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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council Notes for Monday, February 5, 2024

by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative

Councillor McGuire-Blais attended ROMA

Councillor Katie McGuire-Blais shared her experience of attending the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) Conference and AGM, which took place in Toronto from January 21-23.

  ROMA – which is committed to promoting, supporting, and enhancing strong and effective rural governments and socially and economically sustainable rural communities – hosted the event to connect over 1000 municipal colleagues, provincial and federal elected officials, and senior staff.

  She found talking to representatives of other municipalities similar to Essex was a beneficial aspect of attending the conference. Getting to hear their troubles and solutions to common challenges, such as aging infrastructure, was engaging.

  The Rural Economic Development Grant was announced at the conference, she added, to hear how other municipalities used this funding in the past was interesting.

  She also sat in on a seminar about tiny homes being utilized as a solution to homelessness in Waterloo, in addition to affordable housing, and is looking forward to having discussions about different home types locally.

  She said she was glad she got to go.


Site-specific exemption requested for billboard

on Highway 3 deferred to February 20

Austin Friesen of Inno Homes/Essex Weld asked Essex Council for a site-specific exemption for a digital sign at 14978 14th Concession, located within the future Inspiration Industrial Park Subdivision. The lands are currently subject to a Holing (H) provision under Section 8.13 of By-law 1037.

  With Council members having many questions on the exemptions requested, it deferred the potential passing of the associated By-Law to the February 20 meeting.

  This will give time for staff to circulate more renderings on the proposal, and Council to further investigate similar signs to determine suitability.

  The first By-Law 2297 would be to permit the erection of one static billboard sign facing west- bound traffic, with the other side being a digital media billboard sign facing east-bound traffic. The second by-law was to pass By-Law Number 2298 to amend By-Law Number 1037, the Comprehensive Zoning By-Law for the Town of Essex.

  The lands are designated industrial, and the holding provision would remain for the remainder of the industrial park.

  The site-specific exemption for billboards is needed to prevent over saturation.

Essex’s Junior Planner, Ian Rawlings, explained that through the Town’s Sign By-Law, a billboard should only be permitted through Council approving a site-specific by-law.

  He noted billboards are not permitted in Essex Centre, Colchester, and Harrow. This proposed billboard would be located on the edge of Essex Centre.

  In addition, Rawlings noted billboards have to satisfy conditions of the MTO. The applicant did obtain two permits, but they did expire. They just need to be reapplied for prior to issuance of building permits.

  Friesen told Council he believes the height of a sign should be able to exceed the 2.5m width and 5m of height currently set in the Sign By-Law.

  The billboard proposed would be a maximum height of 8.7 metres and a maximum width of 6.09

metres. The billboard image will be approximately 3.04 metres in height, and 6.09 metres in width. The billboard will be located 30.12 metres from the lot line abutting Highway 3.

  In addition, he believes the 180 second intervals set to switch to another ad in the Town by-law should be shortened to what the MTO guidelines suggest of 20 seconds.

  Rawlings explained the 180 second guideline is to accommodate traffic traveling 50km/hr.

  He also asked that the holding provision on the property be removed for the site-specific spot for the sign.

  As the sign will be digital, he believes it would be able to be used to advertise for new businesses.

  Rawlings said this is the first digital media billboard introduced to the Town of Essex. As such, the by-law, should Council approve it, is set to expire in five-years, and the applicant would be required to obtain a new MTO permit and reapply for the Sign By-Law.

  Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley said the request to have the digital image flip every 20 seconds bothers him, as people driving down Highway 3 may wait for it to flip and it may become distracting. He would rather see 90 seconds or more.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek wasn’t excited about the idea of another billboard down Highway 3, but had concerns with the proposed size of the sign.

  In answering Councillor Katie McGuire-Blais’s question on image duration, Friesen said he would be open to looking at 60s instead of 20s.  


Bi-Annual By-law Enforcement report highlights 307 investigations took place

Essex Council received a report illustrating the enforcement conducted among various by-laws, from July to the end of December 2023.

  Mike Diemer, By-law/Property Standards Officer, explained the By-Law Enforcement team investigated 307 potential violations during this six-month period.

  Of the 307 potential violations, 238 were based on complaints received from members of the public and/or Council members. The remaining 69 issues were investigated proactively, the Report to Council notes.

  In addition, 289 of the 307 issues have been resolved, and 18 remain actively investigated.

  Property Standard issues were the most complained about matter, with 244 complaints submitted to the Town, which is a wide-range. Main offences include tall grass and weeds and exterior property debris.

  Through his report, Diemer noted there were 156 tall grass matters and 40 regarding debris. There were also 13 zoning, 21 parking, 10 fence, five noise, two short-term rental, three other by-laws, and nine miscellaneous complaints.

  Of the complaints submitted, 80 were made through the Report a Problem online tool.

  Residents can fill out an online form to submit complaints for investigation and documentation, which can be found at https://www.essex.ca/en/live/essex-works-online-report-a-problem.aspx

  Councillor Katie McGuire-Blais asked if there are many repeat offenders. Diemer said there are a few hot spots where the Town needs to go in and cut grass.

  She asked if the fines go up per infraction.

  Especially for tall grass, the Town reduces the time allotted to a repeat offender to come into compliance, Diemer responded. They are billed with the work of the contractor to remove the grass in addition to administrative fees.

  McGuire-Blais said if there are the same individuals causing the same issues over and over again, the by-law should encompass heftier fines.

  “I think it is a waste of our taxpayer money sending [Diemer] and the other By-Law Officers over to these repeat offenders. Let’s start dinging them,” she said.

  Kevin Carter, Chief Building Official, explained the by-law states the fee is double for repeat offenders. The Town does implement that, but it is on a case-by-case basis.

  There are cases also where people can be financially strapped and their lawnmower may be broken, he added.

  Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley asked if the By-Law Department has all the tools it needs to conduct its business. Carter said the CAO has promoted getting more By-Law Officers, which has been helpful.


Essex’s development down 98.6% in 2023

Essex Council received a development overview for the year 2023, which noted the total construction value for last year – including all new and expanding commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential developments that required a building permit – was $66,084,700.

  This was down 98.6% compared to 2022.

  Nelson Silveira, Economic Development Officer, explained multiple factors played into that, including local economic conditions. In addition, in 2022, there was also nearly $100M in construction value due to the Essex Town Centre subdivision.

  Moving forward, these economic development reports will be presented to Council quarterly, rather than monthly, he told Council.

  Overall, on the horizon there are exciting projects on the docket for 2024 which will hopefully bring those numbers up, Silveira said.

  In addition, the report details the average home sale price in Wards 1 and 2 was $498,815 in 2023, which was significantly lower than the $573,592 recorded in 2022. The average home sale price in Wards 3 and 4 was $547,194 in 2023, which was fairly lower than the $582,729 recorded in 2022.

  In addition, the report outlines a total of 56 single-family home permits were issued in 2023, 22 of which for Ward 3, 15 in Essex Centre, 12 in Harrow, and seven in the McGregor area.


LIFE lease of Kinsmen House

Essex Council approved entering into an agreement, and passed the corresponding by-law, with Learning in Friendship and Equality (LIFE) for leased space at the former Kinsmen Fieldhouse, located at 50 Fairview Avenue West in Essex Centre.

  This is for a five-year lease, commencing on February 5, 2024 and concluding on July 31, 2028. There will be an option to renew for an additional five-years, beginning on August 1, 2028, subject to the general terms and conditions as outlined in By-Law Number 2260.

  The lease will require LIFE to pay an annual rate of $5,334.12, plus harmonized sales tax. It was recommended for the lease agreement that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) be incorporated into the annual rate as of August 1, prior to the new annual term beginning.

  LIFE is a day respite program for adults with intellectual disabilities. Activities hosted through the program teaches its members life skills, like budgeting, and improving social interactions.

In addition to taking educational field trips, LIFE also hosts a culinary skills program, where members plan a menu for the week, and then are taken to the grocery store to grab the groceries needed to make the items on the menu. The members then help to unload the groceries back at the LIFE building.

  Councillor Jason Matyi wanted to ensure the building was going to be in good enough shape to house the program.

  Director of Community Services, Jake Morassut, noted there have been upgrades to the mechanical systems at the facility in the past few years, in addition to a new roof.


Performance securities

for Pollard subdivision reduced

Essex Council moved to reduce the performance securities on file for the Pollard Harrow Residential Development, which is the former Harrow Junior School, to $20,000.

  The Report to Council notes the development consists of 34 semi-detached dwelling units and a stormwater management (SWM) pond. As it is considered infill development, it did not require the construction of new roads or the installation of new sanitary or water infrastructure. All dwellings have since been constructed.

  The developer provided a cheque in the amount of $100,000 prior to the construction of the required services. The main construction work for servicing of the development has now been completed. There are only minor deficiencies relating to the topsoil and seeding around the top and bottom of the bank of the SWM pond. The deficiencies will be addressed in the spring, it adds.

  The Town will assume the SWM pond will be assumed by the Town once all deficiencies have been dealt with.


 OPA passed to redesignate future sports fields

lands from “Ag” to “Parks and Open Spaces”

Essex Council passed By-Law Number 2305, to Amend the Official Plan for the Town of Essex, to redesignate the lands located at the corner of North Malden Road and Batten Side Road from “Agricultural” to “Parks and Open Spaces.”

  In addition, Official Plan Amendment No. 9 will be submitted for approval to the Manager of Planning Services for the County of Essex. A County Official Plan Amendment to incorporate the lands into the Essex Centre Primary Settlement Area was deemed unnecessary to facilitate the development.

  It also approved By-Law Number 2306 to Amend By-Law 1037, the Comprehensive Zoning By-Law for the Town of Essex, to permit Major Public and Private Recreational Facilities for the lands located at the corner of North Malden Road and Batten Side Road.

  The Town of Essex purchased these lands to create the future Essex Sports Fields.

  The Report to Council notes this outdoor facility is intended to serve the recreational needs of the Town and region. The intention is to offer fields for soccer and baseball, in addition to amenities, such as washrooms, concession stands, play equipment, walking trails, and associated parking.

To assist in financing the development of the Sports Fields, Essex’s Manager of Planning Services, Rita Jabbour, previously noted the Town is interested in Public Private Partnerships through lease or land sale to finance the development. Private entities would build facilities complementary to the recreational services provided by the Town.

Amendments to Zoning Bylaw 1037 are also required to establish a zoning category which permits recreational uses as permitted uses for the subject lands.

A statutory Public Meeting was held on Monday January 15, 2024 to hear feedback from the public on the matter.

A 20-day appeal period will now be effective. If no appeals are received within the 20-day appeal period, Bylaw 2035 will be submitted to the Manager of Planning Services for the County of Essex for final adoption.


Notice of Motion to be discussed

at the February 20 meeting

Councillor Kate McGuire-Blais will ask Council to consider that the bollard outside 114 Talbot Street North – the one to the west of the parking lot entrance – be removed and a “parking lot entrance” sign be installed, and that no parking lines be painted at the entrance to the parking lot.

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