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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Council hosts Committee of the Whole to discuss a variety of topics

by Sylene Argent

On Monday evening, Essex Council hosted a Committee of the Whole meeting as a way to facilitate discussion on a myriad of Town-related topics, including affordable and attainable housing, road works, McGregor infrastructure, Co-An Park, and the future Essex Centre Sports Fields.

  CAO Doug Sweet was appointed the Presiding Officer of the meeting, ensuring each topic of discussion (submitted prior to the meeting by Council members) did not exceed 15-minutes.

 Affordable and Attainable Housing:

Councillor Sherry Bondy brought this topic forward, hoping the Town could create a task force or working group to assist Administration in liaising with the public on the matter.

  She said it seems people are interested in tiny homes. She spoke of possibly looking at the zoning to allow modular homes on Klies Beach as the area is at 30 percent sewage capacity.

  Director of Development Services, Lori Chadwick, said the attainable and affordable housing topic is not limited to the Town of Essex. It is something many municipalities across the province are discussing.

  The question is what can municipalities do to encourage development of more attainable dwelling units.     

  She said Administration is considering starting a focus group instead of a task force, to be a little more informal and provide the ability to streamline ideas more quickly.

  Ideas could include tiny homes, moving from seasonal to year-round zoning, limiting Short Term Rental numbers to encourage more dwellings, and removing the R.1 distinction for more inclusive zoning.  

  All of those ideas will be summarized in a report to Council that has been drafted and is currently being reviewed by members of Senior Administration. It will then be brought to Council for discussion and consideration.

  “That report will identify our ideas and what we feel will be beneficial to the municipality, and is also inline with changing legislation,” Chadwick said, adding it will include a timeline for the action items.

  Councillor Chris Vander Dolen wondered if some of the barriers to develop can be removed. He said builders and developers have told him the red tape to build has become onerous. This could include allowing studies to be conducted at the same time, instead of one at a time.

  Chadwick said the removal of barriers is a hot topic with Bill 109, More Homes for Everyone Act, 2022. Municipalities will need to implement a lot of changes in the form of Site Plan Control by-laws.  

  Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman said more housing will create more attainable and affordable housing.

  “One of the things I think we need to do is encourage and embrace vertical building,” he said.  This is something that can be acted upon quickly and create a rush of housing.

  He noted the City of Windsor holds the purse when it comes to the Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation. “If we want to help people get into affordable housing and attainable housing, that is an organization we have to work with.”

  Partnerships are important to bring in funding to increase opportunities for attainable and affordable housing, he added.

After Hour Bylaw Enforcement

Councillor Sherry Bondy said she believes the OPP is responding to too many by-law calls. She wondered if there could be a by-law enforcement position created for the Town, or if someone could be on contract until 10pm at night to respond to calls for parking or dogs barking.

  CAO Doug Sweet said Administration is trying to be proactive and surveyed other municipalities to see how many By-Law Officers they had and what hours they worked. The Town is also exploring a possible partnership with St. Clair College, and getting part-time By-Law Enforcements in the future. This would be municipal-wide and not just at the Harbour during the busy season.

  He said By-Law Enforcement will approach Council twice a year to provide an update on calls.

  Director of Development Services, Lori Chadwick, said information sharing is quite important when it comes to forming an enforcement plan, and urged Council and residents to use the Town’s Report a Problem tool to do so.

  She said the Short Term Rental platform will be shared with the OPP, so the enforcement plan on the matter will include this file. All the information will be provided on a web-base software for tracking purposes.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek was glad to hear the Town was seeking a solution.

  Councillor Morley Bowman said the real issue is staffing moving forward.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen would like to see red tape removed as sometimes residents have a tough time finding out who they are to complain to for certain issues, and sometimes organizations say complaints fall under another organization’s umbrella.

  Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman believes the Town is at the point where Council needs to define the level of services needed and explore if existing staff can provide that. 


Road Work Projects and Timelines

Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman said in conversations with other Councillors, it was noted the Town’s road work program has slowed down.

  “When we look at our carry-forwards that have come into this year’s budget, and you look at the number of projects that have to be done, you start to question how we can possibly get all these done. And when the next Council comes along, and they decide on what their roads budget is going to be, is there going to be a problem,” he said.

  Director of Infrastructure Services, Kevin Girard, said there are a lot of challenges with proceeding with projects, especially through COVID, which has created some supply chain issues.  

  A lot of the projects the Town completes on an annual basis in-house tend to get completed on time, he said. This is because those projects typically do not deal with a third party and things out of the Town’s control.

  When the budget for road works gets put together annually, Administration does consider the number of carry-forward projects. Because of that, he does not believe that is something Council needs to worry about.

  The number of projects the Town is undertaking is increasing, which includes two large streetscape projects, with the same number of people and Project Manager.

  A model Administration is considering moving forward is multi-year budgeting for projects that will occur over several years. He added shovel-ready projects allows the Town to be eligible for more grants.

  Girard noted the Highway 3 widening project is progressing well. He said the MTO has noted the project is on schedule and intends to complete the project by the end of 2023 and make a full closure of the Victoria Avenue intersection this fall.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy liked the idea of multi-year budgeting as she would still like some kind of a roads plan, so she can relay upcoming project info to residents when they ask questions.

  Councillor Morley Bowman likes the shovel-ready approach to be prepared for potential grants. He said though it would be nice to have some kind of roads plan, it is difficult to pinpoint because the needs of roads change as they deteriorate at different rates.

  Councillor Joe Garon had concerns with the Hanlan Street extension with the Highway 3 project planned to be completed by the end of 2023. He wondered if the Town had a plan in place to complete the extension project.

  Girard said the Town is working with the MTO and developer for which the extension will pass through to formalize agreements. It is a priority project for Administration.

  Garon also asked about the work planned for Victoria Avenue as part of the Essex Centre Streetscape. Girard said Council will get a report in May regarding this streetscape that will include timeframes. Phasing for the project has not been determined as of yet.

Parking Sign Addition Process

Councillor Sherry Bondy said she has been getting questions about the process of instituting parking signs and concerns with reduced sightlines in certain areas due to on-street parking.

  Councillor Joe Garon said in some instances, there is a need for signage. He said it is known there are laws out there, prohibiting parking on the street in certain areas, but signage sometimes helps people abide by those laws.

  CAO Doug Sweet said the Town just can’t put signs up. The Parking By-Law needs to be followed. That way, by-law enforcement and OPP can enforce it.

  Director of Infrastructure Services, Kevin Girard, said parking is a highly contentious topic. In making changes to parking, not everyone will be happy.  

  In terms of traffic related requests, the Town looks at making potential changes annually, in the summer of every year.


McGregor Infrastructure Update

Councillor Kim Verbeek said there is new development coming to McGregor, and it has been heard developments are on hold because of lack of capacity for wastewater and sewage. She has talked about possibly expanding the McGregor Settlement Area in the Town’s Official Plan with staff as there is demand to develop there.

  She wondered how the capacity issues would be addressed.

  Director of Infrastructure Services, Kevin Girard, said Essex staff met with reps from the Town of Amherstburg to discuss the area’s future servicing needs, as McGregor uses Amherstburg’s sewage infrastructure.

  As part of that discussion, he said, needs have to be identified through an Environmental Assessment. Both Towns agreed this study needs to proceed to develop a plan to move forward. An agreement is being drafted as to spell out obligations for both Towns to do so.


 Animal Control Bylaw

Councillor Sherry Bondy brought this topic forward, noting around a year ago the Better Laws for Paws group came to Council and a motion was passed to receive the presentation and discuss the topic at a roundtable meeting of Council.

  She said Council has changed the tethering limit, but she wanted to have further discussion on animal welfare, asking if the Lakeshore Dog Pound model is working for Essex or how to issue dog kennel licenses.

  Director of Legislative Services/Clerk, Robert Auger, said the Dog Pound model should be looked at as it is healthy to review formats and how they are working for the Town.

  In terms of the Animal By-law, Administration has been completing a comprehensive review for the past six-years. It has been a number of years since it has been reviewed thoroughly. Auger said staff is looking at addressing changes or expanding the authority of the Animal Control Officer, possibly to include investigating noise-related complaints.

  Staff is also looking at requirements surrounding issuing kennel licenses and their yearly renewal. Staff is looking to review dangerous dog definitions and provisions, including appealing those revisions, provisions surrounding the Town’s Trap, Neuter, Release program for free-roaming cats and formalizing those regulations, and reviewing enforcement provisions.


 Light Pollution and Smell Bylaw for Greenhouses

Councillor Kim Verbeek wanted to ensure a report was on the way to address light pollution and smell in regards to greenhouse operations.

  Director of Legislative Services/Clerk, Robert Auger, said a report on the matter is forthcoming. Staff is looking at a few components, including being inline with the best practices outlined through the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association’s Light Abatement Policy.

  He hopes a by-law will be before Council by the end of the year.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy does not want to rely on the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association’s best policies. Global light pollution is affecting ecosystems, she said, and as such this issue should be incorporated into the Town’s Climate Change plan.


 Committee of Adjustment Mileage

Councillor Sherry Bondy believes if the Town wants its members on the Committee of Adjustment to go out to conduct site visits, with the cost of gas, covering mileage would be a courtesy.

  Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, Kate Giurissevich, said there is a remuneration review scheduled for this year and per diem amounts will be reviewed.

  Mayor Richard Meloche said he sat on this Committee before and was told the per diem members receive is to cover that mileage to visit sites for which an application with requests has been submitted.


 Kinsmen Fieldhouse Lease – Accessible Washroom(s)

Councillor Sherry Bondy said the organization leasing the former Kinsmen Fieldhouse, LIFE, could use an accessible bathroom to accommodate some of its members. She would like Council to solve the issue and would like an action plan to address the situation.

Director of Community Services, Jake Morassut, said traditionally, lease agreements are based on as is. Of course, needs can change.

  Some of the things being looked at to make the facility more accessible is installing a beam to widen the bathroom, as a wall would need to be removed to provide radius space for an accessible washroom. In addition, the doorway would need to be widened to accommodate a wheelchair and an automatic push-button to open the door would need to be installed, Morassut said.

  He said the quote he received for the work was around $15,000.

  The matter can be brought to the 2023 budget, he added. The Town will apply for a grant to try and get funding for the project.

  In the short-term, the project needs to go in the budget. In the long-term, Council needs to look at what it wants to do with that facility, Councillor Morley Bowman said.  

  Bondy said she would like to see this done sooner rather than later, and would like to see it brought up at Council to see if there is money in the Council Contingency Fund, for example, to complete the project.

  She put a Notice of Motion forward for the next regular meeting for Council to consider using dollars in the Contingency Fund or grant money to complete the project.


Co-An Park Update

Councillor Kim Verbeek asked for an update on Co-An Park matters.

  Director of Community Services, Jake Morassut, said he has been in contact with reps of Amherstburg, which cost shares on the park with Essex, and it will work on a Master Plan for the facility this year. Last year, Essex undertook a topographical survey for the park.

  In the next couple of months, there will be public consultation sessions on the matter to get the master plan formalized. This will include existing amenities and possible future infrastructure. It is a high priority project for both municipalities, he said.

  CAO Doug Sweet said Amherstburg has also put funding in its proposed 2023 Budget for a future splashpad. Essex has funds put away for this project as well.


 Essex Centre Sport Fields Update

Councillor Joe Garon said the Town should consider getting a sports field fundraising group together to raise money for the future facility that will be located on the southside of Highway 3. He said the community needs to drive this, and he is willing to help with the group.

  Jake Morassut, Director of Community Services, said the Town could receive a grant for the project. The Town is currently working with the architect to ensure the project is shovel ready, so if a grant, or funds through other means, is received, there will be a short turnaround.

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