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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council meeting notes - Monday, December 19, 2022

by Sylene Argent

Staff to prepare report on request to construct driveway entrance in excess of 25’

Essex Council motioned to defer resident Michael Gomes’s request to install a driveway wider than the 25’ permitted, and directed Administration to return with a report on the matter.

Gomes asked permission to construct a driveway with a 40’ entrance on Erie View Avenue.

He said there are multiple driveways in his area that exceed 25’. He was told by Town staff the other larger driveways in the area were existing, but he believes they are newer, based on mapping.

Director of Infrastructure, Kevin Girard, said new home builds need to follow the Town’s Development Standards Manual, which noted driveways cannot exceed 25’in width. Wider driveways established before the Manual was adopted in February are grandfathered.

It was noted, however, the 25’ width standard was practiced before the Development Standards Manual was adopted.

Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley said an exception may be in order in the case to provide some ease-way of not having boats, Sea-Doos, and cars from neighbours parking on his side of the road. The road, he added, is off-set.

Councillor Jason Matyi said parking near the beach is always a problem. If Council allows larger driveways in the area, Council may get more requests like this.

Councillor Kim Verbeek motioned to table the matter for further discussion, and have Administration prepare a report on the matter. The motion carried.

Heritage Colchester announces chimney repairs completed at Colchester Schoolhouse

Perry Basden, President of Heritage Colchester, approached Council regarding the funding and repairs to the Colchester Schoolhouse chimney.

Heritage Colchester leases and is preparing plans to maintain the 1881 Colchester Schoolhouse.

Basden explained the 1952 chimney was in disrepair. It hasn’t been used for many years, but is a roost for Chimney Swifts, which are threatened under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.

At the August 4 regular meeting, Council of the day approved repairs to the Colchester School House chimney in the amount of $29,945. Half of the cost came from Birds Canada’s “Chimney Swift Chimney Restoration Fund,” and the other half came from the Town’s Asset Management Reserve.

The chimney was beyond its lifecycle and could have created a safety issue, if it continued to deteriorate.

The work had to be completed by February of 2023, while the Chimney Swifts were south. The restoration was completed in early December, Basden added.

He thanked Council for matching the grant, the government for providing the grant, and those who worked on the reconstruction of the chimney.

Heritage Colchester is required, through the grant application, to monitor and report on the Chimney Swifts over the next five-years, and will file those reports with Swift Watch Ontario.

He said Heritage Colchester is looking forward to future collaborations with the Town of Essex.

Councillor Jason Matyi said Heritage Colchester is completing great work.

Council received the presentation.

Council adopts Tree Management By-Law,

resident recommends amendments

Resident Nicole Atkinson approached Council to suggest possible amendments to the provisional Tree Management By-Law.

At the December 5 regular meeting, Council gave two readings to By-Law 2205, to regulate tree management in the Town of Essex, for provisional adoption at the December 19, 2022 Council meeting.

The purpose of the By-Law is to ensure clarity on how trees are maintained, as well as the responsibilities when adjacent to private property owners.

Atkinson said the hope for the new By-Law is that the wording is not too vague in regards to the direction, instruction, and responsibility for residents versus the Town.

In conversing with other residents, she said, “We hope it provides enough clear and concise information when it comes to regulating the care, maintenance, protection, removal, and planting of trees within the municipal rights-of-way, private properties adjacent to Town property, as well as standalone Town property.”

She would also like to see two trees planted to replace one that has been removed as part of the by-law policy. The second tree can be planted at strategic areas in the town to add to shade areas.

She asked if the Town of Essex ever conducted a tree canopy inventory, and if not, if one can be completed.

Councillor Kim Verbeek asked if Administration can look at the suggestions Council members made on the By-Law when it was presented earlier this month, in addition to the ones Atkinson provided, and return with updates added to the report.

Director of Community Services, Jake Morassut, said the proposed policy outlines that a minimum of one tree will be planted for every one removed. The Town is always looking for additional locations to plan trees. This gives staff the opportunity to plant more than one tree if there is the budget and land available to do so.

The Town’s arbourist will complete a tree evaluation in nine parks this year.

The proposed By-Law, based on conversation held at the last meeting, includes that at the discretion of the Manager of Operations and Drainage that trees removed as a result from maintaining ditches may be exempt from tree replacements.

This issue was brought up when the policy was first presented to Council.

Director of Infrastructure, Kevin Girard, said it was felt flexibility needed to be given to staff to utilize the By-Law in the way they need to. Trees in ditches tend to be seedlings and more invasive, he said. He warned of being cautious about expense to property owners.

Councillor Kim Verbeek said she has heard from farmers and landowners who were not happy about trees being removed from ditches or creeks, as they believe roots help retain soil to their workable land.

Council received Atkinson’s presentation.

Council also passed By-Law 2205 to authorize and regulate the planting, maintenance, and removal of public trees, including the cleanup of debris falling from such within the municipal boundaries of the Town of Essex.

It can be tweaked at a later date, if needed, Mayor Sherry Bondy added.

Essex Centre Streetscape to be rescoped,

Admin to provide report on completing remainder

A majority Council vote moved a motion to proceed with reducing the scope of the Essex Centre Streetscape on Talbot Street, from approximately Cameron Avenue to Arthur Avenue. In addition, it includes the Victoria Avenue works from Talbot Street to South Talbot Road.

Council also directed Administration come back to Council with a report on when the remainder of the streetscape area can be completed; cancelled the previous Request for Tender for the project; and awarded Stantec Consulting Limited additional funds to rescope the Essex Streetscape project in accordance with Option 3b in the amount of $65,940.48.

Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley and Councillor Jason Matyi were opposed to taking this direction.

At the December 5 meeting, Council learned the original scope for the project was Talbot Street, from Maidstone Avenue to Gosfield Townline, in addition to Victoria Avenue.

So far, $9.36 million has been approved for the project, between 2021 and 2022, to complete the Essex Centre Streetscape. Of this, $830,325.03 was allocated to engineering services for the streetscape and $302,227.20 was allocated to the Victoria Avenue works for engineering services, the Report noted.

This leaves a budget of $8,227,447.77 for construction expenses.

When Administration looked at the financials for the project, it was estimated the total cost would be around $14,258,000, or approximately $4.9M in additional debt.

Council was presented with different options to consider. Option 3b was estimated to require around $425,000 of additional debt.

Cancelling the project would mean losing grant funding and dollars already invested into the project.

The Essex Centre Streetscape project was initiated by Council in 2013 with a plan that was developed by Stempski Kelly Associates Inc. It includes road paving, watermain replacement, storm sewer improvements, sidewalk reconstruction, streetlighting, landscaping, and furnishings. It also includes a flex street design, from Laird Avenue to Victoria Avenue, that will allow for the closing of parking spaces to accommodate street events.

At the December 5 meeting, Council deferred the matter to the December 19 meeting, giving members time to think about the options and connect with staff to learn more.

Director of Infrastructure, Kevin Girard, said the figures provided in the Report to Council were estimates only. He said Option 3b was the most fiscally responsible.

Councillor Katie McGuire-Blais made the motion that passed, but first asked about completing Victoria Avenue to Maidstone Avenue instead. This is an area that needs the uplift. It will also be an area first experienced when turning onto Talbot Street from the 580 homes going up on Maidstone Avenue West.

Girard explained the Maidstone Avenue/Talbot Street intersection is one staff has identified as a growth-related need. A traffic study has been completed and identifies improvements that will come in future years. The project has been started and is a three-phase plan.

It was identified as costing $1.5M in 2020 dollars.

There is no specific timeline for the intersection project.

Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley said Council would be responsible for repercussions of the debt associated with the streetscape. He talked to many businesses about the project, many of which said to move forward with the project and wanted to see the entire scope completed. Some said not to, as there was fear it would hurt businesses. He said perhaps the price of material will be reduced in the coming years.

Former Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman approached Council as a delegate to explain the importance of the project, stemming back to when he was the Chairperson of the Essex Centre BIA.

He explained the streetscape project was developed with input from residents, business owners, and commercial property owners.

“This is an investment that will pay dividends for decades, not just in dollars, but in a sense of place and a sense of pride,” he said.

He urged Council to direct Administration to come back with a report with a timeline to complete the remainder of the project and identify potential funding.

Council received his report.

Construction value down 44.7%, comparing November 2022 to 2021

Council received the Economic Development overview, which states the total construction for November of 2022 - including all new and expanding commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential developments that required a building permit – was $3,647,800.

This was down 44.7 percent, when compared to November 2021.

In addition, the average home sale price in November 2022 was $650,487 in Wards 1 and 2, compared to $481,626 in November of 2021. The average home sale price in November 2022 was $367,186 in Wards 3 and 4, compared to $475,621 in November of 2021.

Additional $9800 approved for Agritourism Toolkit

Council approved an additional $9,817.60 to support next steps in regards to the Agritourism Toolkit, like a future workshop. The funding will come from the Contingency Reserve for Economic Initiatives.

This will revise the project budget total to $32,817.60. The Town did not receive as much grant funding as anticipated.

The Report to Council notes in March 2021, the Town of Essex completed an Agritourism Development Strategy in partnership with the Culinary Tourism Alliance (CTA). This strategy identified four objectives which support the Town’s goal of creating an agritourism destination.

One of the items identified in the strategy was an Agritourism Toolkit to help stakeholders understand what Agritourism is and how they can develop such an operation in their establishments, Economic Development Officer, Nelson Silveira, explained.

The purpose of the toolkit is to provide existing and aspiring agritourism business owners in the Town of Essex with resources to develop new and improved agritourism experiences, the Report to Council notes.

Hard copies of the Toolkit have been mailed to over 50 agritourism stakeholders.

Council Notes for December 19 will be continued in the first issue of the Essex Free Press to be printed after the holiday break, which will be January 12, 2023.

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