Sunday, November 27, 2016

New Chicane Helps Calm Traffic

The Town has grappled with ways in which to help calm traffic and make it safer for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists for a number of years.

More than a decade ago, the Town implemented “Community Safety Zones” on Haist Street (near AK Wigg School) and on Pelham Street (near GA Green School) to double the normal fine for speeders. We have added flashing lights in most school zones and employ a team of dedicated crossing guards help local students to cross the road.

To make it safer for folks to cross the street, we’ve added new crosswalks. We also added a traffic light at Pelham and Port Robinson and improved the pedestrian crossings on Regional Road 20 at Pelham and Haist Streets. We have also added stop signs to better regulate traffic – Quaker at Line, Port Robinson at Station, Canboro at Balfour, and Sawmill at Wessel.

To help slow traffic we’ve added steed bumps to Haist Street, and narrowed the road width on Regional Road 20 (up the hill between Canboro and Church Hill), and in Downtown Fenwick. We’ve painted center lines and edge lines on a few roads to make them appear narrower so that drivers slow down. We even installed pilons on Pelham Street at Port Robinson because some drivers insisted on ignoring the school crossing guards and put children’s safety at risk.

Because of ongoing speeding and persistent resident complaints, staff set-up a temporary traffic calming measure – called a chicane or a bulb-out – on Haist Street North last October. Staff monitored the results and compared the pre- and post-speeds; the test showed that speeds reduced up to 10 km / hour and drivers travelled at the posted, community safety-zone speeds.

That’s why Council approved funds for a chicane in the 2016 budget and Council reaffirmed the installation in June. (For a copy of that report, please click here.)

Staff worked with a contractor this November to install the calming measure. Immediately following the opening of the chicane last Monday, Staff discovered that the vehicle-travel path was too narrow. (I don’t know why the normal construction mantra – “Measure twice, cut once.” – didn’t pinpoint the error prior to installation.)

Town Staff promptly took action to temporarily widen the travel-lane and the contractor returned later last week to make permanent repairs.

Once cleared up this week, motorists can be reassured that the final result will allow for safe vehicular access, including school buses, emergency vehicles, snow plows and garbage trucks.

Many folks – from all across the Town – complain about speeding drivers. Council will continue to work together with area residents to develop measures to slow down speeders.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Let’s Embrace Publicly Electing the Regional Chair

Hon. Bill Mauro, speaking at AMO, August 2016
Last week, the Province introduced legislation that included mandating the election of all Ontario’s Regional Chairs by the public-at-large, starting in 2018. While this push toward a more accountable and democratic election alarmed a few folks in Niagara (including our current Chair), those watching the Municipal sector weren’t surprised.

First, during the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference in August, the Hon. Bill Mauro, Minister of Municipal Affairs, called for changes to increase the “accountability and transparency” of Regional Councils.

Second, Niagara stood as the only hold-out Region that still wanted to appoint the Chair from among members of Council. All other areas either already elect their Chair of Regional Council at large, or were working toward doing so.

Waterloo Region began electing their Chair 19 years ago. Halton Region has elected a Regional Chair since 2000. Durham Region first elected their Regional Chair in 2014.

A bill to elect the York Regional Chair at large was recently before the Ontario Legislature. And, in 2013, Peel Regional Council directed staff to report after the 2014 election on options to directly elect their Chair for the 2018 municipal election.

Finally, with the next municipal election two years away, the Province needed to announce changes now to give various municipalities time to appropriately adapt.

Surprisingly, some suggested that it would be too difficult for Regional Chair candidates to campaign across the equivalent of four Federal ridings that cover our peninsula. Interestingly, Niagara would actually be the smallest area: 4 ½ ridings cover Halton Region; 5 ridings cover Waterloo; and 5 ½ ridings cover Durham.

Similarly, some suggest that the cost to mount a campaign would keep good candidates out of the race. While the spending limits in Halton, Waterloo and Durham are higher than it will be for Niagara (estimated to be $306,000), the most any candidate spent in those campaigns were nowhere near the limits. Winning candidates spent $16K in Halton; $56K in Waterloo; and $74K in Durham.

With this latest improvement, candidates for the Chair’s position will have to put together a vision that would appeal to all of Niagara. This would be similar to the visions that Mayoral candidates present to the public – but it would be for all in the peninsula.

I believe that this change would will help us to work together to become more open, transparent, accountable, and democratic in Niagara.

Let's embrace this improvement because publicly electing the Regional Chair will help pull the views and hopes of our Region’s citizen’s together and can become an important and unifying force for moving Niagara forward.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

From “Sprawl” to a “Complete Community”

I keep the “Sprawl Repair Manual” by Galina Tachieva on my desk at home. The work “presents a comprehensive methodology for transforming sprawl” along with “implementation techniques” for “rebalancing suburbia.”

Why? Well, I hate to point out that much of Pelham developed as sprawl.

During the late-1800s and early-1900s, development in the former Township of Pelham and Village of Fonthill grew along traditional coach routes (like Canboro Road) and at crossings along the TH&B (through Fenwick) and NS&T (through Fonthill) railway lines.

But, the advent of the automobile quickly changed all that.

For example, only in a car-centered-culture would one build a high school on some of the best tender fruit land and on a (then) Provincial Highway.

Similarly, prior to the hundreds of homes around it, the Pelham Arena was erected in the mid-1970s in a farmer’s field and far from restaurants and retail.

In fact, much of Pelham’s previous residential development sprawled across farm lands and forests. These now-mature residential neighbourhoods from the 1970s and 80s contain more than 50 cul-de-sacs or courts! That’s quite different than traditional neighbourhoods of College, Emmett, Elm, Burton and Chestnut streets.

Previous Councils also expanded the Town’s “urban boundaries” – the areas in which one can develop. The +500 acres in East Fonthill and “Lookout Ridge” were added in 2000. Significant developable lands in Fenwick – from Cream to Balfour and between Memorial and Welland Road – were added in 1990.

Once approved, these urban-land-rights last forever, guaranteeing a development future for Pelham.

Given this history, how does one “repair” the sprawl and foster a more “complete” community?

We started by revitalizing Downtown Fonthill and Fenwick; in addition to rebuilding the streetscapes, one-third of the buildings on Pelham Street have recently improved their fa├žades and added residential units.

We’ve also encouraged walking and cycling by building more than 13 km of sidewalks, 9 km of bike lanes, 7 km of trails, and 5 crosswalks. Now – 53 years after it opened – we’ve approved extending a sidewalk to Crossley. We’ve also discouraged car use by initiating Pelham transit.

We approved plans for East Fonthill that include wide-sidewalks and trails and a road network that links to existing streets; to enable these plans, we’ve even removed houses were future streets will go.

We’ve insisted on street-facing commercial development and on as pedestrian-friendly-as-possible parking. We continue to call for rear-lanes and we protected key environmental features.

Instead of consolidating services into a central building, we’re revitalizing the Maple Acre Library. And, we’re constructing the new Pelham Community Centre near other amenities – like stores and restaurants, and a future medical centre, retirement home, and other “mixed-uses.”

Finally, we remain committed to the Town’s urban boundaries and increased the protections on the Fonthill Kame.

Correcting Pelham’s sprawl isn’t easy, but Council and I will persevere toward that goal.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

An Open Letter Response to Marianne Stewart:

Dear Ms. Stewart:
Thank you for your email and for asking additional questions about activities in Pelham.
I am sorry that it has taken me a few days to reply to you. Between Town Council, Regional meetings, and the Hydro Board, I have been in hours and hours of meetings thus far this week. And, since I received your email late Sunday, I thought I would have time to get you an answer before it was printed in a local newspaper. I was surprised it was printed this week because I was told by the publisher that the deadline for letters to the editor was Friday at 5:00 PM… Oh well. (To see the letter, please refer to page 6 at: https://issuu.com/thevoiceofpelham/docs/the_voice_november_9_2016.)
I am sorry that my previous responses haven’t been clear enough for you. Let me try again by annotating my online journal and my 23 October 2016 column that was published in the Pelham News and by other media for free (but that the Voice refused to print). I have added comments and annotated in italics.
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To help answer some recent community questions, here’s some of what I spoke about during a “State of the Town” address to the Chamber of Commerce in early-October.

Added in 2000, Developing Now:
When it added 450 acres to the Town’s eastern “Urban Boundary” in 2000, the Ontario Municipal Board guaranteed huge growth for Pelham. What wasn’t certain was the type of that growth. (For more details about the type of growth, please see: http://pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca/2014/03/what-type-of-growth-for-pelham.html)
That’s why Council and I worked so hard over the last decade to ensure that these “East Fonthill” lands integrate with the existing community, protect sensitive environmental elements, benefit existing residents by including public facilities and commercial amenities, and require attractive and pedestrian/cycle-friendly form. (For more details, please see: http://pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca/2014/02/maintaining-our-small-town-feel-as-we.html)
To help achieve this vision, Council approved a Secondary Plan for all of “East Fonthill” and a Site Master Plan for the 54 acres of Town- and privately-owned lands fronting Regional Road 20. These award-winning Plans allow various uses including medical, retail, retirement, community centre, mixed-use commercial, townhomes, mixed-use residential, parks and trails. (For more detail, please see: http://pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca/2014/02/draft-site-master-plan-helps-maintain.html. Also, for more information about the award-winning plans, please see: http://www.pelham.ca/Modules/News/index.aspx?feedId=5a220134-e962-4e40-93c0-cad29d1038f0&newsId=4bfa7364-1bbf-4fbb-a644-1d8da6319056.)

Commercial Development:
As you know, the commercial component is taking shape along Regional Road 20. While most stores will likely open in early-2017, the Food Basics is scheduled for [this] month and the Tim Horton’s in late-December. The buildings are purposefully closer to the road to help encourage walkability and slow vehicle traffic.
As you may know, Food Basics will officially open on Thursday, 17 November 2016; further, the framing steel for the Tim Horton’s went up this week.

Medical Centre & Retirement Home:
In 2014, the Town approved an agreement to sell 7.7 acres of land to the Allen Group [also known as Fonthill Gardens] to construct a medical centre and a retirement home. It is important to note that the agreement to sell the lands is dependent on the construction of these facilities – and that the facilities are seen as for the public good.
As it says in the Community Centre section of the Town’s website (at http://www.pelham.ca/en/how-might-I/Pelham-Community-Centre.aspx#sale-surplus):
“In 2005, the Town purchased 32-acres at the corner of Rice Road and Hwy 20 for $3.6 million ($112,000 per acre). After re-designating, re-zoning, and fully-servicing those lands, the Town will be able to sell nearly 20 acres for an estimated $12 million ($600,000 per acre appraised value).
"Including the $1.1 million in interest payments, this sale will represent a return on investment of greater than 150%.
"Staff indicated that the value range for property in this area is between $600,000 and $800,000 per acre, depending on the location within the development. To help maximize the property value, the Town intends to sell these lands in smaller parcels.
"Council approved agreements with Fonthill Gardens Inc. for an option to purchase 7.7 acres of the Town-owned lands to construct a medical centre (with 5-10 family doctors) and a retirement home (with +130 beds/units). The price of those lands would be a base, un-serviced price of $375,000.00 per acre plus all costs of development.”
The +/-30,000 square foot Medical Centre should include 5-10 family doctors, a mini-pharmacy, and other health and wellness / allied professionals. When the Province disallowed new “family health teams” for Niagara for nearly a year, establishing the Centre got slightly delayed to 2017. The ~130-unit senior’s campus should offer independent and assisted living options and is hoped to break ground in 2018.
I understand that the Allen Group is actively recruiting doctors and other allied professionals to the new medical centre; to protect the privacy of those doctors and other professionals, I cannot comment further about how many or to whom they are speaking. Similarly, the Allen Group is working with potential operators and eventual owners for the retirement facility. As a business person, I know you are sure to understand that this information cannot be shared publicly.

Surplus Lands:
In September, Council reaffirmed our priority of selling surplus lands at a maximum dollar value and for the best community use. We also developed a draft lay-out for the property. You will recall that we expect to generate an average of $600,000 per acre to help fund the Community Centre’s construction.

Piazza / Public Square:
I am sorry that this continues to be unclear for you, especially since you also asked about it during my October presentation to the Chamber of Commerce. Please let me try again. When I wrote: “The Site Master Plan envisions a large, public square next to the future Community Centre that would include interlocking brick, an outdoor theatre, a water feature, and trees and benches,” I tried to explain that the Piazza it is a plan, or something for which we are hoping to achieve.
When I wrote, “While contemplated a few years from now, Council applied in June for Canada Cultural Spaces Funding to cover 50% of the estimated $5.1 million project; we have yet to hear the results of that application,” that means that the project does not yet have a specific approval from Council. Whether we receive funding or not, Council will have to consider this project in relation to our future Capital Budget addressing the various needs across the Town and the desires from the public before moving ahead and approving it. This consideration will likely form part of our 20-year capital budget discussions in late-November and December.

Development Charges:
I understand that the Town has collected $2.2 million this year (to 20 October 2016) from development charges. Further, I have asked Staff to report on this amount monthly to Council.
At our 7 November 2016 meeting, Council received the first report to the end of September 2016. Please see: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B2EgPD0Bv1qVWnpHcnB1MktkTlk. Further, I understand that to the 31 October 2016, the total was $2,766,705. These are collected from new development from across the Town, not just from development in the eastern part of Fonthill.
For more information about Development Charges, please see http://www.pelham.ca/en/services/Development-Charges.aspx or see the “Development Charges” section of the “Financing Options” tab at www.pelham.ca/community-centre.

Rental Rates:
Again, I am sorry that this continues to be unclear for you. Thanks for asking me to try again to explain it!
I wrote: “The operating projections for the new Pelham Community Centre that Staff presented last spring used current (2016) rental rates for various community services -- like ice rental or room rentals. They also estimated an inflationary increase each year. Council approves all fees and charges annually during budget considerations.”
This means that Staff presented a very conservative estimate for activity fees for the new Community Centre; they used the 2016 user fee rates for a facility that will open in 2018. In subsequent years, they estimated the fees to be increasing by inflation each year. (This means that we are not planning on gouging users for use of the facilities – which may be your worry.) We do not know the specific, 2018 rates for which you specifically ask because Council will officially approve that as part of the 2018 budgets in the fall of 2017. It’s similar to most businesses not being able to tell you exactly how much they would be charging for a product – be it a car or a pie or a cup of coffee – two-years from now.
For the Town’s current Fees and Charges, please see: http://www.pelham.ca/en/how-might-I/resources/Corporate-Services/Files/TownOfPelham-Fees-and-Charges-2016.pdf
Council agreed with the Architectural Design Advisory Committee and Pelham Seniors Advisory Committee recommendations that the walking / running track would be available free-of-charge.

Maple Acre Library:
At the start of construction in June, I said that the renewed Maple Acre Library was to be open by mid-December. During my Chamber presentation in early October, I said that it was to be completed by the end of the year. We will be having a Maple Acre Design Advisory Committee meeting next week to see and better understand their progress and the schedule from completion.

Skatepark Lighting:
The Isaac Riehl Memorial Skatepark is open until 11 PM and lights are on from dusk to 11 PM. For more information about the rules and guidelines for the Skatepark, please see: http://www.pelham.ca/en/experience/Riehl-Skate-Park.aspx
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Again, I appreciate your keen interest in the Town! I hope that this annotated response answers all of your questions.
Thanks again!
Sincerely yours,
Mayor Dave