Your Ice” encouraged people to clear the sidewalks in front of or alongside their property within 12 hours of the end of a snowfall or ice event.

But what does this have to do with Pelham, you ask?

Last year, the members of the Pelham Active Transportation committee suggested that the Town enact a bylaw to compel owners and tenants to clear ice and snow from the sidewalk surrounding their properties. The Committee gave research showing how it would help make Pelham a more walkable community.

Also last year, the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council asked Council to pay for the removal of snow from sidewalks to that they would be clear for local students when walking to and from school.

In February of 2009, Council approved nearly $20,000 to the budget to clear an additional 633 metres of sidewalks in front of Town-owned properties like parks. We also asked for staff to develop a snow clearing by-law for implementation in November.

When that draft bylaw came back to Council in July, Council asked that it be posted on the Town’s website for comment.

At our regular meeting on November 2, General Committee received those 17 public comments, debated an amended bylaw, and approved it.

The bylaw called for property-owners or tenants to clear ice and snow from sidewalks in front of or along side a home or business within 24 hours of a snowfall. It proposed that if the Town must clear the ice and snow the costs will be charged to the property-owner.

Staff recommended that the Town inform all residents about the bylaw, its purpose and enforcement details through the next set of water bills and with newspaper inserts. Further, it was recommended that until January 31, 2010, staff would remind people with a note and give a grace period to clear the ice and snow.

That bylaw came to Council for consideration on Monday, but was not adopted. Given recent feedback from the community, Council referred the bylaw back to staff to add more flexibility.

If enacted, I hope that a sidewalk snow clearing by-law will lead to safer, more pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods throughout our Town. As I shovel this winter, I will remember Ben Wick’s advice: “Be Nice, Clear Your Ice.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

With Our Hearts

It was a very gentle gesture that was so filled with meaning.

Four children offered poppies to the veterans and members of the Royal Canadian Legion.

But these were very special poppies. You see, not only were they hand-made, but they were constructed from four, cut-out hearts that were joined at the base.

This gift to our veterans was during a “Moment with the Young” and part of a special Remembrance Day Service at the Fonthill Baptist Church on Sunday. The heart-poppies tied so beautifully with Rev. Russ Myers’s theme for the service: “See with your heart what they saw with their eyes.”

That’s the point of Remembrance Day, isn’t it?

Remembrance Day is the time for us empathize with and give thanks for those brave men and women who served, and who continue to serve, our country during times of war, conflict and peace.

Remembrance Day is about honouring their courage, their commitment, and their devotion to our community and to Canada.

The men and women of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan are fighting still, for the principles of peace and justice. Indeed, it is right to remember their sacrifice and determination too.

On the cenotaphs in Fenwick, Ridgeville, and Fonthill and on the bricks at the Veteran’s Park, we can read the names of some of those from Pelham that were killed in battle or who acted in our service.

It is right for us to remember those who served from Pelham. They gave their lives for us. They gave their lives for our children. They gave their lives for future generations yet to come.

They gave their futures so that our future might be one of peace.

The gentle action of the children during the special Remembrance Day Service calls us to engrave their names and their sacrifices not only on cenotaphs or bricks but also on our hearts.

The freedoms that so many of us might take for granted – to express ourselves, to participate in cultural, religious, and political activities, to come and go as we please, to pursue a safe and happy life – are all due to the sacrifices of Veterans and those who today follow in their footsteps.

And so, on this Remembrance Day 2009, let us be thankful. Let us rededicate ourselves to peace. And let us never forget.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Finalizing Major Planning Elements

You will recall that last week I described some of the unprecedented infrastructure improvements that Pelham will enjoy over the next year.

This week, I would like to outline two of the major Planning elements we will complete over the next year.

Community Improvement Plan Designation & Design Guidelines:
While improving public infrastructure of a Downtown, what can a Town do to improve private elements like facades or signs? We can use a “Community Improvement Plan” (CIP) and Design Guidelines.

You see, under the Ontario Planning Act, a “CIP” allows a municipality to establish a certain geographic area that can receive special treatment. Focused on Fonthill’s and Fenwick’s Downtown cores, our Town’s special treatment might include grants or loans, an incremental tax increase plan, or exemptions.

For example, a municipality may offer matching grants (to a certain level) to businesses that fix-up their building façades. Or a Town may encourage improvements by exempting any Development Charges.

The Design Guidelines steer new developments or improvements to a certain vision. For example, should all the façades have a similar look-and-feel? What should be the long-term visions for the downtowns?

I understand from staff that you should expect a public meeting about the Community Improvement Plan in November, with a final report to Committee and Council in December/January. The Design Guidelines should come to Committee and Council in late November.

These policies should dramatically help to improve Pelham’s downtowns through partnerships and shared vision.

Official Plan:
Are you like my children’s dentist that loves playing SimCity? A computer program that starts off with empty land, SimCity allows you to build and position all public infrastructure like roads, hospitals, libraries, parks, power plants, and dumps. You can also designate housing, commercial, and industrial areas.

In real life, we build a Town through a planning document called an Official Plan (OP). The OP sets policies and locations for things like commercial development, agricultural lands, residential developments, and downtowns.

In process for several years, the Town last updated the OP in 1987. Over the last five years, however, Provincial and Regional policies (like the Greenbelt Plan, the Places to Grow Act, the Provincial Policy Statement, and the Regional Growth Plan) have impeded progress by dramatically changing the foundational rules.

I understand, however, that we are getting close to an updated Official Plan for Pelham; staff is planning a public meeting this fall and Council could enact a plan in early 2010.

These visionary planning documents will guide any and all future developments in Pelham.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Unprecedented Infrastructure Ahead!

No doubt, you’ve heard about some of the infrastructure projects for which Pelham has received Federal and Provincial support. But, since we announced each project as it became known, I thought you would like to know about all the projects together.

Unprecedented Infrastructure Investments:
Over the last nine months, Pelham has received unprecedented Federal & Provincial support toward $12.4 million of capital projects! To put this in context, this is more than double our normal annual capital budget; and, through the years the most Pelham received from upper levels of government has been $100,000.

Downtown Fonthill Revitalization:
The first reported investment was $2.5 million for revitalizing downtown Fonthill from College Street, across Regional Road #20 to Broad Street. This revitalization includes a new road, new water and sewer lines, and also a much-improved sidewalks and streetscape for a pedestrian friendly downtown. Burying of the hydro lines was not included in the funding, but staff is working diligently with Niagara Peninsula Energy to finalize costs, designs, and options. Staff anticipates public open houses in November and January 2010 for the final design, with construction from April/May to October/November.

Haist Street Reconstruction:
The reconstruction of Haist Street from Canboro to Welland Road has been a priority for many years. Now, the one-third Federal, one-third Provincial funding will allow Pelham to carry out the $5.7 million project in one year instead of over three years (as originally budgeted). The work will be extensive and includes a new road, new water and storm sewers, raised crosswalks (to help calm traffic), sidewalks, and room for cycling. Council just approved the sanitary sewer relocation which should begin by November. The rest of the work should be tendered in early January for construction from March to November 2010.

Replacement of Fire Station #2 (Fenwick):
Required for more than a decade, Federal and Provincial funding make the $2.9 million project possible now. The investments will replace the +60 year-old Firehall that is currently falling apart and too small for recent and expected population growth. Property issues have delayed the process, but all should be finalized this fall. The tender for the design could occur late this year and construction could begin in March / April at the earliest.

Nine New, Accessible Playgrounds:
Thanks to two-thirds funding, the $1.1 million project will replace and upgrade playground equipment in nine totally accessible playgrounds across the Town. The tender should be awarded this fall with the installation and finishing done from April to July 2010.

Town Hall Addition:
Work continues on the $260,000 addition to expand the “sardine can”. The design has been awarded and the work must be completed by March 31, 2010.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Police & Region Working Together

Last week, the Chamber of Commerce hosted the Mayor’s Breakfast at the Lazy Loon. I used the opportunity to update Chamber members on the coming year’s significant infrastructure improvements and major planning issues. I also spoke about the Niagara Regional Police Service.

As you may have heard, through great policing and involvement from the community, the NRP quickly arrested a suspect for the four armed robberies of local convenience stores. On your behalf, I offered my deep appreciation for their quick and excellent work.

I also thanked the Police for their help dealing with the pool vandalism from summer of 2007. As you may recall, the Police Service suggested the use of a “Community Justice Circle” to help resolve the matter once five young offenders had been caught. Last month, Town staff informed Council that all matters relating to the pool vandalism had been resolved; the youths adhered to a curfew, received counselling, completed 50 hours of community service (in addition to the mandated 40 hours for school), and financially compensated the Town for damages.

I am pleased because I believe that both the young offenders and the Town have received much more out of this process than we would have under the conventional court system.

Finally, I am pleased to let you know that I was honoured to have played a role in the recent resolution of the OCCOPS dispute between the Region and the Niagara Region Police Board. I made the motion that amended the staff recommendations and helped pave the way for an ultimate resolution.

No doubt the final resolution came about because of renewed talks between the Region and the Police Board. I commend the leadership of Regional Chair Peter Partington and Police Chief Wendy Southall in finally resolving the matter.

The way forward will allow for joint Police / Regional plan. The plan will provide the Police with the appropriate and best facilities that they need for effective and efficient policing. The plan will also allow for better managed financing – more respectful of your Regional property tax investment. Finally, the plan will allow for planning issues to be solved and potential partnerships to be solidified.

Now, the Police and Region can move forward together for benefit of all residents and taxpayers. Now, the NRPS can continue to do more of what they do best – service and protection.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Major Infrastructure & Planning Issues Ahead

For your information, here is a summary of the speech I delivered yesterday at the Pelham / Welland Chamber of Commerce Mayor's Breakfast.

Major Infrastructure Investments:
• Pelham received unprecedented Federal & Provincial investments – totaling $12.4 M in capital projects
• Context: Double annual capital budget; second best per capita in Niagara

Downtown Fonthill Revitalization: $2.5 M + bury Hydro
• Pelham Street from College Street, across Regional Road #20 to Broad Street – New road, water and sewer, improved streetscape
• Public Open Houses in November and January 2010
• Construct from May until November 2010

Haist Street Reconstruction: $5.7 M

• Priority project that with investment, doing three years work in one year
• New road, water, storm sewer, sidewalks, crosswalks, cycling
• Sanitary Sewer relocation – construction November 2009
• Rest of construction from March to ~November

Replacement of Fire Station #2 (Fenwick): $2.9 M
• Required for +decade; Fed. & Prov. support make possible now!
• Replace 60 year old Firehall that falling apart and too small for growth
• Functional analysis complete, property issues complete fall 2009
• Construction from March to October 2010

Nine New, Accessible Playgrounds: $1.1 M
• Replace and upgrade playground equipment in nine playgrounds across Town including: MSSP, Centennial Park, Harold Black, North Pelham, etc.
• Install totally accessible equipment and accessible flooring
• RFP awarded this fall; Installation & Finishing from April to July 2010

Town Hall Addition: $260K
• Add on to second floor of Town Hall to accommodate staff (sardines now!)
• Construction beginning in December and ending in March 2010

Major Planning Issues:

Community Improvement Plan Designation & Design Guidelines:
• CIP allows for establish area that can receive special treatment
o Incentives, Tax-Increment Plan, Development Charge exemption
• CIP public meeting in November, and to Committee / Council in December
o Budget implications for 2010?
• Design Guidelines:
o What will it all look like for façade improvements?
o What will be long term vision for downtowns?
• Design Guidelines report to Committee / Council in November
o Action Plan to achieve strategies

Official Plan:
• Policies for commercial development, agriculture, residential development, for downtowns, for growth
• Work of several years; last updated in 1987
• Work impacted by:
o Provincially imposed policies such as Greenbelt, Places to Grow, Provincial Policy Statement
o Regional Growth Plan
• Open House in October
• Public Meeting in November; Enact in January 2010?

East Fonthill Secondary Plan & Town-Owned Lands:
• Town-Owned Lands purchased as if designated and zoned a certain way:
o Province changed “Rules”; Secondary Plan process to Landowners
• Town-Owned Lands:
o Report for Workshop to Council in October
o Dependant on rest of Secondary Plan
• Secondary Plan:
o Landowner’s Group present draft plan by end of 2009
o Final to Town in April / May; Public meeting in June
o Ratified in July/August?

An important year lies ahead.
Let’s keep working together to improve Pelham!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ways of Working Together with You

Last week I wrote to you about how your municipal council is organized. But, how can you or other members of the public get your suggestions or improvements examined and implemented?

Anyone interested in making a presentation to Council or General Committee should contact the Town Clerk at (905) 892-2607 ext. 320. You must make a formal request in writing before 4:30 PM on the Wednesday preceding the meeting. The Town’s Procedural Bylaw limits presentations to 10 minutes, but offers no time limit on questions by Councillors; it also limits the number of presentations to four per meeting.

You can also provide suggestions during a “public meeting.” Most public meetings involve planning matters and follow a formal agenda – presentations by staff and the applicant, direct input by members of the public with questions and comments, comments by Councillors. We invariably direct staff to prepare a report for action based on the public input.

I am very proud that this Council starts our annual budget deliberations with a special public meeting. We listen to all public input on any spending or Town issue. We refer all your input for consideration as staff prepares the budget for the next year.

We will hold the 2010 Pre-Budget Meeting on Tuesday, October 13 at 7:00 PM at Pelham Fire Station #2 (Fenwick). Register with the Clerk in advance or just come and present your ideas or suggestions.

You can also give us your ideas at open houses or “public information centres”. These sessions generally include diagrams, maps, or mock-ups and, over a couple of hours, provide you with an opportunity to ask questions and make written suggestions or comments. For example, staff will organize an open house regarding the reconstruction of South Pelham (downtown Fonthill) this fall.

After generally starting with a presentation by a consultant or staff, workshops usually break-up into small groups to solicit interactive feedback and suggestions. During the summer, the Town held workshops regarding a vision for the Town’s “Community Improvement Plan”; we should hear results this fall.

You can also use standard communication methods to make a suggestion or get your point across. If you write about a major issue or request a policy change, your letter will go to the appropriate committee for information or action. Of course you can also call staff, councillors or myself directly. You can also request a meeting to discuss your issue. (You can even stop me on the street, as many people do, to discuss Town matters!)

These are some of the major ways in which you can get involved in the Town’s democratic process.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Immigrant's Memorial Bench

Below you will find my speech for the unveiling of the Immigrant's Memorial Bench in Peace Park today:

In March of 2009, the Pelham Town Council approved a resolution that the Town of Pelham honour “all immigrants who find themselves caught between cultures and are challenged to conform to both.”

The resolution carried on that “we honour these immigrants by installing a bench and planting a tree as a memorial in Peace Park.”

That is why we are here today.

As you may know, Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy. By so doing, Canada affirmed the value and dignity of all Canadian citizens regardless of their racial or ethnic origins, their language, or their religious affiliation.

Canadian multiculturalism is fundamental to our belief that all citizens are equal. Multiculturalism ensures that all citizens can keep their identities, can take pride in their ancestry and have a sense of belonging. The Canadian experience has shown that multiculturalism encourages racial and ethnic harmony and cross-cultural understanding.

Through multiculturalism, we recognize the potential of all Canadians, encouraging them to integrate into their society and take an active part in Canada’s social, cultural, economic and political affairs.

All Canadians are guaranteed equality before the law and equality of opportunity regardless of their origins. Canada’s laws and policies recognize Canada’s diversity by race, cultural heritage, ethnicity, religion, ancestry and place of origin and guarantee to all men and women complete freedom of conscience, of thought, belief, opinion expression, association and peaceful assembly.

At the same time, Canadians are free to choose for themselves, without penalty, whether they want to identify with their specific group or not. Their individual rights are fully protected and they need not fear group pressures.

Our diversity is a national asset. And, our citizenship gives us equal rights and equal responsibilities.

We affirm these rights today to help ensure that a multicultural, integrated and inclusive citizenship will be every Canadian’s inheritance.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Council, Committee, and You

Over the last couple of months, a number of people have asked me about how Council and Committees works. When do we meet? When can members of the public speak at Council? And, how do you get your suggestions or improvements discussed?

As a general rule, your Town Council meets at 7:00 PM on the first and third Mondays of each month in the Council Chambers in Town Hall. (During July and August we tend to only meet once.) If one of our regular meetings falls on a holiday Monday (like Labour Day), we meet on the Tuesday.

Council is formal; it’s where we undertake the official business of the Corporation of the Town of Pelham. We advance the Town’s business through motions and our actions are governed by a Procedural Bylaw. At Council, we make motions and enact bylaws – for taxation, for spending, for administration and enforcement. We set policy and we authorize and accept tenders. We receive and act on official correspondence. And, we ratify decisions of the Town’s General Committees.

Immediately following these Town Council meetings, we hold a “General Committee” meeting. Slightly less formal, General Committee is intended to be more detail oriented. All Councillors are members of General Committee and act as either Chair or Vice-Chair of one of the three divisions.

Planning & Development Services deals with matters involving development proposals, subdivision plans, zoning bylaws, official plans, building permits and the building code, and bylaw enforcement. Councillor Emmons is Chair; Councillor Durley is Vice-Chair.

Community & Infrastructure Services deals with roads, sidewalks, streetlights, sewers, water, cemeteries, drainage, parks, recreational services, facilities, and special community events. Councillor Urbanowicz is Chair; Councillor Cook is Vice-Chair.

Corporate Services deals with all matters relating to budgets, taxation and fees, and all other financial matters, human resources, and fire and library services. Councillor Papp is Chair; Councillor Lane is Vice-Chair.

What General Committee approves at one meeting is scheduled for ratification by Council at its next meeting (roughly two weeks later).

As you may know, both Council and Committee require “quorum” – at least the majority (four members) of the seven members – to legally function and make decisions. Each member of Council, including the Mayor, gets one vote. If the majority of members on hand support the motion, it is approved or “Carried”. If not, the motion is “Lost” or “Defeated”. In the case of a tie vote, the motion is defeated.

Next week, I will write about how you and other members of the public get involved in this democratic process.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Thanks to Volunteers and Coaches

Were you or your children / grandchildren involved in one of Pelham’s play-off games over the last couple of weeks?

On Sunday, Pelham Minor Baseball held an extremely well organized “Championship Day” at Harold Black Park. All the teams – from T-Ball, Rookie, Mosquito, Peewee, Midget, and Bantam – participated in playoff games, and each of the players gave it their all in running, throwing, and hitting competitions. The tremendous day also included a BBQ (courtesy Brian at M&M Meats) and awards ceremonies for each of the levels of play. I commend all the volunteers, organizers, and sponsors for the special day and for the wonderful season!

Similarly, my Pre-Squirt Soccer team recently enjoyed a special awards ceremony following our last game. I understand that other soccer levels have recently finished their seasons.

Over the weekend I bumped into my friend Ken who has coached Fenwick Softball for the last seven years. He said they recently had their playoff games.

And, so it has been similar for each of the summer team sports -- each of the seasons has ended.

Now the other sports – Figure Skating, Hockey, and Basketball – will be starting up in earnest for the fall / winter season.

As we are in this transition of sorts, I think it is a good time to honour and thank all those who volunteer with all the organized sport across our Town.

There are hundreds of coaches, conveners, and members of sports executives / associations that volunteer their time and efforts to ensure that our kids learn new skills, stay active, and enjoy the game. They also work behind the scenes to ensure it’s all organized and runs like a well oiled machine. Some might have kids on a team, but others volunteer or keep volunteering because they love the sport and are community minded.

On your behalf, and on behalf of the children of our Town, thank you to all our sport volunteers!

What about you? Are you interested in coaching or helping out?

Coaching just takes a couple of hours a week for you, but it helps build a positive foundation for kids for their lifetime.

Please check out these websites for more information and to get involved:

Pelham Figure Skating Club:
Pelham Minor Baseball Association:
Pelham Minor Hockey Association:
Pelham Panthers Basketball:
Pelham Soccer Club:
Pelham Tennis Club:
Fenwick Softball:

Thanks again to all coaches and youth sports volunteers!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fighting for Pelham’s Fire Fighters

It’s a date and a fire that is scorched in the hearts and minds of many members of Pelham’s Fire Service – November 8, 2004.

That’s the date of the devastating and tragic fire that claimed the lives of Monika Woerlen, 39, and her seven children Susanna Ruth, 11, Elena Jane, 10, Marcus Simon, 8, Samuel Benjamin, 7, Paul Anthony, 5, Nathan Matthew, 3, and 18-month-old Debora Lynne.

As you may recall from the tragedy, it was Pelham’s firefighters from Station #2 in Fenwick that were called to the West Lincoln fire, fought the blaze, and participated in the complex investigation. You may also recall that that fire is considered the worst fire involving children in Ontario’s history.

Why am I recounting that horrible tragedy?

I want to make the same point that Town Councillor Jim Lane, Town CAO Martin Yamich, and I made to the Honourable Peter Fonseca, Minister of Labour, at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference in Ottawa last week.

You see, the point is that part-time firefighters – like Pelham’s 105 dedicated volunteers – face the same perils as their full-time counterparts. They provide the same protection at a fraction of the cost. Part-time firefighters require the same initial training and annual certification as full-time firefighters. In today’s fire service across the Region, full-time and part-time often firefighters work side by side on “mutual aid” calls. Indeed, part-time firefighters are the backbone to the Ontario Fire Service.

Yet, under current Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) rules “Volunteer and Part-time Firefighters” are not covered like their full-time counterparts are for job related cancer or if the firefighter sustains a heart injury.

Often referred to as presumptive rules, the Government extended WSIB coverage automatically to full-time firefighters in May of 2007. But, since that time, they have not covered part-time firefighters in the same way.

We informed the Minister that Town Council had recently supported and endorsed the call to extend the same presumptive WSIB coverage to part-time firefighters.

The Minister indicated that the he is still consulting with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Ontario Fire Chief, and the Ontario Fire Marshall’s Office to finalize the regulations related to part-time firefighters. While the Minister was unable to give a timeline to complete the consultations, he did indicate that it was a priority and that he had meetings immediately following AMO.

We asked that Pelham’s position form part of his consultations and that he keeps us informed.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Preserve the Fonthill Kame

If you’re anything like me, you drive up and down it a couple of times each day.

Or, you admire its soil as you plant trees in your backyard. Or, you farm on it and sell your special crops at the road or the Pelham Farmer’s Market. Or, you admire the spectacular view from it as you plan a round of golf.

What am I talking about, you ask? The Fonthill Kame-Delta, of course.

The what?

The Fonthill Kame-Delta is our rare, 75-metre-tall landmark that that was formed by retreating glaciers 13,000 years ago. It’s 6 km long and 3 km wide – nearly 1000 hectares – and boasts the highest point in the Niagara Region and the headwaters of the Twelve Mile Creek.

Microclimatic conditions create an ideal atmosphere for tender fruit production on the Kame including peaches, sweet and sour cherries, apples and pears.

The Fonthill Kame was originally identified in 1980 as a provincially significant area and became an “Area of Natural and Scientific Interest” (ANSI) in 1983. This ANSI designation restricts development for reasons of heritage, science or education.

In May 2009, however, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources recommended new boundary changes to the ANSI area. (Please click here for a copy of the notification from the MNR to the Town.)

While a new area to the south side of the Kame would be added to the ANSI, other changes would significantly reduce the protected area. In fact, only small portions of the main components of the Kame-Delta complex would be included and the landform as a whole would no longer be protected.

The area that the MNR proposes to remove from the ANSI encompasses much of what is called the Upper Terrace. The Upper Terrace to be removed stretches from across from EL Crossley High School, past Effingham, to Lookout Street and lies between Tice Road and Highway 20. This area is the most vulnerable to development pressure – especially in the form of aggregate extraction! (Click here for a copy of the map to see how the MNR is proposing to shrink the ANSI. Note: the Red outline is current ANSI boundaries; yellow-hatched is proposed.)

That’s why Niagara Regional Council recently recommended that the ANSI be maintained. (Click here to see the letter that Regional Council endorsed.)

And, based on the Region's position, the Niagara Escarpment Commission also came out against the changes. (Click here to see the letter that the NEC sent in July changing their position.)

That is also why I led a delegation that included Regional Chair Peter Partington and Town Councillors Dave Emmons and Jim Lane to meet with Natural Resources Minister Donna Cansfield this week to request that the Ministry not reduce the ANSI. I also met with our MPP, Tim Hudak, about the matter. (Click here for a copy of the powerpoint presentation to the Minister.)

If you would like to support our efforts and pressure the Minister, please contact me at Town Hall or via email at for more information.

August 24, 2009:
The majority of Pelham Council voted to defer a decision to "support and endorse" the Region's position, pending a letter from Minister Cansfield. On a recorded vote, it was Mayor Dave and Councillor Jim Lane against the deferral; Councillors Cook, Durley, Emmons, Papp, and Urbanowicz voted for the deferral.

Sept. 15, 2009:
The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority has sent a letter to the MNR against their proposed changes to the Fonthill-Kame. (Please click here for a copy of their letter.)

Oct. 19, 2009:
The Minister of Natural Resources replied to Mayor Dave's Presentation at the August Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference. (Please click here for a copy of her letter.)

Nov. 2, 2009:
The August 24 deferred resolution to "support and endorse" Regional position came back to Town Council. On a recorded vote, Council voted to ask the Ministry of Natural Resources NOT to change the existing ANSI boundaries. Those in favour of the motion were Mayor Dave and Councillors Emmons, Lane, and Urbanowicz. Those against the motion were Councillors Cook, Durley, and Papp.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Update on 32 acres of Town-owned Land

Many Pelham residents have asked me about the 32 acres of Town-owned land at the corner of Rice Road and Highway #20.

In May 2008 Council declared the property – except land required for storm water management – as surplus and directed staff to dispose of it. In the meantime, an Interim Report from the Recreation Facilities Committee recently recommended building a “new Recreation and Community Centre in east Fonthill area.”

But, under its current zoning and because of the Secondary Planning process, the property is not (yet) worth the original purchase price and nothing can be done with the property. Let me explain.

In January 2005, the previous Council purchased the 32 acres for nearly $3.53 million – or an average of $110,000 per acre.

This purchase was based on a December 2004 appraisal that stated its valuation was based on “Extraordinary Assumptions.”

For example, the appraisal assumed that the site accessed full water and sewer servicing. Residents of Rice Road will remember that the Region did not officially connect water and sewers until more than two years later in fall 2007.

The appraisal also assumed that the property was severed from a main parcel of 74 acres. The severance occurred at the deal’s close on March 31, 2005.

But, the major “Extraordinary Assumption” appraised the property as if it contained 8.2 acres of commercial land along Highway 20, and 23.4 acres of business park lands. The appraisal pegged the commercial at $195,000 per acre, and the business park at $95,000 per acre.

In reality however, the entire property was – and still is – officially designated “business park.”

Can’t Council just change it, you ask? Well, it’s more complicated than that now.

You see, the previous Council almost changed the property’s designation in April 2006 when it was poised to approve the Town’s East Fonthill Secondary Plan. (The East Fonthill Secondary Plan is a statutory planning area that covers most property east of Station Street from Highway 20 along Rice Road to south of Merritt). Instead they accepted the majority Landowners Group demand, stopped the planning work, and turned that Secondary Plan process over to the Landowner’s Group. Then, in June 2006, the Province locked-in all “business park” lands.

So, how is this Council moving forward? This Council hired an expert to work directly with the Landowner’s Group to complete the Secondary Plan; we anticipate this coming forward before the end of this year.

The Town will also hold an Open House in the early fall to unlock the Province’s “business park” rules by completing a “Municipal Comprehensive Review.”

Finally, Council will determine the requirements for the development of the Town-owned lands during a special workshop in late-August.

These next steps will be critical to help Council decide how best to redesignate, sell, or make use of the lands.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More Haist Reconstruction

You will see that in my last column I wrote about the widening of Haist Street to accommodate bike widths, the addition of a sidewalk, and about the feedback by area residents.

Now, I thought you would want to know about some of the major benefits of the overall reconstruction of Haist Street. (Note: this column was written before Monday, July 20 Council meeting where we received two public presentations, a petition, and a staff report about Haist Street.)

Reduce Speeds:
A number of AK Wigg families and other area residents have expressed concern about people driving at excessive speeds along Haist Street. Some speeders even pass other drivers who were travelling the speed limit!

As a first step to make the street safer, a previous Council established a “Community Safety Zone” along most of Haist; for drivers caught speeding, the fines are doubled.

But, since that type of zone requires constant enforcement, vehicles have not slowed down. Thus, many concerned citizens requested that Council install “traffic calming measures” like speed bumps, roundabouts, stop signs, or on-street parking. At the first Public Open House in October 2008, the majority of respondents preferred raised crosswalks; the final draft of the Haist Street Plan includes four raised crosswalks – near the Arena, Berkwood, and Pancake Lane, and at A.K. Wigg School (which will also include an overhead, pedestrian traffic-light).

Better Water Quality:
You might recall that nearly 40 years ago Haist Street delineated the former “Village of Fonthill” from “Pelham Township.” That boundary also denoted different water systems. Fonthill water came from the (now abandoned) wells in Marlene Stewart-Strait Park. Pelham Township users relied on water from the Welland water treatment plant. For about a decade now, all of Pelham’s municipal water has come from the Regional water treatment plant in Welland. Yet, those aging, cast-iron watermains from the two, old water systems still deliver water to residents. Under the plan, these will be replaced with one, larger watermain.

New Storm Water System:
You might have noticed also the wide (and in some cases deep) ditches line Haist. These ditches are to collect all storm water and snow melt. However, downpours like we have had this spring and summer cause these ditches to washout and erode. The plan will eliminate washouts on the roads and help protect the environment by replacing the wide ditches with an underground storm water system.

These benefits formed an integral part of the Town’s successful application for Federal and Provincial funding.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The "Haist Street Plan"

What do you think about the Haist Street plan?

As one of Pelham’s most-used collector roads, the two kilometers of Haist Street from Canboro to Welland Road desperately requires reconstruction.

The $5.71 million reconstruction plan promises to create a more efficient road system that includes improved sightlines, added width for bicycles, sidewalks on both sides of the street, four raised crosswalks to calm the traffic, and a pedestrian-crossing signal in front of A.K. Wigg School. The replacement of the cast iron watermains (which separated Village of Fonthill and Pelham Township water forty years ago) will improve drinking water quality and system resiliency. The plan will eliminate washouts on the roads and help protect the environment by replacing the wide ditches with an underground storm water system.

The added bike-width and the new sidewalk on the western side of Haist stand as the most contentious parts of the plan. You see, the design calls for a widening of Haist by an extra metre to make it safer for cyclists. At the same time, adding a 1.5 metre (~5 feet) sidewalk after a curb and a 1.5 metre grass strip with new trees changes the face of many western-side properties.

In some cases, the new sidewalk could be up to 6 metres (+19 feet) closer to a home-owner’s property line. (Thankfully, the current plan incorporates a minimum 1.5 metre distance between the sidewalk and resident’s property.)

These suggestions will also affect any landscaping or trees that residents added to the road allowance over the years. The plan shows the removal of 46 such trees.

One can certainly understand why residents would work to improve the curb-appeal of their property or buffer it from traffic in these ways. People here (as elsewhere throughout our Town) cut and care for the road allowance in front of their property.

At the same time, a handful of homes stand as close as 2.5 metres (+8 feet) to their property line. If this was your home, you too would be concerned with any proposed changes.

Thus, many Haist Street residents publicly express concern. No doubt you heard about the 28 “Amend Haist Street Plan” signs displayed for the last two weeks. At our July 20 meeting Council will receive a petition with 147 signatures and comments asking to revise the Haist Street Plan “by removing and or altering elements to keep the flavour of Haist St.” Council will also receive a staff report summarizing the +40 comment sheets the design consultants obtained at the second Public Open House in June.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Let's Celebrate and Give Thanks!

Canada Day is an opportunity to gather in our community and to proudly celebrate all it means to be Canadian. It is an opportunity to celebrate Canada’s heritage – which is continuously passed down to us through the works of our authors, poets, artists and performers.

Canada Day is a time to rejoice in the discoveries of our scientific researchers – from the First Airplane Flight in Canada by the Silver Dart in 1909—to the success of our entrepreneurs – like Pelham-based Accipiter Radar Technologies installing the first software-definable radars in an airport this month.

And, of course, it is a time to be thankful for our country and our Town.

We live in a beautiful Town, a bountiful Region, and a wonderful country. As you travel on our rural roads, you will see cherries on the trees and berries on the vines. Our Thursday evening farmer’s market is alive with fresh produce, flowers and plants, and healthy foods and delicious treats. Or, if you stop at one of the roadside stands, you will find similar delights.

We also live in a peaceful, safe community with good schools, and many recreation opportunities. We have clean water, wonderful libraries, and a good mix of neighbourhood and community parks.

You and I are protected by a dedicated police service, devoted volunteer firefighters, and expert emergency personnel. We have fair access to good and affordable healthcare.

True, we do have some work in these areas, but on a global scale, we are doing very well and should be thankful.

We enjoy freedoms of conscience and religion, of thought, belief, opinion and expression, of assembly, and of association. We are free from persecution and from tyranny.

As I have marvelled many times, the work and dedication of so many generous volunteers form the foundation of our vibrant community. From the Santa Clause Parade, to the Fenwick Lions Carnival, to the Fonthill Bandshell Concert Series, to the Canada Day Parade, volunteers organize and run our Town’s significant public events. From Communities in Bloom, to the Horticultural Society, to those that have “adopted a road”, volunteers work to beautify our Town. In every sport from baseball and hockey, to soccer and tennis, volunteers – like the coaches, convenors, and score keepers – ensure that our children enjoy the fun-of-the-game.

As you and your family and friends commemorate our country’s 142nd birthday, I hope you will join me in celebrating and in giving thanks for our community and our Canada.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Built Form" and Transit

As you may have heard, Pelham Council recently discontinued the transit service that we had contracted with Welland Transit for one year. While we said no to that particular service, we also asked staff to recommend alternatives at Council’s July meeting.

The total cost of the service for 2008/09 was budgeted at $90,000, with the Town’s share being approximately $60,000. The other revenue was derived from Gas Tax, rider fares, and investments from Brock and Niagara College Student’s Unions.

In the spring of 2008, Council decided not to conduct an expensive survey that would supply the Town with the views of you and other residents regarding the need for transit. Instead, we invested those dollars into “rubber on the road” and pledged to gauge support that way.

So, on June 1st of this year, staff reported that the “Pelham Link” averaged 10.2 riders per day. Based on ridership and expecting an increase in costs in September – to $67,000 per year – staff recommended that the service be discontinued.

So, do we know why the transit test fell short?

Some said that the bus wasn’t frequent or convenient enough. While Pelham staff and Welland Transit staff attempted to give residents the best system with the amount of funding available, perhaps it could have been better.

But, perhaps there is a more profound reason.

You see, last week I had the honour of being one of the Region’s representatives at the 2009 Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference.

I attended several presentations about transportation and transit from all parts of the country. These presentations showed that while convenience and the quality of service are important elements for successful transit, the foundation lies in the “built form” of the community.

What does that mean? Built form is how a community actually exists “on the ground” and functions.

In this case, the theory states that the more dense a community – the higher the level of residential homes/units and jobs per acre – the greater the ability and willingness to use public transit.

While that’s intuitive, I had never heard it stated with so much authority nor seen it engrained in transportation policy before.

But, changing the built form of a community can take years. It is guided largely by the Official Plan and other planning rules.

In the meantime, I look forward to examining short- and medium-terms options for Pelham Transit when Staff presents recommendations to Council in July.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Unprecedented investment will allow Pelham to complete two projects worth $8.7 million

On Friday I heard from both Dean Allison, our MP, and Minister Jim Bradley, MPP St. Catharines, that the Town of Pelham had been awarded $5.66 million from both the Federal and Provincial Governments through the Building Canada Fund and the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. Together with the municipal share, this will allow the Town to complete two projects worth $8.68 million.

This level of investment by the Federal and Provincial Governments is simply unprecedented in Pelham.

I deeply appreciate this shared investment because it will provide a much-needed construction boost while allowing Pelham to build a lasting foundation for our Town’s future.

Under the Building Canada Communities Component, the Provincial and Federal Governments will each invest $1.84 million in the reconstruction of Haist Street. The Town will invest $2.03 million in the $5.71 million project.

As one of Pelham’s most-used collector roads, two kilometres of Haist Street from Canboro Road to Welland Road are in desperate need of reconstruction. Not only have the road and sidewalks deteriorated significantly, the water system needs upgrading.

The reconstruction will rehabilitate sidewalks and create a more efficient road system that includes bicycle lanes, improved sightlines, and traffic calming measures. The replacement of the cast iron watermains will improve water system resiliency and the project will dramatically improve the control of storm water.

Instead of digging up small sections of Haist Street over three years, this Federal and Provincial funding will allow us to accelerate the work and do it all at once. Construction will now begin as early as October 2009.

The Provincial and Federal Governments will also invest $990,000 each from the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund to replace Pelham Fire Station #2. Based on a complete functional analysis, the $2.97 million replacement fire hall will provide sufficient space for firefighters to work safely around the department’s equipment, store bunker gear in a separate area, and provide hands-on training and host fire-related meetings and events.

Parts of the current fire hall are showing significant cracks and other signs of deterioration. There are also significant safety concerns with the firefighters backing fire trucks into the station after each call.

The replacement Fire Hall will include very high standards for energy conservation and sustainable design. We hope to achieve long term operating cost savings while facilitating smooth and unobstructed movement of Firefighters and their equipment.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

You Can Help Redesign Our Downtowns

It was my pleasure to finally meet Larry during the weekend.

You see, several years ago Larry developed a series of drawings of how downtown Fonthill could look. In essence, he used a standard theme and drew new facades on each of the buildings of the day.

What happened with the drawings and his vision? They became a rallying cry for people who wanted to see a more standard and beautified downtown.

But, quite frankly, not much else happened with the drawings. Until now, that is.

Now, I’m pleased to let you know that through the leadership of this Council, the Town is ready for that vision. We are also ready for the strategies to make design guidelines happen.


It began with a community meeting regarding Pelham’s downtowns that Council and I called in the spring of 2007. At that meeting, an ad hoc, community-based committee was established to move the issues forward. Shortly thereafter, those citizens approached Council to become an official Town committee; Council agreed and established the Downtown Beautification Committee.

As I have written here before, that Committee has actively advanced beautification of our downtowns by encouraging Council to undertake and develop a Community Improvement Plan (CIP). Through assessment adjustments and grant incentives, this CIP will encourage property owners to upgrade their properties.

Council also set aside funds – up to $50,000 – for incentives for property-owners to beautify their properties in designated areas. This final CIP report could be adopted by Council as early as July.

But, in what way should downtown property-owners improve their properties and buildings? What should those improvements look like? And, how do you ensure that improvements follow a certain look and feel?

We need your help to do that. That’s why I am writing to invite you and your neighbours to participate in three workshops to help form special Design Guidelines and strategies for our downtowns. These guidelines will “provide an urban design vision and guidance for the Downtowns by addressing the nature, intensity and quality of development in both the public and private realms.”

The workshops will run from 6:30 PM on June 9 at Town Hall, and on June 10 and 11 at Old Town Hall. Please check the following link for further details:

Whether it’s Larry’s vision or your vision, I hope you can participate in the workshops and help Pelham’s downtowns become beautified and revitalized.

Friday, May 29, 2009

2009 Final Tax Rates & Property Assessments

You may recall that in January, I wrote here about how Market Value Assessment was only one half of the property tax equation. I explained then that the amount of property tax you pay to the Town of Pelham, to the Region, and to the Province (for Education) is based on the Market Value Assessment of your property multiplied by the tax rates.

Further, I suggested that you “stay tuned” until all three entities set their final tax rates.

Well, during our regular meeting last week, Council approved the 2009 Final Tax Rates. Despite Pelham Council approving our budget in February, we were not able to adopt these final rates until now – that is until after the Niagara Region and the Ontario Ministry of Education set their final rates.

Your Assessment:
Your assessment is solely set by MPAC. The Town and the Region cannot change any element of this assessment. It is mandated by the Province, who has established a separate corporation – MPAC – to administer it.

In Pelham, the average residential property increased by 5.78%. Does that mean that your taxes went up by that amount? No. Because your property tax depends on both your assessment and the tax rate.

Property Taxes = Assessment X Total Tax Rate

Tax Rate:
Your tax rate is set by the Town, the Region, and the Province (for the Education portion). Here are the final rates for 2009.

Municipalities set the tax rate based on the total assessment for each of the tax classes – residential, multi-residential, commercial, industrial, farm/managed forest, pipelines.

So what happened to your assessment and your tax rate?
The average residential property in Pelham had a market value assessment of $235,000 for the 2008 tax year. For the 2009 tax year, that increased by 5.78% to an average of $248,583.

At the same time, the Pelham tax rate decreased by 3.9%. Therefore, the Pelham portion of your residential property taxes increased by 1.7%.

When homeowners received their property reassessments in the fall, some worried that Pelham might take advantage of the increased assessment to hike property taxes. Instead, quite the opposite occurred.

I hope you will be pleased to know that the final property tax increase of 1.7% is the second lowest increase in Niagara Region this year!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Inaugural Mayor’s Gala Promotes Pelham

As you may have heard, the Inaugural Pelham Mayor’s Gala was an overwhelming success! Because of the generosity of local sponsors, the sold-out event netted $21,700 for Project Pelham Cares.

As participants arrived, Peninsula Lakes Golf Course staff shuttled them to the Clubhouse door courtesy of Central Golf Cart Services. Inside, all were welcomed by the wonderful music of Pelham’s own Glissandi – classical harp and violin courtesy Deborah & David Braun. The wine tasting was courtesy Niagara College Winery, the Seafood Appetizers were sponsored by Accipiter Radar Technologies, and the Hors D’oeuvres by Canadian Tire Financial Services.

Angela Carter, whom you may recall as volunteer chair of the 2007-08 United Way campaign, emceed the evening. She welcomed the Shatford Family to perform the National Anthem a cappella; they later performed “Working in our Town” about Pelham Cares based on the Carter Family classic “In the Highways.” Tim Hartwick, of Personal Touch Home Improvements, offered the blessing.

It was then my honour to bring greetings to the nearly 200 gala participants. I thanked the sponsors and silent auction donors for their generosity, and encouraged all to generously support the event. I also acknowledged those elected members of our community present including Malcolm Allen, Welland Riding MP (and former Pelham Councillor); Peter Partington, Regional Chairman; Brian Baty, Pelham Regional Councillor; Welland Mayor Damian Goulbourne; Dave Emmons, Pelham Deputy Mayor & Councillor; Peter Papp, Pelham Councillor; and Jim Lane, Pelham Councillor. I also thanked the Gala Committee – Jean Bancroft, Ian Hamilton, Carolyn Mullin, John Nicol, Paul Winkler, and Jordan Arcaro – for their dedication and significant work.

Then Gail Hilyer, President of Pelham Cares, expressed her appreciation and spoke about the ongoing commitment of Pelham Cares to support the most vulnerable. She also explained the dire need for a more permanent home for Pelham Care’s services.

Just as the sun set over Pelham’s short-hills, all enjoyed the exquisite buffet dinner which was sponsored by Meridian Credit Union, Lafarge, and the Planning Partnership. Later we delighted in dessert courtesy of Indulgence. Finally, after the silent auction and raffle, Introduction, a Pelham-based band that was sponsored by Walker Industries, entertained the crowd.

As you can imagine, it is gratifying to host such a signature event that not only raised funds to support Pelham Cares, but that also showcased some of the best specialty services, businesses, and entertainment serving Pelham. Thank you to all participants and donors for your generosity.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Shared Investments in Pelham?

The last couple of weeks have been especially busy in the "municipal world." On April 15th we received word from the Honourable John Baird, Federal Minister of
Transport, Infrastructure & Communities, and the Honourable George
Smitherman, Ontario's Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy &
Infrastructure, that they would receive applications for infrastructure stimulus funding until Friday, May 1st.

As you may know, under the Canada / Ontario Infrastructure Stimulus Fund, all three levels of government contribute one-third of the total eligible project cost as long as the approved project can be fully completed by March 31, 2011. This funding will not only provide much-needed stimulus to the economy, it is also intended to help municipal governments meet our infrastructure needs.

So, for which projects has Pelham applied, you ask?

First, under the Building Canada Communities Component (communities under 100,000), we applied for a shared investment in the reconstruction of Haist Street. As one of Pelham’s most used collector roads, two kilometers of Haist Street from Canboro to Welland Road desperately requires reconstruction. Not only have the road and sidewalks deteriorated significantly, the water and waste water systems need upgrading.

The $5.71 million reconstruction will rehabilitate sidewalks and create a more efficient road system that includes bicycle lanes, improved sightlines, and traffic calming measures. The replacement of the cast iron watermains will improve water system resiliency and the project will dramatically improve the control of storm water. Federal and Provincial funding will allow this multi-phase, multi-year project to be dramatically accelerated and completed by December 2010.

Second, the Town applied for $2.32 million to revitalize Fenwick’s Downtown Core. You will recall that we were declined funding for this project in the fall because it was seen as a separate project to Fonthill’s downtown revitalization. Now, we are proposing similar urban design improvements which will calm traffic, protect heritage streetscapes, widen sidewalks with safe crossings at key areas, and provide decorative lighting.

Third, we applied for a $2.97 million replacement of Pelham Fire Station #2. Based on a complete functional analysis, the replacement firehall will provide sufficient space to park and work safely around the department’s equipment, a bunker gear storage area, and sufficient rooms for hands-on training and fire-related meetings / events.

Finally, the Town applied for $1.25 million to replace the Maple Acre Library Branch. Based on current usage and growth estimates for the Town and using a functional analysis, this replacement, rural-village branch library will provide much-needed, fully accessible space for library resources, programs, and community development.

We await word from the Federal and Provincial governments on these shared investment projects to improve our Town.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Downtown Revitalization Update

Last November I wrote here about the Town’s multi-million dollar application to revitalize Pelham’s downtowns. I am writing now to provide you with an update.

As you will recall, last September the Federal and Provincial Governments announced the Building Canada Grant Program for communities under 100,000 people.

The Town of Pelham submitted an application to the program requesting a total of $7.1 million to revitalize downtown Fonthill and Fenwick. In December, the Building Canada program deemed our submission to be two separate projects and the Town had to choose one project over the other. The Town amended the application to fund the downtown area of Fonthill – the larger and more expensive of the projects (at more than $4.6 million).

In February, 2009, I was informed that the Town would receive $852,572 from each level of Government for a total of $1.7 million. Based on the amended application, this left a shortfall of nearly $1.3 million in funding from the two levels of Government.

Later, Town staff was informed that Building Canada deemed burying of the hydro lines, and the purchase of benches and planters as “ineligible expenditures” under the program. While the cost for the benches and planters are minimal, the cost to bury the hydro lines (including contingencies, engineering and Environmental Assessment costs) was budgeted at approximately $1.9 million (for all three levels of government)!

On March 17, the CAO and I met with representatives from the Ministry of Energy & Infrastructure, the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs in Toronto. We not only sought clarification on these exclusions, but we also implored them to agree to fund expenditures relating to the burying of the hydro lines.

While we were again informed that the burying of hydro lines was not an eligible expenditure, Ministry representatives indicated that very small pockets of funding may be available once the Town finalized the design. An eternal optimist, I continue to be hopeful in this regard.

In the meantime, Council recently awarded the contract for the engineering and infrastructure design of both Fonthill’s and Fenwick’s downtowns. We continued to include Fenwick’s downtown in the contract to get better pricing and so that we will be "shovel ready" for any further grants. This engineering design will not only advance the projects but will also provide an accurate cost to bury the hydro lines in both our downtowns.

I will continue to keep you informed on our progress.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Public Utility for Regional Water & Waste Water?

During some Regional meetings last week, I was reminded of the quote, “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink” from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” There we were, after several deferrals and much debate, discussing the Regional water and waste water rates for 2009.

You see, since the fall the Region has been working on a new way to charge for water and waste water services.

The Regional side of your water and sewer rates pays for both the water and sewer treatment costs and any delivery costs to the 11 Towns, Townships, and Cities that have retail water services. In fact, last year 75 million cubic meters of water was treated at the Region’s six treatment plants. In addition, 91 million cubic meters of wastewater was treated at nine sewage treatment plants.

But, essentially, the Region is the wholesaler of water to the municipalities. Up to this year, the price was based on a three-year rolling average of a Town’s or City’s usage. However, under that system, the Region accumulated an $18 million deficit over the last five years for water charges! (That’s on a base of an annual water budget of approximately $41 million.)

How could that happen?

Well, in some respects, it’s really some good news. You see, water consumption has significantly decreased over the last number of years. We were told that the drop in consumption was due both to increased conservation by users (great work everyone!), and to wet summers in 2008 and 2006. As the numbers show, the trend is quite clearly for decreased water usage. (And, I argued that the Region clearly wasn’t budgeting properly for the decrease!)

So, the Region proposed instituting a 50% fixed water charge because the service has “between 60% and 90% fixed costs.”

Various municipalities – the retailers of the water to you and your neighbours – disagreed. They argued that such a high fixed-price component would jeopardize efforts to conserve water.

Finally, after many meetings over many months, a compromise was reached.

First, the fixed component was set at 25% for the next two years.

Second, staff will present options for linking the “wholesale” and “retail” components together. We suggested researching a common regional water rate structure, or even a separate, public utility model for regional water delivery! While this may take some time, I wanted you to know about the direction we are investigating at the Region.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Development Charges: Paying for Growth

Over the next few weeks you may be hearing a more about “Development Charges.” What’s that, you ask?

Under something called the Development Charges Act, the Province allows Municipalities to collect fees to help offset the “costs of growth.”

You see, new growth – residential, commercial, or industrial– applies additional pressures on municipal infrastructure. For example, new residential development areas often require additional water and waste water services. Or, if hundreds of new homes are built, new residents place pressures on roads and other Town services – everything from recreational services, to library usage, to fire protection. This “pressure” means additional costs to add trunk water lines, widen collector roads, or renovate or build new facilities.

Many years ago, an existing property tax-payer would have paid for additional municipal infrastructure and services that were required for new developments. Many felt that that lacked fairness, and that “new growth should pay for new growth.” On the other side of the argument, many felt that new growth should pay no more than its fair share.

Thus, a balance is sought where new growth should not create a financial burden on existing residents of the community while the existing residents should not enjoy a financial benefit at the expense of new residents.

The Town of Pelham has been setting and collecting development charges on development and re-development for some time. Development Charges were also previously known as Impost Fees or Capital Levies and have been in place at the majority of Ontario municipalities for several years. The current Development Charges by-law was adopted by Council on August 16, 2004 after an in-depth Development Charges Study conducted by an independent consultant. The by-law lasts for five years and is set to expire this August.

Some steps have already been taken to update the Town’s Development Charges by-law.

First, pursuant to the Development Charges Act, an independent consultant has prepared a Background Study – which was made publicly available on March 6.

Second, staff met with representatives of the development industry on March 9 regarding the Background Study and the proposed new by-law.

Third, a Public Meeting has been called for Monday, March 23 at 7:00 PM in the Council Chambers of Pelham Town Hall to present and obtain public input on the Town’s proposed by-law and underlying background study.

If you are interested, please join us that evening. For more information please contact the Town Clerk at 905-892-2706 or at

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Keeping An Open Mind

Perhaps you heard that the Honourable Gilbert Parent, Member of Parliament for 22 years and former Speaker of the House, passed away last week. You may recall that he represented Pelham in the “Niagara Centre” Riding from 1997 to 2000.

Mr. Parent began his career in education and when defeated in 1984 by the Mulroney sweep, he returned to teaching. In 1986 he taught me religion at Notre Dame, and I fondly remember many of his lessons.

One of his lessons stood out for me this week. I recall Mr. Parent analyzing the quote “The problem with an open mind is it lets in too much garbage.” He explored the quote by asking “If you truly have an open mind, how do you know an idea or concept is garbage before you scrutinize it?” Instead, he taught about the virtues of keeping an open mind. Only then should one weigh all the options.

And, so I try to keep an open mind on all matters – including recreational facilities.

That’s why I reported to Council last week about a recent meeting between representatives of Welland, Niagara College, and Pelham.

You see, Welland’s studies indicate that they need either a three-pad arena or a four-pad if they stop using the Welland Arena. While they preferred to locate it on property they own at Woodlawn and River Road, their second preference was Niagara College.

Why potentially the Niagara College Campus? Since the College already hosts several community facilities— Niagara Centre YMCA, Children’s Safety Village, NRP Training Facility, Ball Hockey International – there is a potential for a similar free-property arrangement.

So, if Welland needs three-plus ice surfaces and if Pelham needs more ice, a Niagara College location could have other potential advantages: usage by students during off-peak hours, sharing of existing parking, appeal for fundraising and funding from other levels of government, and efficient use of public resources and funds.

It also would have potential challenges: complex negotiations and agreements, the potential “loss of identity”, and a potential resident backlash.

While such a potential partnership is clearly not the only option, I wanted to ensure that our minds were still open to the concept. And, while Welland is moving quickly, Pelham’s own Recreational Facilities Committee still has to formally analyze this and other options.

Rest assured that I will continue to keep my mind open and analyze all options for your benefit and that of your Pelham neighbours and friends.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pelham's Good News Budget

You would not have heard much fanfare about it had you been at our Town Council meeting last week. And, yet, it was very important for you and for all property tax payers in Pelham.

You see, Council officially approved our 2009 Operating Budget.

From the start, our budget working group gave direction to ensure minimal impact on you and other property tax-payers without decreasing the current level and quality of services.

In essence, we said find efficiencies, find ways to work smarter, and stay focused on service to the community. I am pleased to let you know that the budget does just that.

In addition, Town staff continues to look at all work processes and to seek opportunities to reduce costs through the use of new technology, procedural improvements, and/or alternative sources of revenue.

Overall, these initiatives allowed the Treasurer to suggest a minimal general tax levy increase of $282,025 (on a $10 million budget) or 2.62% BEFORE adjusting for real assessment growth. Real assessment growth in 2008 – from new businesses, new homes, or improvements to existing properties – was $164,383. (This growth has nothing to do with MPAC’s changes in market value assessment of existing properties.)

Once growth is removed, the net effect on the tax levy will be $117,642 or an increase of 1.48% on the Town of Pelham portion of your 2009 property tax bill.

What does that mean for your pocket book, you ask?

Well, the average residential property value for 2009 is expected to be $248,583. If your home and property were assessed at that value, you would be paying only an additional $23 or a total of $1,218 on the Pelham portion of your property bill. This year’s average increase is less than half of last year’s $54 average increase.

You can see that Council and staff have taken global economic situation very seriously.

In fact, I am pleased to tell you about a conversation our Treasurer recently had with the Treasures of the other 11 Cities, Towns, and Townships across the Region. While most have not yet completed their budgets, given the discussions other Council’s, it looks like our increase will be the lowest in the entire Region. That’s good news for you, isn’t it?

If you would like additional information about the 2009 budget, please download the budget presentation from the Town’s website at or watch it on Cogeco on Wednesday, March 18.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Facilities Update

Many people have asked me recently about how things are progressing with some of our facilities in Town.

As you’ll recall, during the summer Council established three facilities committees – Fire Station #2 Replacement Committee, Maple Acre Library Branch Replacement Committee, and Recreational Facilities Committee. Working to plan and develop various facilities, each committee includes Town Councillors, myself (as a non-voting member) and appropriate staff.

The Fire Station #2 Replacement Committee, chaired by Councillor Debbie Urbanowicz, started meeting in September. The committee determined that the Town needs a new Fire Station because the current vehicle bays do not have enough room for future vehicle requirements. In addition, parts of the building are structurally inadequate; for instance, the south-east corner is severely cracked and deteriorating. There are also significant safety concerns with the firefighters backing fire trucks into the station after each call.

Next, the committee determined that required improvements cannot occur on the current site. An additional fire bay attached to the current building would eliminate vehicle parking for the volunteer fire fighters. And, if the current building was demolished and totally replaced, there’s not enough land to construct a new firehall with enough parking.

Thus, the committee developed a “site criteria matrix” with weighted scoring to evaluate other public lands – Centennial Park, downtown Fenwick lands. The matrix showed that those lands didn’t even meet 50% of their ideal site requirements.

So, in December and again in January, the committee invited public landowners to submit options for new sites which were to be evaluated with the same site criteria matrix. Finally, the committee has undertaken a functional analysis to determine the fire service’s specific requirements for individual rooms and building configuration.

The Maple Acre Library Branch Replacement Committee, chaired by Councillor Dave Emmons, started meeting in October. The committee determined that, even as it stands now, the current facility is deficient – not accessible, structurally unsound. Working to determine short- and long-term requirements, the committee is considering circulation statistics, population projections, and the interplay between branch usage patterns. The committee is still evaluating the “Top 10” needs and objectives of the library branch and site. It too has undertaken a functional analysis to determine specific requirements for rooms and building configuration.

The Recreational Facilities Committee, chaired by Councillor John Durley, began meeting in November. Its mandate is very broad and includes the future of all Town recreational facilities – arena, outdoor pool, sports fields, and parks. The committee assembled all recommendations from the many previous recreational studies. It has begun determining challenges and establishing priorities.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Secret of Fenwick Flossie

To my delight, one of my responsibilities as Mayor has been to assist with Pelham’s Annual Groundhog Day event and help greet Fenwick Flossie.

We all know about Wiarton Willy. As the website dedicated to him states: “On February 2nd, just after 8:00 AM, Canada's groundhog soothsayer, the great Wiarton Willie, emerges from hibernation in his burrow long enough to announce to the world, his weather report. Discovered in 1956, he has consistently delivered accurate predictions on the remaining course of winter.”

So famous has Wiarton Willie become that in 1995 the Town erected a beautiful white limestone statue called “Willie Emerging.” The statue has become a ‘must see’ for tourists travelling in the Bruce Peninsula any time of year.

And the Annual Wiarton Willie Festival occurred this past weekend. Voted the Most Popular Event in Ontario in 2000, the festival features a parade, a Monte Carlo night, a dart tournament, a special hockey game, a pizza eating contest, and the Groundhog Ball.

What about the other spring prognosticator? I haven’t forgotten about Punxsutawney Phil. His Pennsylvania website states that Phil “is the only true weather forecasting groundhog. The others are just impostors.”

Since the late 1800’s, Phil has made his prediction at 7:25 AM. Have you send the Hollywood movie starring Bill Murray, entitled Groundhog Day, which focuses on the event?

But, what about Fenwick Flossie? Are not her predictions at 10:30 AM equally as valid? Where is her world-wide fame, her website, her TV crews?

You see, each year Junior Kindergarten to Grade 3 students from E.W. Farr, St. Ann schools participate in Groundhog Day at Centennial Park. While waiting for Flossie to rouse, the Fenwick Lions award colouring contest prizes. Then, the students cheer loudly and enthusiastically to wake-up Flossie from her long winter nap; she was last seen in the Santa Claus parade in early December. After Flossie makes her weather prediction, the Fenwick Lions treat the children and their teachers to cookies and hot chocolate.

As a former member of the Fenwick Lions, I know that the event is not about fame, predictions, the tourist trade or economic spin-offs.

In the end, it’s all about good fun for kids in the community. That’s the real secret of Fenwick Flossie.

I hope you will agree that it is special events like this one, organized by caring, community-minded volunteers, that makes our Town the best in Niagara!