Sunday, October 28, 2012

Take Time to Remember

Each year in Pelham, the Legion and Cadets organize a number of very special ceremonies to commemorate Remembrance Day.

On the Sunday before Remembrance Day – this year on November 4 – the commemorations will begin at the Cenotaph at Centennial Park at 9:00 AM. During this special service, Veterans, members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 613, the Ladies Auxiliary, the Royal Canadian Army Cadets, the Fenwick Volunteer Firefighters Association, the Fabulous Fenwick Lions, and Federal, Provincial, and Municipal political representatives will march to the Cenotaph and lay wreaths to remember those brave men and women who served (and who continue to serve) our country during times of war, conflict, and peace.

Then, at 10:00 AM, the Legion will organize another commemoration at the Cenotaph at Old Pelham Town Hall in Ridgeville. This service recalls those that served from the Ridgeville area and often also includes representatives of the Niagara Regional Police Service and several local veterans.

At 11:00 AM, Reverend Russ Myers and the congregation of Fonthill Baptist will host a special church service. The ceremony usually includes reciting John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”, a scriptural reflection, and a video that highlights local veterans.

Later, at 12:30 PM, the Legion will host a commemoration at the Cenotaph at Peace Park in Fonthill. This service calls to mind those who served from the Fonthill area, and also includes the laying of wreaths by members of the Fonthill Volunteer Firefighters Association, the Fonthill Lions, the Fonthill Rotary Club, the Fonthill & District Kinsmen and some local businesses.

On Remembrance Day itself – this year on a Sunday – the Legion will host a complete service at Veteran’s Park at the Legion in Fonthill. The service begins between 10:30 and 10:45 AM so that the moment of silence can occur at 11:00 AM. In recent years, and especially since the revitalization of the cenotaph, many people participate in this Remembrance Day service.

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

Let us each take a few moments to participate in these Remembrance Day ceremonies so that we can be thankful and rededicate ourselves to peace. Lest we forget.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Focused on Priorities

During the last four months, Council and the Town’s new CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) and other senior staff have focused on ways in which we might accelerate the Town’s priorities.

You will recall that in the spring of 2011, Council worked together with the community to develop a new strategic plan with a clearly articulated vision – that Pelham become the most vibrant, creative, and caring community in Niagara.

In August 2012, Council met with senior staff to evaluate progress, celebrate successes and prioritize the plan. Together we developed a detailed report with staff milestones that offers a measurement tool for Council and the community.

But, Council and I also came to recognize that to achieve the vision, we needed to adjust our governance processes.

You see, under our former structure, the Council debated specific issues and a mundane or low-priority item would garner as much attention as high-priority items. The former structure – the same one followed by Council’s throughout the Region – also bogged down issues in separate Council committees and neglected to provide a way in which senior management could provide regular progress reports.

So, over the summer, Council worked together with the CAO and Clerk to revamp our “Procedural Bylaw” – the way in which Council business is structured and run.

The process starts with Committee of the Whole (COW), during which all of Council receives information, asks questions, and provides direction regarding the Town’s operations. Staff brief Council on a wide spectrum of issues while highlighting important statistics, emerging issues, trends, and resident concerns. Because Council reviews the activities of all departments each month, important matters can be decided and accelerated.

During the Policies & Priorities (P&P) Committee, Council reviews the policies and ongoing priorities of the Town. P&P allows Council to exchange information and ideas, respond to external influences, receive requests for policy review or creation, and review bylaws. For example, during our October 15 P&P meeting, Council reviewed the way in which staff enforce bylaws, outlined the importance of education, courtesy and respect, and directed staff to draft improved enforcement policies.

Formal Council meetings remain largely unchanged – except for a new start time of 6:30 PM. During Council we receive delegations, correspondence and presentations, we ratify the recommendations of the COW and P&P, and we approve any changes to bylaws.

Finally, in our ongoing effort to be as open, transparent, and accessible as possible, you may review complete Council and Committee agendas – including all reports and recommendations – through the Town’s website (starting November 5).

Monday, October 15, 2012

New Official Plan Approved!

I was very pleased on October 4th when Regional Council approved the Town of Pelham’s new Official Plan. Our old plan – amended many, many times through the years – was originally approved in 1973!

What is an Official Plan? In general, an Official Plan (OP) describes a Town’s policies on how land in a community should be used. It is prepared with significant community input and helps to ensure that future planning and development will meet the specific needs of a community. An OP explains the Town’s general land use planning policies; helps property owners understand how their land may be used now and in the future; helps decide where roads, watermains, sewers, parks and other services will be built; provides a framework for municipal zoning rules, like the size of lots and height of buildings; and provides ways to achieve local, regional and provincial interests.

In Pelham’s case, the new OP establishes a vision for the Town that strongly supports the protection of environmental features and agriculture and focuses future urban growth within the settlement areas of Fonthill and Fenwick. The hold-up recently has been to ensure that our OP would be consistent with recent Provincial and Regional plans – “Greenbelt Plan,” “Growth Plan,” “Provincial Policy Statement,” and Regional Policy Plan Amendments.

In Fonthill, future residential and employment growth will be accommodated primarily within the East Fonthill Secondary Plan area – the 450 acres along the west side of Rice Road from Regional Road 20 (RR20) to south of Merritt Road. This land could accommodate an additional 5,000 residents and jobs over the next 20 years. The OP also encourages residential intensification in the downtowns and through redevelopment in downtown transitional areas – along the north side of RR20 from Pelham to Station Street, and along the east-side of Station Street from RR20 to Pelham Town Square.  Since our Town contains hundreds of home-based businesses the OP also allows greater flexibility for live-work arrangements – commercial / office space downstairs, residential upstairs, for example – especially in the East Fonthill area.

In Fenwick, significant undeveloped urban land – along the west-side of Cream Street to Balfour from Welland to Memorial – could accommodate an additional 1,000 residents within the next 20 to 30 years.

Rest assured that the OP calls for new development in both of these areas to be sensitive to the surrounding character of the neighbourhoods and to embody high quality urban design.

I look forward in working together with you, Council, and staff as our community grows, evolves, and matures according to the vision in our new Official Plan.