Monday, August 25, 2014

Promoting Pelham’s Interests at AMO Conference

Last week, Councillors King and Papp, Town CAO Darren Ottaway, and I attended the 115th Annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference (AMO). The Annual Conference offers a range of learning sessions and networking opportunities for municipal leaders. More than 1,200 delegates attended the three-day event in London themed “At the 4front.”

While at AMO, your Pelham reps also directly advanced your interests with the Provincial Government through meetings with various Ministries.

First, we met with the Lou Rinaldi, MPP & Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing, to propose changes to the Greenbelt Plan and to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). We asked that the commercial district of Ridgeville be included as a “hamlet” during the 2015 review of the Greenbelt; we also suggested that the Government relax the rules to make it easier for Towns to build Fire Stations in the Greenbelt and that they consider more flexibility for farm operations. Then we suggested improvements to the OMB appeal process based on the months and months of delays we faced before the ultimate approval of the Town’s Official Plan and East Fonthill Secondary Plan.

Next, we met with Arthur Potts, MPP & Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Agriculture & Rural Affairs regarding a potential multi-faceted community centre. We outlined the extensive process we have used to determine the need for and feasibility of a centre; we also explained our need for Provincial funding to help make the construction more affordable. Finally, we outlined the other important developments in the East Fonthill area – the medical centre, the retirement home, the home for Wellspring Niagara, and the additional retail businesses.

Then, we met with Kathryn McGarry, MPP & Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Transportation, regarding the proposed streetscape cross-sections – including separate bike and walking paths – and the construction of a public square in the East Fonthill development. We also asked to work together with MTO to increase the “way-finding” signage to Pelham.

We met also with Eleanor McMahon, MPP & Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Natural Resources and expressed our deep appreciation for the recent protection of the Fonthill Kame as an Area of Natural & Scientific Interest (ANSI). The Ministry protected the Kame after our five years urging and we requested that protections remain untouched for many decades.

Finally, I also joined other Niagara Mayors and the Regional Chair to meet with the Honourable Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation, to express the rational for an extension of GO transit commuter rail service to Niagara Region.

Please be assured that Council and I will continue to take all opportunities to promote Pelham’s interests to the Provincial Government.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Legacy for Pelham’s “Glorious” Tree

Aside from the Fonthill Kame (which is 13,000 years old), the next oldest Pelham landmark is the Comfort Maple.

The Comfort Maple is thought to be more than 500 years old and is acknowledged as the oldest sugar maple in Canada! It could well have been a sapling when Christopher Columbus “sailed the ocean blue in 1492.”

The tree’s name honours the Comfort family who acquired the land on which the tree grows in 1816. Through the years they cared for the mighty tree and in 1946 reserved a plot of land from their farm for it. Then in 1961, Edna Eleanor Comfort donated the land and tree to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) in honour of her late brother Earl Hampton Comfort. The Province also officially designated the Comfort Maple Tree under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The Comfort Maple stands 24.5 metres (80 feet) tall with a crown that is 38 metres (125 feet) in circumference. It measures 6 metres (20 feet) in circumference at the base! Because of its age and at least one major lightening strike, the tree has been repaired over the years with bricks as well as concrete and guy wires.

Given its stature, many of Pelham’s official symbols and documents prominently exhibit the tree. For example, our Town Official Crest contains the image of the Comfort Maple in full, red bloom of the fall. I also have four, framed photos – for each of the seasons – in my office.

But, it you have visited the Comfort Maple lately, you will know that it is showing its age.

That’s why I’m grateful that members of Pelham’s Communities In Bloom (CIB) committee and the NPCA (with leadership by Darcy Baker) began a legacy project for the Comfort Maple in 2012. First the NPCA collected seeds from the tree, then, a local greenhouse – EarthGen in Dunnville – fertilized the seeds and promoted their growth.

EarthGen estimates they will have at least 200, three-foot Comfort Maple saplings ready for planting this fall. The Town will receive 100 saplings – with approximately 20 set aside for heritage plantings around Town and other projects and the remainder sold by the CIB committee to further support their work. The NPCA will use their 100 to help fulfill their conservation efforts.

Thus, the Comfort Maple will live on! It will continue to symbolize strength, tradition and our joint heritage. It will also continue to call on us to give thanks; as the interpretive sign at the tree reads, “O Lord, how glorious are thy works.”

Monday, August 11, 2014

Discussing Issues 266 Times…and Counting

I believe that a huge part of my service as your Mayor depends on two-way communication about issues and challenges facing Pelham and Niagara. Part of that communication involves my weekly / bi-weekly columns.

I began writing a column for our local newspapers in late-January 2007, shortly after I was first elected to serve as your Mayor. I have also published it on a “blog” site – that I call an “online journal” – since April 2008 at The MyPelham website ( has published my column since November 2009. A couple of years ago, Bullet News Niagara ( also started publishing my column regularly.

I am the only Niagara Mayor who consistently writes a column. Each column takes me between 1.5 to 3.5 hours to write. To keep it to 425 words for the newspapers, I use much of that time researching and editing.

I also try to incorporate web links to supporting reports, maps, or video recordings so that the information can be as complete as possible.

How do I decide on a column topic? I write about what people ask me about or express concern about. Many columns are updates on progress or information about recent Council decisions; many invite your participation in municipal matters.

Through the years, I have given advance notice of numerous special meetings and open houses, of special events, of upcoming Council debates, and of construction projects.

I also write about Regional issues – like Niagara Regional Police facilities, or about how to replace Regional Councillors, or about budget changes.

Some columns focus on Federal or Provincial matters. These include several columns about our successful work to convince the Ministry of Natural Resources to continue to protect the Fonthill Kame and about a proposed new Southern Hospital.

Finally, some columns appreciate the work of others – like our hundreds of committed and tireless volunteers – or are more light-hearted in nature.

The greatest numbers of my columns for you have been about budgets and property taxes – things like Council’s pre-budget consultations, capital and operating budgets, property taxes and tax rates, and changes at the Province’s Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC).

And there have been many more topics – like the Town’s property at Rice Road & Regional Road 20, proposed new developments, and recreational and cultural issues – and many, many more columns – 266 to be exact!

I deeply appreciate the local media continuing to publish my column week after week. And, I appreciate you reading them and being part of a dialogue so that we can continue to work together to improve our beloved Town and Region!

You may contact me at with questions or to suggest future topics.