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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council meeting - Monday, February 1, 2021

by Sylene Argent and Adam Gault

Digital radio-communication system contract extended

Essex Council approved extending the radio-communication system contract with Kelcom Co. Ltd. for an additional three years.

  The Report to Council notes the current lease agreement is scheduled to expire in February of 2021. It notes in 2019, contracts with Kelcom were extended for two-years, and the four involved local fire departments agreed to collectively conduct a review and analysis of current and future needs.

  The Report to Council continues the Fire Chiefs, who participate together, along with potential new partners, have determined more time is necessary to properly investigate other potential requirements and changes and associated costing.

  Kelcom has confirmed all of the required changes identified can be accommodated. In addition, Kelcom is willing to extend the current agreement conditions for an additional three-years to and is working on user gear upgrades that would be needed and provide information back to the Chiefs.

  Essex Fire Chief Rick Arnel said the monthly fee of $39 per radio, of which there is around 45, and $704 per month for paging support. This would be approximately $30,000 per year.


Council hears 2020 CIP summery

Essex Council received a Community Improvement Plans (CIP) update, which highlighted 2020 projects.

  The Town of Essex CIP program is a municipal grant program for commercial businesses, in pre-determined boundaries. It offers a variety of programs to support commercial initiatives.

  Last year, the Report to Council notes, there was a high level of interest in the CIP program for Harrow and Colchester. $100,000 was budget for the Harrow and Colchester program and for the Essex Centre program. The Harrow and Colchester program was extended up to $66,107.46 from the Harrow and Colchester CIP Reserves at the September 8, 2020 meeting to accommodate the additional interest.

  In the Harrow and Colchester/County Road 50 CIP program, $144,598.57 was issued. In Essex Centre, $72,055.21 was issues for CIP grants.

  Unspent funds from the CIP programs are transferred to reserve at year-end, and are budgeted as revenue to offset the following year’s costs.


Council appoints Stantec Consulting Ltd. for Essex Streetscaping engineering services

Essex Council approved appointing Stantec Consulting LTD to provide the engineering services for the Essex Streetscaping project for the amount of $347,286.53.

  This will be to design, assist in procurement, and administer the Essex Streetscaping project.

  Stantec was selected as the engineer for the Essex Centre project as it holds the same position on the Harrow Streetscape project. The Report to Council notes, many of those design aspects in the Harrow project will be replicated in the Essex Centre Streetscaping project.

  Stantec’s total estimate of fees for engineering services for the Essex Centre Streetscape is $685,780.99; of this, $347,286.53 is for design and tendering services, and $338,494.46 is for construction and administration services.

  In the Report to Council, it notes $460,000 was budgeted for the design and tendering services for this project. The unspent funds of $112,713.47 will remain unspent to offset the construction and administrative engineering services fees associated with the future construction.

  The additional engineering expenses of $338,494.46 will be included in the 2022 capital budget Request, along with the construction costs, which will require Council approval during 2022 Budget deliberations.


 Council makes decision on loading zone in Essex Centre

Essex Council amended Bylaw 224, as recommended, to provide for loading zone parking spaces on Centre Street, from approximately 34m west of Talbot Street North to approximately 48m west of Talbot Street North, and on Wilson Avenue from approximately 22m east of Talbot Street North to approximately 30m east of Talbot Street North. This will be effective from Monday to Saturday, between 8:30am to 11:30am, with holidays excepted.

  At the November 16, 2020 meeting, Tim O’Hagan, of the Essex St. Vincent de Paul, requested Council consider creating new loading zone parking space on Centre Street. Administration was directed to review the situation and return to Council with a proposed amending by-law.

  After reviewing other historical loading zones within Downtown Essex Centre, it was discovered that the Town currently has a designated loading zone on Wilson Avenue, adjacent to 61 Talbot Street North, the Report to Council notes.


Admin to review Heritage Committee requests

At its Thursday, January 14 meeting, members of the Essex Municipal Heritage Committee passed the following recommendations regarding the sale of land with historical significance and in regards to the Colchester Schoolhouse for Council’s consideration.

  The recommendations include, in short, that:

•  Council promptly revise Bylaw 855, which is related to the sale of surplus lands, to provide special recognition, protections, and safeguards for publicly-owned property of cultural heritage significance. And, that there be enhanced public notice requirements with extended periods of public consultation.

• That Council defer the sale of the schoolhouse property until such time other organizations, including the to be created “Friends of Colchester Schoolhouse” have an opportunity to organize and review their options.  

• The Heritage Committee recommends Council proceed with Designating the Colchester Schoolhouse under the Ontario Heritage Act.

  In regards to the potential sale of the Colchester Schoolhouse, Council asked developers to hit the pause button at the January 18 meeting. The request was to ask the proponents to extend the deadline for Council to pass bylaws, in regards to the potential sale, from the end of January to March 15.

  Council declared the Colchester Schoolhouse as surplus at the December 7 meeting.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman put forward the motion to receive the minutes and have administration to report back on each of the three recommendations. Council approved.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said these are Council decisions and are adding more work for administration.  


  Council approves removing ice from two rinks

Doug Sweet, Director of Community Service/Deputy CAO, asked Council to consider removing ice from two of the Town’s three rinks, specifically at the Harrow Arena and the Shaheen pad at the Essex Centre Sports Complex. This would take place this week.

  With having some user groups cancel their seasons, he said administration believes one ice pad would be sufficient. He suspects it would remain until April, but only if the need is there.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said it is something the Town should do to be fiscally responsible, but it is sad to have to do so.

  Council approved the request.


Youth Council reps appointed

Council received four applications for one opening for the position of Youth Council rep. Councillor Kim Verbeek suggested putting names in a hat to chose the rep. As a result, Edua Marczinko was drawn.

  Council will send a note to the other applicants to thank them for applying. There are two Youth Council reps.


NoM: Town to explore Victoria Ave restoration

Essex council has approved a Notice of Motion put forward by Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche that requests Administration explore the option of restoring Victoria Avenue as part of the Downtown Essex Centre Revitalization project.

Meloche put forward the Notice of Motion, noting the high state of disrepair of Victoria Avenue, adding that it was not an ideal state for one of the town’s premier routes.

A project of this magnitude would include a full depth pavement removal, stormwater drainage repairs, and the installation of a multi-use trail from Talbot to South Talbot to connect to the active transportation network.

Partial funding for the project could come from various Town reserves, as well as the gas tax.

Administration will now explore the total design and construction cost, and it would potentially be approved as part of the 2022 municipal budget as part of the streetscape plan.


NoM: Drainage Billing Report approved

Seeking additional transparency on the matter of municipal drainage costs, Council has requested that Administration prepare a Drainage Billings Report for March 2021, in order to get a full review on the Town of Essex’s financial standing on drainage bills.

NoM: Review of Property Development Standards sought by Council

A Notice of Motion, put forward by Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche, seeking Administration to review the Town’s Property Development Standards, was passed Monday night.

With smaller backyards being part of some new developments, there are concerns surrounding privacy issues of abutting properties, and this review would seek to address that by limiting structure heights based on the size of the yard.

“We’d had a couple of developments in Essex Centre, because the yards are so high, they’re so close, 10 or 15 feet of backyard,” Meloche explained, noting that with some new condo developments, second storey units look straight down into established homes and backyards. “If we’re going to allow for shorter backyards, [we] need to take away some of the height of the [new] house, so that there’s not this overview of the other person’s property.”

The details of the Notice of Motion state that, “If a builder has been given relief on yard depths, including any side yard, as compared to our standards, that the type of home built on the property be thereby limited to one story, meaning no second story and/or back split; and, as well, the shortened requirement would be inclusive of any allowable additional structure, such as a deck that may be permitted as part of the new structure.”

Council will wait for a report from administration on the issue before voting on changes to municipal property standards.


NoM: Declaring Cultural or Historical Property Surplus

Councillor Sherry Bondy put forward a Notice of Motion at the January 18 meeting that when considering declaring public property surplus that has cultural or historic value, the public is first consulted by means of social media, newspaper, the town website, open houses, public meetings, etc. And, when properties are deemed to have heritage value, the Heritage Committee is also given notice and time to provide a recommendation to Council.

  The issue was discussed during Monday’s meeting.

  Bondy said there are public properties with heritage or cultural value. Declaring the schoolhouse surplus, she said, was a lesson learned and wanted to see if Council had an appetite to put such a policy in place.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche explained there are a few such properties, but noted it is the sensitivity around these types of properties that is trying to be addressed through this motion. He thought this was a good first step when moving on such assets.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said the Council shouldn’t want to create more bureaucracy or to hamstring future councils if they need to make an emergency decision. He said this motion would be unnecessary.

  CAO Chris Nepszy said the Town does not have definitions on heritage or cultural value, so he wanted clarification.

  Nepszy added it is in the Strategic Plan to develop a surplus property strategy, which has become a larger project. It will come to Council in the second or third quarter.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman said he thinks this needs to be started. In order to begin why not start with listed or designated properties as they are easily identifiable. Council can move to cultural significant properties. Bondy agreed with that.

  The motion was altered to include historically “designated or listed” properties.

  In a recorded vote: Councillors Bondy, Bowman, Garon, Verbeek, and Bjorkman, and Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche, were in support.

  Councillor Vander Doelen and Mayor Snively were opposed.

NoM: having third reading of bylaws for public property surplus at following meeting

  Councillor Sherry Bondy asked Council to consider that two readings be given to by-laws for designating public property surplus, followed by a third and final reading on the next agenda, to guarantee public notice and transparency.

  Councillor Morley Bowman said he was going to oppose this. He said most surplus sales are small pieces, usually sold to abutting neighbours. This would put another block in moving forward on the process. He believes Council has the ability to request the third reading take place at a following meeting, anyway.

  Councillor Bondy said during the last term of Council, it was talked about how things when matters are contentious, they are given two readings at one meeting, and the third at the next. “We shouldn’t be doing so quickly,” she said, adding the intent of her motion is to create a healthy pause for public feedback and transparency.

  In a recorded vote, Councillors Bondy, Verbeek, and Bjorkman, and Deputy Mayor Meloche, were in support. Councillors Vander Doelen, Bowman, and Garon, and Mayor Snively, opposed. The motion failed.


 NoM: Deferred

Councillor Sherry Bondy deferred her two remaining Notices of Motion to the Tuesday, February 16 meeting.

  They will have Council consider:

• When deeming public property as surplus, such property will be sold by request for proposal and/or listed on the open market to ensure that properties are sold in a transparent manner and for the highest price.

• Establishing an Ad-Hoc committee to come together to propose regulations and policies around Short Term Rental accommodations in the Town of Essex.

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