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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council meeting notes - March 21, 2022

Updated: Mar 24, 2022

by Sylene Argent

Harrow Antique Store building to be demolished

Sebastien Schmoranz asked Council to remove his building, the Harrow Antique Store, from being listed on its Heritage Register so it could be either fully, or partially, demolished.

Council supported the Notice of Intention to Demolish and voted to remove it from the Town of Essex Heritage Register, which removed the need to issue a 60-day notice period.

The Essex Municipal Heritage Committee also supported the heritage application to demolish the listed property.

Schmoranz said he, a lawyer, and his wife, a dentist, purchased the property, located at 15 King Street, towards the end of 2021 to redevelop it for their own practices, and put six residential units on the second floor.

He said it is a unique building, and he is sure it has a special place in the hearts of many.

“It is arguably the oldest, if not one of the oldest, buildings in what was then called Hope Town, the downcore of what would eventually become Harrow,” Schmoranz said, adding its main historical significance is its façade and the uniqueness of it being one of the first structures to be built still in existence.

“Our goal is, as best as we can, to save the façade of that building and build a modern building behind it that will be safer and more structurally sound, and will essentially last the community another 100 or 200-years into the future,” Schmoranz noted.

He said the original building was added onto multiple times over the years. This has led to an issue of having multiple different types of structures, plumbing, and electrical, in addition to conflicting rooflines. He said there are also no firebreaks between it and neighbouring buildings.

He asked for permission for either a partial demolition of the building, where they would try to save the façade, or a full demolition if the façade cannot be saved, in which case they will try to recreate the façade as correctly as they can.

It is proposed to start the demolition at the rear of the building and work its way forward, that way there is little to no interruption to traffic.Scaffolding will be used to protect the new sidewalk.

Part of the project will also create eight to 10 parking spots behind the building.

This could be an investment between $2M and $3M. The timeline is between eight and 12-months to complete. He hopes to get it done and enclosed before frost hits again.

He also asked Council to cut the 60-day notice period in half. Rita Jabbour, Manager of Planning Services, said the Planning Act prescribes the 60-day notice to give Council time to decide on whether or not it wants to designate a building that is listed. If Council does not believe a designation is warranted, it can remove it from the listing and the delegate can apply for a permit the following day.

Councillor Sherry Bondy said the plan is a rejuvenation of the downtown core. There may be mixed feelings on it, but the rebuild is needed.

Council received the presentation, supported the demolition, and removed the property from the Town of Essex Heritage Register, removing the 60-day notice period.

2022 Essex Municipal Election

will not include internet voting

Council continued the discussion that began at the March 7 regular meeting on what voting methods to offer in the 2022 Essex Municipal Election, which will take place this fall.

After a lengthy discussion on the matter, a majority vote moved the option of offering all in-person voting for advance polls and on election day, with extended advanced poll hours.

Any possible costing surplus for this method will come from the Council Contingency Fund.

The authorizing by-law will come before Council at the April 4 meeting for approval.

Mayor Richard Meloche, Councillor Kim Verbeek, Councillor Joe Garon, Councillor Jason Mayti, and Councillor Sherry Bondy were in support. Councillor Chris Vander Dolen, Councillor Morley Bowman, and Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman were opposed.

Council then voted to host each advanced poll for eight hours, offering different time frames to accommodate resident schedules, with staggered hours for Ward 1 (8am-4pm) and Ward 2 (12pm to 8pm), and for Ward 3 (12pm-8pm) and Ward 4 (8am-4pm).

Director of Legislative Services/Clerk, Robert Auger, noted at the March 7 meeting, a discussion was held based on an administrative report on possible voting methods for the upcoming municipal election. At the time, administration recommended adding internet voting as a method for advanced polling, and in-person only on election day.

At that meeting, Council directed administration to further review, from a costing perspective, two additional options:

Option A) all in-person voting on election day and during advanced polls to be hosted in each of the four wards. This is projected to cost $139,500. This was within budget.

Option B) having voting stations in each of the four wards on election day, while using a hybrid of internet voting and in-person voting in each of the four wards for advanced ballot casting. This method is projected to cost $163,500; a surplus over budget of around $23,500. It was recommended the surplus be funded through the Council Contingency Fund.

Councillor Verbeek said she understands everyone in the municipality will receive an envelope in the mail with a secret code to vote via the internet, but worried it would have an environmental piece to it. She wondered if constituents could request the package to vote by internet, if they want to, instead of the Town mailing a package to every resident.

Through either method chosen, the Town would have to send out voter information, Auger said, so an expense would incur either way.

Councillor Garon asked how it could be ensured internet voting pins can only be used by one person.

Auger said there is a two-step process, including an identifier number specific to the elector and then the individual will create a personal pin.

Garon said he believes most individuals have concerns about security with the internet voting method. He also believes the timeframe the Town is proposing to host internet voting is way too long. According to the Report to Council, it notes the advance poll period for internet voting would commence at 12:00 a.m. on October 10, 2022 and end at 12:00 p.m. on October 21, 2022. He would also like to see the time allotted at the advanced polls extended.

Auger said extending advance poll times is possible, but would need to be funded.

Councillor Bondy would also like to see advanced polling hours extended as much as possible.

She said it is imperative to get this election right.

She also thinks security could be an issue with internet voting. She is against internet voting for the next election.

Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman was in favour of internet voting to give people the most access to vote. Councillor Chris Vander Doelen agreed, noting the Town has an obligation to maximize the voter turnout.

He called those opposed to internet voting a Luddite, which Bondy later called a Point of Order on, noting it was a derogatory term.

Councillor Vander Doelen first put forward a motion that the method of voting for the 2022 Essex Municipal Election include voting stations in each of the four wards on election day, while using a hybrid of internet voting and in-person voting in each of the four wards for advanced ballot casting.

In a recorded vote, Vander Doelen, Councillor Morley Bowman, Bjorkman, were in support, and Mayor Richard Meloche, Bondy, Verbeek, Garon, and Councillor Jason Matyi were opposed.

With three in support, the motion was defeated.

Verbeek then moved the option of all in-person voting for advance polls and on election day, with extended advanced poll hours. Possible costing surplus will come from the Council Contingency Fund.

The authorizing by-law will come before Council at the April 4 meeting for approval.

“I think it is backwards to reject the dominant technology of our time as a means to vote,” Vander Doelen said.

Essex Council Notes for Monday, March 21 will be continued in the March 31 edition of the Essex Free Press.

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