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.