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Essex Council meeting notes - Monday June 1, 2020

by Sylene Argent

Property tax/water/waste water penalty and interest period extended

During the regular Council meeting on Monday evening, which was hosted online, Essex Council voted in favour of extending the property tax and water and waste water penalty and interest period until the end of July.

  This motion was made via a recommendation from Jeff Morrison, Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, who noted the county treasurers group came to the conclusion this would be a good decision based on the slow climb of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The county treasurers group will meet again in a few weeks to assess the issue.

  Extending the period for these municipal services is costing the Town around $30,000 per month for the waivers. It will cost nearly $90,000 by the end of the extension period.

  Previously, Council had waived interest and penalties on water/waste water and property tax until June 30.

 

CAO’s COVID-19 update

Essex CAO Chris Nepszy updated Council in regards to the Coronavirus and town business. He asked everyone to continue to be patient with staff as the Town Hall and Gesto facility were officially reopened on Monday, with new regulations. New improvements have already been implemented. New requirements include residents having to were a mask not supplied by the Town. Plexiglass is up and there are guidelines on material and cash handling.

  “All in all, it has been a success,” he said. “We had a handful of people in [the building] today.”


Councillors had no objections to social distancing at beaches/bootcamps

CAO Chris Nepszy said he has been pushing for direction from the Windsor Essex County Health Unit on the use of beaches and bootcamps and physical fitness camps in passive parts.

  He said he is still waiting on some direction from the Health Unit on this item. He said the Health Unit is under the impression beaches are not closed. Nepszy said his understanding was that the beaches fell under the outdoor parks order of being closed. Other municipalities are treating beaches like passive parks. So, if groups are less than five, if they are not playing sports, and socially distancing, they are okay.

  He recommended to Council to follow that direction.

  “If people are doing what they need to do and are being self-accountable, and not being stupid and not being [in] large groups – and whether they are on the sand or walk ten feet away and are on the grass in the park, which they are able to be – I say then I’m okay to let them be in the beach that way.”

  He recommended Council consider the beach a passive park, so long as restrictions are followed. He said he did not need a motion from Council, he was just looking to see if anyone had major objections to this plan.   

  At the previous Council meeting, local business owner and resident, Dave Cassidy, asked Council if he thought it would be okay if he and his wife’s fitness studio could host bootcamps outdoors with a limited number of people practicing social distancing.

  Nepszy said he has since has had conversations with the health unit, and thinks these types of bootcamps should be okay so long as the same direction as the beaches are followed.

  Councillor Joe Garon said these are all positive things. He said the tunnel at the end of the COVID-10 tunnel seems to be getting brighter and brighter. Councillor Morley Bowman said this seemed to be a common sense approach. Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said it is high time people are allowed to use beaches and common sense.  

 

Changes to Planning Act Timelines during COVID-19

Council received the Planning Department’s report “Changes to Planning Act Timelines during COVID-19 Emergency,” and further directed Administration to bring forward Planning Act applications during the period of the COVID-19 emergency for Council consideration.

  The Report notes, in response to the virus, the provincial government enacted the Coronavirus Support and Protection Act, 2020 on April 14. The legislation amended the Planning Act to allow the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to make regulations governing various timelines within the Planning Act during the period of any emergency declaration.

  Lori Chadwick, Director of Development Services, said this allows municipalities to hit the pause button on planning decision timelines without putting planners at risk for non-decision appeals. It also allows municipalities to proceed with processing of planning applications, by hosting virtual meetings and engaging the public through different methods.

  Since there are applications that do not require special public meetings, the Town’s planners are proceeding with those. Those with required special meetings, the Town is not processing those applications currently.  

  With Council supporting processing theses applications it will prevent a backlog and ensure business in the community continues. In place of open houses, the planning department plans to mail notices of virtual meetings with instruction on how to participate and allowing submission of public feedback via mail, email, or over the phone. 

Council learns of

Provincial Policy Statement changes

Council received the Planning Department’s report “Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) 2020.”

  Rita Jabbour, Manager of Planning Services, said the changes to the PPS came into effect on May 1, 2020.

  The Report to Council notes the PPS provides direction on key land-use planning issues that affect Ontario’s communities. As part of their five-year review of the PPS, the Government of Ontario encouraged an increased mix of housing and reducing barriers and costs for development.

  Jabbour said in an effort to increase Ontario’s housing supply and mix, the long-term planning horizon increased from 20 to 25 years; housing land supply increased from 10 to 15 years; there is a new policy for settlement area boundary adjustments outside of the comprehensive review process; there is a new definition for “Housing Options;” and there are new references to meeting housing needs arising from demographic changes and employment opportunities

  The PPS affects virtually all planning decisions, she said, adding PPS policies are implemented through the Town’s Official Plan. This is used as a guide to make decisions on applications.

  In Essex, there are more seniors and retirement-aged residents. Many like to go to Florida for the winter. With the help of the PPS, Jabbour said, the Town could look at more land-lease community housing options for this demographic.

  Another policy in the PPS can create lots on rural lands, but still not agricultural. There are lands outside settlement areas designated for recreation or rural residential. The province clarified lot creation on these lands is permitted with private water and sewage services, Jabbour added.

  There is also a policy that states the Town has to engage indigenous communities and consider their interest when managing cultural, heritage, and archeological resources.

  Essex is doing a lot in meeting these policies, Jabbour said.

  Mayor Larry Snively said he is very excited about these changes. “This is really opening up a lot of avenues for us.”

  Councillor Sherry Bondy talked about the ward boundary review conducted during the last term of Council. The Town did not realign the wards at all. She was not sure if this is something Council wanted to look at again, in extending the Harrow boundary, in connection to the PPS changes.  

 

Essex Fire to get new Custom Mini-Pumper/Rescue Fire Truck

Essex Council received Fire & Rescue Services’ report “Results of Request for Proposal – Supply and Delivery of New Custom Mini-Pumper/Rescue Fire Truck,” and further awarded the Request for Proposal to Commercial Emergency Equipment Corporation in the total amount of $359,931.73.

  As the truck went over the budgeted $300,000 amount, Council also approve the additional funding from the Asset Management Lifecycle Reserve.

  The Report to Council noted the 2017 five-year Master Fire Plan for Essex Fire & Rescue Services identified the municipality should replace the 1999 International Rescue Unit at Station 3 in Harrow with a multi-purpose Mini Pumper/Rescue Unit.

  Fire Chief Rick Arnel said the Mini Pumper/Rescue Unit will be able to service narrow concessions and along the greenway.

  Arnel noted this was an item budgeted last year, but Fire & Rescue got behind on designing the truck.

 

Council supports sending letter to Postmedia in support of community newspapers

Essex Council received correspondences from the Town of Tecumseh that noted its Council voted to send a letter to Postmedia, asking for the reconsideration of its decision to permanently close the Shoreline Week and other local community weekly newspapers in an effort to preserve an open forum for accountability and transparency in local government and continue to facilitate community engagement. The resolution was sent to Postmedia and to other municipalities for possible support.

  This motion followed the announcement of Postmedia permanently closing five local publications earlier in May, in addition to others outside the region.

  Councillor Morley Bowman was in favour of receiving and supporting the correspondence as it is important for small municipalities to have local papers that reflect their communities. He said those communities would be poorer for losing their community newspapers.

  As a past employee of Postmedia and someone who worked in media for 40-years, Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said he could not support the motion.

  “You can’t ask a private company to keep publishing unwanted products at a loss. These papers sadly have lost their readers and their advertising base, and they are no longer economical to operate. And, if they have to go away, that’s too bad, but they have to go away.” He said online publications are getting started up in the region.

  He said the staff should be thanked for their service, but the corporation can not be asked to continue to operate them.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said Vander Doelen made some good points, but she would support the motion because it was the neighbourly thing to do.

  It is all the more reason for residents to support the two local community newspaper in anyway possible, she said. Unfortunately, she doesn’t think lobbying will help. She hopes a paper like the Essex Free Press or Harrow News takes root there and does print advertising.

  “We really, in our municipality, are really lucky to have newspapers that cover our Council meetings, cover local, cover municipal, cover provincial, cover federal [issues].” She also urged residents to support the businesses that advertise in the papers.

  Bondy said online news is not for everybody.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said he understands Vander Doelen’s position, but he voted in favour as a neighbourly thing to do because the newspapers were closed so quickly without an alternative or investigating to see if something could be done.

  He said he believes local papers are important. If he wants a pick-me-up, he reads the two local papers to take note about the positive things that go on around the municipality. He hopes these papers can continue on.

  “I know there is a lot of…other communities that wish they had the successful newspapers we have in our town,” he said, adding support should be shown to the local newspapers. “We don’t want to be in that same position,” he said.

  The motion passed, with only Vander Doelen opposed.

 

Supporting businesses during COVID

At the previous Council meeting, Councillor Kim Verbeek put forth a Notice of Motion that Council bring ideas to the table at the June 1 meeting to discuss ways to support local businesses, such as providing outdoor space for vending.

  Verbeek had to send her regrets as she was unexpectedly unable to attend the meeting, but the rest of Council discussed the issue.

  Ultimately, Council directed Administration to reach out to the Essex Centre BIA and the Harrow & Colchester South Chamber of Commerce to see what arrangements or support the businesses would like. Liability, if Town property is used, will also have to be considered.

  Some Councillors suggested ideas. Councillor Morley Bowman suggested opening up sidewalks for their sales; Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche spoke of possibly disallowing parking on the main streets to create more walking space for shopping or outdoor cafes once a week during warmer months; Councillor Sherry Bondy suggested providing each business with a bottle of hand sanitizer as they have more costs to run with less revenue.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman thought taking away parking may get some push-back from businesses, but he liked the idea of opening up the sidewalks.

  Bondy also had concerns with Harrow businesses possibly getting double-hit this year, with COVID-19 restrictions, and further if the Harrow Streetscape Plan goes ahead as planned. She wondered if the downtown main street would be closed during time of construction on that project.

 

Geese mitigation at Colchester Beach

Councillor Sherry Bondy put forward a Notice of Motion at the previous Council meeting that would have Council consider directing Administration to provide a geese mitigation report for Colchester Beach, including the use of a walking dog to be used to scare geese in order to improve the beach user experience, water quality, and student work load.

  She said this issue was brought to her by residents. She doesn’t think this would be feasible for 2020. She wants Colchester Beach to remain beautiful, and wants to do that in a humane way.

  After some Council discussion, it was decided Director of Community Services/Deputy CAO, Doug Sweet, will do some research on the issue and report back to Council.

 

NoM to be discussed at the June 15 Regular Council Meeting

• Councillor Sherry Bondy would like Council to consider approving an extension of the 50 km speed limit zone on the Third Concession to include east of McLean Sideroad to act as a buffer zone.

• Councillor Sherry Bondy will ask Council to consider hiring a consultant to review the 2018 election policies and bylaws. She would like to use the funds in the budget earmarked for Council wage increases to do so.  

 

Mayor asks Council to ease up on emailing staff

Mayor Larry Snively said he didn’t want to scold Council members, but Administration is receiving emails from a certain councillor, one right after another, almost every day. He said the administrative staff members are busy, and to answer emails day-after-day is quite challenging and time consuming, especially with the COVID emergency. He urged Council that if their emails are not urgent, hold off until the COVID situation is over.

  From this day forward, he does not want to be copied on emails that really don’t concern him directly.

 

Unemployed Help Centre/UNIFOR Food Drive on Saturday

The Town of Essex has again agreed to allow the Unemployed Help Centre and UNIFOR to host a drive-through food hub at Town facilities on Saturday. Those needing assistance can pick up a box of food at the Essex Centre Sports Complex between 9-11am and at the Harrow Arena from noon-2pm.  

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said those in need can stay in their vehicles and only have to provide information, such as birthday and address. The information is used for statistical data to provide sponsors, she added. “It’s non-judgemental. If you are in need, show up.”

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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