Sunday, February 24, 2013

Council to Consider Environmental Protection Bylaw

At our Policies and Priorities meeting last week, Councillors reviewed an Environmental Protection Bylaw. The bylaw’s goal is to help protect important environmental and heritage features in the Town, to encourage the long-term conservation of productive agricultural lands, and to prevent the importation of waste and hazardous materials.

You may recall that in the spring of 2011 a rural resident made a presentation to Council about construction fill being dumped on a neighbouring property.  The material not only covered rich agricultural soil, the neighbour built a berm right up against the property line. The resident asked Council to consider developing a Site Alteration Bylaw to regulate this type of activity.

Many other municipalities have enacted this type of bylaw because it allows Towns to regulate activities with the potential for environmental degradation (dumping, erosion, sedimentation), and drainage problems (blockages, impact on neighbouring properties).

The Town convened a public information session in August 2011 to give people an opportunity to ask questions and provide written comment. Then Council convened a public meeting to receive feedback in September, 2011. Farmers, nursery operators, and sod growers asked to be exempt for "normal farm practices"; landscapers asked for exemptions for their business activities.  Some neighbours of existing “berms” implored Council to act and to stop the dumping of construction material on good farm land. Others asked Council to halt consideration of any "infringement of property rights".

Based on that feedback, staff presented a draft bylaw to Council in January 2012. At that time, Council discussed whether the bylaw should deal exclusively with berms or include additional elements raised during the public meeting. Council sent the bylaw back to staff to make further refinements.

At our August 2012 Committee meeting, Councillors received a new draft Site Alteration Bylaw and directed staff to make it available to residents for feedback.

Council reviewed the feedback at a November meeting, and used a creative problem solving process to focus the discussion and clarify issues. Then, during a December meeting, we directed staff to draft a bylaw that protects the environment and natural watercourses, exempts normal farm practices, and bans the importation of construction waste.

We received that draft last Tuesday, where it was noted that any enforcement would follow our recently approved courteous Enforcement Services Protocols. While pleased with the draft, Councillors directed staff to seek legal advice to clarify some wording in the definitions, and with one of the provisions.

A final draft, with any clarifications, will be included on our March 4 Council agenda for consideration and (hopefully) adoption.

UPDATE on 4 March 2013:
As stated above, Council asked for some clarifications at our February 19th Committee meeting regarding the draft Environmental Protection Bylaw.
And, given some feedback we also received from farmers and others (including from the Niagara South Federation of Agriculture), the bylaw was further changed to better meet the community’s and Council’s wish that it exempt “Normal Farm Practices.”
A new version was presented to Council on March 4th, and following Council's discussion and debate, the Bylaw was approved.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pelham's 2013 Operating Budget

We officially approved our 2013 Operating Budget during our Town Council meeting last Monday.

While Council gave direction to ensure minimal impact on you and other property tax-payers last fall, we also approved ways to increase the Town’s level of service. For instance, Council asked staff to become more customer-friendly, to start clearing snow from all Town sidewalks (for next winter), to emphasis recreation, culture, and wellness, and to continue to improve the image of the Town. At the same time, we also directed staff to ensure we continued to improve the Town’s infrastructure and facilities.

These decisions mean budget changes. For example, continuing to improve infrastructure added $161,000 to the budget. Significant organization changes – 5 job reclassifications including establishing a Director of Recreation, Culture & Wellness, turning 2 contract positions to permanent, removing a number of part-time positions, and adding a Marketing & Communications Officer – added $3,000 to the budget. Creatively revamping snow-clearing and beginning to clear all Town sidewalks (effective November 1, 2013) added only $7,000 to the budget. Uncontrollable, wage-related increases – benefits, CPP, EI – added $56,000 to the budget.

As a result of these and other initiatives, the Treasurer recommended a net budget increase of $399,542 (on a $9.5 million net budget) or 4.39% BEFORE adjusting for real assessment growth.

Real assessment growth in 2012 – from new businesses, new homes, or improvements to existing properties – was $133,587 or 1.47%. (This growth has nothing to do with MPAC’s changes in market value assessment of existing properties.)

Once growth is removed, the net effect on the tax levy will be $265,955 or an increase of 2.92% on the Town of Pelham portion of your 2013 property tax bill.

What does that mean for your pocket book, you ask?

Well, the average residential property value for 2013 is expected to be $291,556. If your home and property were assessed at that value, you would be paying an additional $45.91 or a total of $1,335 for the Pelham portion of the municipal services on your property tax bill.

To put the 2013 Operating Budget into perspective – from what we are hearing and reading in the media from across Niagara – Pelham will likely be the lowest or among the lowest increases again this year.

I will write more about your total property tax impact after Regional Council approves the 2013 rates and ratios later this spring.

For more information about our 2013 Operating Budget, please check out “Budget & Financial Reports” under “Information for Residents” on the Town’s website at

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Thank You Aviva, Canada AM, and Pelham!

 What an amazing celebration on Tuesday, January 29! By hosting a community event and welcoming Canada AM viewers from across the nation we showcased Pelham’s vibrant, creative, and caring community.

Thank you to Mariah Bunz for applying to the Aviva Community Fund for a skatepark in memory of Isaac Riehl. I appreciate Mariah initiating the application, encouraging others to participate, and accepting the cheque on behalf of the community!

Thanks to those who helped make the Riehl Skatepark a finalist, and, eventually, the winner of the Aviva competition! So many helped along the way – voting and encouraging others to vote – including EL Crossley students, teachers and staff; members from churches, sports teams, and associations; the Glynn A. Green community and so many from all of Pelham’s schools; the media spreading the word; and Town staff and Council.

I also appreciate Bonita, Ted, and Jacob Riehl for consenting to allow your son’s and brother’s tragic death to unite the community behind this common cause. Thank you for your strength.

Thank you so much to those that made the Aviva announcement such a huge success!

Thanks to Ed Goerzen, principal, and the teachers and the students of the EL Crossley community! Thanks to the Student Union, to Marching Band, to Crossley Rowing, and to the members of the various student bands for showcasing your “Cyclone Spirit.”

Thanks to Lazy Loon for cooking breakfast; to White Meadows for the maple syrup; to Tim Horton’s for the hot beverages; to representatives from our local service clubs – Lions & Lioness, Rotary, Kinsmen – for serving; and to Chartwell, Fonthill Sobey’s, Giant Tiger, Fonthill Shoppers for donating all the breakfast food and supplies. Thanks to Young Sod Farms for your cash donation. Thanks to Vickie and numerous Town staff for organizing the event and to the many dedicated volunteers – from across the community – who helped to make that day a success!

Thanks to the Fonthill Firefighters Association for displaying the Canadian Flag and to members of the Niagara Regional Police for helping with traffic logistics. I appreciate Pen Lakes for organizing the putting contest and Scorpion Cheerleaders for motivating the crowd. Thanks to Pelham’s “Walk through History” volunteers for highlighting our heritage. Special thanks to Pegasus for framing the large portrait of Isaac.

I offer deep appreciation to Maurice Tolluck, CEO, and everyone from the Aviva Community Fund for the generous donation to the Riehl Skatepark!

Thank you so much to Jeff Hutcheson (Pelham native!) and the crew from Canada AM for broadcasting Pelham’s community spirit. (Please click here to go to the Canada AM website and see the video.)

And, finally, thank you so much to the hundreds and hundreds from the community that supported the event that welcomed Canada!