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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council meeting notes for Monday, April 4

by Sylene Argent

Procedural By-Law matters clarified for Council

Robert Auger, Director of Legislative Services/Clerk, provided Council with a verbal report on procedural by-law matters.

  He noted after the March 21 meeting, the Mayor asked him to place a verbal report on Monday’s meeting agenda to address or reiterate the procedural rules behind calling a Point of Order and on the Reports/Announcement section on the agenda.

  At the March 21 meeting, Councillor Sherry Bondy called a Point of Order, after Councillor Chris Vander Doelen called those opposed to internet voting a “Luddite” when discussing voting options for the upcoming election.

  Mayor Richard Meloche said upon reviewing and speaking to those who were in the Council Chambers at the time, the first time she called a Point of Order, it was not heard in the room.

  Because he didn’t hear what she said, that is why Meloche told Bondy she did not have the floor at that time, he explained.

  At that time, Meloche said he was about to turn on his mic to ask Vander Doelen to stop speaking, because what he was saying did not have anything to do with the motion being voted on.

  He apologized as he said he did not hear what she said.

  Moving forward, Meloche said he will ask Council members to immediately explain the definition to ensure the proper meaning is identified, as some words have multiple uses, regarding the use of words where the meaning may be unknown to the general public.

  Auger explained Robert’s Rules of Order only apply to Town of Essex meetings, where its own Procedural By-Law is silent on a particular procedural matter. If there is a Town procedural matter, that governs over Robert’s Rules of Order.

  When a Council member calls a Point of Order to bring attention to a departure of a violation of the rules of procedure, that person can briefly state the reason for the Point of Order. The meeting Chairperson can then decide upon the Point of Order and advise of the decision made on the matter, or refer it to the rest of Council for debate. A member can appeal the Chairperson’s decision.

  During the “Reports and Announcements” section on the agenda, each member of Council has a maximum of five-minutes to talk about something non-confrontational. They shall not be discussed by another member of Council and are not debatable, Auger further explained.

  Meloche also spoke of facial expressions and gestures. After researching and discussing that with several mayors, he said it is a different time with virtual meetings, with facial expressions and gestures much more noticeable. In a few months, Council will not be in the same situation. When everyone returns to the Council Chambers and is surrounding him around the table, he said it will be difficult to catch those expressions.

  “I think we have to learn to be more tolerable of each other,” Meloche said, adding facial expressions will be allowed as long as they are not overbearing or prolonged. He said some Councillors show their emotions through their faces, while others have “perfect poker faces.”

  Any vulgar gestures will not be tolerated.

  Bondy said she appreciated the apology and the setting of some decorum in the Council Chambers. She hoped Council would learn more towards respectful than tolerable.

  In speaking of the two verbal reports provided on Monday evening, Bondy said it is helpful to have notes provided to Council.


Deputy Mayor Bjorkman appointed to E.L.K. Board

Robert Auger, Director of Legislative Services/Clerk, provided Council with a verbal report on the E.L.K. Board appointment.

  The Notice of Motion Councillor Sherry Bondy made at the previous meeting was also brought forward at this time, which asked Council to consider the vacant seat on the E.L.K Energy Board be filled by someone in the community through an application process, based on qualifications and not another member of Essex Council.

  When former Mayor Larry Snively resigned, it left a position on the E.L.K. Board vacant.

  Auger said the Mayor asked him to speak to the vacancy and options to fill it.

  With Essex being the sole shareholder of E.L.K. Energy, Council has the authority to appoint or remove directors, and decide who shall serve on the Board for the energy utility.

  The Town of Essex’s current by-law on committees notes the E.L.K. Board must include the Mayor, four Council members, one Ward 1 E.L.K. customer, and one Ward 4 E.L.K. customer, in addition to one member appointed as nominated from each Kingsville and Lakeshore.

  Council could direct the Town’s Striking Committee to convene and come up with a recommendation, or the appointment could be made by resolution of Council members, or through a nomination process if more than one Council member wishes to serve. Council could also change the current composition of the Board, which would entail drafting an amending by-law and returning it to a future Council meeting for passage.

  Councillor Joe Garon asked how long the position could remain vacant. Auger said the by-law does not spell out those conditions.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy would like to see a skill set matrix to appoint the next member. She said she has voiced concerns in the past on how E.L.K. Board members are selected. Appointing another Councillor right now would not provide good optics. She suggested considering filling it with an administrative position, and to look at best practices on appointing members to such boards.

  “I believe we could give a fresh face and a new change of direction to the Board if we bring in a new skill set,” Bondy said.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said he does not think it is desirable or likely one new appointee will change the whole direction of a dozen people in six months. He does think it is a good idea to appoint a skill set. He thinks appointing the Town’s Director of Corporate Services/Treasure to the bBard would be better than leaving the seat empty, as that financial expertise at the table would be an asset.

  Auger said he would not recommend Town employees be added to the Board as it could potentially place that person in a direct conflict position in their legal duty of loyalty to the Town versus the conflicting role in having to act in the best interest of E.L.K.

  Councillor Morley Bowman noted when the Town purchased E.L.K. outright, two members of Administration were involved and sat on the Board for a short period of time, and came to the conclusion that there was difficulty in serving the Board and the Town. With it being close to the end of the Term of Council, he believes it is better to put someone from Council into the position, then, if there is desire, take a closer look at this either at the end of this Term of Council or at the beginning of the next one with more in-depth discussion.

  Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman believes the Board should move to being one of experience and knowledge based as soon as possible. He believes that should happen for the next Term of Council. That by-law and rules can be set. In the meantime, E.L.K. needs to be run and the position should be filled for now by someone on Council.

  In the new Term of Council, Auger said Administration will present a report on Town committees and will make recommendations on the composition of all of them. E.L.K. will be part of that review.

  Vander Dolen said he would vote against Bondy’s motion because the make-up of the Board shouldn’t be changed in the middle of the term.

  Mayor Richard Meloche agreed a different composition should be looked at, just not at this time. The Clerk’s Department does not have the time to reconstruct the by-law governing the composition of the Board that quickly right now to get the best result. He said he would vote against the motion because of that.

  On the motion to fill the current vacant E.L.K. position with a member of the community through an application process, based on qualifications, Bondy and Councillor Kim Verbeek were in support, and Vander Doelen, Bowman, Meloche, Garon, Bjorkman, and Councillor Jason Matyi were opposed. The motion was defeated.

  Bowman put forward a motion to nominate Bjorkman to the position. Bjorkman accepted the nomination. No one else was nominated. The motion passed.


Site Specific Zoning By-Law Amendment at 32 Arthur Avenue approved

Council passed By-Law 2139, to amend the Comprehensive Zoning By-law for the Town of Essex, for 32 Arthur Avenue in Essex Centre.

  It also directed Administration to review Parking By-Law 224, regarding the removal of the signage restricting parking to a two-hour maximum, between 7am and 6pm, on Arthur Avenue between Talbot Street North and Wilson Avenue.

  Council hosted a special statutory meeting on this file on March 14 to receive public feedback.

  During that meeting, it was noted the applicant wished to convert two of the four commercial units within the existing structure into one-bedroom residential units, and provide exemption for the requirement for onsite parking spaces.

  During the statutory meeting, concerns about parking arose, as the building has no private parking and relies on street parking, where there is a two-hour limit. Council asked Administration to review the Parking By-Law and offer recommendations for a solution.

  Corrine Chaisson, Assistant Planner, said removal of the two-hour parking restriction there is recommended as no other commercial businesses are located on Arthur Avenue. The on-street parking spaces are under utilized by the public.


Removal of Holding Zone Restriction for Part 2 on 12R27343 approved

Council received Planning’s Report titled “Removal of Holding Zone Restriction for Part 2 on 12R-27343,” and passed By-Law 2141, to amend the Comprehensive Zoning By-Law for the Town of Essex.

  The subject lands are located within the Harrow Primary Settlement Area, and are designated residential and are zoned to permit a single detached dwelling and any accessory use.

  In the Report to Council, it notes the owners of the lands described as Part 2 on 12R27343 have requested the Holding Zone restriction be removed to facilitate the development of one single-detached dwelling. Council’s approval of Bylaw 2141 was required to authorize the removal of the Hold.

  The “H” prefix may be removed when preconditions have been satisfied, the Report to Council on the matter notes.


GECDSB updates Council on JK-12 Kingsville School

At the March 21 meeting, Council directed Administration to reach out to the Board of Trustees of the GECDSB to ask what is the status of the new build of the Kingsville school, which will accommodate students from Harrow. The letter was copied to Kingsville Council and Essex MPP, Taras Natyshak.

  Shelley Armstrong, Superintendent of Business and Treasurer, responded to the request via correspondence, noting on March 22, 2022, the Ministry of Education announced the investment of $59.9 million for the new JK-12 school in Kingsville.

  “Due to price escalation and supply chain issues, the Board worked with the Ministry to obtain additional funding for the construction of the best possible school for the community. Unfortunately, the funding announcement was embargoed by the Ministry of Education until March 23, 2022, preventing the Board from discussing the matter.”

  The letter continues that the tender for the project was awarded, the Site Plan Agreement has been executed, and the Board has applied for the building permit. Construction activity is anticipated to begin in April and the Board is aiming for the new school to open in September 2024.

  Council received the correspondence.


NOM discussed regarding “re-elect” sign policy

At the March 21, 2022 meeting, Councillor Sherry Bondy put forward a Notice of Motion that at the April 4 meeting, Council consider as part of its policies and procedures governing the election sign by-law, that “Re-Elect” only be permissible when a candidate is duly elected to an office directly by the citizens during a general election or by-election, not by appointment of Council colleagues.

  Bondy said it is not necessarily a comfortable conversation for Council to have, but she thinks it is best to have a conversation before the next election, rather than have the Clerk’s office deal with emails from members of the public and candidates because the rules are unclear.

  She said this was a topic of discussion in 2018, as that was the first election Essex’s Deputy Mayor was elected at large. Previously, the position-holder was selected from the pool of elected Councillors, by the elected Council members.

  Now, three out of eight Essex Council positions were appointed by Council members since the last election, stemming from when former Mayor Larry Snively resigned.

  “I think the words ‘re-elect’ give the electorate the impression that the person using that was previously elected by the general public to that position, and I think there is a big difference between appoint by Council colleagues and elect by members of the public,” Bondy said.

  Robert Auger, Director of Legislative Services/Clerk, said the viewpoint of Administration and the Clerk, as the Returning Officer for the upcoming fall election, said he had a couple concerns with the Notice of Motion, and wanted to share some comments.

  His first concern is that the motion makes a couple of assumptions, that somehow appointed Councillors are lesser than elected Councillors, and those appointed are somehow not elected officials. He does not believe those assumptions are accurate, and may possibly mislead the public.

  One of the things to look at is to ensure there is clarity and not to mislead the public.

  There is no legal distinction between a Councillor appointed or elected, he added. There is also nothing in the Municipal Act that a Council member is to be treated differently because he or she was appointed.

  He believes what should determine the matter is at the time the person files their papers to run in the election, are they the current holder of the office they are running for. If they are, he believes consideration should be given to either allowing that person to use “re-elect” or at least allowing that person to use a term similar to that,” Auger said.

  His second concern is Council directing what clause should or should not be contained in an election policy. The Municipal Elections Act, he added, does give the Clerk/Returning Officer specific independence from Council as it relates to an election. Council is called upon to make some of the decisions concerning the election, such as the method of voting, if there will be a question on the ballet, approval of the budget, etc. The Clerk is given independence from Council on decisions on how to run the election, specific for the election.

  “Respectfully, I think any Council should at least be measured, or be careful, about getting into the proverbial weeds of directing what clauses should or should not be in an election policy, and it is really for Council’s protection as well, because if they do that, it may certainly raise the suggestion out there that Council might be inadvertently interfering with the independence of the election,” Auger continued.

  It is Council’s call, however, he said.

  The motion was defeated.


NoM for consideration at the April 19 meeting

Councillor Sherry Bondy will ask Council to have a public discussion about the accessible textured crosswalks at the Harrow Streetscape.


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