Monday, August 27, 2018

Fonthill Kame, Cannabis, and Senior Campuses at AMO Conference

Last week, Councillor Accursi, Councillor Papp, Town CAO Ottaway, and I attended the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference in Ottawa. The annual three-day conference offered a range of learning sessions and networking opportunities for the more than 1,500 delegates.

While at AMO, your Pelham representatives also met with various Ministries to directly advanced your interests with the Provincial Government.

We met with Hon. Jeff Yurek, MPP, Minister of Natural Resources & Forestry (MNRF), and Toby Barrett, MPP, Parliamentary Assistant, about maintaining and increasing the protection of the Fonthill Kame. Over the last 10 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 few years we thanked the Provincial Government for finalizing those protections in late-2013. Now, we asked to work together with MRN Staff to add more of the Fonthill Kame to the protections offered by the Niagara Escarpment Plan.

We are delighted that Minister Yurek indicated that the Government would not be changing the ANSI protections! We look forward to working together on further safeguards.

We also met with Hon. Steve Clark, MPP, Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing, about Provincial funding. We encouraged the government to fund municipal projects that help create wealth and prosperity for a community; we spoke not only about projects like downtown revitalizations but also community and cultural facilities like community centres and libraries. We also discouraged the government from investing in projects that create more sprawl – like urban boundary expansions or “smart centers” disconnected from community. Ministry Staff indicated that they could work with the Town on these issues.

The Minister also informed us about his planned review of Regional governments following this Fall’s municipal elections; we indicated that Niagara would definitely want to participate. This was consistent with his message earlier in the conference when he shared his focus in working with local governments: cut red tape, increase the housing supply, reduce unnecessary reporting, strengthen regional governments, and find efficiencies.

We also listened to the three party leaders. Premier Ford acknowledged that Cities and Towns are “closest to the people” and stated that the Government had no plans for Toronto-type election reform on other cities “in the near future.” The Premier ended his speech talking about his Government by stating: “A new day has dawned in Ontario.”

Obviously AMO also many includes educational sessions and panel discussions.

Because of Pelham Council’s ongoing work, I especially appreciated the panel about “campus-style” approaches for Long-Term Care and retirement homes. We can use some of these suggestions to further enhance Pelham’s plans for a new medical centre, new seniors affordable housing, new senior’s apartments, a retirement residence, and a long-term care facility in Fonthill. Scheduled to start over the next year, these new housing and service developments are planned around the new Community Centre, Wellspring Niagara’s new Regional Cancer Support Centre, and the new stores and restaurants.

I also attended an information session about “Cannabis and Communities” – where the Provincial representatives shared that one of the “first orders of business” for a Council will be to decide whether to “opt-out” of allowing recreational cannabis retail outlets in their City or Town.

Finally, I was pleased to attend a session by representatives of Petrolia, Sioux Lookout, and East Gwillimbury about ways in which they worked with neighbouring communities to combine services to residents and businesses or find efficiencies in those services. I am committed to helping these types of discussions among the cities and towns across the Niagara Peninsula.

Not only did the AMO Conference encourage your Pelham delegates to use “best practices” and reach higher goals, we also used it as a tremendous opportunity to advance your interests with Provincial Ministries and build relationships with other municipal leaders.

You may contact Mayor Dave at and find documents and past columns at

Monday, August 20, 2018

Broad-Based Consultation for B&Bs and Vacation Properties

An overflow crowd assembled at last week’s Town Council meeting, because of concern raised in the community over “short-term rental properties.”

You see, some home-owners in the Lookout Point neighbourhood – between Haist and Lookout Streets and north of Regional Road 20 – have complained to their Ward Councillors and Town Staff about a couple of other property owners who rent-out their homes or rooms via AirBnB. These residents are concerned with increased traffic, more street parking, their own property values, noise, and of not knowing who might be renting their neighbour’s home. These residents feel like their enjoyment of their homes and properties have been impacted by the decisions of others. And, while these issues are being felt in communities across the country and around the world, these residents turned to the Town for help.

The Ward Councillors raised the matter at a June Committee meeting and Council directed Staff to work with residents to find out more and to propose a possible course of action. Staff held four meetings with residents to find out more about their concerns and to consider possible solutions.

While the Town’s Official Plan allows Bed & Breakfast facilities, the Zoning Bylaw makes no reference to B&Bs or vacation properties. Since this type of designation does not currently exist under zoning, the group suggested that the Town work toward defining these type of short-term rentals.

The key is that once the Town defines the type of use, it can regulate the use – for location, parking requirements, safety, noise, and other elements. The group also suggested that the Town learn from other communities facing these same issues.

Town Staff informed the resident group that Staff would present a report recommending a community consultation toward this approach to Council at our August 13 meeting.

A week before that report become public, a resident in that neighbourhood started an on-line petition. Someone also wrote an anonymous opinion piece that threatened that Council “intends to permit this use in every home within the town—every home, on every street, in every neighbourhood” and that Council saw this as a “new revenue stream.” These inaccurate missives suggested that people flood the Council Chamber and demand a total ban of short-term vacations rentals across the Town (which would not be legal) and also that the matter be deferred until after the election this Fall.

This anonymous “call to arms” caused panic across the Town and helped fill the Council Chamber last Monday.

Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth on what the Town had planned. In fact, Staff recommended a more broad-based community consultation begin so that the use might be defined to match the desires of our community.

During the meeting, the Town’s director of planning corrected the record and addressed the many inaccuracies and false statements that were published in an August 8, 2018, opinion column in a local newspaper and on the website. This correct information helped quell the panic of residents.

Councillors discussed the Staff report and the statement and directed that the Town undertake fulsome, broad based discussions with the community regarding this issue. Please look forward to these discussions this Fall. We will want to know where bed and breakfast establishments and vacation rentals should or should not be permitted; and if they are to be permitted, what should be the conditions? Only following that community discussion will there be a further report to Council with options on whether or not to amend the zoning bylaw and/or to introduce licensing of these uses; that will take a few months to do, depending on the feedback.

Council and I look forward to rational and constructive discussions of this issue and to a community-based solution. We also recognize the importance of the issue, since it is currently affecting folks across the Town.

Please check out the planning director’s statement, the Staff report, other documents and a video of our Council meeting at the Town’s website:

We look forward to working together with you and your neighbours to address short-term rental properties.

You may contact Mayor Dave at or read past columns at

Monday, August 13, 2018

Answering Pool, Haist Arena, and Double-Pad Questions

Since some people asked me recently about certain elements of the Meridian Community Centre, and the former Haist Street Arena, I thought I would also answer their questions here.

Business Case:
As you know, recreational and cultural services in Pelham was at a log-jam for decades. Numerous consultant reports outlined great desires and drew nice designs of community centres. However, none evaluated the operating costs nor tested the business case. It was like those former reports offered a shiny new sports car but failed to account for operating costs and whether the community could afford to drive it.

To help break the impasse, the Town hired Leisureplan International to develop a market analysis and business case study.

Indoor Pool:
Despite the desire – which still continues today – LeisurePlan recommended against including an indoor pool. They stated that demand for an indoor pool was only at 50% of that required to financially support it. This lack of sustaining demand makes sense because there are three indoor pools 5, 10 and 15 minutes from the Meridian Community Centre – at the Niagara Centre YMCA, Welland Wellness Centre, and Brock University.

LeisurePlan reported “To be financially viable, a significant annual operating subsidy would be required from the Municipality in the order of $1,000,000 per year.” This is in line with other municipal pools; the Kiwanis Aquatic Centre in in St. Catharines, for example, costs $1.6 million net per year (expenses $2.36 million; revenues $734K).

An extra $1 million for an indoor pool would mean about a 9% increase in property taxes for the average residential property, plus another 3% for financing the construction costs. Obviously, Council did not include a pool in the Centre.

Double Arena:
There are still some questioning the need for a double arena.

While LeisurePlan initially estimated that a second arena wouldn’t be financially sustainable until 2023, arena users questioned the completeness of that data and the Architectural Design Advisory Committee struggled with the feasibility of a phased design. LeisurePlan considered the missing information and concluded in June 2015 that “a second ice pad would be utilized 69%-77% during prime time” and recommended providing a second ice pad by 2018. In July 2015, Council agreed with that recommendation and directed that the design include two arenas.

It’s a good thing we did because we will exceed those demand projections for the second ice pad. The Town signed binding five-year usage agreements with local minor hockey and figure skating associations to use 100% of the Accipiter Arena and more than 90% of the Duliban Insurance Arena during prime time. (And the ice is currently being used in the Duliban; Staff plan to get the ice in the Accipiter once Lacrosse season ends this month.)

Twinning Haist Arena:
As the Town is currently decommissioning it, some folks have asked by whether the former Arena on Haist Street was ever built to be twinned.

We know that this Arena did not meet the Building Code when it was constructed; that’s why the brick cracked and the Town had to spend $120,000 to reinforce the arena walls a few years ago. And, we know that the Town scrimped on the construction in the 1970s – shrinking both the ice surface and changeroom size. Yet, this rumour prevails…

So, about four years ago, I asked a building official to examine the original plans for the Haist Street Arena to see if they gave any hints on the potential for twinning. The plans showed no indication of twinning – like you might do with hatching or marking an area “for future expansion.” Further, and more telling, had the structure been twinned, the fire / emergency exits on the East or West sides of the building would have exited right into a second rink.

Reflecting on these questions, I find solace in a quote from Winston Churchill: “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”

I am pleased that we have constructed Pelham’s new Meridian Community Centre based on a solid business case analysis and that it will serve as our community’s gathering place and recreational space for people of all ages and abilities for decades to come.

You may contact Mayor Dave at or read past columns at

Monday, August 6, 2018

Cancelling the Chair Election

Ken Seiling was re-elected in Waterloo Region, 2014.
Waterloo Region has elected the Regional Chair-at-large since 1997.
In light of the Ontario Government’s unexpected and anti-democratic announcement a week-and-a-half ago to cancel the Niagara Chair election this Fall, I filed my nomination in Pelham to become a Regional Councillor. I hope to win a seat on Council and to work together with other Councillors, residents and businesses across the peninsula to fix the Region’s integrity crisis and to create a better Niagara.

2016 Legislation:
In the Fall of 2016, 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, those watching the Municipal sector weren’t surprised.

At the time, 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 elected their Chair of Regional Council at large, or were working toward doing so.

Waterloo Region began electing their Chair 21 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 before the Ontario Legislature in 2016. 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.

When they first created Regional Governments in the 1970s, the Province also appointed the first Regional Chairs. After our first Chair (John Campbell) retired in 1985, Council appointed one of its own as Chair from Council (Wilber Dick).

This appointment process meant that the new Chair had to give up his or her seat and was appointed for the entire four-year term of Council.

In 1991 and again in 2013, Council reaffirmed this process of appointing from Council. And, since the Municipal Act states that if a Mayor were appointed as Chair he or she would have to give up his or her position on the City or Town Council, for practical purposes only elected Regional Councillors (not Mayors) put their names forward for Chair.

An Opportunity for Niagara:
With the direct election of Chair-at-large, candidates for the Chair’s position were putting together a vision that would appeal to all of Niagara. These visions were similar to the visions that Mayoral candidates present to the public – but they were for all in the peninsula.

Directly electing the Regional Chair would have helped pull the views and hopes of our Region’s citizen’s together and could have become an important and unifying force for moving Niagara forward.

I believed that it would have also helped us to work together to become more open, transparent, accountable, and democratic in Niagara.

Recent Announcement:
Sadly, the new Provincial government recently announced that they would be stripping that democratic right away from millions of voters in Niagara, Muskoka, Peel and York.

It doesn’t make sense that a Government that claims to be “for the People” removes your and other people’s right to vote and decide on our future together. And to erroneously claim that directly electing the Niagara Chair added an “additional level of government [that] competes with local municipalities” is misleading and insulting.

I had put my name forward to run for Regional Chair because hundreds of people across Niagara asked me to bring integrity back to the Region and lead the peninsula forward. To those who see the major problems our Region’s facing and the opportunities we are missing, the Government’s cancellation changes nothing. My commitment to restoring integrity to our Regional Government and bringing prosperity and compassion to people is unwavering and I will continue to work for a better Region.

You may contact Mayor Dave at or read past columns at