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.