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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council meeting notes - August 14, 2023


by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative

Residents share concerns with lack of swings in Stanton Park playground design

Administration will come back to Council with a budgeted amount that it would cost to add additional swings to the Stanton Court Playground design.


Back in June, residents were asked to provide feedback on a future Stanton Court playground. They were given an opportunity to vote on a preferred design plan from a few different possibilities.


Resident Dana Williams explained they were aware a new playground was being built, but it was hard to interpret the designs. At the time of selecting a design, residents didn’t realize the number of swings would be reduced.


There are currently two sets of swings, one of which is for infants and the other for older children.


“They are used regularly, daily by kids of all ages,” she said. “They are the primary piece of playground equipment used in that park.”


It wasn’t until after residents had the chance to vote on a design that one of the residents realized the new design offers only three swings, one for older children, one that is accessible, and the third for infants. Had residents noticed that, they likely would have changed their mind when voting, she said.


Williams asked if new swings could be added to the current design, if the current swings could be kept until a plan can be developed to get more, or if the current swings could be fixed.


Jake Morassut, Director of Community Services, noted the Town has been replacing playgrounds according to the 2015 Parks and Recreation Master Plan, based on priority-needs. The Stanton Park Playground was installed in 1988, since then measures have been implemented for safety.


He added a third-party report was completed in 2019, and it was determined the swings, in addition to other components, do not meet current CSA standards.


Over 1200 votes from the community were cast on the Stanton Court playground design, Morassut noted, with the selected design overwhelmingly supported. If Council directs Administration to add swings, that could be brought forward at future budget processes. For legality issues, he suggested holding off on that until the tender is in place.


If the Town wanted to add four additional swings with the rubber flooring, he suspected it would cost somewhere around $40,000.


Councillors Katie McGuire-Blais and Joe Garon expressed concern on how this particular playground was deemed to not meet CSA standards in 2019 and how it was still operational.


Morassut noted the Town has been repairing and replacing playgrounds on a priority-basis. The intention is to have this particular playground installed in the early spring. Removal of existing equipment will take place at that time.


CAO Doug Sweet added that often playgrounds can be maintained if it does not meet code for accessibility, until repairs or renovations have to happen.


Councillor Kim Verbeek asked if there is an opportunity to take out some of the other features and replace them with swings, without compromising accessibility features.

Adding the swings may be difficult to justify financially, Verbeek noted, as Morassut pointed out this playground is costing $25,000 more than the others previously installed, due to inflation.


Morassut noted the purchase order has been issued, so changing the design is not possible. Even if it was not ordered, the Town cannot just pick and choose aspects of the designs submitted.


He noted that in the past, special interest groups have raised funds to add amenities to their infrastructure, such as for the Essex Centre Dog Park.


Williams said Stanton Court is a “little community within a community,” and believes doing some fundraising to assist with adding swings to the playground design would be possible. Sweet added the Town will also continue to look for funding resources, as well.


Mayor Sherry Bondy loves that the Town provides the opportunity for residents to choose a design, but they do not have a say in what goes into those designs.


Essex to formulate terms of reference to create Santa’s Village Committee of Council

Last year’s Santa’s Village and Market, which took place following the annual Essex Centre Santa Claus Parade in Heritage Gardens Park, was a huge success.


Event Organizer, Rich Tapping – who also sits on the Essex Festival Committee that oversees the annual Essex Fun Fest – hoped the Santa’s Village organizing committee could become an official Committee of Essex Council. He also asked that Council approve the event, so it could be held again this December.


After hearing the delegation, Council moved to have Administration draft a report on the matter with terms and references for the committee.


In addition, Council moved that Administration prepare a proposed post-2023 Budget. The plan is that the event would break-even with sponsorships, but there will be costs-associated with administrative resources in creating the committee.


Last year’s organizing committee members “were overwhelmed with the response” during the inaugural event, Tapping said, adding that thanks to sponsors, the event operated on a balanced $10,000 budget.


“We were very proud to be able to deliver that and to be able to provide that to the community at that cost, thanks to the sponsors and volunteers,” Tapping said.

The vision is to have the event grow to be a big attraction. By making it a Committee of Council, he said that would help immensely with logistics and administration of the event as it grows.


Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley attended the event last year and noted it was well done. He asked what it would cost to operate, if the Town was to take it over through forming an official Committee of Council to oversee the event.


He hoped the draft terms and references and post-2023 budget could be presented as soon as possible for the committee members.


Tapping said the intention would be to run it as it was last year, and how the Fun Fest operates, on a zero-base budget.


Director of Community Services, Jake Morassut, explained his understanding of the Santa’s Village is that organizers get sponsorship ahead of time, and they spend what they can on the event, based on what they collect in sponsorships.


He added the Town already assists with these types of events, and there could be synergies with the Fun Fest, for example.


Councillor Joe Garon noted it could be difficult for this committee to get sponsorships without a corporate identity behind it. He loves the idea. He did ask about staff resources.

In addition, Council also approved the hosting of the event for this year.


Council approves Site-Specific Zoning Amendment for 199 Irwin

At the Monday, July 24 meeting, Council learned of a request for a Site-Specific Zoning Amendment for 199 Irwin Avenue.


The property has been divided into equally sized residential lots, and is zoned Residential District R1.1, for low density residential use. The request was to allow a semi-detached dwelling unit on each of the two newly created lots. They have a width of over 67-feet, exceeding the typical requirement of 60-feet.


During the meeting, Council heard from delegates, who had concerns with parking in relation to this request and how that could impact the area.


Director of Development Services, Lori Chadwick, explained at that time the parking requirement had been exceeded, with 1.5 parking spaces proposed per unit. One parking space is the requirement.


Greg Yzerman, one of the property owners, commented at that meeting that the goal would be to utilize as much space up front for the driveway. He said they will go as wide as they can to accommodate parking.


Council was to make a decision on this matter on Monday evening.


Council approved By-law Numbers 2262 and 2263, to amend the Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw for the Town of Essex, to permit a semi-detached dwelling on Part 1 and Part 2 of Registered Plan 12R-29406, currently identified as 199 Irwin Avenue.

Statutory meeting to be held to introduce proposed changes to parking requirements in Essex’s Zoning By-Law

Essex Council will hold a statutory public meeting to introduce proposed changes to the Town of Essex Zoning By-Law, Number 1037, after receiving a report from Development Services’ department that reviewed residential parking requirements.


In June of last year, the previous Term of Council directed Town staff to review parking requirements in the Town’s Zoning By-Law for multi-residential developments.


Lori Chadwick, Director of Development Services, noted town Administration augmented this review to also include parking requirements for single-detached, semi-detached, and townhome dwellings.


She noted that in the 2023-2027 Strategic Plan, it was outlined that one of Council’s goals was to establish areas within the Town where higher density housing options are encouraged, and identify areas within the Town where the development of mixed-use buildings should be encouraged.


Currently, in multi-residential dwellings, there is a requirement of 1.25 parking spaces per dwelling unit, of which 15% must be reserved for visitor parking.

For multi-residential dwellings, Chadwick outlined Administration was recommending the separation of visitor parking from required tenant parking as additional parking spaces.


They also recommended basing tenant parking requirements on the number of bedrooms of one parking space per studio or one-bedroom unit, 1.5 parking spaces per one bedroom with den or two-bedroom unit, and two parking spaces per three-bedroom unit.

In addition, single-detached, semi-detached, Townhomes, and Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs) currently require one parking space.


Chadwick outlined that municipalities must permit up to two ADUs per main dwelling unit and must permit tandem parking.


For singles, semi-detached, and ADUs, she recommended Council recognize parking in the required front yard as required parking spaces, allow for additional pavement in the required front yard, but set landscaping minimums of 30% for lots having a width of less than 12m, 40% for a lot width of 12-15m, and 50% for a lot width of greater than 15m.

She also recommended Council maintain current requirements for the number of parking spaces per dwelling unit.


Information about the statutory public meeting to introduce these proposed changes will be provided in the near future.


Councillor Katie McGuire-Blais liked the report and recommendations, but did have concerns with recognizing parking in a required front yard as required parking spaces. In new subdivisions, she said people are already parking there and people are still parking on the street. She does not believe it will necessarily solve the problem. Because of that, she would like to see that removed.


She said it may come to developers having to provide parking lots within a subdivision.

Chadwick said there is a trend with developments coming forward with smaller lots, and ADUs. Not allowing parking in the required front yard could potentially turn down an application for an ADU.


Councillor Jason Matyi is looking forward to what residents will say on the recommendations. He asked if there can be separation between rural and urban areas.

Manager of Planning Services, Rita Jabbour, said that is possible.


After the public meeting, Chadwick said Administration will report back to Council with proposed amendments, based on public feedback. Council can consider and make further amendments at that time.


Report a Problem update for second quarter of 2023 received

Essex Council received the update for the second quarter of 2023 for the Report a Problem online portal.


The Report to Council notes between April 1, 2023 and June 30, 2023, Town staff received a total of 436 submissions via the online Report a Problem portal. The top complaint regarded roads, sidewalks, and bridges, with 99 submissions; followed by 55 submissions for property standards; 46 submissions for parks, playgrounds, and harbour/beach; and 44 submissions regarding hazard trees and branches.


The Report to Council adds of all submissions, 30 percent were closed within three-days or less, and 69 percent were closed within 14-days or less. 49 are categorized as pending.

Councillor Katie McGuire-Blais noted she would like to see the information provided in real-time, so Councillors can log onto a database and relay information back to residents, instead of having to contact Administration to gather details.


CAO Doug Sweet said Council could send the message to residents to give it three-business days to get a response. Once new software comes out, he is sure there will be tools available to get more information to Council, but that is not available now.


Mayor Sherry Bondy said she had spoken to the CAO about an annual Report a Problem report, so Council can compare issues brought up from one year to the next, which could help identify common themes and take note if more resources needed to be targeted to specific areas.


Bi-Annual By-law Enforcement Report received

Council received the Bi-Annual By-law Enforcement Report, which illustrates the enforcement conducted among various municipal by-laws between January to the end of June 2023.


The By-Law Department investigated 158 issues, and closed 133. There are 25 active issues. Of the issues investigated, 146 were complaint-driven and 12 were driven by the By-Law Department.


In addition, of the complaints brought to the department, 73 were relayed by phone, 43 by the Report a Problem online portal, 29 through email, and one was made in-person.


Of the 158 investigated cases, 122 fell under the Property Standards By-law, with the main offences consisting of tall grass, weeds, and exterior property debris.


June 2023 shows 123.5% decrease in construction value, compared to June 2022

Essex Council received the Development Overview for June 2023. It notes there was $6,490,200 in total construction value for June 2023, including all new and expanding commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential developments that required a building permit.


That was down 123.5 percent, comparing June 2023 to June 2022.


In addition, the average home in Wards 1 and 2 sold for $524,696 in June 2023, which was lower than the $574,067 recorded in June 2022. The average home in Wards 3 and 4 sold for $598,565 in June 2023, which was similar to the $595,782 recorded in June 2022.


Council endorses Drinking Water Quality Management system, Operational Plan Version 17

Council received the report “Drinking Water Quality Management System Operational Plan for The Town of Essex,” and further endorsed and committed to the Drinking Water Quality Management system, Operational Plan Version 17.


The Report to Council notes the Updates to the Operational Plan were completed on July 17, 2023. The revisions to the Operational Plan include, but are not limited to: an update to the Essential Services contact list, staffing and operational changes, 2023 internal audit recommendations.


Updates to the Operational Plan are necessary for continuous improvement of the Town’s Quality Management System, the report adds.

Director of Infrastructure Services, Kevin Girard, noted Council has a responsibility for drinking water systems in the Town. The Town is required to meet a quality management system.


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