Sunday, August 28, 2016

Timmsdale House & Heritage in Pelham

Over the last couple of months, there’s been a lot of interest about the former “Timmsdale House” and about heritage in general.

As you may know, the former Timmsdale House (at 202 Highway 20 West at the base of Lookout Street) was built between 1942 and 1944 by Reg Timms in a “revival Tudor style.” After being a home, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources used the building as a regional office for some years. About 28 years ago a family purchased the home to fix it up and live in it; about 13 years ago those owners severed-off property to the West and sold it to a developer for single-family homes – now known as Timmsdale Estates.

Over the years, the plumbing, heating, electrical, and roofing systems have deteriorated or failed; this was largely due to the concrete construction of the floors, walls, and ceilings which make it extremely difficult and costly to repair, replace, or upgrade. In fact, the Town received a professional engineering report (from Mark Shoalts, Shoalts Engineering) that indicated it would be a “monumental task” that would cost $2.2 million to repair the building. (Mr. Shoalts was Chair of the former Pelham Heritage Advisory Committee.)

Last year, the owners put the property up for sale. While many looked at the property, because of its construction and current condition, it took a year to secure an offer (which closes on September 30).

On July 11, the Town received a request by two adjacent neighbours (and not the current or new owners) to designate the property. On July 25, Council officially received that request and directed staff to prepare a report for our next meeting.

At that August 22 meeting, Council learned that the former Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee did not include the Timmsdale House in an inventory of possible properties of cultural heritage value; in fact, the Committee noted that the house had no cultural heritage value as it was considered to be a modern house.

Council agreed unanimously with the Committee comments, the Shoalts Engineering report and professional Staff recommendations to not designate the property under the Ontario Heritage Act. Council did direct Town Staff to work with the new owners to preserve architectural features or elements of the home that can be integrated with the redevelopment of the property.

Conservation of our cultural heritage resources – like the Fenwick Flag Pole, Old Pelham Town Hall, and the WW1 Cenotaph & Mortar – are important to our community because they enliven our past and inform our future. Council will continue to honour Pelham’s unique and diverse history and consider potential heritage properties on a case-by-case basis.

And, after the Town completes a heritage inventory of non-designated properties this Summer/Fall, Council will consider re-establishing a Heritage Advisory Committee to help us with this important work.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Clarifying Minimum Agricultural Lot Sizes

Minimum Distance Separation
So, a bit of an issue brewed throughout the summer: minimum lot sizes for agricultural properties. The issue first arose during a neighbour vs. neighbour clash in an agricultural area in the Northern-part of Pelham.

Unfortunately, it happens all the time. If two neighbours cannot get along, one or the other enlists the assistance of Staff to enforce various Town bylaws. Staff are often caught in the middle of such disputes. Staff must try to work with the parties after they make formal complaints against each other over various bylaws – like noise, animal control, fences, signs, and clean yard – or for not having proper permits – like for building or demolition, open air burning, or site alteration. Sometimes it’s an immediate neighbour that complains about another, and sometimes it’s someone else. One complaint often leads to counter-complaints and counter-counter-complaints.

This makes balanced Bylaw Enforcement very difficult for Staff; Staff act as impartially as possible, while focusing on the overall resolution of all complaints between arguing neighbours. And, in extreme circumstances, any of the complaints could form part of a court or other quasi-judicial proceeding.

In a particular case in June, one party used the Town’s Zoning Bylaw to try to resolve disputes with his neighbour.

You see, Pelham’s 1987 Zoning Bylaw includes a 10 hectare (approximately 24 acre) “minimum lot size” for agriculturally zoned properties. If a property-owner has less than 24 acres – the complainant reasoned – that owner cannot have farm animals.

Initially, Town Staff also enforced this complaint as a way to help find resolution between the neighbours for all their disputes.

Then, the one party called the media and set-up petitions about the Zoning Bylaw complaint. And the concern spread like wild-fire. If “minimum lot size” can be used against someone farming on 10 acres – reasoned the argument – perhaps it can be used against my farm on three, five, 10, 12 15, or 20 acres.

Staff dropped the enforcement two weeks later, because – as we learned at Council on July 25 – that provision of the Zoning “applies to the creation of new lots” only and that “existing lots are recognized.”

Instead of something arbitrary like minimum lot sizes, the Province actually provides rules for the types and number of animals allowed on a property based on their impact (odour, waste, etc) and their proximity to neighbours. This formulaic calculation, called Minimum Distance Separation (MDS), is already embedded in our existing Zoning Bylaw.

So, since we are currently rewriting and updating the Town’s overall Zoning Bylaw, Council and Staff we will work together with agriculture property owners, the Federation of Agriculture, and the Province to clarify the “minimum lot size” and MDS provisions so that we might settle the matter and “preserve our unique urban and rural blend.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Kame, Ridgeville, Funding and Transit at AMO Conference

This week, Councillors Accursi and Durley, Town CAO Ottaway, and I will attend the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference in Windsor. The annual three-day conference offers a range of learning sessions and networking opportunities and organizers expect more than 1,300 delegates.

While at AMO, your Pelham representatives will also directly advance your interests with the Provincial Government through meetings with various Ministries.

First, we will meet with Kathryn McGarry, Minister of Natural Resources (MNR), about increasing the protection of the Fonthill Kame. For the last eight years, we effectively used AMO and “Niagara Week” meetings to urge the Province to enhance the Area of Natural & Scientific Interest (ANSI) protections of the Kame. For the last couple of years we thanked the Provincial Government for finalizing those protections in late 2013. Like last year, we intend to ask MRN to add more of the Fonthill Kame to the protections offered by the Niagara Escarpment Plan.

Similarly, we will be meeting with the Bill Mauro, Minister of Municipal Affairs, about the same topic and more. You see, the Province is seeking final input on their "Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review" -- a review of the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan (NEP). These planning documents work together to "manage growth, build complete communities, curb sprawl and protect the natural environment." In addition to asking for adding additional Fonthill Kame lands under the protection of the NEP, we want to thank the Minister for fixing an historic planning error regarding Ridgeville. Since the Greenbelt Plan excluded the Hamlet of Ridgeville more than 10 years ago, the coordinated review is proposing that it be included and recognized.

Next, we will meet with Eleanor McMahon, Minister of Tourism, Culture & Sport, about the Pelham Community Centre and Provincial funding opportunities. Since Minister McMahon recently attended the launch of Pelham Summerfest, we will also be updating her about the successes of our signature, four-day festival.

Finally, we will meet with Daiene Vernile, MPP & Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Transportation (MTO), regarding our Community Transportation Pilot Project. Thanks to $100,000 of Provincial funding, the Town has operated Pelham Transit for nearly a year as a pilot program. We will again thank the MTO for the grant, talk about plans for Regional Transit, and outline the need for ongoing sustainability of transit.

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