Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How should we spend your money in 2011?

Do you have a suggestion on how the Town should spend your money? What are some specific things that you think the Town should do or things that we should stop doing? How can we make Pelham a better place to live, work, grow, and play?

I am very proud that our new Council agreed to continue with the practice (started by the last Council) of inviting you and your neighbours and friends to get involved in the Town’s Budget.

Council began that process last week with a special public meeting where we listened to the public about any spending or Town issue. We referred the community’s input for consideration as staff prepares the budget for 2011.

Council first started this type of a “pre-budget consultation” in January 2007 for the 2007 Budget. In subsequent years, we had special meetings in late-October for the following budget year.

This year, we delayed the process slightly because of the October 25 Municipal Election.

However, I am very excited that we are undertaking this consultation process again. It is so important to hear directly from you about your needs, wants, and ideas. Our Town improves when more and more people become involved in its success!

Council recently adopted this budget schedule:
* Pre-Budget Consultation – beginning December 6, 2010;
* Draft Capital Budget Available to the Public – January 21, 2011;
* Draft Capital Budget Presented to Committee – January 24;
* Council Approve Capital Budget – February 7;
* Draft Operating, Water & Sewer Budgets to Committee – February 28;
* Council Approve Operating, Water & Sewer Budgets – March 7.

Now, I know that the date for the public meeting has passed. But, you can still take the opportunity to offer your suggestions on how to improve any of our Town’s many service areas: Fire Protection & Prevention, Building & By-law Enforcement, Animal Control, Roads & Sidewalks, Water & Sewers, Winter Control, Planning Services, Library Services, and Parks & Community Services.

It’s easy to do! Just simply send a letter via email to a special email address: You can also view background budget information at the Town’s website:

Not internet savvy? You can also provide written comments via normal mail c/o Town Clerk, Town of Pelham, 20 Pelham Town Square, P.O. Box 400, Fonthill, ON L0S 1E0.

I hope to hear from you and I look forward to discussing your ideas so that we can build a better future for our Town together.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Inaugural Address

Please find below my Inaugural Address that I gave last night at the Inauguration of your 2010-2014 Town of Pelham Council.

I am both humbled and honored to stand here again and continue my service as your Mayor for our Town of Pelham.

I personally congratulate each member of Council on your recent election.

I look forward to serving with you, and to working together with your ideas, your passions, your dreams, and your actions to improve our Town.

Ladies & gentlemen, the recent democratic process highlighted a real interest in the future of our Town.

You and your friends and neighbours are interested in workable solutions to the issues and challenges that face our community;

You have an optimism for the future of our Town;

And you want your Council to work together with you to continue to improve our Town.

As a result, your Council and I will concentrate on some key areas:

• We will manage your money wisely and tell you how your taxes are being spent;
• We will gather significant public input to decide on improvements for appropriate and affordable recreational and leisure facilities;
• We will work to ensure that new development fits well with our vision for a vibrant community with a small-town feel;
• We will act in partnership with businesses and residents to develop a cohesive vision for our entire community;
• We will continue to focus on building lively and viable downtowns and promote cultural and artistic activities;
• We will advance sustainable environmental practices;
• We will listen and keep you informed about things that matter to you;
• We will ensure that our infrastructure is well managed and maintained (and that includes finishing the roads already dug up);
• We will work with the hundreds of volunteers who preserve our neighbour-helping-neighbour character and who make our community a richer, more vibrant place to live, work, and grow;
• And, in general, we will serve you – as best we can – on each of the other issues both known and unknown that will affect you and your neighbours and friends.

Friends and neighbours, your Council is ready to act, ready to find workable solutions, and ready to serve in your best interests. You Council is ready to keep working together to build a better future for our Town – the Town that we each love and cherish.

Thank you, again, for your encouragement by being present here this evening and for showing your interest in the future of our Town.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What's In A Chair?

Since a recent topic of discussion around kitchen tables, on radio call-in shows, and on the editorial pages has been about the election of the next Regional Chair, I wanted to provide you with a little context.

The members of the newly elected Regional Council will convene on Thursday, December 9 at 10:00 AM in the Regional Council Chamber. After the Regional Clerk administers the “Declaration of Office” for our 30 members, the first “order of business” will be the election of a Chair.

The election of the Chair will be a public process; the proceedings will be open to the public and Cogeco Cable will broadcast the live (tape-delayed) proceedings beginning at 11:00 AM.

In the first phase of the election, the Clerk will ask for nominations for qualified candidates; only Regional Councillors can “move” and “second” those nominations. Following nominations, each qualified candidate will have a chance to speak for five minutes (in alphabetical order).

Then, the Clerk will oversee the “run-off” election which will be similar to the process used in political leadership contests. For example, if after the first ballot, no one receives a majority of the votes – 16 – then the candidate with the least number will be removed and the vote on another ballot would occur. The voting continues until a candidate receives a majority.

While the Municipal Act does allow the election of any qualified elector from Niagara to be nominated and elected Chair, you may be interested to know that the precedence from the last six elections (since 1991) has been to nominate and elect a Chair only from the members of Regional Council.

What prompted this practice, you might ask?

Well, from 1972 to 1983, Council continued to re-elect John Campbell as Regional Chair; Mr. Campbell was first appointed by the Province to serve as Chair during the start of the Region in 1970. But, when Campbell retired, Regional Council elected a member of Council – Wilbert Dick – to serve as Chair in 1985. Interestingly, in 1988 Council re-elected Mr. Dick, even though he didn’t run for re-election as a Councillor.

However, the matter was clarified in 1990 as Council endorsed (and in 1991 re-affirmed) a recommendation in the report of the Niagara Region Review Commission that “Only regional councillors elected at the most recent election should be eligible for election as Regional Chair.”

Given the discussion in the community and the candidates who have already announced, it should be a very interesting election on December 9th.

By the way, I was recently on the Tom McConnell Show on 610 CKTB talking about the election of the Regional Chair. Click here to listen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Transition Toward a New Council

I thought you might be wondering about what’s happening during this transition period between the old and new Town Council?

As a result of the municipal election on October 25, our new Council includes three new members – Gary Accursi, Larry Clark, and Catherine King – and three returning Councillors – John Durley, Peter Papp, and Debbie Urbanowicz – and myself.

Shortly after the election I met personally with each Councillor-Elect. We spoke about the transition period, ideas for the new term, and the opportunities Councillors have to serve on various Town committees or Boards – like the Active Transportation Committee or Pelham Public Library Board.

Over the next couple of weeks, Council will get together socially. Staff will host a coffee break to meet the new Council next week. Then, as is a tradition in Pelham, Council will meet socially with Department Heads prior to Christmas as well as participate in the Staff Christmas Party. Council itself will also meet socially over the coming weeks so we can get to know each other as a group.

But, the transition will include much work, too. Prior to the new term, Councillors-Elect will participate in an Orientation Session to learn about all facets of the Town’s services – from Planning to Bylaws, from Fire to Libraries, and from Roads to Parks. We will review the “Conflict of Interest” rules, the procedures used during Council meetings, and the recently approved Councillor’s “Code of Conduct.”

Your new Council will officially make our “Declaration of Office” at our Inaugural Meeting on Wednesday, December 1 from 7:00 PM at the Royal Canadian Legion, Fonthill. This Special Meeting will officially begin the public service of your Council. All are welcome; please join us!

On Monday, December 6 at 7:00 PM in the Council Chambers, your new Council wants to hear from you with ideas and suggestions about what we should include in the 2011 Town Budget. All are welcome to this Public Meeting.

We will hold our first official Council & General Committee meeting on Monday, December 13 at 7:00 PM in the Council Chambers. Then, Council & General Committee meetings will continue on the first and third Mondays of each month beginning on January 17, 2011.

Finally, in late-January or early-February, we will meet to develop our Strategic Plan – a plan that will guide Council and the Town for the next four years and beyond.

This is an exciting time! I look forward to working with our new Council to continue to improve our Town.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Serene Remembrance

The weather on Sunday morning was glorious. The leaves on the ground and a few in the tree reminded us that Fall was upon us. The sun shone beautifully through the trees and the air was clear and sweet.

It felt like an idyllic Fall morning. It felt so peaceful and so serene. It felt like the perfect example of freedom, of promise, and of individual choice.

The weather made it feel so far from the ravages of war. It felt so far from oppression and from tyranny. The twin-prop airplane we heard overhead was for recreation, not a vehicle of war or destruction.

And yet, Pelham residents took time to gather with members of the Royal Canadian Legion and the Ladies Auxiliary, the Royal Canadian Army Cadets, and others at the Cenotaphs at Centennial Park, Old Town Hall, and Peace Park to commemorate and remember the sacrifices of Pelham’s Veterans.

Each Remembrance Day it is right to remember those brave men and women who have served, and who continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict, and peace.

We honour them for their courage, their commitment, and their devotion to Canada.

They served our country and gave their lives so that future generations might have democracy; so that we might enjoy safety and security; so that our society is one of justice and the rule of law; so that we might enjoy mornings like last Sunday.

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.

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

The men and women of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan are fighting still, for these same principles. Indeed, it is right to remember their sacrifice and determination on Remembrance Day too.

On these cenotaphs throughout our Town and at Veteran’s Park, the names of some of those from Pelham that were killed in service and in battle are engraved. May they also be engraved in our minds and on our hearts.

And so, on this Remembrance Day 2010, let us be thankful. Let us rededicate ourselves to peace. And let us never forget.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Greatest Achievement & Biggest Disappointment

Below are my notes for the third prepared question at the Mayoral debate, hosted by the Fonthill Rotary Club on Wednesday, October 6, 2010 at the Royal Canadian Legion.

Question 3)
In your term on Council, what do you consider to be:
a) your greatest achievement
b) your biggest disappointment or failure?

Working together with Council, Staff, the Community, Federal and Provincial reps, and Ministerial staff to Make Investments Happen for Pelham.

Over the decades, Pelham used to be "shut out" from grants while other cities and towns received millions of dollars.

Now, Pelham has become a leader! These $8.4 investments represent the second highest per person stimulus funding in Niagara.

For example:
• Thorold: 18,000 people: $1.8 M stimulus
• Lincoln: 21,000 people: $1.7 M
• Grimsby: 24,000 people: $5.4 M
• Pelham: 17,000 people: $8.4 M

How did we achieve that together?
First, we met frequently with Pelham's Federal and Provincial representatives and even before the stimulus investments. For example, Mr. Hudak assisted us and connected us with Ministry staff. We also received copies of the successful applications from other Towns and Cities so that we could imitate them.

Staff & Council met with Provincial Ministers (Smitherman & Bradley):
o When Minister Bradley met with staff and I in my office in December 2008, tt was the first time in Pelham's history that a Provincial Minister had ever visited Town Hall!
Staff and I met with Provincial Ministry staff
o Infrastructure, Energy, Hyrdo One; Agriculture
Council also obviously got engaged in process and we used their contacts
Council and I encouraged Town Staff to:
o Use a team approach for Pelham's applications.
I invited the Pelham Business Association, the Chamber of Commerce, and all businesses and residents to get involved and write letters of support for improvements.

The focus on working together may have looked easy to some, but it has resulted in what Minister Jim Bradley stated at groundbreaking for Pelham Fire Station #2 on Friday.
He said "this is yet another milestone in the transformation of Pelham."

Because we have achieved so much this term, I am disappointed that we couldn’t move ahead faster on issues with Town Property;

But as you know, THIS Council’s hands were tied by the previous Council when they gave control of the process to the Developers.

Good news is that we have managed to pay down $1.1 million of principal – while the previous Council only paid interest (no principal!);
Also the East Fonthill Secondary Plan should be complete in 2011.

Working together we have achieved great things.
We have turned years of wait into months of action.

Pelham's Main Economic "Engine"

Below are my notes for the second prepared question at the Mayoral debate, hosted by the Fonthill Rotary Club on Wednesday, October 6, 2010 at the Royal Canadian Legion.

Question 2)
What do you consider will be the main economic engine in the Town of Pelham for the next 5/10/20 years and beyond? And, what is the Mayor’s responsibility in this regard?

Historically, Pelham’s main economic engines have been agriculture and trade, residential developments and affiliated services.

Recently, also developing other services and a retail sector.
But, have little to no manufacturing or industrial operations.

Really rely on the businesses in other parts of Niagara.
Rely on improvements and advancements at Brock University and Niagara College and other key employers.

Statistics Canada says that 76% of employment work force works outside of Pelham
Double rest of Region – where it’s 36%.

At same time, Town’s First Strategic Plan of 1994, suggested that Town ease up rules on home-based businesses.

Result: 10% of Pelham’s employment work force works from Home, average across Region is 6%. This highlights Pelham's innovative, entrepreneurial residents.


Decisions and investments so will revitalize Downtowns – draw people and businesses to the downtowns.

Some proposals in the Draft Official Plan and in East Fonthill Secondary Plans should provide additional areas for small and medium sized businesses to grow in the Town.
Downtown Transitional Zones – near Downtowns
Highway Commercial – along Regional Road #20
Not talking big box stores, here;
Look at businesses that have set-up shop out-of-Town because no location for them:
Royal LePage; JTG Computer Systems; Nauta Home Designs; Personal Touch Home Improvements; Select Coffee Roasters;

Main Economic Driver in Pelham over next 20 years:

Residential Sector and allied services:
From garden centres to flooring stores, from Mobility Niagara to financial services;

With Pelham’s lively and walkable Downtowns, great culture, and relaxed rules to establish home-based businesses, Pelham needs to become a leader in Niagara in the new economy … the idea / creative economy

The "Creative Economy" includes:
o Graphic designers;
o Engineers;
o Writers and artists;
o Planners;
o Aeronautics – like Accipiter Radar Technologies;
o Bio-tech R&D;
o Robotics;
o Environmental industries;

Will continue and expand on things already started:
1. Continue to work with Niagara Economic Development Corporation to promote Pelham to outside businesses:
a. Did that through new Economic Development website Pelham which was launched this summer

2. Expand current efforts with the Mayor’s Corporate Visitation Program:
a. current partnership with Chamber of Commerce:
b. Meet with local businesses, to discern what the Town can do or the Chamber can do so they can grow business;

3. Finally, I will also lead development of an overall vision and strategy for Pelham:
i. Not strategic plan for Town Hall;
ii. But, a strategic plan for the entire Town (and similar to the Mayor’s prosperity councils in other communities)

It’s clear that during the next 20 years, Pelham’s economy will continue to be dependent on successes of businesses across the Niagara Region;
Also clear that to survive, Pelham will need to focus on:
• the agricultural sector;
• services to the residential sector, and;
• encouraging more small, creative-economy, idea-based, home-based businesses to start-up and expand.

Recreation & Town-Owned Lands

Below are my notes for the first prepared question at the Mayoral debate, hosted by the Fonthill Rotary Club on Wednesday, October 6, 2010 at the Royal Canadian Legion.

Question 1)
What is your position with regard to the Town providing a Community Recreation Centre and, what is the current status of the Town owned lands at the corner of Hwy. 20 and Rice Road? Please comment citing specific budget considerations and time lines.

Who among us wouldn’t want the best for our community?

Who wouldn’t want a new Twin-Pad arena, a new Community Centre, a new indoor pool, and new outdoor fields?

But the question isn’t simply about being “for or against” a community centre.

The responsible questions are about what Pelham needs and about what we can afford.

It’s responsible to ask what recreational and cultural facilities do we need now; and, what will we need in the future.

It’s also responsible to ask “what can we afford?” What can we afford for land and construction costs now, and for operating costs into the future?

To responsibly answer these questions, Council established a process so we could make informed decisions.

First, this Council initiated a Facilities Feasibility Study, which studied all major Town facilities, and reported in 2008.
Then, Council established a working committee for recreational facilities with a mandate to:
o Determine the Town short and long term recreational needs;
o Refine Capital & Operating Costs;
o Test the business case for a community centre facility;

The Recreational Facilities Committee Final Report was to have been available by spring 2010, but now won’t be complete until November or December.

I believe the next step must be to facilitate significant and broad community consultation based on this final report.

With the data in the report, we can have an informed and open, community discussion so we can achieve a common vision about the future recreational and cultural needs for our Town.

Then, Council will be in a good position to make informed decisions in 2011.

RE: Town-Owned Property:
• Previous Council purchased the property in question for$3.6 million or average of $112,000 per acre in March 2005.
• And they ONLY paid interest.
• Paid for property as if parts were zoned commercial and as if had water and sewers -- but that was NOT the case.

Previous Council set to fix the zoning in April 2006, then stopped,
o gave control of planning process to development group in fall 2006.

• Started paying down principal -- we have paid down $1.1 M (have $2.5 M remaining)
• Established process to work with Developers to finish planning -- first draft plan is currently with Town for comment;
• This East Fonthill Secondary Plan Process should be complete in 2011.

Only once Secondary Plan process complete will the property be "unlocked" and can any development on the Town-Owned property be allowed to proceed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Haist Street Reconstruction Update

Whether you live on it or near it, you might be wondering about the Town’s progress on reconstructing Haist Street.

You will recall that Haist Street is being reconstructed from Canboro to Welland Road all in one year thanks to infrastructure stimulus funds from the Federal and Provincial governments. The Town had initially budgeted to undertake the work in stages over three years; instead we are able to invest 1/3 of the $5.7 million cost one-year only.

Since I had a couple of questions recently about the project’s financing, I want you to know that the Town is not incurring any debt for the project. Also, the project is well within budget and all contingencies are intact.

The contractor – Provincial Construction from Niagara Falls – has divided the project into two sections.

North of Pancake Lane (to Canboro Road), the contractor has already replaced the storm sewers and the watermain. Until mid-November, the contractor plans to attach water services and install new curbs and sidewalks. Staff expect that the base layer of asphalt will be paved in mid- to late-November.

Work in the section South of Pancake Lane (to Welland Road) is more complicated because the groundwater is so close to the surface. Provincial Construction has had to carry on extensive “dewatering” – pumping of groundwater out of the area – so that they can work underground. Staff expects the installation of storm sewers to be completed by mid-October, and the installation of the new watermain by the end of October. In this Southern half, curb and sidewalk work should take until the end of November and that base coat of asphalt should be paved in mid-December.

In the spring of 2011, Provincial Construction will pave the top-coat of asphalt, add sod and plant trees throughout both sections.

Staff meets with the contractor weekly to ensure the project continues to move along. And, while contingency plans are in place, this timeline is dependent on weather.

Finally, we are trying to be as proactive as possible on communication. For example, the Town's website contains biweekly updates. You can view the most recent update – Number 8 from September 21 – by scrolling down on the homepage of the Town’s website at Staff also sent a letter to AK Wigg families on the first day of school about getting to and from school.

While the end is in sight, I sincerely appreciate the ongoing patience of residents living on and near Haist Street.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pelham's "Glorious" Tree

When was the last time that you stood under the Comfort Maple?

A couple of weeks ago, I made a point of driving down the narrow lane off Melter Road in North Pelham to witness and give thanks for the great tree again.

As you may know, the Comfort Maple is thought to be more than 500 years old and is acknowledged as the oldest sugar maple in Canada! It could well have been a sapling when Christopher Columbus “sailed the ocean blue in 1492.”

The tree is named in honour of the Comfort family, who acquired the land on which the tree grows in 1816. Through the years they cared for the mighty tree and in 1946 reserved a plot of land from their farm for it. Then in 1961, Edna Eleanor Comfort donated the land and tree to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority in honour of her late brother Earl Hampton Comfort. The Comfort Maple Tree has also been officially designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The Comfort Maple stands 24.5 metres (80 feet) tall with a crown that is 38 metres (125 feet) in circumference. The Maple measures 6 metres (20 feet) in circumference at the base. Because of its age and at least one major lightening strike, the tree has been repaired over the years with bricks as well as concrete and guy wires.

With such a distinctive feature in our Town, it’s no surprise that it figures prominently in Pelham’s official symbols. For example, our Town Crest contains the image of the Comfort Maple in full, red bloom of the fall. The tree is also one of the key images on the Town’s new website. And, on our recently launched Economic Development website, the Comfort Maple is the logo for Pelham under the “Niagara Original” marketing campaign.

When I visited it, there was a family – a grandfather, his daughter, and her children – also visiting. (The daughter had moved back to the area and the grandfather wanted to reacquaint them with some local features.) While the wind blew through the leaves and a thunderstorm developed, we each observed how we felt happy, content, and safe under the branches of the huge tree.

For me, the Comfort Maple is inspiring, symbolizes strength and tradition, and calls on us to give thanks; as the interpretive sign reads, “O Lord, how glorious are thy works.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ridgeville Potable Water Station Update

If you have driven by the corner of Canboro Road and Effingham lately, you will have seen some changes to the former private water filling station. I want to give you an update on the work being done.

On June 30, the company that had been operating a private water filling station for more than a decade closed its business. That company had rented the location.

Immediately after the closure, the Town received many calls from rural residents who wanted to know from whom they could purchase safe drinking water to fill their cisterns. In addition, two water haulers contacted the Town about how they could provide safe water to Pelham’s rural residents.

Because of the Province’s stipulations for higher water quality standards, most other Niagara municipalities – including Lincoln, Grimsby, Fort Erie, Port Colborne, Welland, Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and St. Catharines – already operate their water filling stations.

Staff approached Council at our July 19, 2010 meeting and suggested that the Town enter into a letter of intent with the property-owner to provide a water filling station at that location. Council unanimously agreed and gave authority to develop a lease agreement and begin site preparation.

The Town organized a public open house August 20 to better inform immediate residents and business owners of the proposed changes. Participants were encouraged to fill in comment sheets with questions or comments.

Then, based on the feedback from the community and the plans, Council agreed to proceed on August 23 with a temporary lease agreement (three years) with the property owner. Council was clear that a water-filling station at that location it is not the long-term vision for Ridgeville; accordingly, the Town will use the time to find a more permanent location.

So what is planned?

First, only bonded water haulers that enter into an agreement with the Town can use the station. This will allow us to stipulate the hours of operation – from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM weekdays and 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM on weekends – and ensure that the Town is paid in full for water usage. We can also stipulate the traffic route, that vehicles do not idle while filling, and the type of trucks are used so the roads don’t get torn up. (These items cannot be regulated with private operations.)

Second, since the number of Pelham residents who require delivered water has not changed, we don’t anticipate an increase in truck traffic.

Third, the existing site will be paved, additional parking spots for Ridgeville shoppers will be added, and the water spout will be of the latest, safest technology.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Meeting with Ministers at AMO Conference

Last week, Councillors Emmons and Durley, Town CAO Martin Yamich, and I attended the Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference (AMO). The Annual Conference offers a range of learning sessions and networking opportunities for municipalities. More than 1400 delegates attended the three-day event in Windsor themed “Propelling Economic Prosperity.”

While at AMO, your Pelham reps also directly advanced your interests with the Provincial Government through meetings with four Ministers.

First, we met with the Honourable Jim Bradley, Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing, to seek clarity about some Greenbelt issues. You see, while re-zoning the new Fire Station #2 property, we had hoped to include some overflow parking in the back portion of the 4.9 acre site. But, under a strict interpretation of the Greenbelt, that was not allowed. Rest assured, the Town did accommodate all the parking in the 2.3 acre “urban boundary” portion of the site. However, we are worried about a strict interpretation for the Centennial Park Master Plan, which calls for building a concession / washroom facility in the Greenbelt. Also, should the Town need to make changes at Fire Station #3 in the Shorthills, any other suitable properties would be Greenbelted. Provincial staff promised to work with Town staff to clarify these issues.

Next, we met with the Hon. Madeline Meilleur, Minister of Community & Social Services regarding the Province’s accessibility standards. You see, nearly six months after we approved our 2010 Capital Budget, the Province changed accessibility requirements for this fall’s Municipal Elections. While it’s good that voting stations now need to be fully accessible, we asked that the Minister consider Municipal budget schedules next time. We also suggested that any future Provincial grants include specific criteria for increasing accessibility. Finally, we informed the Minister about our nine new, fully accessible playgrounds; she was very impressed and may accept our invitation to tour them.

Then, Regional Chair Peter Partington and I met with Hon. Peter Fonseca, Minister of Labour, regarding public sector arbitration awards. We pointed out that while the Provincial Government called on Provincial ministries and municipalities to show fiscal restraint, recent arbitrations have disregarded tax-payer affordability. We referenced two recent three-year awards: 12% for Orangeville Police, and 10% for Niagara Regional Police. The Minister promised to continue to work with the Region on this issue.

Finally, Chair Partington joined Pelham’s representatives in a meeting with Mr. David Orazietti, MPP & Parliamentary Assistant for the Minister of Natural Resources. We asked again that the Ministry not reduce the Area of Natural & Scientific Interest (ANSI) on the Fonthill-Kame. We understand that the Ministry expects to complete its work this fall.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Playgrounds Better Than Freezies!

So, do you think our nine new, fully-accessible playgrounds are better than freezies?

Let me explain.

You see, we enjoyed a special visit from Dean Allison, MP Niagara-West Glanbrook, and Minister Jim Bradley, MPP St. Catharines, on July 30. Mr. Allison and Minister Bradley joined me, members of Town Council, and others to celebrate the extraordinary Federal and Provincial investments in Pelham.

All the infrastructure projects total $12.6 million, plus $1 million to bury utilities in Downtown Fonthill. The projects include Pelham Street Reconstruction ($2.5 million + $1 million to bury utilities); Haist Street Reconstruction ($5.7 million); Replacing Fire Station #2 ($2.9 million); Playground Replacements ($1.1 million); Town Hall expansion ($380,000).

These investments are nearly triple the Town’s normal annual capital budget. And, while other Cities and Towns have received millions of dollars through the decades, Pelham was always “shut-out;”until now, that is! Pelham now leads since these investments represent the second highest per capital funding in Niagara!

How did we achieve this?

Council, Staff and the Community worked together to ensure we were prepared for the stimulus funding. Staff and I worked with MPs and MPPs. Staff worked with Ministry staff to review and emulate other successful projects and used a team approach to develop our applications. I invited you and others to get involved and write letters of support. (Thanks to the many that did!). Working together, we achieved investments now that will change years of wait into months of action.

But, what about the Town-wide playground renewal? The nine playgrounds include Harold Black, Centennial, Cherry Ridge, Hurleston, North Pelham, Marlene Stewart Streit, Pelham Corners, and Rolling Meadows. Coloured brightly and fitted with artificial turf to prevent injury and allow wheelchair, walker, stroller access, we tailored each playground to its area. For example, Marlene Stewart Streit’s brown and green match the trees and leaves surrounding “the pit.” Centennial Park’s yellow and purple match the colours of the Fenwick Lions Club (who donated the park to the Town in 1967).

Pelham now stands at the only Niagara community (perhaps the only in Ontario) with fully accessible playgrounds! The equipment includes climbers, platforms, swings, and slides for kids and exercise equipment for parents.

So, what do some kids think about their new playground? At the ribbon cutting on July 30, we offered freezies to neighbourhood children. Despite the warm afternoon, they didn’t want any. Why? Because they didn’t want to stop playing on the equipment! I hope all the new equipment will enrich the lives of Pelham residents for many years to come.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Council Listened, Then Approved New Noise By-Law

After the input by hundreds of residents, the hours of discussion at meetings, and the months of work by staff, it was a little odd that you could hear barely a sound when Council adopted the new Noise Bylaw at our regular meeting on July 19.

As you know, the Municipal Act allows Towns to pass bylaws to prohibit and regulate noise to preserve, protect, and promote public health, safety, welfare, and peace and quiet.

The previous Noise Bylaw was enacted in September 1981 with a very minor revision (to change the penalty clause) in February 1993. While it comprehensively covered all manner of noises, it also contained a major drawback.

The old Bylaw used a map to delineate between the rules in residential and agricultural areas. As you can imagine, the Town has grown considerably in the last 30 years and the map was out-of-date. The map didn’t include residential growth areas like Timber Creek, Timsdale, Chestnut Ridge, or Martha Court.

In contrast, the new Bylaw is more a living document because it relies on the Zoning Bylaw. If a property’s zoning changes, the rules for that property change.

Council sought feedback from the community. We received more than 50 letters, a couple of petitions, and a dozen presentations at a public meeting. Two major concerns were brought forward: 1) the proposed 9 PM restriction on “yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling, and singing”, and 2) the proposed restriction on using a snow blowers or plows before 7AM.

Rest assured, Council fixed the Bylaw in both of these instances. First, staff admitted that the 9 PM restriction was an error and Council moved it back to 11 PM to match other restrictions (like loud music). Council also agreed with the vast majority of residents and removed any restrictions on the time of day to remove snow.

The new Bylaw also removes some antiquated provisions. For example, the regulation of “snow making equipment” was removed since Lookout Golf Club hasn’t had a ski run for many years.

In addition, since society is more environmentally conscious now, the new Bylaw allows a maximum of 30 minutes for commercial vehicle idling in non-residential areas; it would ban such idling in residential areas.

On behalf of Council, I thank everyone that participated in the process and provided advice and feedback. Working together we developed a far superior Bylaw that should serve the Town well for many years to come.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Frustrated with Property Progress

At a special meeting on June 15, Council debated the future of the Town-owned property at the corner of Rice Road and Regional Road #20. Council voted to “not dispose of any portion of the Town-owned lands in East Fonthill” until the resolution of three significant issues.

First, the lands must be converted from “Business Park” to other designations as part of the Official Plan review. You see, in 1997 the Town designated 59 acres at Rice and Regional Road #20 as “Business Park.” When the previous Council purchased 32 acres of this property in 2005, they paid for it as if 7.9 acres were designated “Commercial” and with the intention of using most of the remaining for recreational uses. Unfortunately, neither use is (or was) allowable in Business Parks.

And, while the previous Council started to fix the designation, they stopped in April 2006 at the demand of a majority Landowners Group. Then, as had been forewarned, the Province locked-in any such “Employment Lands” (including Business Parks) in June 2006; the only way to unlock that designation is through a “comprehensive review.” The current Council began that work in 2008 and is on track to (hopefully) change it in the new Official Plan in September / October 2010.

Second, the Landowners Group must finalize the East Fonthill Secondary Plan. You see, the previous Council gave away control of the detailed planning process – called a “Secondary Plan” – to that majority Landowners Group in September 2006. Despite this Council working as closely as possible with the Group and despite their 2008 and 2009 promises of imminent completion, the Group didn’t file a first draft until this June. Now, the rest of the process should take until at least the spring of 2011.

Third, the decision on the property’s use should not be decided until Council considers the recommendations of the Recreational Facilities Committee. While anticipated this past May / June, the Committee is now not expected to review the business case and final draft report until September; the earliest Council could consider it would then be October 2010.

As I stated during the meeting, I am extremely frustrated with this entire process. I believe that these planning issues should have been taken care of before the property was purchased; for example, the current Council rezoned property before we completed its purchase for the new Fire Station #2. I also never imagined it would take so long to test the business case and answer all the community’s questions about the need and costs for new recreational facilities.

Please be assured that I will continue to keep you informed on these matters.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Keeping You Informed 129 Times…and Counting

I believe that a huge part of my service as your Mayor depends on two-way communication about issues and challenges facing Pelham. Part of that communication centres on my (mostly) weekly columns.

Each column takes me from 1.5 to 3.5 hours to write. To keep it to 400 words for the newspapers, I use much of that time researching and editing.

How do I decide on a column topic? I write about what people ask me about or express concern about. For example, 50 columns were updates on progress or information about recent Council decisions. Twenty-three columns gave advance notice of special meetings, event, or Council debate. Nineteen columns reported on Regional issues or decisions while 11 focused on Federal or Provincial matters. Seventeen columns appreciated the work of others or were light-hearted in nature.

As a result, it is not surprising that tied for the most columns – 17 each – were “Budgets & Property Taxes” and “Facilities & Property”. Our pre-budget consultations, the capital and operating budgets, property taxes and tax rates, and changes at MPAC were the first 17. The 17 “Facilities & Property” columns focused on the 2007-08 Facilities Feasibility Study, the establishment of and updates from the three Facilities committees, and updates on the Town’s 32 acres at Rice Road and Highway #20.

The next largest grouping of columns – 16 – were about recent or upcoming events; these included community events like Canada Day, Family Day, and Remembrance Day, and also specific events like the Youth Forum, and the success of the Mayor’s Galas.

Next, seven columns each were about Downtowns, Roads, and Appreciation. In the Downtowns columns I invited you to a meeting to improve our Downtowns, and wrote about upcoming workshops, and updates on work and funding for revitalizing Pelham’s downtowns. The Roads columns concentrated on the resurfacing and reconstruction of Pelham’s roads and about the Highway 20 medians. The seven other columns concentrated on my deep appreciation for volunteers in the Town – like coaches, members of service clubs, associations, and community groups.

Six columns concentrated on Police facilities and another six were about Planning issues like the Official Plan update, and the East Fonthill Secondary Plan. Five columns concentrated on the unprecedented infrastructure investments Pelham received from Federal and Provincial governments.

And there were many more topics – like updating bylaws, or preserving the Fonthill Kame – and many, many more columns – 129 to be exact!

I deeply appreciate the local media publishing my column week after week. And, I appreciate you reading them and staying informed about our Town.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Canada Day, 2010!

Happy Canada Day!

What an opportunity to gather in our community and to proudly celebrate all it means to be Canadian. Let’s also take the opportunity to celebrate all the wonderful features about our Town!

From breathtaking vistas, to babbling brooks, to plentiful orchards and rich agricultural soil, Pelham enjoys a refreshingly natural and rural character. This natural character especially stands out during the spring and summer.

From the historic villages of Effingham, Fenwick, Fonthill, Ridgeville, and North Pelham, the Town of Pelham remains grounded with a distinctive, small-town feel.

Home to diverse and creative businesses, Pelham also offers unique goods and services to residents and visitors. Their continued success depends on our patronage.

I am proud that these wonderful aspects of our Town make Pelham the community of choice in Niagara.

You and I are also blessed to have so many of our neighbours working to make our Town a prosperous, vibrant and caring community. I continuously marvel at 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 weekly Farmer’s Market, 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. F

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

A dedicated police service, devoted volunteer firefighters, and expert emergency personnel protect you and I from harm. We have fair access to good and affordable healthcare.

And, while we may have some work in a few of these areas, on a global scale, we fare 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 you and your family and friends commemorate our country’s 143rd birthday, I hope you will join me in celebrating and in giving thanks for our Pelham and our Canada.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Improving More Roads this Summer

As you drive around our Town this summer, you will see some additional road improvements. Even though we are undertaking some large and special projects – like reconstructing Haist Street, burying the hydro lines on Pelham Street, and installing new playgrounds throughout Town – Council remains committed to annually improving the Town’s road infrastructure.

Rural Roads:
You might find it interesting that Pelham issues a joint tender with the Townships of West Lincoln and Wainfleet for reconstructing and resurfacing of rural roads using a “bituminous” surface treatment. By working together and offering a larger contact, each Municipality gets better tender pricing.

The following rural roads are scheduled for reconstruction:
- Effingham St. from Roland Road to Sixteen;
- Roland Road from Cream St. to Centre St. and from Sulphur Spring Dr. to 400 metres west;
- Foss Road from Farr St. to Church St.;
- Chantler Road from just west of Effingham to Cream St. and from Balfour St. to Church St.;
- Centre St. from Sixteen Rd. to Kilman Rd.

Rural road reconstruction includes placing granular material to increase the thickness of the road base, pulverizing the old road surface and recycling it into the road base, and applying a double layer of bituminous surface treatment.

The following rural roads are scheduled for resurfacing:
- Staines St.;
- River Road from Cream St. to the Niagara Central Airport entrance;
- Luffman Drive from Sulphur Spring Dr. to Orchard Hill Rd.

Rural road resurfacing includes applying a single layer of bituminous surface treatment to help seal the existing road surface and to help protect the road base.

Urban Roads:
The Town will also resurface a number of urban roads with a layer of asphalt, and will repair catch basins, manholes, sidewalks and curbs adjacent to the resurfacing projects.

The following urban roads are scheduled for resurfacing this year:
- Edward Avenue from Welland Road to Lawrence Lane;
- Merritt Road from Pelham St. to Line Ave.;
- Station Street from Port Robinson Rd. to Regional Road #20;
- Spruceside Cres. from Milburn Dr. to Pelham St.;
- Mayfair Avenue from Chestnut St. to Lorimer St.;
- Leslie Place (including installation of a subdrain to resolve ongoing drainage problems);
- Effingham Street from Canboro Rd. to Pancake Lane (including cleaning roadside ditches and installing new culverts to help with drainage);

Rest assured that Council remains committed to maintaining and improving the Town’s road infrastructure.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Appreciating You as We Improve Water Infrastructure

If you are on Municipal water, has your water meter been replaced yet? If not, do you have an appointment booked? Or, maybe you haven’t yet received an information brochure – you should expect one in the mail soon.

The water meter replacement program, which was officially launched in mid-April, is more than 64% complete! Residents have been contacting Neptune – the Town’s contractor – in record numbers to have their water meter upgraded to the new RF (Radio Frequency) meter; this replacement rate substantially exceeds projections because of the willingness and assistance of you and other residents! Thank you!

Why are we investing in our water infrastructure and replacing every water meter in Town, you ask?

Over the last few years, residents and the Town have experienced several major challenges with the existing water meters. Whether it was one of the 800 gallon meters installed 40 years ago or one of many with an external “remote” from the 1980s, most meters were faulty, failing, or about to fail.

As the meters failed, billings dropped or changed. On a personal note, for example, we discovered that the remote meter outside our home was slow when compared to the meter inside. While the Town used the remote to calculate our bill, it didn’t bill for all of our water use; the meter in our basement tracked our actual water use instead. So, in 2008 the Town replaced our remote and meter and (rest assured) we settled the account by paying for the water we had consumed over the years.

Given the Town’s small staff, it would have taken 7 to 12 years to replace all water meters! So, together with the manufacturer – Neptune – we developed a plan to replace the old meters to the latest technology at a unit cost cheaper than we actually paid to purchase the meters (never mind install them)! Now, Town staff is only upgrading any newer equipment to the RF readers – like they did at our home in May.

Finally, the new Radio Frequency meters provide remote and accurate readings. Staff will read all water meters in half-a-day instead of the 14 days it currently takes. The meters can tell if you have a water leak, will report if someone tampers with it, and will be maintenance free for 20 years. Finally, the meters will help staff to find any leaks or water losses throughout the water system.

On behalf of Council and staff, I want to thank you and other residents for your amazing cooperation and commitment in making this replacement project a success for the whole community.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Questions from the Community

You will recall that two columns ago, I wrote that the Recreational Facilities Committee will be making a report soon. Over the years, many people have asked me questions that I hope will be addressed in that imminent report.

Does Pelham need more ice time / another ice pad? Will we need more ice in the future?
What is the historic usage for the arena? What is the current usage? What is the projected need? While it is projected that Pelham’s population will grow by 6,000 people by 2031, because of an aging population, does that mean that the number of arena users will grow? Some say that the current usage is more than 100%, but what does that mean when I drive by during the day and the arena is not being used? Has Pelham Minor Hockey or Pelham Figure Skating committed to additional ice time? What about girl’s hockey? What other community recreational facilities will be needed in the future?

If the need is evident, can you add-on to the current arena (as originally envisioned)?
Wasn’t the current arena built so that it could be added-on to? Because of the condition of existing building, would that be like throwing “good money after bad”? Is adding-on even possible? Could Pelham add a new ice surface and all new dressing rooms? Is there enough property to add-on? How would that impact adjoining properties?

If the need is evident, can Pelham build a new twin-pad arena on the current site?
If Pelham cannot add-on, is there enough property at the current site to construct a twin-pad? If you are building new, what else should be included? It would take months to construct a new twin-pad; could it even be done while the existing arena operates? Would it increase traffic? Where would Pelham relocate the soccer fields, multipurpose court, platform tennis, and Parks & Recreation compound that are currently on that property?

If it cannot fit on the current site, will a new facility fit on the Town-owned property at the corner of Rice Road and Highway 20?
Would you need all of the 32 acres? Didn’t Council vote to sell that property? Will the property costs be added to any construction costs? What would happen to the current arena property?

How much would each of these options cost?
Can Pelham tax-payers afford the capital / construction costs? Can Pelham afford “not to” do it? What about grants? What about partnering with another City or Town to save money / better use resources? How much would the increased operating costs be and can we afford that?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mayor's Gala Raises $25,100 to "Konnect" Kids!

The cold weather did not damper the generosity of participants and sponsors of the Second Annual Pelham Mayor’s Gala held at Peninsula Lakes Golf Course on Saturday, May 8, 2010.

The black-tie event raised $25,100 (net) for “Konnecting Kids” and included an exquisite Marché dinner, dozens of silent auction prizes, an “activity auction”, and talented Pelham-based entertainment.

I am so grateful to the sponsors, donors, participants, and volunteers of this Second Annual Gala. Because of their generosity and support, kids in need will have the opportunity to use their talents and follow their interests – for art, for sport, for music – to their fullest potential.

The Second Annual Mayor’s Gala included an exquisite Marché–style dinner, a silent auction with nearly 100 items donated by local and Regional businesses, and an activity auction – where donors could directly fund activities like music lessons, camp fees, and sport registration fees for needy children.

Chantal, a 14-year-old Pelham youth, gave an impassioned testimonial on how the “Konnecting Kids” program has positively impacted her life.

The Gala also featured some outstanding Pelham musical talent including Mark Lalama, one of Canada’s most accomplished composers, producers and musicians; Greg Holmes, playing a “stick-Guitar” during the cocktail hour; and Jim Casson, who assembled an All-Star Gala Band for the party at the end of the night.

Elite sponsors for the event included: ABC Recreation Ltd, AECOM, Charter Building, CIBC, Custom Cart Services, Einstein’s Art & Home, Lafarge, Meridian Credit Union, Niagara College, Peninsula Lakes Golf Course, Quartek Group Inc., and Walker Industries.

The volunteer organizing committee included Jordan Arcaro, Jean Bancroft, Betty Brown, Ian Hamilton, John Nicol, Ruth Nixon, Susan Wink, and Paul Winkler. The event ran very smoothly because of volunteers Jordan Arcaro, Jean Bancroft, Betty Brown, Ruth Nixon, Leah Ugulini, Susan Wink, and Jake Winkler.

A special partnership fund established in 2001 by the Town of Pelham and Pelham Cares, “Konnecting Kids” allows a Pelham youth whose family has limited financial resources to participate in recreational, cultural, and educational programs.

Last year’s Inaugural Mayor’s Gala was one of Pelham’s most successful fundraising events, raising $22,700 net) for “Project Pelham Cares” – a permanent location for Pelham Cares services.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Recreational Facilities Committee Update

Since it is expected that the Recreational Facilities Committee will present a Report in May or June, I wanted to outline for you the process followed so far and inform you about next steps.

As you may recall, in 2007 Council hired a consultant to solicit significant public input to help determine the long-term needs for significant Town facilities – like the Arena, Fire Stations, Library Branches, Town Hall, and Old Town Hall. Presented in April 2008, that report called for (among other things) a joint facility to replace and enlarge Fire Station #2 and the Maple Acre Library, a new twin-pad arena in Town or in partnership with Welland, and to keep the campus-like feel of Fonthill’s downtown with the continued presence of the Town Hall and the Fonthill Library Branch.

As a result, in August of 2008 Council created three special facilities committees – one for Maple Acre Library branch, one for Pelham Fire Station #2, and one for Recreation Facilities – to make recommendations on the construction / replacement of Town facilities. Working to plan and develop various facilities, each committee includes Town Councillors, myself (as an ex officio member) and appropriate staff.

The Recreational Facilities Committee began meeting in November 2008. Its broad mandate includes reviewing 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 and began work to determine the Town's short- and long-term recreational needs.

In July 2009 the Committee tabled an Interim Report that contained many recommendations. Council received the report and directed staff to hire an architect to develop a functional analysis and to refine the capital and operating costs based on the recommendations.

You see, the Committee was “at a point where additional information [was] required from outside resources, namely local planning and architectural services” so that they could finish their work.

This architectural work is to culminate in a report that details the space requirements, capital costs, operating costs, potential site plan, most-suitable location, timeframes, and energy efficiency opportunities for a modern, community-centre type of recreational facility for immediate and future requirements for Pelham. The architects held a couple of workshop sessions for user-groups in October and January, and presented a draft report to the Committee in early March.

While this analysis was to be completed by now, the architect continues to work on it. I am told to expect the Report in May or June – first to the Committee, and then to Council. From there, Council will have to review the Report and decide on next steps.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fifth Anniversary for the 32 Acres of Town-Owned Land

Since March 31 marked the fifth anniversary of the previous Council’s purchase of 32 acres of property at the corner of Rice Road and Highway #20, I want to provide you with an update.

You may recall that in January 2005, the previous Council decided to purchase the 32 acres for nearly $3.53 million – an average of $110,000 per acre – from Westerra Equities Corp. As of December 31, 2009, the Town has paid $736,875 in interest and $838,098 in principal with $2.75 million owing on the loan. (For detailed financial information, please click here.)

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

For example, the appraisal assumed that the site possessed full water and sewer servicing. In reality, water and sewers weren’t available until the fall of 2007.

The major “Extraordinary Assumption”, however, appraised the property as if it contained 8.2 acres of commercial land along Highway 20, and 23.4 acres of business park lands. In reality, the entire property was – and still is – officially designated “business park.” The Town paid approximately $91,000 per acre for the business park lands and $188,000 per acre for the faux-Commercial lands.

Can’t Council just fix the zoning, you ask? In this case, it’s quite complicated.

You see, the previous Council almost changed the property’s designation in April 2006 when it almost approved the Town’s East Fonthill Secondary Plan. (The East Fonthill Secondary Plan is a detailed statutory planning exercise 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 and stopped the planning work.

Then, just as had been warned, the Province changed all municipal planning in June 2006. Among many other changes, the Province locked all “business park” lands – including the Town’s.

Then, in September 2006, Council relinquished the Secondary Plan process to the Landowner’s Group.

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; the Group began presenting final drafts to the Town last week.

Then, at an Official Plan open house on April 27, the Town will show the rationale to unlock the Province’s “business park” rules.

Finally, the results of a 2009 Special Council workshop for the development of the Town-owned lands and the final report by the Recreational Facilities Committee are both expected to come forward this spring.

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

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Progress on the ANSI and the Fonthill Kame

We heard some good news lately about the “Area of Natural and Scientific Interest” (ANSI)on the Fonthill Kame.

As you will recall, that 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.

Last May, however, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) recommended making changes to the ANSI, significantly reducing its area.

While a new area to the south side of the Kame (near Hillside Cemetery) 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 proposed to remove from the ANSI encompasses much of what is called theUpper 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!

But, since last May, Niagara Regional Council, the Niagara Escarpment Commission, the Niagara Peninsular Conservation, more than a dozen Pelham citizens, Town of Pelham Council, and Tim Hudak, MPP, have publicly recommended that the current ANSI be maintained. Minister Jim Bradley also indicated to me in December that he is supportive of maintaining the current ANSI boundaries. (For more information, please see my previous On-Line Journal entry.)

Then, last week at Pelham Town Council, we received great news from the Minister of Natural Resources. In a letter to the Town the Minister stated “Please let me assure you that it is our intention to maintain and, where feasible, enhance the current ANSI boundary.”

Now, before we celebrate this success, the MNR does have to complete its formal review process. That being said, I am delighted with the “intention” of the Minister and with this positive progress!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Due Diligence in Purchasing Fire Station Property

We are one major step closer in the development of a Fire Station to replace Pelham Station #2.

You will remember me writing here in December about the start of the process to rezone the 4.9 acre property at 766 Welland Road for the development of a Fire Station.

The initial design envisioned the northern portion of the site, which is in the “Urban Boundary”, accommodating the ±10,000 square foot Fire Station, most of the parking, and the driveway. It was hoped that the remaining 2.6 acres – which is in the Greenbelt – could accommodate limited parking and emergency access to Centennial Park.

Well, that’s where we ran into problems with the Province’s Greenbelt. You see, the Greenbelt allows for neither the construction of a Fire Station nor for supporting infrastructure (like parking).

So, we reworked the plan and fit all parking inside the “Urban Boundary.”

The result? We officially completed the property’s zoning last week when the “appeal period” – the time during which anyone can appeal the zoning to the Ontario Municipal Board – ended.

Next, all structures and any environmental concerns on the property will be removed. That process should begin this week and be complete by the end of April

I am extremely pleased with this Council’s obvious due diligence before the completion of the property’s purchase. Here’s the process we followed:
‐ received a consultant report clearly stating that Fire Station #2 needed replacing;
‐ established a working committee to deal issues in consultant’s report;
‐ determined firefighting needs for Fire District #2 based on future growth projections;
‐ determined that required improvements could not occur at current site;
‐ developed “site criteria matrix” to help establish best location / property;
‐ invited the public to submit proposals for a new site;
‐ evaluated all sites and established a preferred site;
‐ completed a functional analysis – space requirements and building configuration;
‐ initiated discussions with landowner and performed an environmental assessment of site;
‐ developed business case to apply for funding;
‐ received $2.0 million joint investment by Federal and Provincial governments;
‐ agreed on property purchase conditional upon price, site clean‐up, and appropriate zoning;
‐ rezoned the site, and currently in process of cleaning it up;
‐ issued “request for proposals” for an architect

Next, Council will consider the architect’s RFPs on April 6 and construction should begin in the summer!

I hope you too are pleased with our due diligence in improving our Town together.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Konnecting Kids in Pelham

While I watched a great Pelham team play hockey on the weekend, I reflected not only about the kids that were playing, but about those that couldn’t afford to play.

You see, on Sunday afternoon my son and I cheered for the Pelham Panthers Bantam A/E Team in their second game for the Ontario Minor Hockey Association Finals. These talented and hardworking players have stickhandled their way through a succession of playoffs to advance to the Provincial Finals!

They won their Sunday game against the Elmvale Coyotes by three-to-two and currently lead the best three-of-five series by two games.

The game was fast and their play was tremendous. The Panthers showed exceptional skill. Clearly, not only have they worked very hard individually and as a team, but they also have received great coaching this year and in previous years. (Congratulations to the Bantam A/E coaching team: Coach Dino Germano, Trainer Bill Rizzo, Assistant Coach Jason Young, and Manager John Piccolo!)

You could see everyone playing to the best of their ability. The only things that mattered on the ice were their skills, their training, and their cunning. (And, I wish them all the best in their Friday game in Elmvale! Go Panthers Go!)

But, what if you had a similar talent and drive but your parents couldn’t afford for you to play hockey or soccer or the sport you really love? Or, what if you were skilled and passionate about playing piano or dancing and your mom just lost her job? What if your family couldn’t afford that art class that you are desperate to take?

Seeing Pelham’s Bantam Team play reminded me that it’s important to connect kids to the recreational, cultural, or artistic activity of which they dream. And, during these difficult economic times, it’s even more important to ensure that kids in need have the opportunity to use their talents – for art, for sport, for music – to their fullest potential.

That’s why this year’s Mayor’s Gala will be raising funds to support “Konnecting Kids.” A special partnership fund established in 2001 by the Town and Pelham Cares, “Konnecting Kids” allows a Pelham youth whose family has limited financial resources to participate in recreational, cultural, and educational programs.

The Mayor’s Gala will be on Saturday, May 8 at Peninsula Lakes Golf Club. For more information, tickets or to sponsor the event, please call 905-892-2607 ext. 337. Please consider giving Pelham’s youth the chance to reach their goals!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Firefighters Training for You

I recently stopped in at Fire Station #1 in Fonthill during the Fire Fighter’s regular training night. I was impressed yet again with their dedication, commitment, and hard work.

You see, at the Annual “Installation Dinner” for the Executive of the Fonthill Fire Fighter’s Association, President Les Hildebrand invited me to “stop by some time to see what goes on during a training night.” I was pleased to accept his offer last week.

The forty Firefighters were organized into three Companies.

The first Company concentrated on the Rescue Truck. They cleaned it until it sparkled and checked it out from top to bottom. They removed all the tools and supplies, double-checked them, and repackaged them into the vehicle. They ensured that everything was in good working order for the next call and for their “hand-off” to another Company. You see, their Team has been assigned to the Rescue Truck for the last three months; soon a different Company will take over and they will be assigned to another vehicle.

The second Company concentrated on the Pumper Truck. They reviewed the proper technique for pulling out the fire hoses as quickly as possible; within a blink of an eye they backed toward the vehicle, loaded the hose on their shoulder, and advanced in the direction they wanted to go. They worked to ensure that the hose wouldn’t snag or kink thereby reducing the water pressure. Then, after they pulled all the hoses out, they practiced repacking them properly. Later, a member of this Company took the Tanker truck out for a test drive; I was told that it’s one thing driving a fire truck, it’s another thing driving one in an emergency.

The third Company trained in the hall. One firefighter led a discussion on the use of the Arial Truck and on different types of ladders. He displayed pictures of other firefighters using ladders during a training exercise to discuss proper techniques and to point out errors. The Company then developed plans to test the techniques this week at a home in Pelham; they planned to get hands-on by setting-up the Arial Truck and surrounding the home with portable ladders and fire hoses.

I am pleased to have witnessed this snap-shot of their extensive training. On your behalf, I express my deep appreciation for the dedication, commitment, and hard work of each of the more than 100 part-time, professional firefighters in Pelham.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Region & Police Working Together

You will recall that in October I wrote about how the Niagara Region and the Niagara Regional Police are now working together for the benefit of all residents, visitors and taxpayers.

I wrote then about how a joint Police / Regional plan was being developed. The Plan was intended to provide the Police with the appropriate and best facilities that they need for effective and efficient policing. The Plan also needed to allow for better managed financing – more respectful of your Regional property tax investment. Finally, the Plan called for planning issues to be solved and potential partnerships to be solidified.

Well, another step in the Plan began last week as Regional Council and the Niagara Regional Police Board met jointly to discuss sites for the proposed new Police Headquarters and new District HQs for St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.

Cooperation was evident from the meeting’s outset. Members of the Police Board sat among Regional Councillors. The Police Board Chair, Larry Iggulden, sat next to Regional Chair Peter Partington. Chief Wendy Southall sat next to the Region’s Chief Administrative Officer, Mike Trojan. And Police and Regional staff on the Joint Committee offered the same recommendations to both Council and the Police Board.

But, why did we meet “in camera” (which in Latin means “in private”)?

Generally, the Ontario Municipal Act allows for Councillors to meet in camera for three major items: land, legal, and labour. That means, when we discuss the purchase or sale of a specific property, or labour / union matters, or any specific legal matters, we can hold the discussions in private so that the decisions of Council are not jeopardized.

In this specific case, for instance, we discussed the +25 sites across the Region that have the potential to be purchased for new Police facilities. We met “in camera” so that the owners of those properties would not increase their prices.

Like with a home purchase, if you know that someone really, really wants to buy your property, you might be tempted to increase the price or add conditions to the sale. Discussing the matter confidentially helps to protect the tax-payer and to keep specific property prices in check.

It was a lengthy but positive discussion and staff were directed to research additional information over the next couple of months and report back to Council.

Rest assured that I remain committed to securing the best locations that balance Police operational needs, good Planning principles and taxpayer affordability.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Why a 2.6% property tax increase?

At our February 16th Regular Meeting, Council approved the Town’s 2010 Operating Budget.

What does that mean for your pocket book?

Well, the average residential property value for 2010 is expected to be $260,000. If your home and property were assessed at that value, you would be paying an additional $31 or a total of $1,247 on the Pelham portion of your property bill. This accounts for an increase of 2.6% for the average residential property in Pelham.

What are the reasons for this increase?

Well, first there are a number of uncontrollable cost escalations facing the Town’s operations. For example, while insurance premiums were stable last year, this year they will increase by 7%. Similarly, the cost of employee benefits did not increase at all last year; this year the same benefits package will increase by 7%.

In addition, last year Council made staffing changes. We made the fire prevention officer full time, and hired a full-time bylaw officer and an assistant recreation manager. These employees were budgeted to start part way through the year; we now have to annualize their wages. And, effective March 2010, we hired an IT person – to integrate our systems with technology and to help find more efficiencies.

Council also accepted the Treasurer’s suggested decreases in some of the Town’s revenues. For instance, over the last number of years, the Town has consistently over-budgeted on revenues from new developments; the 2010 budget fixes that assumption.

And, you might find it interesting that nearly half (or 1.2%) of the 2.6% increase this year is to take care of unfunded capital expenses from 2004. You see, in 2004 the Town spent 411,230 on fire fighting equipment; but, it wasn’t actually debentured (mortgaged) as was planned. Instead, the debt appeared on subsequent financial statements as to be paid by “future revenue.” Last year, Council decided to deal with the debt, and established a five year repayment plan. As a result, the 2010 operating budget includes an additional $103,000 to deal with this debt. Interestingly, if we didn’t have pay for this unfunded debt, the budget would have increased at the projected rate of inflation for 2010 (or 1.4%).

To put the 2010 increase into perspective, the previous Council increased the Pelham portion of your property taxes by 14.8% in 2004, 16.1% in 2005, and 5.6% in 2006. This Council increased your property taxes by 4.7% in 2007, 4.8% in 2008, 1.8% in 2009, and now 2.6% in 2010.

Rest assured that this Council acts prudently with your money.

If you would like additional information about the 2010 operating budget, please visit the Town’s website at

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sound and Fury

So, there has been a little fury over the draft noise bylaw that Town staff proposed at last week’s General Committee meeting.

You see, the Municipal Act allows for Towns to pass bylaws to prohibit and regulate noise. Most people accept that it is in the public interest to regulate noise and noise levels to preserve, protect, and promote public health, safety, welfare, and peace and quiet.

The existing Noise Bylaw was enacted in September 1981 with a very minor revision (to change the penalty clause) in February 1993. While it is a comprehensive bylaw, I believe it contains two major drawbacks.

First, the bylaw uses a map to delineate between the rules in two areas – residential and agricultural. As you can imagine, the Town has grown considerably in the last 30 years and the map is out-of-date. The map does not include residential growth areas like Timber Creek, Timsdale, Chestnut Ridge, or Martha Court.

And, because it is based on a map, it is not a “living” bylaw. What do I mean? Well, the proposed bylaw does not use a map, but rather relies on properties that are zoned Residential (in any of their forms) in the zoning bylaw. If approved, all residentially zoned properties would need to adhere to rules for the “Residential Area.” If a property’s zoning changes, the rules for that property change.

Second, the existing bylaw makes no allowance for noises produced on commercial or industrial properties. That’s largely because it only has two areas – residential and agricultural. In contrast, the proposed bylaw has two classes – residential and non-residential. The non-residential (termed “all other areas”) includes all other property classes like agricultural, industrial and commercial. As you would expect, noise is tightly restricted in the residentially zoned properties. The proposed bylaw allows more latitude in other areas.

The new bylaw removes some antiquated provisions. For example, the regulation of “snow making equipment” is removed since Lookout hasn’t had a ski run for many years.

In addition, since society is more environmentally conscious now, the proposed bylaw allows a maximum of 30 minutes for commercial vehicle idling in non-residential areas; it would ban such idling in residential areas.

Please note that the bylaw is only a draft. It has not been passed.

In fact, Council is looking for your feedback and input by March 1 to develop an appropriate bylaw. I would encourage you to review the draft at and I look forward to your constructive ideas.