Monday, February 24, 2014

Draft Site Master Plan Helps Maintain Small-Town Feel

At our regular meeting last week, Council received three presentations regarding a draft Site Master Plan for most-northern portion of the East Fonthill lands – approximately 54 acres South of Regional Road 20 and West of Rice Road.

Wanting to ensure that new development maintains Pelham’s small-town feel and to make the best use of the 32 acres of Town-owned-land at the corner of Regional Road 20 and Rice Road, Council directed staff in April 2013 to begin developing a joint Site Master Plan for the Town’s lands and approximately 22 acres owned by the Allen Group.

Representatives of the Planning Partnership (the firm that helped develop the recently approved East Fonthill Secondary Plan) unveiled concept drawings that outlined various possible permitted uses for these lands including institutional-medical, retail, retirement, community centre, mixed-use commercial, townhomes, single-detached residential, mixed-use residential and parks and trails.

Aiming to provide complete streets, which accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, the draft Plan incorporates roundabouts, trails, environmental areas, parks and public squares that complement the Town’s urban design guidelines. The draft Plan also links the area to Downtown Fonthill via a tree-lined road extension to Pelham Town Square. (Please review the draft Plan at by scrolling down.)

Then, David Allen of the Allen Group outlined plans for the first phase of the development:

  • a 30,000 square foot medical facility that includes family doctors, specialists, minor surgery, pharmacy, laboratory, physiotherapy, optometry, radiology, geriatric clinics, health and wellness clinic, nurses and nurse practitioners;
  • an approximately 120 unit senior’s complex offering independent and assisted living options;
  • an 80,000 square foot commercial retail complex that includes a grocery store, fast food establishments and various other retailers.

This first phase could also accommodate a potential multi-purpose community centre and/or arena (pending public feedback and Council decisions this Spring).

Council also received an overview of the legal agreement(s) that are being created to help facilitate the development: a servicing agreement that would follow the Town’s procurement bylaw; a sale of lands or land swap agreement that would respect the Municipal Act’s “anti-bonusing” provisions and provide a “net benefit” to the Town; and the use of an outside party to recommend Planning approval documents to Council.

Next steps include refining and approving a Site Master Plan, and amending the Town’s Official Plan and Zoning By-Law. Pending such approvals this Spring, utility construction could commence as early as late Summer 2014.

During this exciting time for Pelham, our priority is to continue to balance growth as we maintain our small town feel. Council and I hope this draft Site Master Plan will help us to achieve that vision.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Maintaining Our Small-Town Feel As We Grow

As I have written here several times, Pelham contains much land set aside for new growth.

The largest is in the “East Fonthill” area – between Rice Road and Station Street / Steve Bauer Trail and from Regional Road 20 to the Town’s boundary (south of Merritt Street).

While much of these nearly 450 acres are currently farmed, the entire area was added to the Urban Area by an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in 2000. (Questions about whether the Town should grow on those lands were asked and answered during the OMB’s consideration nearly 15 years ago.)

This 2000 OMB decision disallowed the inclusion of any lands East of Rice Road in the Urban Area and required the Town to undertake a “Secondary Plan” before allowing development to proceed.

All Towns and Cities must have “Official Plans” which contain planning policies and outlines where commercial, agricultural, industrial, and residential developments can occur. It uses a series of maps to demonstrate those areas.

Like an Official Plan covering the entire Town, a “Secondary Plan” contains detailed policies and guidelines for growth and development for a specific area – in this case, this East Fonthill area.

When the Province dramatically altered their planning policies in the mid-2000s – adding the Greenbelt, “Places to Grow”, and the Provincial Policy Statement – the Town needed to realign our own policies. That’s one of the major reasons why it took until October 2012 to finally approve the East Fonthill Secondary Plan.

The other major reason is because Council and I worked to ensure that the Plan maintains our small-town feel as we grow. You see, the East Fonthill Secondary Plan includes several important features:

  • ensuring a well-designed, attractive, pedestrian-friendly development with a mixture of housing types;
  • encouraging significant commercial and mixed-use development – medical, retirement housing, recreational facilities potential – while at the same time connecting and protecting Downtown Fonthill;
  • providing a “Greenlands System” that protects existing environmental features and integrates with the Steve Bauer Trail; and
  • developing a pedestrian / cyclist-friendly and transit-ready road network.

If approved in 2012, why hasn’t development occurred in the East Fonthill area yet? A developer, the Province, and Lafarge Canada appealed the Town’s Official Plan and this Secondary Plan to the Ontario Municipal Board. Following much discussion and some minor wording changes, the OMB approved the Secondary Plan on 30 January 2014. (The OMB will consider the remainder of the Town’s Official Plan during a pre-hearing on 11 March 2014.)

With this OMB hurtle crossed, the first-phases of construction in East Fonthill should begin this year and Pelham can maintain our small-town feel as we grow into a stronger, more complete community.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Library Discussion a Work-In-Progress

As you know, the provision of library services has been in the news lately – especially since Town Council and the Library Board have had a couple of joint meetings (one in December, another with representatives of the Friends of Maple Acres Library in January).

But, it really has been a work in progress for a number of months.

Some discussion started at the outset of this Council term; Council considered a motion in early-2011 for the Town to review Library operations; the initial understanding was that there wouldn’t be any Board involvement. The Library Board suggested, and Council agreed, that they work together with the Town to help to jointly streamline operations – like payroll, facility maintenance, computers, etc.

During this period, the Town continued to fund the Library services. For example, in 2010, the Town grant was $677,800 (up 2.5% from 2009); 2011 it increased by 1.4% to 687,290; 2012 to $728,387 up 6.0%; and 2013 to $746,597 up 2.5%. (The Town grant has actually increased by $252,387 (or 51%) since 2005.)

Despite best efforts in streamlining operations, the Library posted a year-end balance of negative $62,062 for 2012.

Council recognized that more effort was needed and the Town retained Performance Concepts Consulting in early-2013 to conduct a strategic facilities review of the existing Pelham Library system; this included Library usage analysis and public consultations. In late-spring, the Firm was also retained to undertake a separate Operational Review of Library services and systems for use by the Library Board.

The Library facilities review made several recommendations most notably that the Maple Acre branch become a satellite-type operation, instead of a full-service branch because of the very limited usage over the last five years. Because the Library Board recently rejected this recommendation and the future of Maple Acre is uncertain, Council held joint meetings with the Board and the community. This discussion and process continues, and we expect another joint meeting in February.

Meanwhile, the Library Board worked diligently through some staff changes in 2013 and ended with an estimated year-end deficit of $28,000. The Board requested a 2014 grant of $791,393 (up 6.0% from 2013); last week, Town Council “red-lined” (held their grant) to $752,258 (a 0.8% increase) pending joint discussions.

Because of the ongoing willingness of all parties to work together, I am optimistic that we can jointly evaluate ideas and take action soon to continue to maintain and improve Pelham’s Library services.