Saturday, April 25, 2015

Please Help Protect the Fonthill Kame, Again!

The Ontario Government is currently seeking feedback as they review four land-use plans: Greenbelt Plan, Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, and Niagara Escarpment Plan.

On behalf of Pelham Town Council, I recently wrote to the Expert Advisory Panel of this Land-Use Planning Review and implored them to increase the protection of the Fonthill Kame. I am hoping that you too will write to the Panel to indicate your support.

The “Fonthill Kame-Delta” is Niagara’s 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 Fonthill Kame boasts the highest point in the Niagara Region. As the “hill” in Fonthill and Shorthills and the “ridge” in Ridgeville, the feature also serves as a significant water recharge area and forms the headwaters of the Twelve Mile Creek. Further, 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 Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) identified the Fonthill Kame as provincially significant in 1976 and as a Provincial “Area of Natural and Scientific Interest” (ANSI) in 1988 as a way to help restrict development.

The Province also protected parts of the Kame with general provisions in either the Niagara Escarpment Plan or specific provisions in the 2005 Greenbelt Plan.

And, you will recall that after considerable public feedback, research and scientific evaluation, MNR confirmed a new ANSI boundary for the Kame in October 2013.

Sadly however, despite these efforts to protect it, residential development and aggregate extraction pressures seriously threaten the Kame.

As the Province reviews the Greenbelt Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan, they could inadvertently (or purposefully!) lessen these protections of the Fonthill Kame.

That’s why I wrote the Expert Panel and urged them to reinforce the recent ANSI re-designation by increasing the protection of the Fonthill Kame in their land use Plans. (Please click here to review a copy of my letter.)

Now, I am asking you to provide similar feedback to the Panel before May 28; please let them know that you are interested in protecting the Kame and curtailing further aggregate extraction or development.

Please email your comments to or send mail to:
Land Use Planning Review
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Ontario Growth Secretariat
777 Bay Street
Suite 425 (4th floor)
Toronto, ON M5G 2E5.

Thank you for helping to further protect the Fonthill-Kame so that its distinctive features, microclimatic and water recharge functions might be better safeguarded for future generations!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Design of Community Centre Progressing

At our April 7 meeting, Council received an updated timeline for the design and potential construction of a new Multi-Faceted Community Centre in the East Fonthill area.

You will recall that based on a resident survey, a detailed business case analysis and a comparison to industry standards, Council confirmed sustaining demand for a multi-faceted community centre containing a single-pad arena (with the potential second-pad after 2023), a fitness centre, walking / running indoor track, multi-purpose space, and gymnasium sports / uses. This business case demonstrated that the operating costs could be accommodated within the net costs for the existing arena ($92,486 in 2013). Given the dire condition of the existing arena, Council also determined that a potential new community centre should be part of other imminent East Fonthill developments – Medical Centre, Retirement Home, Wellspring Cancer Support Centre, and new retail.

Council appointed an Architectural Design Advisory Committee (ADAC) last August – with representatives from recreation user groups, youth, seniors, artists, service clubs and the community-at-large. In addition to recommending hiring the architect, the committee recommended adding a large multi-purpose, performing arts space (~6,000 sq ft), an atrium / shared public space (~9,600 sq ft) that would help link each of the centre’s main elements, and 1,200 to 1,500 spectator seats in the first arena to support ice and non-ice ice uses.

After working with the committee and presenting draft schematic designs in February, the Architect is now working with individual ADAC members on a series of specialized consultations. For example, representatives of ice users – figure skating, minor hockey, Junior B, etc. – met to review their specific needs. This process should be completed by the end of the April.

Based on these specialized consultations, the Architect hopes to present a final draft schematic design and preliminary capital-cost estimates in June. While ADAC and Council will review this plan, Council also wants to ensure that the public has a chance to review this progress at that time.

And, based on several requests from the community, Council has also asked for a concurrent report outlining the capital and operating cost-benefit analysis of building the second ice pad during the initial build instead of after 2023.

The Architect committed to presenting detailed design documents in September 2015. This will allow for “tighter” construction cost estimates. If these documents are approved, then “construction-ready” tender documents could be ready by January/February 2016.

This is an exciting project for Pelham! I will continue to keep you informed about progress on the potential multi-purpose community centre.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Pelham’s 2015 Residential Taxes to Increase by 0.8%

As I wrote about last week, at our March 26 Regional Council meeting, we approved the 2015 Property Tax Rates and Tax Ratios. These rates and ratios apply to all property tax classes across all Cities, Towns, and Townships throughout Region.

What does it mean for Pelham?

The amount of property tax you pay to the Town of Pelham, to the Region, and to the Province (for Education) is not only based on the Market Value Assessment of your property; we multiply your assessment by each of the tax rates and add them up for your total bill.

You may recall that 2013 was a “reassessment” year. That means that the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) – the Provincial body that sets a value your home and property – re-evaluated and assessed all properties in the Province as of January 1, 2012. While this amount will be used as the value of your home in 2016, MPAC phases in any assessment increases evenly over a four-year period. The Town uses that changing assessment value when we calculate your property taxes each year.

When Town Council approved our 2015 Budget on February 17, we anticipated that the Pelham portion of your property tax bill would increase by 1.9%.

Now that the Region (+1.6%) and the Province (-2.3%) set their rates, we know that the combined property tax increase for an average residential property (valued at $302,815) in Pelham will be 0.8% or approximately $32. We anticipate this increase to be the lowest or second lowest in Niagara Region again this year.

The average increase of property taxes on your combined residential property tax bill for the last five years was 1.3% (total increase 6.9%). This was the “pocket-book” increase – the amount it cost an average residential property owner by adjusting for the average MPAC increase.

How do we measure whether that is “good” or not? Another important comparator would be inflation. Inflation for the last five-year period was 8.5% or an average of 1.6% per year.

I hope you too are pleased that our residential tax increases have been 1.6% below inflation for the last five years. Please see the chart for more information.

Pelham Council and I continue to direct staff to ensure that we only minimally impact you and other property tax-payers while we increase the level and quality of services to the Town.