Sunday, January 27, 2013

Region Waives Industrial Development Charges

Under something called the Development Charges Act, the Province allows Municipalities to collect fees to help offset the “costs of growth.”

New growth – residential, commercial, or industrial– applies additional pressures on municipal infrastructure and services. For example, new residential development areas often require additional water and waste water services. Or, if hundreds of new homes are built, new residents place pressures on roads and other municipal services – everything from recreational services, to library usage, to fire protection. This “pressure” means additional costs to add trunk water lines, to widen collector roads, or to build new facilities.

Many years ago, existing property tax-payers would have paid for these additional municipal infrastructure and services. Many felt that that lacked fairness, and that “new growth should pay for new growth.” Those on the other side of the argument felt that new growth should pay no more than its fair share.

Thus, a balance is sought where new growth should not create a financial burden on existing residents of the community while the existing residents should not enjoy a financial benefit at the expense of new residents.

Both the Region and the Town of Pelham have been collecting Development Charges (DCs) for some time. Development Charges, also previously known as Impost Fees or Capital Levies, must be enacted by a special bylaw and be renewed no less than every five years.

After a year-and-a-half of study and consultation, the Region adopted a new DC bylaw in July 2012, and the new charges came into effect on September 1. Based on the calculated and forecasted infrastructure costs, the charge for non-exempted industrial development increased from $2.22 per square foot to $5.16.

In mid-November, representatives from the Niagara Industrial Association (NIA) approached the Region and appealed for a reduction or waiving of the fees. Despite the Region’s industrial incentives – like exemptions for the redevelopment of former industrial sites, exemptions for expansions up to 50% of a plant’s size, and the recently approved Niagara Gateway Zone incentives – the NIA said they needed a total exemption in order to compete with other jurisdictions and to create jobs.

In early-December the Development Charges Task Force agreed with the NIA and recommended a two-year exemption of Regional DCs; it was further recommended that during the exemption period, staff must track the results and report on the “return on investment” before a further exemption will be granted.

On January 17, 2013 Regional Council approved the two-year waiver for Industrial Development Charges. I hope that the move will encourage the creation and continuation of much-needed manufacturing jobs across Niagara.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Help Secure Funding for Pelham Street

In November I wrote here about possible ways to increase pedestrian safety on Pelham Street. I want to give you an update and ask you to help lobby the Provincial government to secure funds.

You will recall that a couple of years ago, parents from Glynn A. Green School implored Council to increase the safety of children walking to and from school along Pelham Street. They underscored the 10,000 vehicles that drive past the school every day and reminded Council about a woman who was tragically killed while jogging on the road’s gravel shoulder.

Council reacted swiftly by approving a new traffic signal at Port Robinson and a new sidewalk from Elizabeth to Brock Street. We also approved an engineering study for the reconstruction of Pelham Street from Port Robinson to Quaker and earmarked $2.5 million in future budgets for the road’s total reconstruction – including sidewalks, curbs, new storm sewers, and new water lines.

When the engineering design and construction estimate came back last fall at $6.5 million, all were surprised and disheartened. This work would consume triple what we normally invest each year in major road projects.

Given the funding challenge, staff worked with the school to develop an interim measure: install a sidewalk on the west side of Pelham Street from Port Robinson to Pancake. This interim sidewalk would be removed when we eventually reconstruct the entire road.

Then, in early December, the Province announced new funding through the Municipal Infrastructure Investment Initiative (MIII). The Province earmarked $51 million to “ the most critical roads, bridges, water and wastewater projects.”

Considering the urgency, the health and safety concerns expressed by local residents, and the lack of available funds, Council endorsed an application to reconstruct Pelham Street from Port Robinson to Pancake. We applied for the $2.0 million maximum allowance for the $2.78 million estimated project.

Undoubtedly, there will be fierce competition for the $51 million and the Province is using a “pre-screening process” before Towns and Cities fill in a final application.

It would be very helpful if you and other Pelham residents write letters of support for the project and request allocation of these funds!

Please address support letters to: or via snail-mail at:
Municipal Infrastructure Investment Secretariat
c/o Rural Programs Branch
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs
1 Stone Rd West, 4th Floor
Guelph ON   N1G 4Y2

(Please each name for sample support letters from the Pelham Active Transportation Committee, the Pelham / Welland Chamber of Commerce, and the Pelham Business Association.)

Thank you for helping make Pelham safer!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Continued Improvements for 2013

A new year brings continued improvements to Pelham.

Downtown Fenwick:
Council budgeted $2.1 million to revitalize Downtown Fenwick in 2013. The improvements will help make the area more pedestrian friendly, bury the hydro lines, and enhance the historic flagpole (thanks to funds raised during Fenwick’s 150th celebration). Members of the Downtown Beautification committee will help finalize the design so that the enhancements can be completed for Fenwick’s 160th Anniversary this fall.

Skateboard Park:
Following the tragic death of Issac Riehl in October, a group of committed EL Crossley students began a movement to build a skateboard park in Pelham with funds from the Aviva Community Fund (a National insurance industry fund). The movement flourished and the project is among 30 finalists for a donation of up to $150,000! Because of this work and many previous requests, Council committed to matching any Aviva Funds, to building a skate park in 2013, and directed staff to assist the students with their final proposal.

New Fire Station #3 – North Pelham:
When Pelham’s Shorthill’s Fire & Rescue service began 12+ years ago (following Thorold’s cancellation of the St. John’s Fire Service partnership), the current, rented facility was intended to be a temporary solution. Now those committed fire fighters and residents in North Pelham and Effingham need a more permanent Fire Station. Council budgeted $1.3 million to purchase property and to construct a new station in 2013.

More Walkable & Active:
During the last six years, the Town has added more than 9 KM of sidewalks; in 2013 we will add a couple more. New sidewalks will be constructed on the west-side of Pelham Street from Port Robinson Road to Pancake and on both sides of Port Robinson Road from Pelham to Station Street. Council also budgeted to begin the first phase of converting the abandoned Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway right-of-way into a recreational trail – from Centennial Park to Balfour Street.

Peace Park:
Council earmarked funds to landscape and enhance Peace Park so that the overwhelming success of the Fonthill Bandshell, the Farmer's Market, and Summerfest can continue and grow.

Recreation, Culture, and Wellness:
In December, Council directed staff to finalize the years of work so that we can finally decide on the future recreational, cultural, and wellness needs for the Town in 2013. We also set aside funds for predevelopment studies so that we can proceed should Council decide to move forward with new and / or revamped facilities.

I look forward to working together with you on these and many other improvements in 2013.