Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2012 Town and Region Budgets Approved


Both Pelham Council and Regional Council have adopted early budgets for 2012.

You will recall that a capital budget acquires, builds, or rehabilitates major infrastructure or equipment with a long life. Such capital assets include municipal facilities and buildings, trucks and vehicles, roads and bridges and sidewalks, and water/sewage pipes and plants.

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

Rates budgets fund special services like water, waste water, and waste management. Not everyone across Pelham or the Region receives these services, and Provincial rules demand separate water and waste water budgets.

On Thursday, December 1, Regional Council adopted your entire Regional Budget for 2012 – including the Capital, Operating, and Rate budgets. Not only does this +$750 million budget include the work of Departments like Public Works, Public Health, Community Services, Integrated Community Planning, and Corporate Services, it also includes budgets for outside agencies like Niagara Regional Housing, Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, Niagara Economic Development, and Niagara Regional Police Service.

This is the earliest in recent memory for the Operating, Rates, and Agency portion of the Region’s Budget! I am especially pleased with this, not only because it means we can start issuing capital project tenders and concentrate on finding efficiencies, but also because I had the honour of Chairing the
Region’s Budget for 2012.

Then, on Monday, December 5, Pelham Council adopted your 2012 Pelham Capital Budget. Pelham’s Capital budget will continue to improve the community:
• Regional Road #20: work together with Region on the reconstruction from Rice Road to Station Street – including new sidewalk (north side), streetlighting, and water / waste water improvements;
• Downtown Fonthill: “fine tune” and complete streetscaping;
• Downtown Fenwick: complete redesign plans, review structural integrity of historic flagpole, and earmark revitalization funds in future years;
• Investments in Recreation & Culture: including replacing Harold Black Park Soccer shelters, installing new bleachers and develop detailed design for Phase 2 & 3 of master plan for Centennial Park, and develop a Cultural Master Plan;
• Concession and kitchen improvements to Arena;
• Continue renovations and renewal of historic Old Pelham Town Hall;
• Fire Service enhancements: start two-year process of replacing all SCBA (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus), and also begin schedule of replacing bunker gear;
• Retrofit and improve Cherry Ridge Subdivision Storm Water Management Pond;
• Finally, develop a Master Plan for the Town’s 32 acres at Rice Road and RR#20.

Your 2012 Budgets will continue our Town’s revitalization and our Region’s service and enhancements.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Public Meeting about the Future of Pelham


Next Monday, the Town will host an official public meeting about the Town’s new Official Plan and the East Fonthill Secondary Plan. These plans will help solidify the future direction of growth and development across all of Pelham!

The province dictates that all Towns and Cities must have an “Official Plan” (OP). Essentially, an Official Plan contains policies and guidelines that outline where commercial, agricultural, industrial, and residential developments can occur. It uses a series of maps to demonstrate those areas.

Pelham adopted our current Official Plan in 1987. We started renewing and modernizing the OP in the late 1990s. Then, in the early-2000s, the Province began changing their governing policies – Greenbelt Plan, “Places to Grow”, Provincial Policy Statement. This forced the Town to adapt our proposed policies and guidelines.

After much work, the Town will host an official public meeting to listen to public comment regarding the Official Plan.

The public meeting will also focus on the East Fonthill Secondary Plan.

The “East Fonthill” area lies between Rice Road and Station Street / Steve Bauer Trail and from Regional Road 20 to the Town’s southern boundary (half-way between Merritt and Quaker Roads).

While much of these nearly 500 acres of lands are currently farmed, the entire area was added to the Urban Boundary by an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in 2000. It is estimated that at least 5,000 people could be living in this area within 20 years; that is why the Region installed water and sewer trunk lines in 2007/08.

The OMB decision required the Town to undertake a “Secondary Plan” – more detailed policies and guidelines – before allowing development to proceed.

Some of the goals of the East Fonthill Secondary Plan include ensuring a well-designed, attractive, pedestrian-friendly community with a mixture of housing types; encouraging significant retail / commercial development while at the same time protecting the existing Fonthill Downtown; providing a “Greenlands System” that protects existing environmental features and integrates with the Steve Bauer Trail system; and developing a pedestrian / cyclist-friendly and transit-ready road network.

The official public meeting on Monday, December 12 at 7:00 PM at Old Pelham Town Hall (491 Canboro Road at Centre) will allow you to provide comment, suggestions, and improvements to these two plans.

You can find the final draft plans on the Town’s website at www.pelham.ca and at Town Hall and the Libraries.

I look forward to receiving feedback on these plans because they will shape the future of our Town.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Learning about Local Government


Over the last couple of weeks, I really enjoyed the times that staff and I visited some of Pelham’s grade schools and EL Crossley to talk about the importance of Local Government.

You see, the “new” curriculum for grades 5 and 10 includes a focus on “civics.” And, the provincial government encourages Towns and Cities to get more involved in schools during “Local Government Week.”

In the past, the Town Clerk and I visited several grade 5 classes and the grade 10 classes at Crossley. Because of the municipal election last fall, we took a year hiatus.

Well, we reinvigorated the visits this year with a presentation developed by the Clerk’s department. Trying to make it as dynamic as possible, the lesion includes a slideshow complemented by props like an old water meter (complete with the “curb stop”), a copy of the 3-inch-thick Ontario Municipal Act, and a game. For the game, we distribute a picture to each student about a government service – like public swimming, or recycling collection, or the Canadian mint, or health care. Then, we ask the student to identify whether the local, Provincial, or Federal government provides the service.

Most students appear surprised about the number of services provided by local government.

We try to clarify why we have three different types of police – Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police, and Niagara Regional Police.

We also try to explain why we have four types of roads – Trans-Canada Highway, 400-Series Highways, Regional Roads (like Regional Road #20), and local roads.

Most classes contain a mix of students from urban and rural homes. While many receive Town water, others know that their water comes from a well or is “trucked-in.”

In addition, Mayor April Jeffs and I encouraged Crossley’s grade 10 students to think about local government and encouraged the four candidates to become “Mayor for the Day” in Wainfleet and in Pelham. With the help of several students, the Clerk’s Offices ran an election – which included speeches, a voters list, a secret ballot, and ballot boxes.

Then, it was my pleasure to host Jacob Mantler as Pelham’s Mayor for the Day on Monday. Jacob toured Town Hall, spoke to staff about their responsibilities, visited Pelham Cares with me, and helped judge the 2011 Pelham Christmas Card contest; he also stated our regular Council meeting.

Thanks to the teachers and students for your warm welcome and for helping to spread the word about all the great services provided by local governments!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Region Decides Vacancy on Thursday


Regional Council is poised to decide how to fill a vacancy during our November 17 meeting.

You will recall that since Cindy Forster was elected as the Welland MPP on October 6, she resigned from Regional Council. On October 27, Regional Council formally accepted her resignation and officially declared her seat vacant.

The Municipal Act provides two options to fill the vacancy:

First, Regional Council may appoint an “eligible” person within 60 days of declaring a seat vacant. An eligible person includes someone who consents to the appointment, and is a Canadian citizen who is at least 18 years old and resides in Niagara.

Second, Council may hold a by-election. An eligible candidate would have to fulfill the same criteria as above.

Following past practice and in a “spirit of collegiality”, Regional Council asked Welland City Council to consider the matter and offer a recommendation.

After a long debate on a couple of different motions at their November 1 meeting, Welland City Council recommended that the Region fill the seat by holding a by-election.

I understand that this is the first time since the Region was established in 1970 that a City or Town Council has recommended a by-election. Further, I understand that Regional Council has always respected the recommendation of a Town or City Council when filling a vacancy.

If Regional Council supports that recommendation, Welland staff will organize the by-election, but the Region will pay for the election’s “reasonable costs.” The City’s Clerk estimates that a by-election could cost as much as $100,000; Regional staff recommends that the unallocated 2011 surplus – expected to be $1.2 million – could cover those costs.

Last month I wrote that I was most interested in feedback from Welland residents before making up my mind on the matter. I am pleased that I did receive significant feedback by email, phone, and in person. (In fact, more people contacted me now than when Pelham Council faced a vacancy in March 2011!)

Of those Welland residents that provided their opinion, 59% wanted a by-election, 26% preferred the appointment of the third-placed candidate, and 21% wanted another individual to be appointed – either a sitting Welland City Councillor, or a former Welland Mayoral candidate. (The percentages equal more than 100% because 7% suggested two methods.)

I recognize that these results cannot be projected like a “representative sample”, but I sincerely appreciate each person that provided their feedback and opinion.

I look forward to an interesting debate about the vacancy on Thursday.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Make Time to Remember


Sunday morning began a week of Remembrance in the Town.

The warm and glorious weather made the commemorations the best ever for the annual Sunday-before Remembrance Day tributes. The beautifully coloured leaves still on the trees reminded us of our season.

The idyllic autumn morning felt peaceful and 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 in Ridgeville 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.

As we approach Remembrance Day on Friday, 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 each of us might enjoy safety and security. They sacrificed – and those in active service continue to sacrifice – so that our society upholds justice and the rule of law.

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 follow in their footsteps today.

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

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

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

This Friday, on Remembrance Day 2011, let us take a moment at 11:00 AM to be grateful and to rededicate ourselves to peace. And let us never forget.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Christmas Season in Pelham


I cannot imagine the Christmas Holiday Season being busier than in Pelham! Businesses, service clubs, volunteers, and artists have nearly two months of activities planned this year.

Christmas Open Houses in Fonthill & Ridgeville – November 2 & 3:
The “Holiday Gift Showcase & Downtown Stroll” in Downtown Fonthill on November 2 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM will include original gift ideas in fashion, jewellery, lingerie, specialty food products, home décor, travel trends, and delicious foods.

Then, on November 3, all the Shoppes of Ridgeville will host their 10 Annual Holiday Open Houses. This is a chance to check-out the original gift ideas available at this enclave of four local specialty boutiques.

Fine Art Tours – November 5 /6 and 12 / 13:
Pelham is known as a Town with many talented artists and now is a great time to showcase their talents. On November 5 & 6, four artists – Beverly Sneath, Kimberly Makkreel, Divino Mucciante, and Eddy Papez – open up their home studios so you can see their work. The following weekend, you can meet ten juried artists – including Pat Haftar, Monique Mulder-Wallace, Lynda Carr, Mary Powley, Maria Cozzi, and Toye Chanpen Hayes – in six studio locations. This one will be a free self-guided tour.

Turkey Raffles – November 18, 25, & December 2:
Turkey Raffles are another wonderful Christmas Tradition in Pelham. Not only a chance to win a turkey or ham, these raffles also bring the community together for fun and revelry. The Royal Canadian Legion holds theirs on Friday, November 18. The Fonthill Volunteer Firefighters hosts one the next Friday on November 25, while the Fenwick Volunteer Firefighters holds theirs on December 2.

Christmas House Tour – Saturday, November 19:
The annual "Homes for the Holidays" Christmas House Tour will feature six homes beautifully decorated homes in the Fonthill-area. Hosted by the Fonthill United Church between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM, the tour is supported by many local businesses.

Annual Pelham Food Drive – Saturday, December 3:
The Food Drive is an annual tradition that shows the generosity of the community and helps those less fortunate. Please volunteer and / or place non-perishable food items at your door for Pelham Cares.

Senior’s Christmas Party – December 6:
This will be the 50th Year of the Kinmen’s Senior’s Christmas Party! Enjoy the camaraderie, sing carols, and meet Santa.

Santa Claus Parade – Saturday, December 10:
Another holiday tradition! Enjoy the Parade through Downtown Fenwick and then meet Santa and celebrate in Centennial Park.

Please watch our local media for more information about each of these community events.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Should We Appoint or Hold A By-Election?

Regional Council will need to decide on how to fill a vacancy.

Since Cindy Forster was elected as the Welland MPP on October 6, she resigned from Regional Council. She held that role since December 2006 and was handily re-elected during last fall’s municipal election.

On October 27, Regional Council will formally accept her resignation and officially declare her seat vacant.

The Municipal Act provides two options to fill the vacancy:

First, Regional Council may appoint an “eligible” person within 60 days of declaring a seat vacant. An eligible person includes someone who consents to the appointment, and is a Canadian citizen who is at least 18 years old and resides in Niagara.

Second, Council may hold a by-election. An eligible candidate would have to fulfill the same criteria as above. Because Niagara’s Towns and Cities organize municipal elections, the City of Welland would run a by-election. Media reports indicate that Welland City staff guesstimate that a by-election could cost as much as $100,000; those costs would be borne by the Region, not the City.

Vacancies on Councils have occurred before. Prior to making its decision and in a spirit of collegiality, Regional Council usually seeks the advice of the City or Town Council about their preferred method of filling the vacancy.

For example, when Rob Nicolson – one of three Niagara Falls Regional Councillors – was elected as Niagara Falls MP in 2004, Regional Council sought the advice of the Niagara Falls Council; interestingly, the City Council did not offer a preferred method to fill the vacancy.

When Mike Collins passed away in 2009, the Region asked St. Catharines Council for input; they suggested that Regional Council appoint the next candidate – Carlos Garcia – from the long list of those who ran for the six St. Catharines seats.

On the advice of Grimsby Council, Regional Council appointed Bob Bentley – a Town Councillor at the time – to fill the vacancy created when Debbie Zimmerman was elected Regional Chair; then, Grimsby held a by-election to fill their vacant Council seat.

Finally, you will recall that following the resignation of Debbie Urbanowicz from Pelham Council last spring, Pelham held a by-election to fill the vacancy; Richard Rybiak won that June election.

Before the issue comes to the Region, I am very interested in hearing your views; quite frankly, since this new Councillor will serve Welland, I am most interested in hearing feedback from Welland residents directly at mayordave@pelham.ca. (You can also call me at 905-892-2607 ext. 317.)

Residents may also contact their Councillors directly; for their contact information, please go to www.welland.ca or www.niagararegion.ca.

UPDATE -- As of November 1, 2011:
I have received responses from 46 Welland residents regarding the issue of filling the vacancy.

30 (65%) said they wanted a by-election
8 (17%) said they wanted the third place candidate in the Regional Council election
8 (17%) said they wanted an appointment, but suggested someone else than the next candidate -- some of these said definitely not the third place candidate, others suggested a Welland City Councillor, and the rest named various other people.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Procedural Rules Matter


Have you ever been part of a formal meeting that followed meeting guidelines like Robert’s Rules of Order?

We use strict rules at Town Council and at Regional Council to advance public business on your behalf. For example, our meetings follow specific agendas, and the “first order of business” is to approve that agenda. The Clerk keeps accurate meeting notes and we approve those “minutes” at the next meeting. A motion must be “moved” and “seconded” before we even discuss it.

In addition, we use a committee system. Whatever a Committee decides is then “recommended” to Council for approval. But, Council can actually change that recommendation altogether, and, once approved by Council, a decision or action becomes final.

We follow other rules as delineated in a “Procedural Bylaw.”

Well, a very interesting debate recently occurred at the Region that highlights the importance of knowing this process and these procedures.

You see, during the Public Works Committee meeting on September 27, we considered a staff report regarding a new development called “Cannery Park” on the former CanGro lands in Niagara-on-the-Lake. While a developer has upgraded a portion of the former operation and is successfully running a cold-storage facility, he also wants to rezone the surrounding lands and build 238 homes.

While supportive, Staff recommended continuation of an Ontario Municipal Board appeal so that the Region could negotiate a proportional cost-sharing agreement on behalf of taxpayers. This agreement would cover between $1.8 and $2.3 million of costs to upgrade and widen the Regional Road and to direct home construction away from an existing sewage pumping station.

A majority of the Committee disagreed and, wanting to “roll out the red carpet” and “speed-up” the process, voted down the recommendations. Then, after further debate, the Committee recommended to Council that Staff negotiate with the developer and have more information for our October 18 Committee meeting.

On October 6, Council debated the Committee’s recommendations; then, following a series of amendments and recorded votes, the majority of Council – and notably many of those who quite vocally wanted to give fast, carte blanche approval – postposed action on the entire matter “until October 19.”

But, since the deferral is to a day following the Public Works Committee meeting, we cannot actually deal with the matter until our Council meeting on October 27.

It’s unfortunate when the real issues – like the appropriateness of a development, or the mitigation of additional costs to taxpayers – are lost because of the misunderstanding and misuse of meeting procedures.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Promoting Pelham


Your Town Council has made some early steps toward the development of a plan to promote Pelham as a destination for shopping, for business, for agriculture, for community events, and for life-in-general.

You see, for years now, some have suggested that the Town needs to be more involved in a comprehensive plan to promote the great things about our community. While many individuals and groups are currently involved in promoting one or more aspects of Pelham, we do not have a common vision or a coordinated plan.

For example, the Pelham Business Association developed a “Think & Buy Local” campaign a few years ago and the “Did You Know” Campaign last year about local businesses. The Welland / Pelham Chamber of Commerce manages the Tourist Booth every year. The Fonthill Bandshell Committee promotes the hugely successful Bandshell Concert Series. The members of Pelham’s dedicated Service Clubs promote successful events like the Biketoberfest, the Pelham Homeshow and the Santa Claus Parade. A group of community volunteers developed the amazing Pelham Summerfest in July of this year. Artists and cultural enthusiasts have hosted the annual Pelham Art Festival for 25 years. Members of the agricultural community manage the weekly Pelham Farmer’s Market. Sports groups – from hockey, soccer, baseball, to cycling – each have their own tournaments and events that promote Pelham. And many other events, celebrations, and great things that people do to promote wonderful aspects of our community.

But, if asked, “What is Pelham?” what would you answer? Or, what common parts of Pelham should be promoted among ourselves and to those outside of our Town?

And, what about our schools, our neighbourhoods, our churches? What about our golf courses and horse farms? What about the natural beauty of our Town? How are these elements drawn together?

Well, when Council deliberated on the matter, we realised that these answers come only from you and other members of the the community itself.

That’s why Council – lead by Councillors Accursi and Papp – have endorsed the creation of the Pelham Promotional Advisory Committee. The committee will develop and coordinate a promotional plan for the Town. The Committee will include representatives from Pelham’s Agricultural Sector; Pelham Business Association; Welland / Pelham Chamber of Commerce; development community; recreational communities (both winter and summer); the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council; Pelham Arts Festival; local Service Clubs; Pelham’s cultural sector; from a “citizen-at-large”; and from Pelham Council.

As the advisory committee develops, you should hear more about promoting Pelham.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Businesses Celebrating, Growing, Starting

Over the last couple of weeks, Council and I have been invited to a number of business openings or celebrations. I am very pleased that businesses are expanding or celebrating in this way.

TAG Computers – Grand Re-Opening:
Congratulations to Tom McIntyre for his grand re-opening of a new store front location at #6-111 Hwy 20 East across the road from Sobeys in Fonthill (in former Voice of Pelham office). TAG moved from another Fonthill location and builds and sells Home and Office Computer Systems including networking, upgrades and security features; helps with preventative computer maintenance; and printer supplies.

Clarence’s Service Centre – 50th Anniversary Celebration:
Congratulations to brothers Louie and Hans Dam and their families for the 50 years of business and automotive service to the community! They celebrated this tremendous business milestone with a customer appreciation on Saturday, September 10 at their shop at 801 Canboro Road in Fenwick. The celebration included vintage and hot-rod car display, and a delicious BBQ.

Studio Twenty – Grand Opening:
Krysta Pratt, registered massage therapist, officially opened her new business at the Fonthill Plaza (at 20 Regional Road 20 East) on September 14. She moved from home-based business and expanded services to her store-front studio. The studio provides programs for men and women at all fitness levels, including spinning, yoga, zumba, tai chi, pilates, along with massage therapy and nutrition.

Ooh La La Designs & Living Art Studio – Grand Opening:
Congratulations to Kelly Gojmerac who opened her new store on September 17 in one of the rear-units of the new building in Downtown Fonthill (1471 Pelham Street). Ooh La La Designs had been a home-based business and now, because of success, has opened a store-front. Ooh la la Designs works to make their clients’ entrances, patios, and offices spectacular and one of a kind container flowers and displays for every season.

Commercial Building Façade Improvement Application:
At our Committee meeting on Monday, Councillors reviewed another application for a commercial building façade improvement on the now former Butterflies Building in downtown Fonthill. (Butterflies recently moved to 1408 Pelham St., near the corner of Churchill.) The proposal calls for the repair and replacement of existing façade – siding, shutters, windows, etc. -- in preparation for the opening of a new candy store. Yum!

I am pleased that businesses like these are expanding, growing, and celebrating successes across Pelham. Let’s remember that if our community wants to continue to be home to diverse and creative businesses, their success depends on a great business and our ongoing patronage.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How should Pelham and the Region spend your money in 2012?


Do you have a suggestion on how the Town should spend your money? What are some specific things that you think the Region should do or things that we should stop doing in 2012? How can we make both Pelham and all of Niagara better places to live, work, grow, and play?

Pelham’s Budget:

I am very proud that our Pelham Town Council is continuing with the practice of inviting you and your neighbours and friends to get involved in the Town’s Budget.

Town Council will begin our 2012 budget process with a special public meeting where we listen to you about what you would like to see in future budgets on Tuesday, October 11 at 7:00 PM at Pelham Town Hall.

Pelham 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 October for the following budget year.

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 community improves when more and more people become involved in its success!

Council is set to adopt this budget schedule:
Pre-Budget Consultation – beginning October 11, 2011;
Draft Capital Budget Available to the Public – November 25;
Draft Capital Budget Presented to Committee – November 28;
Council Approve Capital Budget – December 5;
Draft Operating, Water & Sewer Budgets Available to the Public – January 27, 2012;
Draft Operating, Water & Sewer Budgets to Committee – January 30;
Council Approve Operating, Water & Sewer Budgets – February 6.

Want to provide written input? Simply send a letter via email to a special email address: ourbudget@pelham.ca. You will also soon be able to view background budget information at the Town’s website: www.pelham.ca.

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.

Niagara Region Budget:

As you may know, I was honoured by being selected by my Regional Council colleagues as the Chair of the Region’s Budget. Further, I am pleased that the Region also will also be inviting public involvement during two public engagement sessions – Wednesday, October 26 in the Town of Lincoln Council Chambers, and Wednesday, November 2 in the Town of Fort Erie Council Chambers.

Regardless of where you live, you can also check into live webstreaming our sessions at www.niagararegion.ca, with real-time twitter and Facebook accessibility for residents to submit questions during the presentations or in advance>

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

“Complete & Utter Control of Your Land”?


Have you been asked to sign the “Petition to Stop Site Alteration Bylaw”?

According to the petition, a site alteration bylaw would enable the Town to “…assume complete & utter control of your land.” The petition asserts that: “In other words, you would have absolutely no control over the land on which you pay taxes. This is nothing short of ‘COMMUNISM’.”

Strong language, isn’t it?

So, what is the issue? Are any of these statements true? And, what would a site alteration bylaw look like?

Following complaints and the suggestion from some rural residents, the Town is considering the introduction of a Site Alteration Bylaw. Many other municipalities have enacted a bylaw of this nature to limit grading, topsoil removal, and placing of fill on sites prior to receiving the appropriate approvals.

A Site Alteration Bylaw would allow a City or Town to regulate activities with the potential for environmental degradation (dumping, erosion, sedimentation, etc...), drainage problems (blockages, impact on neighbouring properties, etc…) and public nuisance (tracking of mud on roads, dust, etc…). This type of bylaw does not replace other land development approval processes (like Plans of Subdivision, or Site Plan Controls), and it is sanctioned under the Ontario Municipal Act.

The Town convened a public information session on August 10 to give people an opportunity to ask questions and provide comments in support of or in opposition to a Site Alteration Bylaw. (Notice of the meeting was advertised in the newspaper and on the Town’s website for two weeks.)

At the meeting, Staff explained that Council had not decided whether or not they would like to adopt such a Bylaw. Staff encouraged residents to take the time to submit written comments indicating support of or opposition to any such bylaw. (The deadline for the submission of comments was August 26.)

Staff will review this input and the comments from other agencies and will provide a summary to the General Committee of Council on Monday, September 19. Anyone who submitted comments or who signed the attendance sheet at the meeting will be provided with a copy of the report and the other comments when they are provided to Council.

If Council wishes to proceed, you and other members of the public will have more opportunity for input.

Despite this ongoing public process, it is unfortunate that a private party is circulating misinformation like the statements in the petition above.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Enjoy Pelham’s Outdoor Movie Night!


Did you hear about the Outdoor Family Movie Night coming up next Wednesday at Peace Park?

At the spring 2010 Youth Forum, 90 teens representing Pelham’s Youth from grades 7 to 12 clearly told the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) and the Town that they wanted more and varied activities for youth and teens. Many felt that the Town did a good job providing services and opportunities for children and adults, but, they wanted more events and activities for themselves.

For example, at the Forum we asked “What activities or events would you like to see available for youth in Pelham?” The top two responses were: “Let more youth bands play at the bandshell” and “Outdoor movie night.” (The complete report is publicly available on the Town’s website in the MYAC section under “Town Hall.”)

That’s why the Pelham Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council began hosting AMP-Fest in the Bandshell in Peace Park a couple of years ago. Short for “Art & Music in the Park”, AMP-Fest is like a “battle of the bands” for youth / teen bands with a display-art component and has been generously sponsored each year by the Pelham Art Festival; this year the MYAC hosted AMP-Fest during Summerfest with music in the Bandshell and with an Youth Art Contest hosted by In The Orchard (at the Happy Place).

In light of the suggestions from the Youth Forum, I was also very pleased that this year’s Mayor’s Gala raised funds to support various activities for youth. Along with four other groups, Gala sponsors and donors raised funds specifically for the MYAC to host an outdoor movie night and other youth activities.

That outdoor movie night will be held on Wednesday, August 31 at dusk (approximately 8:00 PM) in front of the Bandshell in Peace Park.

The MYAC used a Facebook poll to select the movie. The winner is “Despicable Me,” a PG-rated film about “a criminal mastermind who uses a trio of orphan girls for a grand scheme and who finds that their love profoundly changes him for the better.”

The MYAC also wanted to “pay it forward” and use the event to raise funds and awareness for the United Way of South Niagara. Proceeds from the sale of popcorn, snacks and drinks will support the work of the charity.

So, please spread the word, and attend Pelham’s first Outdoor Movie Night for youth / teens / and families alike!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Questions about Pelham's Property Taxes

Over the last couple of months, a handful of residents have asked me questions about their property taxes.

For example, a few people asked why their property taxes went up after I wrote in March to expect a 0.1% decrease for the average residential property.

A few others were elated because their 2011 property taxes decreased – and decreased substantially – from 2010.

Why these inconsistencies in the experience of different home-owners? Why did some specific property taxes go up while others specifically went down?

You see, in March I wrote that “…the average residential property value for 2011 is expected to be $272,000. If your home and property were assessed at that value, you would be paying an additional $11 or a total of $1,258 on the Pelham portion of your property tax bill. This accounts for an increase of 0.9% for the average residential property in Pelham.

“But, that’s only 34% of your tax bill; the Region makes up 49% of the property taxes you pay in Pelham, while the Provincial educational portion is the remaining 17%.”

For the average residential property, the Regional portion of your tax bill deceased by 1.0% and the Education portion increased an average of 0.3%.

In March, I wrote “So, when you account for all these changes, I am pleased to let you know that the average residential property in Pelham (valued at $272,000) will see a total property tax decrease of roughly 0.1%.” For the average residential property, the combined property taxes paid in 2011 over 2010 decreased by approximately $4.00.

But, for clarity, that is only for an average residential property of $272,000 that increased an average of all increases in residential assessment. For 2011, that average increase was 4.62%.

But, what if the assessed value of your residential property increased more than the average? Or, what if the assessed value increased less than the average?

If your assessed value increases more than the average increase you will pay more than average. For example, if the assessed value of your home increased by 7% from 2010 to 2011, that’s higher than the 4.6% average, and you would pay more, despite the 0.1% average decrease.

By the same token, if your assessed value increases less than the average – say by only 3% -- you will likely pay less tax.

I hope that helps explain why the specific experience of property owners will likely be different that the average that we use to explain the effect of budget changes each year.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thanks for Downtown Fonthill & Summerfest


For decades residents have wanted an improved Downtown Fonthill. Ten year ago, some business owners and residents approached the Town with a vision for the Downtown and the Communities in Bloom Committee formed to clean-up the Town and collect funds for beautification.

Four years ago, just after I started serving as Mayor, I called a community meeting about how we could take action to improve our downtowns. During that meeting, concerned citizens formed the Downtown Beautification Committee to plan façade improvements and other ways to breathe new life into Fonthill’s and Fenwick’s Downtowns. Eventually, the Committee became sanctioned by Town Council.

Over the years several residents served tirelessly on that committee, including: Gary Accursi, (Chair, representing the Pelham Business Association (PBA) and now Council), Acacia Ashick (Mayor's Youth Advisory Council (MYAC)), Todd Barber (PBA), Edie Basaraba (Communities in Bloom (CIB)), Emma Caldwell (MYAC), Elizabeth Carmichael (MYAC), Bea Clark (Pelham Active Transportation Committee), Sharon Cook (former Councillor), Joan Crowther (Citizen Representative), Patty Fagan (PBA), Andrew Gemel (MYAC), Andrea Johnson (Heritage Pelham Advisory Committee), Mary Lamb (Pelham Historical Society), Shirley Lazareth (CIB), Don Marr (CIB), Joe Mergl (CIB), Jenna Piunno (MYAC), Muriel Roden (Pelham Horticultural Society), Bill Sheldon (Citizen), Frank Sicoli (Citizen), and Craig Larmour (Town Staff).

Two years ago, the Downtown Beautification Committee worked with the community to develop design guidelines – the “look and feel” for developments in the Downtowns. At the same time, Council set aside funds to incent improvements for property owners. And, after the Town applied for stimulus infrastructure funding, the Federal and Provincial governments approved up to $850,000 each. The Niagara Region also provided $100,000 for streetscaping.

One year ago, the Town finalized the engineering design for the road, water, and streetscaping improvements and began construction. Council also approved the incentive program.

Six-months ago, another group of dedicated volunteers formed to organize a celebration at the end of construction. The Pelham Summerfest Committee included: Todd Barber (Chair), Gary Accursi (Council), Leigh Atherton (Zest), Cathy Berkhout-Bosse (ReMax), Bea Clark (Active Transportation Committee), Santa Cyopik (Communities in Bloom), Catherine King (Council), Paul Roode (Indulgence), David Watt (Zest), John Wink (PBA), Katie Thorpe and Vickie VanRavensway (Town Staff). Many, many more volunteers assisted them to create Summerfest.

On Saturday, July 23, we celebrated the official opening of a newly revitalized Downtown Fonthill with the First Annual Summerfest.

On behalf of Council, I appreciate the vision, dedication, and tremendous work by so many volunteers and staff to revitalize the downtown and celebrate a new beginning with Pelham Summerfest. Thank you and congratulations on a resounding and overwhelming success!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Celebrate Summerfest in a Revitalized Downtown Fonthill


As the construction nears completion, the celebration is about to begin.

Last week saw not only the installation of a crosswalk at Churchill, but also the planting of many of the trees in Downtown Fonthill. This week, the top layer of asphalt and most of the benches, gardens, and trees are to be finished south of Regional Road #20. And, the clock – donated by Communities In Bloom – will be installed.

You will recall that the pre-construction work – burying of the hydro lines and other utilities – began last spring. Construction began in earnest last July as the street from College to Regional Road #20 was dug up for new water and sewer lines. That work took until December, when the contractor poured curbs and added layer of asphalt.

Major work on the Northern side of Regional Road #20 to Broad Street began this spring. The contractor completed the underground work and is finishing the curbs, sidewalks, pavers, and other “streetscaping” features.

The major final, but much-needed piece to be completed is the traffic signal at #20 and Pelham Street. The Region will now upgrade the traffic signals and the contractor will rework the corner to be safer and better for pedestrians.

You will recall that the Federal and Provincial government contributed two-thirds of the construction costs. The Town is also using “Investing in Ontario” funding from the Provincial Government to pay for most of the costs for burying the utilities.

Admittedly, this construction has been very difficult for many Downtown Fonthill businesses.

That’s why I am so pleased that many business owners, the Town, members of service clubs and other residents have teamed up to host Summerfest this Saturday.

Summerfest – to be held from noon to midnight on July 23 – will celebrate the end of construction and the beginning of a newly revitalized Downtown Fonthill!

The festival’s events will include:
- Street Party Zone will include great music on a main stage, a beer garden, a zumba challenge, and venders;
- Active Lifestyle Zone will include a swim meet, a fun walk / run, a bike rodeo, and Nordic walking demos;
- X Zone will include an AMPfest youth band competition, a skate park and climbing wall, and an art contest;
- Kid’s Zone will include a bouncy gym jungle slide, Disney charactors, great games.

For complete information, please see www.pelhamsummerfest.ca.

I deeply appreciate the many, committed volunteers who have organized Summerfest and the hundreds of sponsors! And, I invite you to come celebrate our newly revitalized Downtown Fonthill this Saturday!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Haist Street Substantially Complete

Like planned, the Canada Day Parade returned to the newly reconstructed Haist Street last week. It was wonderful to see the hundreds of families who gathered to celebrate Canada’s 144th Birthday on July 1st.

You will recall that, as one of Pelham’s most-used collector roads, the two kilometers of Haist Street from Canboro to Welland Road desperately required reconstruction.

The $5.7 million reconstruction included added-width for bicycles, sidewalks on both sides of the street, four raised crosswalks to calm the traffic, and a pedestrian-priority crossing signal in front of A.K. Wigg School. The replacement of the cast iron watermains has improved drinking water quality and system resiliency. The reconstruction eliminated the potential of road washouts and helps to protect the environment by replacing the wide ditches with an underground storm water system.

It is true that the work has taken nearly 20 months to complete. Council agreed to break the project into two phases so that we could take advantage of significant Federal and Provincial infrastructure stimulus funding that stipulated a certain “start date.”

That’s why the first phase began in November 2009 and included the sanitary sewer relocation near Welland Road. The high water table delayed completion until March 2010; the contractor needed to “de-water” the area before crews could replace the large sewers. I sympathize deeply with the residents who live directly in that area; their lives have been impacted by noise, dust, and considerable inconvenience for a long time.

The second phase began in April, 2010. You will recall that the contractor paved the base layer of asphalt in the section North of Pancake Lane (to Canboro Road) in late November 2010. Work on the section South of Pancake Lane (to Welland Road) was much more complicated, again, because of the high water table and the required “dewatering.” The contractor just paved the Southern half in June.

The remaining work includes completing the sodding, paving the top-coat of asphalt, cutting the road and installing the four raised cross-walks, assessing and fixing deficiencies, and planting trees.

I do also want you to know that Kelly Walsh, Director of Community & Infrastructure Services, assured Council at our June 27 meeting that the project was “tracking to tender” – i.e.: well-within the tendered amount agreed upon by Council.

Finally, with the project “substantially complete,” I acknowledge and deeply thank all area residents – most especially those living on Haist Street – for your patience, your flexibility, and your understanding.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New Fire Station, Ongoing Service

We held the Grand Opening of the new Pelham Fire Station #2 this past Saturday.

More than a decade ago a small planning group of Firefighters identified several deficiencies in the former Fire Station. They suggested building a replacement facility, but lack of funding stopped that process.

Then, in August 2008, Town Council formally established a Fire Station #2 Replacement Committee. Chaired by former-Councillor Debbie Urbanowicz (who attended the opening!), the Committee included Councillor Peter Papp, Fire Chief Scott McLeod, District Chief Owen Simmonds, Captain Otto Heinrich, Captain Tim Vanderweide, Town CAO Martin Yamich, and myself (ex officio).

The Committee reconfirmed that Town needed a new Fire Station on a new site because parts of the 50-year-old building are structurally inadequate and deteriorating, because of the safety concerns with firefighters backing-up vehicles after each call, and because the old site has no room to expand or reconstruct a new fire station.

The Committee worked with Firefighters to determine their needs and worked with the community to find the best location and property for a new Fire Station. The Committee completed a functional analysis to determine space requirements and an appropriate building configuration, and oversaw an environmental assessment and re-zoning of the site.

When the National and Provincial government announced Infrastructure Stimulus Funding, the Town submitted a complete business case for the new facility. That funding made Fire Station #2 a reality! I deeply appreciate support of Federal and Provincial governments who invested a total of $1.98 million into the $2.9 million project.

The new, 12,000 square foot facility includes:
o a separate area to store bunker gear and each firefighter’s specialized equipment;
o specialized areas for firefighter training – including a smoke room, an elevated training platform, an auto-extrication pad, and a classroom;
o a hall for large-group training and community events; and
o drive-through parking bays for fire vehicles.

I offer special thanks to Steve Bernier, Panichi Architects, John Klassen & John Colangelo, Bromac Construction, and Martin Yamich, Town CAO and Project Manager.

Saturday’s Grand Opening was about much more than a building. It was about the men and women who have given of themselves, and who continue to give to the community so that they can be prepared for any and all emergencies and so that each of us can be safe.

Congratulations to Pelham Fire District #2 and the Pelham Fire Service and thank you for your ongoing dedication, commitment, hard work and service.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Vote in the Ward One By-Election


If you live in Ward One, you will have likely seen some by-election signs displayed on a few people’s lawns. Well, they won’t be there long…the by-election is on Monday!

You will recall that following the resignation of Debbie Urbanowicz from Pelham Town Council, Councillors debated our options to replace her.

Essentially, the Municipal Act provides two possibilities: Council may appoint an “eligible” person – a Canadian citizen over 18 years old and who resides in the Town; or Council may hold a by-election for that specific, Ward seat.

Initially, the majority of Councillors opted to appoint someone. They wanted to advertise in the paper, interview applicants, and pick the new Councillor during a special closed-door session. (I disagreed with the idea and voted against the plan.)

Well, Councillors and I were overwhelmed by the feedback from the community! I had so many people contact me that I had to keep track of the phone calls, emails, and conversations in a spreadsheet. When I analyzed the results, I found that more than two-thirds of the households that contacted me suggested we hold a by-election. Interesting, if you broke that down by Wards, more than 84% of Ward One households called for a by-election.

The majority feel that it is far better that hundreds and hundreds of people choose their new Councillor instead of a few people around a Council table.

Council listened to the feedback, and, on March 21, voted to hold a by-election. The Town’s Clerk called for nominations from the community from April 5 until May 6.

Following that nomination period, a total of five people put their names forward for the by-election. They include: Louis Butko, David Emmons, Rob Fraser, Jim Lane, and Richard Rybiak.

Interestingly, only two candidates – Richard Rybiak and Jim Lane – actually live in Ward One. (Each of the other candidates lives in Ward Two and can’t even vote in the by-election.)

So, today is the Advance Poll day from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM at the new Pelham Fire Station #2 at 766 Welland Road, Fenwick.

Voting Day will be Monday, June 20 from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM at either the new Pelham Fire Station #2 or at the First Presbyterian Church, 602 Metler Road, North Pelham. (For more information about Voting, please visit the Town’s website at www.pelham.ca.)

This is your opportunity to have your voice heard. If you are an eligible voter in Ward One, please vote!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What Should Pelham Look Like in the Future?


As you may know, Pelham still has a few tracts of land set aside and available for new growth.

The largest is in the “East Fonthill” area – between Rice Road and Station Street / Steve Bauer Trail and from Regional Road 20 to the Town’s southern boundary (south of Merritt Street).

While much of these nearly 500 acres of lands are currently farmed, the entire area was added to the Urban Boundary by an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in 2000. It is estimated that at least 5,000 people could be living in this area within 20 years; that is why the Region installed water and sewer trunk lines in 2007/08.

The OMB decision required the Town to undertake a “Secondary Plan” before allowing development to proceed.

All Towns and Cities must have “Official Plans” (OPs). Essentially, an Official Plan contains policies and guidelines and outlines where commercial, agricultural, industrial, and residential developments can occur. It uses a series of maps to demonstrate those areas.

Pelham adopted our current Official Plan in 1987. We started renewing and modernizing the OP in the late 1990s; but, since the Province began changing their governing policies in the mid-2000s– Greenbelt Plan, “Places to Grow”, Provincial Policy Statement – the Town must adapt our own policies and guidelines. Staff anticipates that the Town’s new Official Plan will be available for public input and feedback this Fall.

Like an Official Plan covering the entire Town, a Secondary Plan contains detailed policies and guidelines for growth and development for a specific area – in this case, this East Fonthill area.

Some of the goals of the East Fonthill Secondary Plan include ensuring a well-designed, attractive, pedestrian-friendly community with a mixture of housing types; encouraging significant retail / commercial development while at the same time protecting the existing Fonthill Downtown; providing a “Greenlands System” that protects existing environmental features and integrates with the Steve Bauer Trail system; and developing a pedestrian / cyclist-friendly and transit-ready road network.

Council and I are really interested in your feedback and suggestions on the East Fonthill Secondary Plan. You can find a draft Plan on the Town’s website at www.pelham.ca and at Town Hall and the Libraries. Please send us an email or letter or attend the Open House on Tuesday, June 21 from 2:00 to 4:00 PM and 6:00 to 8:00 PM at Pelham Fire Station #1.

Don’t miss your chance on being involved in a plan that will dramatically shape the future of Pelham.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Done soon, support downtown Fonthill businesses


A theme last week was the need to support of Downtown Fonthill businesses while moving toward a new, vibrant vision.

First, John Wink, President of the Pelham Business Association (PBA), presented to Council last Monday. Wink expressed the frustration some that downtown businesses have felt with the revitalization process. He explained that some Pelham Street stores have seen a 50% drop in revenues and have laid-off employees.

He made it clear that the PBA supports the reconstruction of the street, burying the utilities, and the streetscaping; the duration of the construction, however, is negatively affecting businesses. Wink urged Council to pressure the contractors to get the job done as quickly as possible.

Part of a special organizing committee, Wink also reminded Council of the Saturday, July 23 Summerfest to celebrate end of the work.

Later in the meeting Council urged the general contractor – Brennan Construction – to commit to completing the project on or before July 8 and well in advance of Summerfest.

Then, on Tuesday morning I spoke to the Pelham / Welland Chamber of Commerce. I indicated that construction on Pelham St. is nearly done. I also expressed concern for local businesses and encouraged Chamber members to support downtown Fonthill businesses.

In his closing remarks, John Krall, emcee and past-President of the Chamber, urged members to “reset your GPS to take you back into downtown Fonthill.” Krall stated that “these businesses need your support.”

Later in the week, while buying coffee at Café on Main, I bumped into Todd Barber. As you may know, Todd designed and is overseeing the construction of the new building between Butterflies and Zest. He took me on a tour of the new retail spaces on street-level, the bottom retail / office space, and the apartments on the second floor. An impressive design, the building serves as a landmark of the new vision Council has for the downtowns.

Then, on Friday, Rocco Spano introduced himself and showed me his plans for his new business. You see, Rocco is renovating the space at the base of Churchill on Pelham Street that will produce and serve homemade, high-quality gelato. He plans to open by Canada Day.

Council and I are concerned with both the length of the reconstruction and the effect on downtown businesses. I also encourage you to “reset you GPS” to downtown Fonthill and to support local businesses as we complete the downtown revitalization project.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cell Tower Process & Update

Did you hear that some new cell towers will be coming to Pelham?



As you may recall, a couple of years ago Rogers Communications notified the Town that they planned to install two such towers. They intended to build one on Canboro Road near Victoria Avenue and the other tower along Victoria Avenue near Twenty Road.

At the time, many local residents asked Town Council to get involved in the process. They were concerned about the health effects of the radio waves on them and their children.

While Rogers ultimately did not proceed with these applications, Council learned that two Federal Departments govern the process – Industry Canada and Health Canada.

Health Canada works to ensure that installations meet health guidelines; specifically, all towers must meet something called “Safety Code 6” which regulates radio frequencies to limit human exposure.

After meeting Health Canada guidelines, Industry Canada regulates location and building standards (under the National Building Code).

But, just prior to the 2009 Pelham applications, Industry Canada opened the door to allowing municipalities to get involved in the approval process.

I stress “process.” You see, Industry Canada allowed Cities and Towns to develop protocols for public engagement. So, Council took advantage of the situation and is among a few municipalities that have developed protocols. Now, the Town hosts a public meeting, facilitates information exchanges with residents, and compels applicants to circulate notice to affected neighbours.

Again, I stress “process” because we have no ability to approve or deny an application. The most we can do is “humbly request.”

This happened recently when Rogers Communication notified the Town that it intended to install two cellular towers – one at the original Victoria Avenue / Twenty Road area, and a second near Chantler Road and Murdoch Street. The Town’s protocol compelled Rogers to circulate notice to a wider group of nearby residents and participate in a public meeting (held on March 28). At Council’s April 18 meeting we not only received a staff report about that meeting, we also heard presentations by a concerned resident and by Rogers.

At the meeting, Council “humbly requested” Rogers to demonstrate that they were a “good corporate citizen” by getting a building permit, painting the towers grey (to blend in with the sky), shielding any airplane warning lights, and refraining from co-locating cell transmitters from other companies (to limit exposure). Rogers agreed to the requests.

Should other applications arise, the Town will continue to follow this “process” and will likely continue to “humbly request” concessions.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Vibrant, Creative, Caring and You!

If you have ever been involved in strategic planning, you will know that taking time away from the pressing demands of your job, life, and immediate responsibilities can be very powerful. It can lead to “outside of the box” thinking. It can bring people together for a common purpose and to develop common plans.

With the help of Angela Carter, a local facilitator, Council and Senior Staff recently undertook this type of comprehensive review of the Town’s Strategic Plan. Councillors used a full-day session in February and a follow-up meeting in April to bring forward the vision and desires of residents that we heard during last fall’s municipal election. We endeavoured to bring the voice of the community to the plan.

During these sessions, Council and Staff redefined the mission and the vision for the Town. I am pleased that that process ignited a new passion and excitement for Pelham’s future and revealed a bond and strength for moving forward.

The new Mission for the Town: Serving and enhancing our unique blend of urban and rural lifestyles.

And, we also developed a new Vision for Pelham: The most vibrant, creative, and caring community in Niagara.

This vision inspires innovation through creativity and calls for a community that is alive and vibrant.

We also identified six key strategic themes as prevailing priorities for the coming years:
• An Open, Welcoming & Inviting Community;
• A Connected Community;
• Balanced Growth;
• An Engaged & Integrated Community;
• A Self-Sustaining Community; and
• Environmental Responsibility.

From these themes, Council and Staff established a set of outcomes and general strategies to ensure that the Vision could be measured. Once Council adopts the Plan, Staff will create a business plan to identify timelines and who will be held accountable for the strategies and action.

But, part of being “An Open, Welcoming & Inviting Community” means that Council remains committed to engaging you and other residents in the Strategic Planning process. We want to hear from you and encourage additional input, ideas, and actions prior to formally adopting the plan.

Therefore, the Town will host a public open house on Tuesday, May 3 at 6:30 PM in the Council Chambers at Pelham Town Hall to allow you to review the Plan and provide feedback. The draft Strategic Plan will be available for your review on the Town’s website prior to the meeting.

I hope you will review the Plan and provide your reaction so we can continue to work together make Pelham the most vibrant, creative, and caring community in Niagara.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Help to Revitalize Downtown Fenwick

Just as are making the final push for Fonthill’s Downtown, I wanted to bring you an update about Downtown Fenwick and invite you to be part of its revitalization too.

You will recall that in late 2008 the Town applied for funding from the Federal and Provincial government to revitalize both Fonthill’s and Fenwick’s Downtowns. The $7.1 million application envisioned major infrastructure enhancements: water, waste-water, and storm-sewer improvements; burying of hydro cables; road improvements; and proper streetscaping – better parking, brickwork, decorative lampposts, benches and planters.

In early 2009 we heard we were successful in achieving two-thirds funding to revitalize Downtown Fonthill. As you know, we started that construction work last summer and the revitalization will be complete by June 30. In fact, they have pulverized Pelham Street from Regional Road 20 to Broad Street and are constructing a new watermain and storm sewers. In the portion south of RR#20, the contractor is placing the tree beds and will be commencing the sidewalk construction, brick boulevards and planning of trees into May.

You will recall, however, that the Federal and Provincial governments deemed the improvements for Fenwick as a second project and ineligible for that 2009 funding.

But, in December 2009 the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario announced a second “intake” for the Community Adjustment Fund. In January 2010, the Town applied for $2.3 million of that program’s funding from the Federal Government for the revitalization of Fenwick’s Downtown.

We had hoped that the $2.7 million project would provide help “calm” traffic by creating urban design features – like pedestrian crossing treatments or gateways – that work with the road design to slow traffic. We had envisioned that the works would help to visually distinguish the downtown core, provide decorative roadway and pedestrian lighting to improve safety, and widen sidewalks to help make it more walkable.

Alas, we did not succeed in securing those funds and Council will have to budget for the works and / or keep pursuing grants.

However, the Town, through our engineering consultant, has continued to design a revitalized Downtown Fenwick. And, they are finally ready to publicly display the design options and to get your feedback and thoughts.

You and your neighbours are invited to review the plans at a special Public Information Centre on Wednesday, April 20 from 4:00 to 7:00 PM at Old Pelham Town Hall. I hope you will provide your feedback on the options so we can continue to work together to improve Pelham.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Opposed to Provincial Changes to the Kame

I want to give you an update about the “Area of Natural and Scientific Interest” (ANSI) on the Fonthill Kame and a recent unanimous decision by Pelham Council.

What is the Fonthill-Kame? In simple terms, think about it as the “hill” in both Fonthill and Shorthills and even the “ridge” in Ridgeville.

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

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

In May 2009, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) recommended making changes to the ANSI, significantly reducing its area.

At that time, the Town of Pelham Council, Niagara Regional Council, the Niagara Escarpment Commission, the Niagara Peninsular Conservation, scientific experts, more than a dozen Pelham citizens, and Tim Hudak, MPP, have publicly recommended that the current ANSI be maintained and enhanced. (Minister Jim Bradley also indicated to me that was supportive of maintaining the ANSI boundaries.) In early 2010, Pelham received a letter from the Natural Resources Minister in which she stated “Please let me assure you that it is our intention to maintain and, where feasible, enhance the current ANSI boundary.”

Now, the MNR has put forward another proposal to redefine the ANSI boundaries. (Please clikc here to see their cover letter, the map, the fact sheet, and the summary documents.) And, while it makes small improvement over the 2009 proposal, it fails to protect large portions of the feature. In fact, last year in his annual report, Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner warned the MNR about using this type of “swiss-cheese” approach. (Please see section 3.3 in that report.)

It’s also clear that the MNR’s proposal will open up some of the most significant areas of the Kame to development pressures, like aggregate resource extraction.

At our March 21 meeting, Pelham Council unanimously opposed the ANSI boundary changes. The Region will also consider MNR’s proposal at an April 6 committee meeting. (For a copy of the Region's report, please click here.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Should We Appoint or Hold A By-Election?

As you know, Debbie Urbanowicz resigned from Council on February 28 for personal and health reasons. She served the Town since 2003 and won re-election in both 2006 and 2010. She will be missed and Council accepted her resignation “with regret.”

During our March 7 Council meeting, we declared her Ward One seat vacant. Later in the evening and during our General Committee meeting, Councillors debated a report outlining the options to fill this seat. (For a copy of the report, please click here.)

The Municipal Act provides two options:

First, Council may appoint an “eligible” person within 60 days of declaring a seat vacant (before May 6). An eligible person includes someone who consents to the appointment, and is a Canadian citizen who is at least 18 years old and resides in the Town.

Second, Council may hold a by-election. An eligible candidate would have to fulfill the same criteria as above. Staff estimates that the financial cost to conduct a by-election in Ward One would be approximately $8,000.

Vacancies like this have occurred twice in Pelham’s history. The first was in 1972 when a Councillor died while in office. Since the death was within 90 days before the next election, Council followed the Municipal Act and did not fill the vacancy.

The second time was in 2008, when Malcolm Allen was elected to the House of Commons. With two-years remaining in the term, Council appointed the municipal candidate who placed next in Ward One the 2006 Municipal Election – James Lane.

As you may know, General Committee recommended that the Town advertise the vacant seat for three weeks and call for “applications from the public.” The March 7th recommendation further stated that “…Council will meet in closed session to review applicant’s applications and to determine by vote which applicant, if any, will be appointed to Council for the remainder of the term.”

A recorded vote was taken in which Councillors Gary Accursi, Larry Clark, and John Durley voted in favour and Councillor Catherine King and I opposed the recommendation. (Councillor Peter Papp declared a perceived conflict of interest because a potential appointee – James Lane – is his brother-in-law.)

On March 21 the Committee’s recommendation will be presented to Council. Council may then debate the matter again and will take a final vote to decide the course of action.

Before that vote, I am very interested in hearing your views on the matter. You may also want to contact your Councillors directly; for their contact information, please click here or call Town Hall at 905-892-2607.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Less than 1% Increase

At Monday’s Regular Meeting, Council approved the Town’s 2011 Operating Budget.

What does that mean for your pocket book?

Well, the average residential property value for 2011 is expected to be $272,000. If your home and property were assessed at that value, you would be paying an additional $11 or a total of $1,258 on the Pelham portion of your property tax bill. This accounts for an increase of 0.88% for the average residential property in Pelham.

Why such a small increase when other Cities and Towns contemplate a 5%, 6%, or 12% rise?

Town Staff reviewed the budget line by line and ensured it was tight as possible while fulfilling Council’s policies and goals. During the transition period for a new Council, for example, Staff compared previous budgets to actual spending and found more ways to trim the 2011 Budget.

What are some of the highlights for 2011?

The Town will invest in better communication with you and your neighbours. Staff will reduce the reliance on “snail mail” by offering billings by email, by increasing the use of electronic funds transfers, and by using a phone notification system. In addition, the Town will continue with the new procurement system following a highly successful six-month purchase order pilot project.

To help manage the Community Improvement Plan grants and loans, the new Heritage Committee responsibilities, and the completion of the East Fonthill Secondary Plan and Official Plan, and to provide better customer / resident service, the Town will be hiring an additional planner.

Recreation & Community Services will expand services and programs including new fitness programs in camp and swimming for children 9-13 and additional programs for adults.

Based on a service review and cost analysis, instead of contracting-out mowing, Town Staff will cut the grass again in Town parks and other key areas.

In partnership with the Region and to become a more environmentally friendly community, the Town will offer recycling in all parks and recreational facilities – like the arena. It is expected that this new service will begin by Canada Day.

To put the 2011 Budget into perspective, this is by far the lowest increase in the last eight years – the period for which I have reliable data. And, from what I am hearing across the Niagara, Pelham will likely be the lowest increase again this year.

If you would like additional information about the 2011 operating budget, please visit the Town’s website at www.pelham.ca.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Working on Your Budgets

Much of my time lately has been spent working on budgets both for Pelham and for the Region.

In mid-January, I was honoured to have been elected Chair of the Region’s Budget Review Committee. The Committee has since met four times to examine the Region’s Capital and Operating budgets and the Water and Waste Water budgets. Councillors also deliberated over budgets of the Region’s five departments and five outside Boards & Agencies in greater detail at special committee meetings. The Region also hosted a public consultation forum in early February.

Despite that work, the Region’s budget is still a work in progress; we are scheduled, however, to approve most of the Region’s budgets on Thursday, March 3 at Regional Council.

Most of Pelham’s budgets are also a work in progress. For example, we examined the Town’s Operating Budget during a special committee meeting on February 28; we will debate the Town’s Water and Waste Water budgets on March 7.

However, Pelham Council did approve the 2011 Capital Budget on February 22.

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

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

Your Town’s $4.6 million Capital Budget will fund many improvements, such as:
• A new pumper truck to replace a 1994 smaller pumper at Fire Station #3 and to provide better rural service;
• $1.2 million of road reconstruction including Effingham Road from Sixteen to Kilman; Foss Road from Effingham to Poth; Chantler Road from Balfour to Poth; and Sumbler west of Church Street;
• $525,000 of road resurfacing including Lorimer Street from Hurricane to Station; Brookbank Crescent; Quaker Road from Welland to Haist; River Road from Cream to Farr and east of Effingham;
• Parks and Recreation investments like ball diamond grooming equipment, new soccer shelters for Harold Black Park, court resurfacing at the Arena and North Pelham Parks, renovations to Old Town Hall, and a master plan for landscaping Peace Park;
• Replacing old vehicles including a 1993 5-tonne truck, a 1999 half-ton pick-up truck, and a 1998 mower;
• Completing the East Fonthill Secondary Plan and Town Official Plan; and
• Rebalancing capital reserves from the unprecedented work over the last couple of years.

I will continue to keep you informed of progress on these 2011 Budgets in future columns.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Keeping the Snow Off the Roads

We sure do have a lot of snow, don’t we? So much snow that it’s starting to feel like an old-fashioned winter, isn’t it?

All that snow means that Town Staff have to work hard to get it off the roads so you and I can make our way around and in- and out-of Town. Council and I have received many compliments for the way in which Staff have recently cleared the roads.

Take, for example, the snow we had last Wednesday. You will recall that it was supposed to be an all-out blizzard and dump a foot or more of blowing snow upon us. Thankfully we missed the brunt of the storm, but our road crew was out ensuring the roads were clear and safe.

They started very early Wednesday morning and despite the schools being closed, I found the roads quite passable when I headed out at 8:25. When the snow kept falling through the day, Staff kept working until 5:00 PM. Our Road Patroller monitored the situation all evening, and ensured that the main roads were clear. The rest of the crew came back in at 4:00 AM on Thursday to ensure that the majority of roads were cleaned up for you to travel safely later in that morning.

It is the Town’s goal that Staff clear all roads within 24 hours of a “snow event”; occasionally, however, Mother Nature does not cooperate and it takes longer to clear the entire Town. (We appreciate your patience on those occasions!)

As you may have read in the Town’s recently distributed Winter Control Services brochure, the Town is divided into eight snow clearing routes. Within each route, the main roads – the “primary” and “collector” roads – are cleared prior to the local roads – like sidestreets and cul-de-sacs.

That makes sense doesn’t it? Primary roads like Canboro Road, Pelham Street and Effingham Road should be cleared first because they are the main arteries for traffic. Collector roads like Welland Road, Haist Street, and Sixteen Road are also considered priority roads because of the number of vehicles that use them each day. At the same time, Regional Staff ensure our Regional Roads – Highway 20, Victoria Avenue, Webber Road, and Rice Road – are cleared early and often.

The Town’s annual snow control budget is about $500,000. While the amount spent varies from year-to-year, we add any surpluses from one winter – like last year – into a reserve to help pay for work in years with lots of snow – like this year.

Monday, January 24, 2011

2.5 Changes to "Collection Day"


If you’re like me, I can’t remember what to recycle each week; I can’t remember whether it’s a “paper” week – recycle newsprint, paper and cardboard – or whether it’s a “blue box” week – recycle cans, bottles, and plastic trays, tubs, and lids.

Well, starting February 28, two-and-a-half things are going to change on “garbage day.”

First, you will be able to recycle each “stream” of material every week. That means that we can take out both the paper recycling (in the grey bin) and the cans and bottles (blue box) each week.

But, don’t combine the materials into one bin; please keep it separate so that it can be collected in separate compartments on the trucks and effectively dealt with at the Recycling Centre.

We are also encouraged to continue to set out our “green bins” with food and compostable yard materials each week. Our family fills half a green bin each week with food scraps and other organics from the kitchen and bathroom. This way we keep the “yucky stuff” out of the landfill.

Second, you will be limited to one bag or container for garbage each week. I hope this will not be a problem for most households. We have two adults and two children in our home and each week for the last five years our garbage can has been only half-full while our green bin and two recycling containers are filled.

If you aren’t currently recycling or using your green bin, now is the time to start! Everything that you currently put at the curb for collection can still go to the curb for collection. It's just a matter of the container you use to put it at the curb! (If you need recycling containers, Staff at Pelham Town Hall would be pleased to assist you.)

There are exemptions for households with children in diapers and with individuals with medical conditions that result in extra waste.

What’s the half change? A new company – Emterra Environmental – recently won the seven-year collection contract. They decided that it would be more efficient to collect from some households with a Thursday collection on Tuesday. Generally, this change affects households from Victoria Avenue to Effingham Road and from Regional Road 20 to Welland Road. Unless you receive a separate notice by February 18, there will be no change to your collection day. (Please click HERE to see a map of the area that will change.)

With these improvements and the focus on increased diversion of waste to landfills, I hope we can start calling it “collection day” instead of “garbage day.”

For more information about the specific changes, please go to the Region's website by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What's Ahead for 2011?


As we start a new year, you might be wondering about some of the major undertakings that will be in store for Pelham in 2011.

2011 Capital & Operating Budgets:The draft Capital Budget – the budget for large, tangible items like roads, vehicles, and buildings – will be presented to General Committee on January 24 and is scheduled to be considered by Council on February 7. General Committee will review the 2011 Operating Budget and the Water and Sewer Budgets on February 28 with Council scheduled to consider them on March 7.

Strategic Plan:In early-February, Council will meet to develop a new Strategic Plan for the Town. With three new Councillors and three returning Councillors it makes sense to update the Town’s “Strat Plan” so that we can have a clear guide for not only the next four years but well beyond. Prior to the full-day planning session, Staff will provide an update on the successes of our existing Plan.

Major Infrastructure:The Town is working hard to finish some major infrastructure improvements. The good news is that Haist Street’s reconstruction, Downtown Fonthill’s revitalization, and the construction of Pelham Fire Station #2 will all be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2011. While the Fire Station work will continue during the winter, the majority of the road works cannot be completed until after the asphalt plants open up again in late-March / early-April. That doesn’t mean that the work will stop, however. Immediately prior to warmer spring weather, the contractors will complete the underground works – water and sewer hook-ups and storm sewer construction.

Recreational Facilities:As you will recall, the Recreational Facilities Committee's broad mandate includes reviewing the future of all Town recreational facilities -- arena, outdoor pool, sports fields, and parks. In early 2011, the Committee will issue a final report on a functional analysis, refined capital and operating costs, and a test of the business case for a community centre facility. It is expected that Council will then gather significant and informed public input about the report’s recommendations. I will push hard for affordable and workable solutions with a phased action plan for recreation.

East Fonthill Secondary Plan & Official Plan Update:The current schedule will have the Town reviewing, gathering public input, and completing both the East Fonthill Secondary Plan and the Town’s new Official Plan in 2011. You will hear more about these items in the Spring.

Of course, there is much other work to accomplish as well; Council and I look forward to working together with you on it.