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  • ESSEX FREE PRESS

Council hosts roundtable to discuss an array of Town-related matters

by Sylene Argent

On Monday, Essex Council assembled to host a Committee of the Whole meeting, which provides an opportunity to have a roundtable discussion on various departmental matters.

  CAO Doug Sweet presided over the meeting, allowing Council an opportunity to discuss an array of topics, and ask questions of Administration, in a more informal manner that would not be possible through a regular Council meeting.

  Leading up to the meeting, Councillors had a chance to send a list of items they wished to speak about at the meeting. Some of the topics brought forward spoke of current or future Town policies, while others focused on infrastructure and budget priorities.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy spoke of Harrow Streetscape deficiencies and parking issues, and relayed concerns to Administration.  

  Councillor Kim Verbeek spoke of inappropriate flags and signage on private property, specifically of a political nature. She noted she has received complaints about these slogans from residents, who were most concerned about some of them being up around schools.

  Chief Building Inspector, Kevin Carter, spoke of the Sign By-Law, but also suggested not proceeding on the matter, because of the Charter of Rights.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen agreed with Carter, noting such slogans have been used for different political leaders, starting 20-years ago. He said the signs are obnoxious, but free speech is more important than a few people being offended.  

  Vander Doelen brought up his idea of extending the pier at the Colchester Harbour a couple hundred feet. He has brought this up at Council before, and realizes there are barriers to getting it done, specifically in costing and getting Ministry approval to move forward.

  He believes the extension would be great for tourism, allowing for fishing, bench areas, and walking out to the end point. He suggested, if there is interest, a 20-year program be utilized to make it work.

  Jake Morassut, Director of Community Services, said he could reach out to the Ministry to see what steps need to be done in order to accomplish that, and provide that info for Council to get an understanding of the process.

  Councillor Jason Matyi spoke of coming across stand alone, portable washroom units he learned about while at the recent AMO conference, and brought this idea forward for Council to consider in park areas that currently do not have washroom facilities.

  There were some Councillors who liked the idea to try one out eventually. CAO Doug Sweet also suggested one could be used for events as well.

Bondy asked about the process of site plans and penalties if they are not followed. Staff from the Planning Department detailed the checks and balances that goes into the process, and detailed all the phases that have to be undertaken before plans are approved.

  With Essex County being flat, Vander Doelen would like to see a pedestrian/cyclist bridge over Highway 3. He suggested a 10-year plan to implement such infrastructure, should Council want to consider it.

  Verbeek noted as part of the Highway 3 widening, the MTO will add extended active living paths at Victoria Avenue, underneath the overpass.

  Vander Doelen’s idea would connect to the existing greenway at Sadler’s Nature Park.

  Bondy also spoke of finding the future location of the new Fire Station 3 facility. At a previous Council meeting, it was suggested the Harrow Soccer Complex be used as the future site. Bondy was at an event at this site recently, and had some concerns and thoughts about this property as the future location. She added the Harrow Soccer Complex also has potential to grow as an event centre.

  She said the future location for Fire Station 3 is a big decision and hopes it will be heavily vetted. 

Morassut said the site for the future new Fire Station # 3 will be looked at as the Town begins updating the Parks and Recreation Master Plan in the coming months.

  Matyi also spoke of parking enforcement and security at the Colchester Harbour as it relates to overnight parking. He said residents have brought concerns to him about cars being parked there overnight.

  Morassut said his department is working on the Parks By-Law, which will look at addressing overnight parking.

  Bondy said she would like there to be designated overnight parking areas, so those who come from out-of-town to cycle the local trails can register to use one for a few nights. This would help promote cycle-tourism, she said.

  Following up on the meeting Council hosted with representatives of Hydro One in August, Bondy noted there was not a lot of data available for that meeting and hoped a follow-up meeting will be held to further the discussion.

  Sweet has followed up with the Hydro One reps since that August meeting, and was told they did not have much data about momentary outages and flickers, because there were limited calls from residents about them. They are planning to send a letter to residents, letting them know where they can send that information.

  They plan to return to Council in November, hopefully with more data.

Councillor Matyi asked about the process for accessible audits of Town facilities, trails, and sidewalks to ensure they continue to meet AODA requirements.

  Morassut said there are requirements the Town has to follow. There is a plan to train a staff member on facility audits, so this individual can assist with future planning, etc.

   Matyi also spoke of an idea of creating a reserve to bring infrastructure up to AODA standards that can be used to support requirements as they come up.

  Another topic Matyi suggested was possibly requiring sidewalks to be added to both sides of streets in new developments. He wondered if there was an appetite from Council to look into that.

  Staff spoke of the recently adopted Development Standards Manual, which guides developers. This could be looked at and tweaked, if Council wishes, in 2023.

  Staff also noted there would be additional costs to developers to do so, and further noted there is limited right-of-way space available.

  Councillor Vander Doelen has spoken in support of sidewalks in the past. He liked that Matyi had brought up this idea. He suggested, perhaps, instead of every street in developments being required to have sidewalks on both sides, an alternative Council could consider having that requirement on the main street in a new subdivision.

  Councillors also spoke of how sidewalks on both sides of the street could affect parking.

  Matyi and Bondy also brought up the ongoing issue of speeding in the municipality and traffic enforcement.

  Bondy said there still is not a solution to address speeding, and wanted to discuss ways to look at the matter. Matyi asked if the Town could ask for more enforcement from the police.

  Sweet noted in the 2022 Budget, Council had the option to add a traffic enforcement officer, which would have cost $190,000 per year, but it did not pass. The Town did purchase some data-capturing devices that will record where and when speeding is an issue.

  That data can be used to implement traffic calming measures and can assist police in knowing where problem areas are.

  Staff are being trained how to work the device. A report on the devices will come to Council in October.