Monday, April 23, 2018

Pelham Water & Sewer Rates Lowest Again

I am delighted that Council is set to approve a water and waste water budget at our next meeting where Pelham’s charges will be the lowest across Niagara again. While we plan to increase the fixed component slightly, this change will mean an increase of $8.76 per year or 1.4% for the average residential home (that uses 25 cubic meters of water every two months).

How do Pelham’s water and waste water charges compare with others Cities and Towns in Niagara? And, how are we able to keep rates so low?

Best in Niagara Yet Again:
I reviewed the most up-to-date rates and calculated the fixed charges and the rates for both water and waste water for Pelham and for the other local municipalities. At $106 for two months (for the average residential use of 25 cubic metres) Pelham leads the pack again with the lowest combined water and waste water charges!

Two of our neighbouring municipalities – St. Catharines and Lincoln – are between 13% and 17% more expensive than the combined water and waste water charges for Pelham. Five others – Niagara Falls, Thorold, West Lincoln, Niagara on the Lake, and Welland – are 25% to 55% more expensive. Two – Port Colborne and Fort Erie – are 93% and 189% more expensive than Pelham. (The average charge is $360 more (or 57% more) per year than Pelham’s charges!)

RF Meters Continue to Pay Dividends:
You will recall that prior to 2010 the Town measured water usage and calculated waste water charges with old gallon and cubic meter odometer-type wheel meters – many from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Many of the aged-meters counted slowly or were failing/broken. It took two weeks to collect readings. If your water had a leak, it could take months to detect.

In 2010, the Town worked with Neptune Technology to replace and upgrade all 4,200 our meters to electronic, RF (Radio Frequency) meters. In addition to leak, backflow, and tamper detection, it only takes 3-4 hours for staff to collect usage data every two months.

Not only does this cost less and give much more accurate billing, but we also automatically notify residents / businesses by phone if there is a leak or other issue with their water service. And, after replacing all the meters, we reduced our water loss from more than 20% to less than 10%!

Infrastructure Upgrades:
As you know, we have also upgraded significant Town infrastructure over the last number of years. As we reconstructed or improved roads like Haist Street, Pelham Street, Canboro Road, and Hurricane, we also replaced old water and sewer pipes. Over the last number of years, we replaced more than 15 kilometers of cast iron water mains, which helped stop costly leaks and reduces the number of breaks and repairs.

Council and I are delighted that the Town’s investments in innovation and infrastructure save you hundreds of dollars each year and allow us to provide the least expensive water and sewer charges in Niagara yet again!


You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or see comparison charts at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Pelham’s 2018 Blended Residential Taxes Up 1.9% -- 12 Year Increase Less Than Inflation

If you pay your property taxes by installments, you will know that the second installment of your 2018 property tax bill comes due in two weeks (April 30). With this deadline approaching, I wanted to tell you about Pelham’s 2018 blended residential property tax increase – at 1.9% – and also to compare with other Cities and Towns.

You will recall that the amount of property tax you pay to the Town of Pelham, to the Niagara Region, and to the Province (for Education) is not solely based on the Market Value Assessment of your property by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC); one must multiply your assessment by each of these three tax rates and add them up for your total bill.

With both the Region and the Province making some policy changes and adjustments for rates and tax ratios, we now know that the combined property tax increase for an average residential property (which is valued at $328,138) in Pelham will be 1.9% for 2018. That means an average residential tax bill of approximately $4,187 or an increase of about $79 over last year. (Because of some rates changes, that’s actually a bit lower than the 2% to 2.3% range that I reported to you in February.)

You can consider this $79 or 1.9% a “pocket-book” increase – an increase in the amount it cost an average residential property owner because it’s adjusted for the average MPAC increase in Pelham.

Since Pelham’s portion of your property taxes represents roughly 39% of the total bill, the Town will make use of about $1,618 of the $4,187 for the average residential property.

Who gets the most? The Niagara Region will get about $2,012 or 48% of the total amount. Meanwhile, the Province will receive the remaining approximately $558 (or 13%) to help fund education.

How do we measure whether the increase is “affordable” or not?

One independent way to judge whether Pelham’s taxes are “affordable” is to compare with inflation. For example, the Bank of Canada calculated that, over the last 12 years (February to February), inflation increased the value of goods and services by 22.7%.

Over the same period, Pelham’s combined taxes for the average residential property increased by 22.0% – a bit lower than inflation. Essentially, that means that the average home is paying the same level of taxes in 2018 that they did in 2006!

And, this 22.0% over 12 years includes so many improvements in our community – from renewed Downtowns in Fonthill and Fenwick, to new Fire Halls in Fenwick and North Pelham, from nine renewed playgrounds, to a new skatepark and a new dog park, from a renewed Maple Acre Library to a renovated Old Pelham Town Hall, from 15 km of new sidewalks and 5 km of new trails to the new Meridian Community Centre. And, the list of other infrastructure and services goes on and on.

Another way to judge would be to compare with other Niagara Cities, Towns, and Townships.

Last Fall, the Region published a corrected table of non-blended property tax increases from 2010 to 2017 for local municipalities. If you start at zero in 2010 and add up the cumulative increases, Niagara Municipalities increased their property taxes an average of 35% over those eight years.

Pelham stands as the forth lowest because ours increased 30% – including an increase in funding for the Community Centre in 2016. That’s 14% below the average increase of other Cities and Towns for the same period. Three other growing Towns – Grimsby, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and West Lincoln were lower than Pelham since 2010.

Pelham Council and I continue to work together with staff to ensure that changes in property taxes only minimally impact you and your neighbour while improving the level and quality of services in the Town.


Please check out historic charts or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca. Please contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Let’s Get Active! Let’s Get Moving!

Early last month, it was an honour to travel to Nova Scotia, with Darren Ottaway, Town CAO, and Vickie vanRavenswaay, Director of Recreation, Culture and Wellness, to present at a special “Creating Active Communities Together” conference in Dartmouth.

We were delighted and honoured a few months ago when a representative from the Nova Scotia Ministry of Communities, Culture & Heritage contacted the Town and invited us to be part of a two-day symposium to inspire more physical activity in communities. They asked Pelham to participate because of our walkable and cycling designations – a Walk Friendly Ontario Bronze and a Silver Bicycle Friendly Community – and because our size is similar to many communities in Nova Scotia.

The first day – “Creating Active Communities Together” – involved “physical activity practitioners” who work for communities across the Province to develop and implement physical activity strategies. Town Staff presented detailed information on how we work to encourage physical activity – especially walking and cycling.

The second day – “Vibrant, Active Nova Scotia Symposium” – included Mayors and Councillors and other leaders from non-profit organizations, universities and businesses to focus on broad outcomes and overall success strategies. I presented on this day about Pelham’s successes in increasing walkability, cycling activities. I focused on our dedicated staff and volunteers – like members of Pelham’s Active Transportation Committee – that have tirelessly worked with the community and Council to encourage significant infrastructure improvements and overall active-lifestyle focus.

But, it was not only a time to share Pelham’s successes and to encourage communities across Nova Scotia. The conference was also a time to learn about strategies from other communities in North America and about the latest research on the importance of participation and an active lifestyle.

For example, there are huge physical and mental-health benefits of simply walking in a few 15-minute spurts throughout the day. Research shows that the “built environment” of a community – being built for the “human scale” and not just the automobile – impacts the participation and health of residents.

Or, that new health standards will not only focus on the number and intensity of the steps we take, but also on our overall movement or sedentary lifestyle over a 24-hour period. And, some doctors in Nova Scotia are writing actual “prescriptions for walking” and even walking with patients in community facilities or on trails each week. (I hope we can set up this type of walking club in the new Meridian Community Centre!)

Special thanks to the Lieutenant Governor LeBlanc and Minister Glavine for their focus on helping Nova Scotians to “increase their quality of life” by committing to a “healthier and active lifestyle.”

Now that spring is here, let’s follow their lead. Let’s all get moving more, get active and reduce our own sedentary living. Let’s strive to “sit less and move more.” And, let’s continue to work to create the conditions for a more active lifestyle across Niagara.


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

Monday, March 19, 2018

Final Financing of Community Centre

www.infrastructureontario.ca
As you know, it’s a very exciting time in Pelham since we are only a few months away from completing the construction of the new Meridian Community Centre.

Thanks to the excellent work and oversight of Ball Construction, the significant efforts of the many trades (many of which are local), the work of Town Staff, and the members of the Oversight Committee, we expect the MCC to be substantially complete before the end of June!

And while Staff work through the summer to fine-tune operations and prepare for full-service and a grand opening in the Fall, we look forward to hosting the Greg Campbell Memorial Paperweight Lacrosse Tournament – the largest in Ontario – in July.

And, as I wrote about last week, because of the generosity of the community, we have already reached a milestone of 90% of our original fundraising goal.

Now, this week, another element of the financing for the Community Centre should be finalized.

As you will recall, the approved financial plan called for funding to come from a variety of sources: about a quarter directly from our residents to service a debt through municipal taxes; and about a third from new development through Development Charges. Additional financing consisted of a construction bridge loan from Infrastructure Ontario (I/O) in order to help with the transition of selling the Town’s surplus land (valued at $12 million) and receiving $3 million in community donations.

As the Provincially-legislated process required, Pelham applied for this funding in the Spring of 2016. Since the Town met the qualifying criteria for the loan, the Region did its part as a facilitator by forwarding the paperwork to I/O in June 2016. As also required by the process, a binding Financing Agreement was formally signed that September for $36.2 million for the new Community Centre.

Again, as required by Provincial legislation and as contractually obligated, the Region assisted the Town’s debentures of $9.1 million in 2016 (the part of the financing directly funded through municipal taxes) and $12.1 million in 2017 (the part funded by future growth).

The standard process for the remaining portion of the loan was for the Town to notify I/O that the funds were required and they would release the funds directly to the Town without the Niagara Region approval; this was because it had already been approved in the Financing Agreement between the Town, I/O and the Niagara Region.

The standard process was interrupted by the Niagara Region on November 16, 2017. That’s when Regional Council sent I/O a motion that stated that the Region would defer future Pelham financing until they received additional information from the Town. This additional information was subsequently included in the KPMG Forensic Investigation report that is posted on the Town’s website and reviewed at the Region’s Audit Committee in January, 2018.

After I/O received this motion, they reconfirmed that the Town complies with all their qualifying criteria as under the Agreement. Then I/O asked the Regional Treasurer and Chair to sign an Acknowledgement Letter that confirms that the Niagara Region will still meet the obligations in the Financing Agreement. This Thursday, the Niagara Region is going one step further by requesting Council approval before signing this Acknowledgement.

Since the Town meets Infrastructure Ontario’s criteria, one would hope that Regional Council would live up to the obligations in the Agreement by signing the Acknowledgement Letter so that we can complete the Meridian Community Centre on-time and on-budget for the benefit of our entire community.


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

____________________________________

UPDATE: 2018 March 22

I am pleased that this financing issue was resolved before the Regional Council meeting on Thursday.

After Infrastructure Ontario confirmed that the Town continued to meet the original criteria for the financing, the Region was legally obligated to the original agreement.

Please see the media coverage by clicking here: https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/8346233-regional-council-battle-over-pelham-s-finances-fizzles/





Monday, March 12, 2018

Unparalleled Contribution by Meridian!

Thanks to a $1 million contribution from Meridian Credit Union, Pelham’s new and beautiful Community Centre will be named the “Meridian Community Centre.”

Last Thursday, significant donors and Council gathered to make this announcement and to celebrate Meridian’s commitment to our community.

Even though they have grown to the largest credit union in the Province and the fourth largest in Canada, Meridian remains committed to its founding vision of helping the communities in which they operate.

They are a generous partner in so many community initiatives in Pelham and across the Niagara Peninsula. From supporting the Pelham Summerfest, to the Rankin Run, to naming other facilities, Meridian embodies their vision of supporting communities. They “walk the talk” by investing 4% of their pre-tax profits into donations and sponsorships to make our communities even stronger and more vibrant.

With the strong foundation of the Fonthill District Credit Union, then the Pelham Credit Union, then Niagara Credit Union, the Meridian Credit Union name represents a very long history in Pelham. That foundation includes community members coming together and working together for others and for the common good.

Wade Stayzer, Meridian Senior Vice-President and former Fonthill Branch Manager, explained the rational for their gift: “As a organization, we’re committed to building strong communities and this is a great example of that.” Further, he said that the new facility satisfied all three criteria Meridian uses in selecting recipients – a benefit to its members, to its employees and to its community. Referencing the range of activities that will occur in the facility, he added that “the Meridian Community Centre will be a place filled with moments that matter.”

This contribution stands unparalleled in our Town’s history. We are so grateful to Meridian Credit Union and all its members for demonstrating this incredible support.

As part of the acknowledgement of this generous contribution, Pelham Town Council will designate the street immediately north of the community centre as “Meridian Way.”

This contribution and those of other major donors – including Lucchetta Homes, Erwin Taylor Charitable Foundation and Contour Foot Care (also announced last week) – helps the Town of Pelham reach 90% of our $3 million fundraising goal for the new centre.

On behalf of Council, I deeply appreciate the generosity of these amazing donors! Their gifts demonstrate significant support for the new facility and show that by working together we can invest in and improve our community and achieve great things.

On behalf of all our residents and businesses, we thank Meridian for your amazing investment in Pelham and in Niagara!

For more information about the Meridian Community Centre and fundraising options, please check-out the special website at www.ourmcc.ca.

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

____________________________________

Thanks to Your TV Niagara for this great video of the announcements!


____________________________________
Thanks to other media for covering the announcement:

"‘Unparalleled’ donation sees community centre named after Meridian"
NEWS Mar 08, 2018 by Laura Barton  St. Catharines Standard

"Meridian lands Pelham community centre naming rights: Donation of $1 million pushes fundraising campaign to 90 per cent of goal"
NEWS Mar 08, 2018 by Steve Henschel  Niagara This Week - Welland

Monday, March 5, 2018

Pelham Supper Market and Summerfest Recognized Provincially

Councillor Accursi and I were delighted to join Vickie, Sally, and Jodi – some of Pelham’s dedicated Recreation, Culture & Wellness Staff – at the Festivals & Events Ontario Awards Gala on Friday night in Hamilton. Not only was the F&EO gala a great event, but Festivals & Events Ontario awarded Pelham two coveted honours.

Thanks and congratulations to the dedicated volunteers and staff, generous sponsors, enthusiastic vendors, and the more than 40,000 participants at last year’s Pelham Summerfest. Festivals & Events Ontario recognized your efforts and goal to bringing the community together by recognizing Summerfest as one of Ontario’s Top 100 Festivals / Events in 2017! This is the fourth time that F&EO has recognized Pelham Summerfest’s four days of free, family fun as one of the top 100 in the Province and one of just a handful in the Niagara Peninsula. Congratulations all!

We were also pleasantly surprised and honoured the Festivals & Events Ontario awarded the Pelham Supper Market the 2018 Best Greening Festival / Event! 

You know that Pelham Supper Market is a free admission, weekly Market where local and regional residents gather to enjoy a Summer evening in the park, food and beverages from local vendors, and with live music performed by area artists. The Supper Market begins the first Thursday of June and continues each week from 4:00 PM to dusk and until the second Thursday of September. Pelham’s Supper Market is organized by the Town’s Recreation, Culture & Wellness Department along with community volunteers and is located in Peace Park in downtown Fonthill.

Staff estimate that more than 43,000 people enjoyed the Supper Market over the entire summer!

That’s why it’s amazing that the weekly event generated no garbage! The Green Zone is a recycling/ compost station which is set up near the food vendors on market evenings. The Green Zone aims to recycle/ compost all items which would instead be delivered to the landfills. Last year, the event diverted 395 kgs of recyclable material, and diverted 1419kgs of organic material! What a huge improvement from previous years where tons of waste was landfilled after each Thursday night.

Part of the event’s success comes from the incentive program to vendors who participated in the Greening part. Staff encouraged the use of compostable serving materials and recyclable containers with a “GO Green Rebate” program; 12 vendors took part and the results – zero garbage – are outstanding!

The Supper Market also encouraged 141 people to ride their bike with a special Bike Valet program. The Bike Valet aims to help encourage active transport among residents who plan on attending the Supper Market. Residents who arrive to the Supper Market via their bicycle have the opportunity to leave their bike with the Bike Valet for safe-keeping during the event. Bikes are stored in an orderly fashion and marked with an identification number to ensure they are returned to their owner. Our community is a bike friendly award recipient so its no wonder over the last four years the bike valet has watched more than 600 bikes!

Riding a bike not yet your speed? We also offered a Shuttle Service for the last four years. This initiative was created to decrease the amount of cars in the downtown and help decrease the carbon footprint. More and more residents use this service every year. Over the last four years we’ve had just over 500 riders.

We also partnered with the Region’s Public Works department for the Water Wagon initiative. In 2016, we were able to secure the wagon on a weekly basis, and were able to encourage residents to bring their refillable water bottles. In 2017 we were only able to secure the wagon once per month, but it was still a great promotion for residents to use their refillable bottles! It’s estimated that the Water Wagon filled reusable bottles with 1,200 litres of safe, fresh drinking water in 2017.

It’s gratifying and much appreciated to be honoured by Festivals & Events Ontario. Congratulations and thanks to all staff and volunteers who work so hard to make these events such a huge success!


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

Monday, February 26, 2018

Pelham Portion of Residential Property Tax Increasing 3.5%

If you pay your property taxes by installments, you will know that your first installment of your 2018 property tax bill comes due on Wednesday. With this deadline, I thought I would provide an update about Council’s recent budget approval.

Council recently approved the Town’s 2018 Capital and Operating Budgets. The new budget translates into an increase of approximately 3.5% (or about $55) on the Pelham portion of your property tax bill for the average residential property (assessed at $328,138).

Since Pelham’s portion of your property taxes represents roughly 38% of your overall residential tax, we approximate that the Town will receive $1,610 of the $4,200 for the average residential property tax bill; the Niagara Region will receive 48% of the total amount (approximately $2,015) and the Province (to fund education) the remaining 14% (approximately $575).

We expect the blended property tax increase to range from 2.0% to 2.3% -- depending on Regional tax policy considerations later this spring. With this type of blended increase, it will mean that Pelham’s blended tax increases continue to keep pace with inflation over the last 12 years. And, the Town continues to compare very favorably to other Niagara Cities and Towns by increasing less than the average of others.

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

Obviously the big project for this year will be completing and opening the new Pelham Community Centre. We received a great update from the Oversight Committee on February 5 – that the new Centre is on-time and on-budget. On-time means “substantially complete” in June; on-budget means within the $36.2 million budget after 97% of the project has been tendered.

It made sense, therefore, that Council spent a lot of time discussing the plans for staffing, running, and opening the new Centre. During our deliberations, Staff outlined the flexible staffing model – having a number of part-time employees available to meet the community’s demand as required – for the successful operation of the Centre. This approach will not only allow for a “scalable response” to meet the community’s demand, it will also allow the Town to gauge and re-evaluate the staffing requirements after the Centre’s first six months of operation.

Other Council discussions included maintaining the excellent level of service for sidewalk snow clearing, working to improve Pelham Transit by trying to link to West Lincoln and Wainfleet and attain additional Provincial funding, and slightly increasing the grant to the Pelham Public Library. Council also ensured that we set aside funds to fight the expected Gypsy Moth infestation. And, just like small business, the Town was impacted by the increase in the minimum wage; we expect to pay $21,850 more in 2018 for these wage costs.

The capital budget will continue to improve and fund infrastructure and other important capital items in 2018.

For instance, not only are we continuing to replace fire fighter bunker gear, we are also funding new radio equipment to help expedite the transition to a new and improved regional communications system. We also look forward to partnering with the Fabulous Fenwick Lions to help fund their new concession canopy. We funded the repairing of some of playground turf and equipment. And, after designating the former Quaker Meeting House / Model Railroad building in Fenwick as an historic structure, we also earmarked some funds to help repair the heritage windows.

We also included funds to design and build two new parks in the Lookout / Haist Street North area. We look forward to working together with local residents on the design of these new neighbourhood parks this year.

The roads budget includes a number of important initiatives like road rehabilitation of Pancake from Effingham to Blackwood, and of Welland Road from Pelham Street to Milburn; maintaining a strong road-side ditching program; repairing / maintaining some storm-ponds (like on Station Street and for the Timber Creek neighbourhood); and funding the study and design of a solution for the erosion on Sulphur Springs Drive.

On the water and wastewater side, we approved funding for upgrading the existing sewer capacity along Foss Road (near Church Street), extending water and sewers to Rice Road (north of Regional Road 20), and planning for a water backflow prevention program.

Finally, other increases include utility costs, staffing and benefit costs, and contracted services so we can maintain expected service levels.

As a result of these and other initiatives, Council approved a net budget increase of $412,737 on a $12,530,619 net budget.

I plan to write more about your total property tax impact and compare with previous years after Regional Council approves the 2018 rates and ratios later this spring.


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

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!

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