Monday, February 12, 2018

Next Steps Toward Arena Property Renewal

Last week Council approved taking the next steps toward the plans to redevelop the existing Arena property on Haist Street.

You will recall that the Town’s 2017 budget included funds to hire a planning and design firm to work together with the community to discuss and design redevelopment options of the existing Arena property on Haist Street.

Since 2017-18 will be the last ice season in the existing arena, Council prudently began planning for the future of the property. This included not only this work, but also funding a renovation of the Town’s Tice Road Operations Centre to accommodate parks and cemeteries staff (who currently work from the Haist property).

The Planning Partnership won the bid for the redesign work and started with two “community co-design” sessions at the Arena this past June. Representatives from user groups, neighbours, and interested residents worked in three design groups to develop 12 concept plans. Based on the discussions and work, each plan looked at ways to keep as much greenspace as possible, provide trail connections, minimize impacts on existing residential uses, and improve existing parkland features.

The firm then reviewed the concepts and gleaned them into five “explorations”: single detached houses; central park; rear-laneway townhouses and singles; front driveway townhouses; and apartments. Each of these options were posted online for public feedback. 120 survey respondents preferred some features in the explorations over others – including no change in the park and to only consider residential development in the area around the existing Town buildings and parking lot.

The Planning Partnership tested an “emerging preferred concept” at a community workshop in September. While suggesting some improvements – like ensuring that any new lighting doesn’t shine on existing properties – the majority of participants liked the plan. Why? The plan suggested no change in the location of the open spaces (soccer fields), the playground, or the platform tennis. The plan also maintained the wooded area along the western edge of the property and constructs a walking trail. Further, the concept blended townhouses and single-family homes – similar to housing in the surrounding neighbourhood.

During this process, a few folks strongly expressed a desire “that nothing be done with respect to this property until after the new east Fonthill community center be opened and that it's 1st year of operation is proven.” Realistically, the status quo option is neither judicious nor responsible. Obviously, there’s no going back from building and operating the new Community Centre. And, since we know that no one will be using the Town buildings (aside from paddle tennis) after August 2018, it’s Council’s responsibility to plan and prepare for the future.

So, this “emerging preferred concept” was presented to and discussed by Council on October 10, 2017. The concept responds to community desires by maintaining green areas and park amenities, creating a connected trail system, and calls for similar type of housing. The concepts also provides two points of entrance, increases safety through “eyes on the park” from the housing, and offers lane-based and attractive townhouses.

So, last Monday, Staff officially presented a report with the recommendation to have Staff develop design guidelines, and official plan amendment and zoning bylaw amendment. Why? Beause by codifying it in this way we can help make the community’s preferred concept a reality.

For a copy of the preferred concept and the presentation to Council, please go to my online journal at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca or the Town’s website www.pelham.ca.


You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca to suggest future column or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Pre-Budget Consultation with Province

It was cool for Fonzie to live above the Cunningham's garage!
Last Monday, I had the honour of welcoming Yvan Baker, MPP (Etobicoke Centre), and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance as I presented first at the Province’s “Pre-Budget Consultation” in the Niagara Peninsula. Mr. Baker was joined by Jim Bradley, MPP (St. Catharines) in this public engagement.

Partner on Downtown CIPs:
I started by thanking the Government for their recent announcement of a $40 million over three years in Main Street Enhancement Funding, to help strengthen small businesses in downtown and enhance their digital presence. While Council has not yet seen detail on spending criteria for Pelham’s $50,000 share, we recognize the importance of Downtowns in our community. So, I also recommended that the Province partner with Cities and Towns in our “Community Improvement Plan” (CIP) incentives – to further enhance mixed-use buildings and businesses and help strengthen our sense of community. With more than one-third of Downtown Fonthill properties using our CIP incentives, you can really see the transformation and improvement!

Fund Recreation “Social Infrastructure”:
I also encouraged the Province to ask the Federal Government about their promise from a couple of years ago to partner with Provinces and Municipalities on “Social Infrastructure” – in particular for recreational and cultural facilities. I underscored that these facilities are the heart of communities and should be supported.

Transit Pilot:
I thanked the Government for funding Pelham in 2016 with the maximum grant to establish a Transit Pilot. You will recall that we established the system, tendered it to the private sector to operate, and increased our ridership. Pelham also partnered with Brock and Niagara College students. And, as a result of the Province continuing the grant another year, the ridership continues to increase. Staff are now reaching out to Wainfleet and West Lincoln to provide service. Since we are to apply again for a grant, I asked the Government to maintain funding for community transit pilot and operating expansions.

Accelerating GO Rail:
I also encouraged the Province to accelerate their timetable for the expansion of GO Rail into the Niagara Peninsula. You will recall that the Province announced in 2016 their proposal for GO Rail expansion – to Grimsby in 2021 and to Niagara Falls and St. Catharines by 2023. I reminded the Province about Niagara winning the bid for Canada Summer Games in 2021. I suggested that the Province and Niagara work together with CN Rail and Metrolinx to advance the roll-out of GO Rail to Niagara in time for Canada Summer Games.

Housing that’s Affordable:
As many folks call for more housing that’s affordable, I suggested that the Province could help financially encourage “Fonzie” units. What’s a “Fonzie” unit? You will recall that Fonzie on Happy Days lived above the Cunningham’s garage because it was affordable for him; the rent also helped that family with their mortgage, thereby making their housing costs more affordable. I pointed out that since the Province encourages Cities to allow secondary units and accessory building units in Zoning Bylaws, there could be an opportunity to also encourage more housing that’s affordable. I suggested that the Province look at ways to incentivize conversions or new construction to these units – through rebates or partial funding. They could use a similar mechanism to other conversion programs – like the Green Ontario Fund rebates to reduce energy costs with home improvements.

Promote Storm Water Separation:
Finally, I suggested that the Province should help reduce the impacts of climate change by helping to stop diluted sewage overflows. You see, in many historic communities, aged sewer systems also collect rain water; storm water and sewer systems are not separated like in newer areas (like in Pelham). As it rains more often and with greater intensity because of climate change, rain storms flood waste water plants, and operators must dump diluted sewage into natural lakes and streams. Sadly, Niagara dumped more than 1.1 billion litres of diluted sewage in 2017 because of storm overflows. Therefore, instead of funding increased sewer plant capacity, I encouraged the Province to prioritize storm water separation in their “Clean Water & Waste Water Fund.”

I appreciate the opportunity to present workable solutions to some of the issues in Pelham and across the Niagara Peninsula to Mr. Baker and Mr. Bradley.


You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or review documents and read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Info Session for “East Fenwick” Saturday

Town Staff recently issued a notice about an upcoming information session regarding the East Fenwick Secondary Plan this coming Saturday, January 27, from 10:00 AM to noon at Pelham Fire Station #2. (For those unable to make the session, I will ask Staff to post materials on the Town’s website.)

This will be the third time that Town staff and planning consultants will provide information and updates of the study’s process, objectives, and the input received to date.

East Fenwick’s Secondary Plan has been explored by staff, consultants, and residents since last June, beginning with a visioning workshop followed by a design workshop. During these workshops residents had an opportunity to have their say in the plan. Town Council also received a progress report in late-November. (Please check out that presentation by clicking here.)

The project goals are to develop more detailed planning – called a Secondary Plan – for the East
Fenwick urban area that will provide the framework for permitting new development compatible with the character of Fenwick and consistent with Provincial, Regional and Local planning policies and legislation. This planning will also establish design guidelines for buildings, parks and streets and create a system of public space areas and linkages with natural heritage areas. Finally, the plan should also consider existing transportation and water /waste water infrastructure and suggest any improvements or upgrades.

Following this session, the Consultants will finalize the policies and mapping that will guide the implementation of the Fenwick Secondary Plan. They hope to complete this work in the Spring.

A number of folks keep asking me why we have to formulate these plans and why we have to let the property owners develop their lands.

The East Fenwick area – between Cream and Balfour Streets and Memorial and Welland Roads – was added to the area for urban development in 1987. That means that the property owners have had the right to develop the lands in an urban setting for more than 30 years!

We initiated this Secondary Plan" process so that the inevitable development might occur in a coordinated way and with public input.

Yet, the development must follow increased density targets from the Province. Why? So that communities make "more efficient use of land" in the urban areas – so that we can protect our rich agricultural land outside of the urban areas.

But, the consultants and the community are doing their best to "buffer" existing homes from some of the medium / higher density developments that might have to occur to meet the Provincial targets. That's why, for instance, Council approved the large-lot development on Balfour (between Canboro and Welland) – to mirror the type of larger lot home on the West-side of the street.

So, while it's not really a question of whether this area will develop at some point in the future, it's a question of what type of development that might occur. That’s where we can have an impact and work to best design the community. And, the way to have impact on the Plan is through this process.

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


You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or review documents and read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Looking Forward in 2018

Happy New Year Pelham! Council, Staff and I look forward to 2018 as a year of social, cultural, recreational, and economic growth in the Town – moving us closer to being the most vibrant, innovative and caring community in Niagara.

Last year saw growth, prosperity, and many milestones to improving our community.

Because the community has been underserviced commercially for so long, many were pleased with the opening of the commercial developments along Regional Road 20 in Fonthill in 2017. This included new restaurants, a grocery store, a financial institution, retail outlets, and health services. Interestingly, these developments also account for approximately 175 new part- and full-time jobs in the Town. We look forward to a few more businesses opening in this area and in Uptown Fonthill later this year.

Our Downtowns improved and were key community gathering places last year too. After opening the renewed facility and increasing the hours and service, the number of patrons using the renewed Maple Acre Library in Fenwick tripled! Hundreds also celebrated in Downtown Fenwick with the “Green Street Challenge” in August – a multi-generational event on donated, fresh sod. “Fonthill Flats” and a few other exceptional renewals showcased our building fa├žade and residential intensification incentives at work in Downtown Fonthill. And, because of our dedicated volunteers, staff, and sponsors, Summerfest and other cultural events – like the Bandshell concerts and Suppermarket – continued as huge community successes last summer. We are committed to these community-defining events and look forward to additional developments in our Downtowns in 2018.

After the groundbreaking in late-2016, work continued in earnest on the Pelham Community Centre last year. Ball Construction oversaw the framing, construction, and “closing-in” of the new facility. They also poured both arena pads – ahead of schedule – and made great progress inside. The Oversight Committee continues their work and has assurances that Ball and Staff will complete the Centre on time – in the summer – and on budget.

As will be highlighted next month, our generous community pledged more than 50% of the Centre’s $3 million fundraising goal. We remain confident that other significant donations will be announced this spring and that a community campaign will follow shortly thereafter. (For more information, please go to www.ourpcc.ca.)

Last spring, we signed 5-year “memorandums of understanding” with six major community groups for their use of the new Pelham Community Centre. These binding agreements exceeded the Town’s revenue goals for the Centre and confirmed the demand for a second arena.

With this solid foundation, we will work with the community for a grand opening for the Community Centre this summer. We also look forward to basketball, figure skating, hockey, and so many other activities – from pickleball, yoga, tai chi, volleyball, walking clubs, community dinners, events and meetings – starting in our new gathering place this year! And, we will welcome back the Pelham Raiders Lacrosse Teams returning to play in the Town.

And, while she has served our community well over the last 40 years, it will be time to say goodbye to our existing Arena on Haist Street in 2018. We intend to activate the plan that the community developed for that site – by maintaining the existing parkland portion, linking the trails, and redeveloping the arena and outdoor storage area for new housing options.

Thanks to our ongoing investments and dedicated volunteers, the Town’s Silver “Bike Friendly” designation was reaffirmed in 2017 – the highest honour for Niagara communities. And, after 53-years, we linked EL Crossley to Uptown Fonthill via a safe walking / cycling path. Many such paths were also completed in the East Fonthill area as part of our community vision. And, following the dedication of key volunteers, Council approved an “Active Transportation Master Plan,” which lays the groundwork to make Pelham even more walkable and cyclable in the future.

We also look forward to the groundbreaking of a new affordable senior’s housing development behind the Food Basics in 2018. I understand that that since we announced this development in November, Parkhill received huge interest from the community for their +80-unit facility.

After the Town donated the use of 1.8 acres of land and the groundbreaking last September, we look forward to the opening of the new Wellspring Niagara Cancer Support Centre in 2018. This much-needed, regional support centre will allow Wellspring to serve cancer patients, their families and caregivers well into the future.

With this foundation of so many milestones last year, 2018 promises to be a great year of social, cultural, recreational, and economic growth in the Town. Best wishes to you for a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year!

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You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.