Sunday, February 26, 2017

4.7% Increase for Pelham Portion of Residential Property Tax

Council recently approved the Town’s 2017 Operating Budget. The new budget translates into an increase of approximately 4.7% (or $69.60) on the Pelham portion of your property tax bill for the average residential property (assessed at $316,400).

Since Pelham’s portion of your property taxes represents roughly 38% of your overall residential tax, we anticipate that the blended rate will be an approximate 2.6% overall increase. Thus, the Town will receive $1,558 of the $4,132 for the average residential property tax bill; the Niagara Region will receive 48% of the total amount and the Province (to fund education) the remaining 14%.

In preparing the operating budget, Council directed Staff to review all expenditures against customer service needs and the Town’s strategic plan.

First, we included an additional $197,827 for a “Sustainability Increase.” As you have noticed through the years, instead of cutting like other Cities / Towns, we continue to improve and maintain the Town’s infrastructure. We do this by increasing the amount we transfer to capital reserves. Thus, 1.8% of the 4.7% overall increase will help improve and sustain infrastructure. (This compares favourably to the 2.7% we added 2016 to capital and the 1.8% extra in 2015.)

Second, we added funds for the Pelham Public Library to open additional hours in the renewed Maple Acre branch. Council agreed with the Library Board and the broader community that the Library needed to increase hours to meet the demand and to better use the new facility—which was officially opened on Friday. The first month of operations showed a huge demand for the new facility over the former branch; every time I was at the Library, it is busy and well used!

Third, after a very successful pilot program, Council agreed to continue offering Pelham Transit. The ridership consistently increased during the Provincially-supported year-and-a-half pilot and many have come to rely on the service. For example, students use the morning and afternoon service to get to and from classes at Niagara College or Brock. Similarly, seniors from local retirement homes use the mid-day service to travel directly to the Fonthill Library, the Shopper’s Plaza, or to the grocery store. In addition, staff will work with Wainfleet and West Lincoln to potentially expand our transit service.

Finally, other increases include utility costs, staffing and benefit costs, and contracted services (like sidewalk snow clearing) so we can maintain expected service levels.

As a result of these and other initiatives, Council approved a net budget increase of $518,544 on a $11,791,264 net budget.

I will write more about your total property tax impact and compare with previous years after Regional Council approves the 2017 rates and ratios later this spring.

For more information about Pelham’s Operating Budget, please check out the Town's website at
Extra information:
As stated above, we expect the blended increase to be approximately 2.6%. This compares favouably to other municipalities.
Some folks have asked how this compares to inflation. The Bank of Canada has year-over-year inflation to be 2.1%.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Starting Planning for “East Fenwick”

I was a little surprised during our Committee of the Whole meeting last week because the East Fenwick Secondary Plan area is bigger than originally thought.

Last Fall, Town Council identified the preparation of a Secondary Plan for East Fenwick as a priority for 2017. While we set aside funds over the last couple of years to re-start this detailed planning exercise, Staff hadn't been able to get it started until now.

As you will recall, previous Councils expanded the Town's "urban boundaries" – the areas in which one can build houses, stores, and other developments. Since the Town had installed water and sewer services to the former "hamlet" of Fenwick in the early 1980s, the Town’s 1987 Official Plan made Fenwick an Urban Area and added development rights to those lands in 1990.

So, although not currently built-up, the area in which one can develop includes an additional 235 acres (95 hectares) from Cream to Balfour and between Memorial and Welland Roads.

So, what was my surprise? Staff included properties along Sunset Drive, Alder Crescent, and the east-side of Balfour Street as part of this "secondary" planning process. When I asked about it during our meeting, Staff stated that both the Town’s and Region’s Official Plans policies call for all lands inside Urban Boundaries to be serviced (with water and sewers) and that part of the plan needed to include studies to achieve that.

The goals for the Secondary Plan for East Fenwick include: permitting new development compatible with the existing character of Fenwick but also consistent with Provincial, Regional and Local planning legislation; ensuring appropriate capacity of transportation, water, sewer, and storm services; establishing areas for "public space" and protected natural heritage features; establishing design guidelines; providing well-designed areas that prioritize pedestrians; and providing a phasing plan.

Committee approved the proposal that calls for a collaborative community engagement process, including a community charrette, public meetings, open houses, and the use of an internet tool called PlaceSpeak.

If approved at Council next week, Staff will issue a request for proposals for late-March and work could begin as early as April. Staff suggested that the process could then take nine months.

The East Fenwick Secondary Plan will provide the appropriate policy guidance – including protecting key natural features, walkability, and linkages to the historic Downtown – so that this large area might develop and integrate more fully into the Town.

Councillors and I will look forward to working together with the community as the Town develops the East Fenwick Secondary Plan.
Documents for More Information:

  • For the 6 February 2016 Staff report to Committee about East Fenwick, please click here.
  • For the Terms of Reference for the Request for Proposals, please click here.
  • For a video of the discussion at 6 February 2016 Committee meeting, please click here; discussion starts around 11 minutes, 55 seconds.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

DSBN Survey on Potential Park Revision

Last week, residents in the Cherry Ridge subdivision in Fenwick received a survey and draft plan from the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) about potential changes to Cherry Ridge Park.

As you know, the DSBN is in the process of consolidating the former Pelham Centre School (grades 4-8) and E.W .Farr Memorial School (grades K – 3) to create one, grades K – 8 school at the E.W. Farr site. The consolidation required classroom additions and renovations including a new gymnasium, a learning commons, parking and bus drop off. This construction is well underway and the Board hopes to open the renovated school this September.

With this expansion, the school’s soccer field was eliminated. In an effort to provide a soccer field for students the Board approached the Town last year to enter into a community partnership. They proposed building a soccer field partially on school board property and partially on the public park lands.

Councillors considered this possibility in a report to the June 6, 2016 Committee of the Whole meeting and, on June 20, Council approved the authorization of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Town and the DSBN to negotiate an appropriate agreement. (Please click here to review a copy of the MOU.)

As part of these negotiations, the DSBN proposed a draft redesign for the Park and their lands late last Fall. (Please click here for a copy of the proposed redesign.)

At the request from the Town, the Board sent a letter and a survey to immediate neighbours and other Cherry Ridge residents last week.

Why is the DSBN is only surveying Cherry Ridge residents? When the subdivision was first developed in the 1990s, the developer paid the Town “parkland dedication” fees and provided land for this neighbourhood park. And, when the Town initially designed and built the Park around 2008, we only involved residents from that subdivision. We follow this approach in designing / redesigning other neighbourhood parks too.

The feedback on the design, a final proposed design, insurance and legal considerations, and any other items will form part of the potential final agreement. Just like any and all agreements between the Town and other corporations, Council will publicly consider the factors and the potential agreement during one of our meetings. DSBN Trustees would also have to consider such an agreement.

Finally, if approved, this would not be the first time for such a joint use agreement between a City/Town and the DSBN. Others with agreements with the DSBN include St. Catharines (shared park agreement), Welland (shared library), and Fort Erie (shared library and theatre).

Councillors and I will be interested in feedback when a proposed agreement comes to an upcoming Council meeting.