Sunday, June 23, 2013

Getting Closer to Protecting the Fonthill Kame

Last week both Pelham and Regional Councils approved a staff report about the Ministry of Natural Resources’ (MNR) “last iteration” of the review of the Fonthill Kame-Delta Area of Natural & Scientific Interest (ANSI).

The “Fonthill Kame-Delta” is our rare, 75-metre-tall landmark that was formed by retreating glaciers 13,000 years ago. At 6 km long, 3 km wide, and nearly 1,000 hectares, the Kame boasts the highest point in the Niagara Region and the headwaters of the Twelve Mile Creek.

The Kame’s microclimatic and soil conditions create an ideal environment for tender fruit production including peaches, sweet and sour cherries, plums and pears.

The Kame is the “hill” in both Fonthill and Shorthills and the “ridge” in Ridgeville.

The MNR identified the Fonthill Kame as provincially significant in 1976 and as a Provincial ANSI in 1988. This ANSI designation restricts development for reasons of heritage, science or education.

In May 2009, the MNR recommended significantly reducing the ANSI’s coverage to “representative samples.” Pelham Council, Niagara Regional Council, Niagara Escarpment Commission, Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, scientific experts, dozens of Pelham residents, Tim Hudak, our MPP, and Minister Jim Bradley, St. Catharines MPP, voiced opposition to these changes.

As a result, in early 2010, Pelham received a strong commitment from Donna Cansfield, MPP, Minister of Natural Resources:  “Please let me assure you that it is our intention to maintain and, where feasible, enhance the current ANSI boundary.”

Despite that assurance, in 2011, the Ministry proposed reducing the ANSI to “Swiss-cheese” by failing to protect huge portions of the Kame – especially those areas that are under direct threat of new or expanded development. Again we expressed our significant concerns to the Minister.

Last week, Ian Thornton from MNR informed Council about the 2013 proposed improvements to the ANSI boundaries. Mr. Thornton outlined how the MNR plans to expand the Fonthill Kame-Delta ANSI from 376 hectares to 412 hectares.

Both Pelham and Regional Councils acknowledged these 2013 boundary improvements but advised the MNR that we maintain our position that the Kame’s total morphology should be designated as ANSI. We asked the MNR to provide a rationale for not including all of the Kame under ANSI protection.

Since this appears to be the final review of the Fonthill Kame ANSI, I ask you to write to the current Minister, the Honorable David Orazietti, thanking him for expanding the ANSI and asking him to continue to honour the commitment to “…maintain and, where feasible, enhance the current ANSI boundary.”

Hon. David Orazietti, MPP
Minister of Natural Resources
Whitney Block, 6th Floor, Room 6630
99 Wellesley St. West
Toronto ON   M7A1W3

Please click directly for copies of the MNR presentation, the detailed notification reports, and the endorsed staff report.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ward Review: 3 or 6 and Where?

As you may know, Pelham’s six Town Councillors are elected in three geographic areas called Wards. The people living in each ward are represented by two Councillors.

The Town last reviewed these wards in 1978, when the population totaled 10,808. Since then, Pelham’s population has increased 54% to 16,600 (2011 Census).

The 2011 Census shows disparities between the population levels in the wards. For example, Ward One contained 4,460 people, Ward Two 5,440 people, and Ward Three 6,700 people.

Our Town is expected to increase by nearly 3,000 people by 2022 (18%) with much of the growth expected in the East Fonthill area – or the current Ward Three. If that growth occurs and the current ward boundaries remain, the disparities will increase to 4,625 electors for Ward One, 5,602 for Ward Two, and 6,720 for Ward Three.

Given these facts, Council agreed that it was time to revisit the Ward boundaries and commissioned Dr. Robert Williams of Watson & Associates to conduct a Ward Boundary Review.

The 2013 Pelham Ward Boundary Review study principles include:
Effective and equitable system of representation;
Wards should preserve communities of interest;
Wards should recognize natural physical features or natural barriers/dividers;
Wards should recognize areas of growth/decline, population trends, and density;
Wards should recognize accessibility and or communication issues.

To help develop options for possible realignment of current wards or to increase the number of wards to accommodate growth and population shifts for the next three municipal elections in 2014, 2018 and 2022, the Town invited the public to open houses on last week.

Unfortunately, very few attended and provided feedback.

But, there’s still time for you to comment and offer your ideas.

Should we have three Wards with two Councillors each or should we have six Wards with one representative each? Should Fenwick and North Pelham and Ridgeville be in the same Ward? What should be the dividing line between the Wards in Fonthill?

The Town’s website contains information about this process, the analysis and forecasts, and five different options with specific maps. Please go to to see all the information and to fill in a comment sheet to rank the options. Full size maps are also displayed at Town Hall so you can review the options and provide your feedback to the Town’s Clerk for Council’s consideration.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Closed vs. Open Meetings

At our May 6 Council meeting, we received a letter from the Office of the Ombudsman about how we handled a “closed” portion of our Council meeting on March 4.

Except for some very limited and well prescribed situations, all of Council’s and Committee’s business must be done in public and in the open.

We publish our agenda and our meeting minutes on our website for each meeting. Over the last year, we have taken additional steps to be open and transparent by publishing videos of our meetings on our website.

But, occasionally, portions of Council’s meetings need to be closed to the public; we call this “in camera” – which in Latin means “in private.”

Generally speaking, the Ontario Municipal Act allows for Councillors to meet “in camera” for three things:  land, legal, and labour. That means, when we discuss the potential purchase or sale of a specific property, or the hiring of a specific individual, or we receive legal advice, we can hold the discussions in private.

Why does the Province allow this practice?

Because those closed session discussions protect the Town and all our shareholders – you and your neighbours.

If someone was suing (or threatening to sue) the Town over a matter and we discussed that matter openly, it would put our case at risk.

(Sometimes, this legal element spills over into other meetings with individuals who are taking legal action against the Town. We would only agree to such informal meetings if they are “without prejudice” and where we try to find solutions together.)

Or, if the Town was trying to buy a certain property and it became known publicly, the costs of the property could escalate.

Or, if Council discussed hiring a certain person, we would not want that person’s current employer to know they are seeking a job with the Town.

In the case of our March 4 Council meeting, we were discussing the Environmental Protection Bylaw. We heard from a few residents (including a lawyer) about their concerns with the bylaw. Our lawyer was present and Council wanted legal advice regarding some provisions of the bylaw; we moved into an “in camera” session, asked our questions, and received legal advice. Then, we returned to an open discussion and carried on debate.

Someone complained to the Ombudsman, suggesting that we had contravened the Municipal Act.

Following an investigation, the Ombudsman’s office said we followed the provisions of Act and did everything as we should.