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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Additional Essex Council Notes for Monday, December 4, 2023

by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative  

Essex Fire to use Fluent IMS Software for Open Air Burning Permits

Upon request from Essex Fire & Rescue, Council amended the by-law that regulates the setting of open air burning and identifies the precautions observed for such fires within the Town of Essex. This will allow for a change in software systems that residents will use to obtain Open Air Burning Permits.

  Jacey Brockman, Assistant Deputy Fire Chief, explained that Essex Fire & Rescue Services, as the entity responsible for issuing and approving open air burning permits, has reviewed existing software systems and have identified bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and pain points that the Fire Department and residents may face.

  Similar to the current system, the new software from Fluent IMS allows residents to apply for open air burning permits online, which streamlines the application process and makes it more convenient for residents and fire administrative staff.

  Essex Fire, he said, issues around 4000 burn permits each year to over 800 residents. Of those, around 200 residents call the office to apply for their burn permits.   

This new program will help alleviate strain on the administration, he said. This software will help reduce phone calls to possibly once per year, if help is needed setting up the account. Creating an account, he added, can be done quickly. After that, there is an automated phone line residents can call that can approve burn permits, or they can be done online.

Brockman noted that burn permits are active for 24-hours after they are applied for.

Through this new software, active burn permits are identified on a map with a “fire” icon, which is then sent to firefighters, so they can see where the open burns are taking place.

The software will also allow Essex Fire to adjust risk-level, which would be in times of drought, for instance. There is also a mass notification that will send important information to residents who have a burn permit, such as if a ban is issued.

Zones can also be created to ban burns if a certain geological area needs that, Brockman noted.

It is hoped to have this active by the end of the year.

Brockman explained that anything larger than a 2’x2’ camp fire requires a permit.

The Report to Council highlights there will be an estimated net decrease of $2,250 annually, to be realized in the Fire & Rescue Services Administration operating account in using this software.

Reduction of Performance Securities for Essex Town Centre Phase 1&5 approved

Council approved reducing the Performance Securities on file for Phase 1 and 5 of the Essex Town Centre Residential Subdivision to $1,596,249. 75.

The Essex Town Centre is a residential development in Essex Centre. Phases 1 and 5 consists of 19 single-detached dwellings and 134 townhome dwelling units. It received final approval from the Manager of Planning Services at the County of Essex, in April, 2006, the Report to Council highlights.

  Performance securities in the amount of 50% of the value of the development are held to ensure due and proper performance of the works set out in the executed Development Agreement. The developer provided a letter of credit in the amount of $3,192,499.50 prior to the construction of the required services.

  The Report to Council adds that on October 12, 2023, a walk through of the completed phases was conducted and a list of minor deficiencies were noted. All civil construction works in Phase 1 and 5 have now been completed.

 Passage of By-Law allows Essex to retain unclaimed Building Permit indemnity deposits

Essex Council passed By-Law 2286, which will allow the Town to retain unclaimed Building Permit Indemnity Deposits for building permits issued prior to July 1, 2021.

Notices will be issued to allow property owners and contractors three-months to contact the Town, allowing staff to investigate their matter.

  It notes in the Report to Council that in 2021, the Town implemented a five-year limitation period, whereby final inspection must occur within five calendar years from the date of permit issuance, otherwise the deposit is considered non-refundable and the Town retains the right to relinquish and retain the deposit.

  This limitation period was created to ensure that final inspection for issued building permits was being requested in a timely manner. This also ensures the Town is capturing the increased assessment as a result of closed building permits, ultimately leading to increased taxation revenue.

  Since By-law 2040 addresses indemnity deposits for building permits issued after July 1, 2021, a separate By-law was needed to address indemnity deposits collected and held prior to July 1, 2021, to ensure a consistent treatment for all indemnity deposits held and unclaimed.

  The potential positive impact going forward on an annual basis could be estimated at $50,000, based on the average of 2015 and 2016 in unclaimed building permit indemnity deposits.

Essex Council adopts “Protection of Highways By-Law”

After bringing the document back to the table four times, Essex Council has adopted its Protection of Highways By-Law, which details the specifics of what is not permitted to take place within the Town rights-of-way, without expressed permission from the Town.

  It also highlights exemptions; care and landscaping of Town rights-of-way; and requirements for permits. It also identifies enforcement measures.

  The existing By-Law, By-Law 135, was adopted in December of 1999 and was in need of updating to relevant standards and needs of the Town.

  Last month, Council for the Town of Essex sent the “Protection of Highways By-Law,” back to Administration for amendments, after hearing concerns from residents.

  At the time, Council directed Administration to define grass to include vegetation that promotes pollination and benefits other plants, bees, butterflies, etc. Administration was also to craft a policy for the Care in Use section of the “Protection of Highways By-Law,” to allow for planting of shrubs no taller than three-feet in Town Rights-of-way, provided that a certain distance is maintained from the property line. This was to also note residents are responsible for the plants, should the Town have to remove them to access infrastructure.  

  Essex Director of Infrastructure, Kevin Girard, presented the updated policy at the December 4 meeting.

  He explained the policy allows for landscaping in the Town’s Rights-of-way, so long as it is at least 12’ from any roadway. This would include flowers, native plants, bushes, and shrubs not taller than three-feet. It also permits loose stone, pebbles, decorative stone, or mulch under permit.

  He noted the current policy does not allow for any landscaping in the Town’s Rights-of-way. Administratively, Girard believes the proposed policy will put more residents into compliance.

  This has been an ongoing matter since it was originally introduced in January. At that time, it was recommended each individual property undergo review on a case-by-case basis for requested landscaping within the rights-of-way, allowing residents the opportunity to apply through the permitting process.

  At its October 2 regular meeting, Essex Council deferred the possible passage of By-Law 2219 “Protection of Highways By-Law,” to the October 16 meeting, after hearing concerns from the public.

  Resident Megan Irwin applauded the work done on the by-law to date in making it more environmentally and home-owner friendly. She found the 12’ parking allowance excessive. She thought 6’ would be adequate.

  Irwin also asked for an appeal process, where residents can show their plantings are not a threat to public safety and can be preserved.

  Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley asked about the 12’ requirement from the roadway. Girard said the main consideration was for parking, in addition to where sanitary sewers, watermains, and sidewalks are placed. He moved that by-law be adopted with an eight-foot restriction for the parking allowance, but keep the landscaping at 12’. That did not pass.

  Councillor Jason Matyi said the by-law has come a long way since it was first introduced. Not only does the new policy protect the Town a lot more, it includes a Care in Use policy.

  He asked if the Town could in the future offer a special permit for that 12’ road allowance that would not be allowed to be landscaped.

  Girard noted that the policy can always be revisited.

  Mayti wanted to have Administration bring back a report on moving it to the eight-foot mark and/or restricting parking to make that acceptable.

  CAO Doug Sweet noted that would need to be addressed in the Parking By-Law. Administration is working on the Parking By-Law currently.  

Essex releases post-election survey results

To gain a better understanding of the electors’ voting experience during the 2022 Town of Essex Municipal Election, Town staff hosted a survey last January. Those results were shared with Council during the December 4 meeting.

  Shelley Brown, Deputy Treasurer, explained the survey was designed to determine voting behaviour and experience, areas for improvement to engage voters, and preferred method of voting to be considered for future municipal elections.

  The survey was available from January 20 to February 10, 2023. There were 80 responses, equating to 0.5% of the eligible electors. Of respondents, 41% live in Essex Centre and 29% in Colchester. 36% were over the age of 65 and 30% were between 50-59-years-old.

  Engaging the younger population has been a challenge, Brown noted. Based on the results of this survey, more work is needed in this regard. Through the survey, it was learned 53% of respondents did not have any difficulty finding information on candidates, 17% had trouble finding info on where to vote, 54% noted they preferred casting ballots in-person at voting locations with a paper ballot, while 25% voiced preference for voting remotely with via the internet/online.

  Of the 80 people who completed the survey, only six indicated that they had difficulty understanding where and when they could vote. Election officials will continue to monitor to ensure eligible voters are fully informed, the Report to Council notes.

  Two advance voting locations were held on Saturdays from 8am to 4:00 pm, and two advance voting locations were held on Wednesdays from 12pm to 8pm. 45% of respondents noted they were either very satisfied or satisfied with that.

  Voter turnout in 2022 was 41.1%, the lowest percent in many years, compared to 45% in 2018, 51.3% in 2014, 52.6% in 2010, 48.4% in 2006, 40.9% in 2003, and 48.6% in 2000.

  Voting was done in-person all those years, with mail in ballots available in 2010 and 2014.

  Brown noted there was a province-wide slowdown with the voter list management software used on Election Day. Election officials enacted their manual protocol for adding, amending, and recording electors. The Clerks staff is exploring various options for the 2026 municipal election.

  Information collected through the survey will provide valuable information to assist in the planning process for the 2026 Town of Essex Municipal Election.

  The Colchester Community Centre is a fully accessible municipal building with ample parking. Due to a large voter turnout and limited space within the building, voters were required to wait outside prior to casting their vote. Residents expressed their concerns regarding this and as a result, election officials will explore other options for this Ward in 2026, the Report highlights.

  Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley hopes the Town will look at internet voting in the next municipal election and hopes that would boost voter turnout.

  Brown recommends Council host another survey before the next election to further engage residents.

 Civil Marriage fee approved

Council voted that civil marriage officiants appointed to perform marriages on behalf of the Town of Essex be permitted to charge $400 per civil marriage ceremony and mileage at a rate of $0.68 per kilometre for 2024.

  In addition, the mileage rate charged by the civil marriage officiants will be amended yearly to reflect the amount based on the Automobile Allowance Rate set by the Government of Canada.

 Appeals Committee being created

Council moved a variety of recommendations to work towards creating an Appeals Committee, permitting the Town of Essex to separate the quasi-judicial functions from the legislative and executive functions of the municipality.

  It provisionally adopted By-Law 2237 during its December 4 meeting, establishing and delegating certain powers to the Town of Essex Appeals Committee and amending various by-laws for such purpose. It also moved to dissolve the current Property Standards Committee upon the publishing of a Notice of Hearing of the Appeals Committee; approved and adopted the proposed Terms of Reference for the Appeals Committee, and directed Administration to incorporate the fees and charges.

  In addition, Council approved a per diem of $125 per meeting attended for all members of the Appeals Committee, except the Chairperson, who will receive a per diem of $225 per meeting.

  Administration was directed to seek members of the public to fill positions on the Appeals Committee and to call a meeting to convene the Striking Committee for the purposes of making recommendations to Council on the individuals to be appointed.

  It is recommended that the Appeals Committee be comprised of five members of the public, including the Chairperson, who are not members of Council or a municipal employee of the Town. After recommendations have been made to Council by the Striking Committee, individuals would be appointed by Council coinciding with the term of office for Council.

  The Report to Council notes the proposed By-Law No. 2237 delegates the power and duties to hear appeals filed in accordance with the Property Standards By-Law, Animal Care and Control By-Law, Kennel Licensing By-Law, Short Term Rental Unit By-Law, Taxicab Licensing By-Law, Fortification By-Law, and Tree Management By-Law No.

Council allocates monies to clean business windows after Streetscape for upcoming event

Essex Council moved Councillor Katie McGuire-Blais’s motion to spend Council Contingency funds to have the main floor commercial business property windows that are in the Essex Streetscape construction area cleaned before businesses host a Midnight Madness sale on December 14.

  McGuire-Blais received a quote of $4957.88 to complete the work.

  Council moved an upper budget-limit of $5000 for the initiative, after hearing Kevin Girard, Director of Infrastructure, note the Town would have to obtain the quote as per the Procurement Policy.

  There is $13,761 remaining in the Council Contingency Fund.

  McGuire-Blais said the BIA would be happy to coordinate a list of businesses that wanted this done.

  She noted it was not known if the BIA had funds to assist with the project, if the quotes came back higher than the $5000.

  According to the Essex Centre BIA’s Constitution, as per section 220 of the Municipal Act, BIA funds can only be used for improvements to publicly owned property, not individual businesses or private properties.


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