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 As you can imagine, the Town has grown considerably in the last 30 years and the map was out-of-date.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.