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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council meeting notes - Monday, March 20, 2023

by Sylene Argent

Council finds compromise on request to construct

driveway apron in excess of 25-feet

Essex Council found a compromise to a request from a resident on Erieview, who wanted to construct their driveway apron to 40’, which is in access to the 25-feet allowed through the Town’s Development Standards Manual.

After two failed motions, a majority Council vote moved to allow up to 30-feet with a 90-degree angle.

Council heard from the proponent and a neighbour on the matter, and then came to the aforementioned conclusion.

The Report to Council noted at the request first surfaced at the December 19, 2022 meeting. At that time, Council deferred the matter and directed Administration to prepare a report to Council, including recommendations.

Administration had recommended not approving the original request, based on what is allowed though the Development Standards Manual.

Council passes amendments to Phase 1 of the

Parkland Estates Residential Development

Essex Council passed an amending by-law to enter into a Subdivision Development Agreement between the Town of Essex and 1552843 Ontario Limited, for the residential development known as Parkland Estates.

This is for Phase 1 of the Parkland Estates Residential Development in Ward 3.

On March 15, 2021, the Town of Essex entered into a Subdivision Development Agreement, however, Administration now recommended two additional amendments. The first required the owner to install a wrought iron fence, with a minimum height of 42-inches, on lands where a retaining wall is required.

Walter Branco, President of Noah Homes, explained there are homes in this subdivision that back onto Pollard Park, where baseball is played. A decorative retaining wall was put up as there ended up being groundwater issues while developing.

Rita Jabbour, Manager of Planning Services, explained administration was recommending a wrought iron fence be installed to prevent people from sitting on the retaining wall, and kids playing on it. It is a safety issue. Due to the type of homes, wrought iron was chosen for aesthetics.

As the developer, he was happy to pay for that for the homes that back onto the baseball diamond, even though some of the homes are sold, but asked the Town if it would pay half, as the owner of the park.

The second amendment required the reduction of the height of the required fence of the lots abutting Harrowood Community Living, from 1.8-metres to 1.2-metres.

Due to the need for a retaining wall along these lots, the installation of the 1.8-metre fence would need to be installed on top of the wall. This would result in a structure that is too tall and too obtrusive to natural light, the Report to Council explains. Since the fence is still required under the Building Code, the owners of Harrowood and the applicant have mutually agreed to reduce the height of the fence to 1.2-metres. The fence will continue to be made of wood.

Council had no issues with the second request, but did spend some time talking about the wrought iron fence as to the type of fence required, the length it should be, its necessity, and who should be responsible for costs with Branco.

Ultimately, Council passed Administration’s recommendation.

Rescoped Essex Streetscape tender awarded, funding model approved

Council awarded the tender for the rescoped Essex Centre Streetscape to J&J Lepera Infrastructures lnc., in the amount of $9,149,219.21, including non-refundable Harmonized Sales Tax.

It approved a funding model for the Essex Centre Streetscape and Victoria Avenue roadworks.

In addition, Stantec Consulting Ltd. was approved to provide engineering services to conduct engineering inspection and maintenance services, for a total cost of $506,093.18, including non-refundable HST.

At the December 5 regular meeting, staff presented four options to Council on how to move forward, as the original streetscape tender came back higher than anticipated.

At the December 19, 2022 meeting, 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 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.

Kevin Girard, Director of Infrastructure, explained in 2022, the approved capital budget had $9,360,000; including from reserve, prior year funding, and $1,061,000 in grant funding from various means. The debt totaled $6,351,000.

He explained staff was expecting the rescoping to go over the $9.36M budget by around $424,108.

On the rescoped project, there were two bidders. J&J Lepera was the lowest bidder at $7,494,110, plus $1.5M in provisional items, which was reduced from nearly $2.3M, based on the needs of the municipality, Girard said.

He noted that included in the tender is over $300,000 for a Union Water watermain replacement on Victoria Avenue. Union Water is in agreement with that in essence and will take it to the board on April 19. It will also include $108,000 in telecommunications conduits. Both are recoverable.

He explained Essex, to date, has spent over $720,000 on the project, and secured $961,000 in grant funding that must be used towards successful completion of the streetscape. The County’s contribution depends on how much of the road is completed, he explained.

The total expense for the project is $10,396,271, including for the engineering and construction costs, in addition to the Union Water and telecommunications conduit, which are recoverable.

In looking at the proposed funding model, Girard explained Administration increased the original funding to come out of the Asset Management Lifecycle Reserve from $129,000 to $725,910. Girard said that is because the Victoria Avenue Road works are an asset replacement. The new funding model proposed a debt of $6,246,845, which is slightly lower than what was originally projected.

Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, Kate Giurissevich, further explained when the original budget was completed on this project three-years ago, the overarching principle was for economic development initiatives, which limited the use of reserves. With the Victoria Avenue works included, that changed the scope able to come from reserves.

Giurissevich further explained the main source of revenue for the Asset Management Reserve comes from the tipping fees the Town of Essex receives as being the host municipality for the landfill.

It was a record-breaking year in revenues received for tipping fees, so the revenues received in the Asset Management Plan does not jeopardize its balance, due to that increase, Giurissevich said.

Based on what was presented, Councillor Joe Garon said he would continue to support the concept and completion of the streetscape project. He looks at it as an investment for downtown businesses and residents. It is a long-term project.

Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley said he has been told the Asset Management Reserve is under funded, but more will be pulled out of it for this project.

He asked about the impact this project will have on future tax increases.

Giurissevich said she would hesitate to put a number on that, as there are many factors that need to be included. She proposed using assessment growth to cover this and other sources, like grant revenues. She said it is up to Council to find those other sources of revenue and present to residents a tax increase that is reasonable.

Administration will start to build up a Budget Stabilization Reserve, which is for projects like this.

Shepley said he appreciates all the hard work put into this project, but cannot support it. He said he is not against beautification, it is just that the cost is just too great. He agreed the Victoria Avenue works needs to be done.

Mayor Sherry Bondy said she wholeheartedly supports the project. A similar project was completed in Harrow last year. She thanked staff members for their out-of-the-box thinking.

“It was easy to get behind, because it is not just the Essex Streetscape, it is also Victoria. I think there are a lot of synergies when we have a contractor in the area doing two projects, while they are here,” she said. “I worry if we don’t go forward, that Victoria could even be lost this year.”

Councillor Jason Matyi said he could not support the project as it would cost too much money. He asked when the project is done, if the light standards removed can be used to replace the ones headed towards Maidstone Avenue.

Girard explained the standards in the project scope will be refurbished as needed and will remain. The light poles in the downtown area excluded from the project scope are at their useful life. It is something the Town needs to complete in future capital budgets.

In a recorded vote, Shepley and Matyi were opposed. The project carried.

Development in February down

105.9% to same month in 2022

Council received the Development Overview for the month of February.

In the Report, it notes the total construction value for February 2023 - including all new and expanding commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential developments requiring a building permit – totaled $4,400,000. This is down 105.9 percent from the same month in 2022.

In addition, it notes the average home sale price in February in Wards 1 and 2 was $331,429, which was significantly lower than the $543,708 recorded in the same month in 2022. The average home sale price in February in Wards 3 and 4 was $473,333, which was also significantly lower than the $709,004 recorded in the same month in 2022.

Dillon Consulting appointed as engineer

for Rush Drain reports

Council appointed Dillon Consulting Limited to provide for a drainage report to encompass additional unforeseen items encountered during the ongoing Rush Drain project.

In the Report to Council, it notes during the current Rush Drain project ongoing with Dillon Consulting Limited, multiple unforeseen items were encountered that need to be legalized as part of the drainage works for the Rush Drain. This additional appointment will serve to legalize those works through a report and ultimately a by-law, so they can be constructed, and costs recovered.

It adds Dillon Consulting Limited was appointed in 2018 to prepare a report for the relocation of the Rush Drain. In January 2021, a report was finalized, and construction commenced in August 2021. Several issues were identified after the completion of the report, including soil contamination of approximately 100m of the work area, hydro pole guy wire conflicts, snake exclusion fencing, and additional rear yard catch basins.

The Town of Essex has incurred around $912,000 in costs for the Rush Drain project. Additional costs will be incurred for the preparation of another drainage report, however, completion of this extra report is necessary to finish the project and levy the costs for both drainage projects, the Report to Council notes.

Kimball Lumber fire hydrant

extension agreement approved

Council approved entering into an agreement with Lloyd Kimball Building Supplies Ltd, and approved a by-law to authorize the execution of a Municipal Agreement.

The Report to Council notes the agreement outlines the conditions for Kimball Building Supplies Ltd. to construct a 150mm watermain, connecting at County Road 23 for the sole purpose of fire protection.

The infrastructure will belong to Kimball Building Supplies, which includes the responsibility for the cost of installation and all future maintenance.

Though Kimball Building Supplies Ltd. is located in the Town of Kingsville, the Town of Kingsville does not currently own infrastructure on Road 8 West to provide water infrastructure at this location. Kimball Building Supplies is currently serviced with domestic water from the Town of Essex, the Report to Council notes.

Water/Wastewater billing to be shifted to the Town

Council directed administration to issue a letter of service discontinuance to the external billing provider, E.L.K. Energy Inc., effective October 1st, 2023 or the date of final migration for the water/wastewater billing.

Kate Giurissevich, Director of Corporate Service/Treasurer, explained Council directed Town staff to investigate the option of bringing the current billing function for water and wastewater utility in house to be performed by Town staff.

This is currently handled by E.L.K. Energy Inc., as third party for the Town. The Town of Essex owns E.L.K.

“This direction was provided after an influx of complaints on the process of adding outstanding bills to tax accounts for collection, as well as the large amount of write-offs that Town administration noted from the years 2020 to 2022,” Giurissevich explained.

In the report, she said, it outlines over $100,000 in lost monies because of that.

This switch to performing this work in house, she said, will result in many efficiencies, both monetarily and non-monetarily.

Potentially, one of the biggest factors to be considered, she said, is that residents would see an increased level of service. The Town will also note faster collection.

She said no rates will change as a result. Every five-years, the Town works with a consultant to develop a financial model. Residents, after year six, may realize a potential rate reduction based on the model presented.

This will require three new staff positions; however, the Town is paying the staffing costs to E.L.K. for this work. Bringing the work in house will relieve the Town from having to pay E.L.K. for completing the work. Instead, the Town will use that contractor payment to pay the staff wages to complete the work in house.

“Even on an annual basis with the new staff, the savings would equate to $100,000, approximately,” Giurissevich said.

This will also ensure Town standards are met in terms of this service.

Shifting the service, she added, will ensure any savings in the water/wastewater division is realized through water rates, not E.L.K.

Residents getting hydro from E.L.K. will get two separate bills as a result of the change, one for hydro and another for the water utility. This will allow the Town to provide more information and data to residents on their bills. In addition, billing timelines remain the same. It can be looked at after the transition.

A large amount of notice will happen for residents before the switch, Giurissevich said. There is a goal date of October 1, but that will be evaluated along the way. The goal is to have as minimal of an impact to residents as possible.

Per diem for drainage and adjustment passed,

Attainable Housing Task force to be created

Council amended the per diem rate for the members of the Committee of Adjustment and the Drainage Board members as of April 1. The rate will be increased to $125 per meeting.

Council also approved the creation of an Attainable Housing Task Force, under the direction of Planning Services, to meet on an as-needed basis as determined. The Terms of Reference will be established by the Planning Services Division.

In addition, Council provisionally adopted amendments to the Procedural By-Law to permit certain boards and committees to conduct hybrid meetings and livestream meetings.

Acting Clerk, Shelley Brown, said the Town has limited meeting space to support livestreaming and that could subject volunteers to public scrutiny. It was recommended only the Committee of Adjustment be livestreamed when and where feasible.

It was also recommended the Festival, ACT, Municipal Heritage, Accessibility Advisory, and the Essex Centre BIA be permitted to conduct hybrid meetings. With that, the Chairperson must be present, a member can participate through hybrid meetings no more than three times a year, they are accounted towards quorum, and the members participating electronically cannot exceed quorum.

The Procedural By-Law was also amended to include that the Land Acknowledgement be read at all committee meetings.

NoM: report to come on safety measures

for South Talbot/Victoria intersection

At the February 21 Council meeting, Councillor Garon put forward a Notice of Motion for Council to consider Monday evening, that Council direct Administration to provide a report on safety measures for the corner of South Talbot Road and Victoria Avenue, which may include lighting and adding a four-way stop.

He said this stems from complaints brought to him and other Councillors from residents. Concerns brought to him includes lack of signage, speeding into and out of the town centre, and lack of lighting.

Councillor Katie McGuire-Blais would like the number of youths who will use this area to access the developing sports field on the southside of Highway 3 considered in this study.

Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley wondered if the 50km/hr speed limit should be extended.

It was noted the Victoria Avenue works planned as part of the Essex Centre Streetscape project stops short of this intersection.

Council passed Garon’s motion.

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