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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council Notes for Monday, May 2, 2022

by Sylene Argent

Admin directed to stop the clock on new STRs

On March 7 and 21, public meetings were held so Council could discuss, and hear feedback from the public, on possible regulations and Zoning By-law 1037 amendments meant to regulate Short Term Rentals (STRs) in the Town of Essex, in addition to possibly implementing a licensing system.

  As a result of those meetings, Council supported Councillor Jason Matyi’s motion to host an open house to allow people an opportunity to express their opinions on STRs and the Town’s potential policy and licensing program.

  The Town is proposing a series of regulations, including that a STR be permitted in a single-detached dwelling in a residential or agricultural district, one STR in a single-detached dwelling or dwelling unit be permitted in a commercial district, and also be permitted in a cabin in Green District 1.2 and 1.5.

  Also proposed is that an STR must be licensed through the Town of Essex, be a minimum of 100m from another property on which a STR is located when in a residential district and provide one onsite parking space for each two bedrooms, and not be in a Secondary Dwelling Unit.

  A potential licensing system, and a demerit point system to penalize rule breakers, was also introduced for Council to consider.

  Discussion on the matter continued on Monday evening. Essex Council heard from delegates Dennis Smith and Mike Piche in regards to STRs.

  Smith said he was representing a group of impacted property owners. He said the group approached Council last June, outlining issues that permanent residents are facing with STR properties in their neighbourhoods, especially the ones on the beaches of Colchester Village.

  Since that time, Smith said, means of correspondence from members of this group to Council and Admin attempted to provide public input towards creation of a comprehensive by-law regulating STR operators.

  He said members of his group did not speak at a public meeting hosted in March on the matter, however, they participated in one-on-one meetings with members of Council. He thanked members of Council for taking the time to meet with them to discuss the main issues.

  He said there are six main issues: density and saturation, grandfathering existing properties, parking chaos, absentee ownership with no control of the bad behaviour of renters, property conditions and deficient structures, and the significant cost that will be incurred to enforce regulations and by-laws.

  At the April 19 Council meeting, Matyi put forward a Notice of Motion, to be discussed at the May 2 meeting, that asked Council to direct Administration to provide that all licence applications to operate STR properties established after May 2, 2022 require the owner of the STR to either be living in or on the property which is their primary residence or be within 100metres of the property in their primary residence in order to be considered for a licence to operate a short term rental unit in a residential (R) zoned property.

  Speaking to Matyi’s motion, Smith said in February Windsor introduced a new regulation that limits the operation of STRs to primary dwellings only. He and his group support Matyi’s Notice of Motion as it will allow the Town to get a handle on how many and where the STRs are operated in the municipality.

  “In the long run, it will encourage local ownership of rental properties, rather than out-of-town investors in it for the money,” Smith said, encouraging Council to pass Matyi’s motion, or what he called an acceptable alternative.

  Piche called this issue a critical matter concerning all homeowners in the Town of Essex. He said he and his wife have enjoyed their home in Colchester for 22-years. Recently, he said the environment has changed because of STRs.

“These fundamental changes to this area could affect our quality of life and limit the quiet enjoyment of our property,” Piche said.

  He was dismayed to learn Essex does not have a by-law in place yet, and also had concerns about grandfathering. In his opinion, STRs should not be allowed in a strictly residential neighbourhood.

Council, he said, has heard from STR owners, who believe in their product and managing their property. He asked if those on Council would want to live next to a house, or houses, where unknown neighbours arrive each weekend, often having late night celebrations, who walk on your property, pick you flowers, or park on your lawn.

  “If this situation is left to grow without control, the so-called silent majority could and will be affected,” he said.

  He also wanted Council to vote in favour of Matyi’s Notice of Motion.   

  Matyi said he put forward the motion because he believes the saturation levels of STRs in Colchester is high, and because he said there may be an influx of potential buyers from Windsor, since the City recently passed its own regulation.

  Lori Chadwick, Director of Development Services, said Administration has drafted a Short Term Rental By-Law, which was presented to Council on March 7. She said staff understands there is concern with a potential influx of new STRs. Existing STRs also have to be recognized in the municipality, as they are not prohibited or permitted because they do not exist in the Town’s Zoning By-Law.

  One of the potential solutions to address potential new STRs, she said, is to prepare a new zoning by-law amendment that would only recognize existing short term rentals, and would allow staff to license the ones that are existing. Then, the Town could collect the data on the existing short term rentals, they could be licensed, and under the licensing system that was presented back in March, the Town could have the ability to enforce certain aspects of that license, from parking to fire inspections to location of the bonfires to ownership information.

  In December, Admin was directed to prepare a Zoning By-Law Amendment to allow new STRs. Because of the change in direction, she was looking for a new direction from Council.

  She would like to hold an open house in the future to further communication with residents and operators on the matter.

  Between by-law enforcement and OPP, the Town could issue orders, and fines, through a demerit system, for repeat offenders, and possibly revoking of the license.

  She suggested amending the zoning amendment on the issue that is already prepared and remove the verbiage about any new STR, and bring it to Council during a special meeting on Monday, May 9 to pass the zoning by-law amendment. This would stop the clock on any new STR, from being established.

  Then, during the regular meeting on May 16, Council will have the option to pass the short term licensing by-law fully.

  Chadwick said Admin continues to recommend STRs be allowed in commercial, ag, or green districts.

  Staff can then set a date for when a license must be obtained. If Council has an appetite, later on, could review and open up for new licenses, by ward or municipal-wide.

  Matyi said Chadwick’s suggestion did capture the spirit of his motion.

  Rita Jabbour, Manager of Planning, said the proposed by-law recommends 100m between STRs in residential districts. With the discussion held Monday, she said this would be taken out, because, with the new recommendation, only existing STRs will be recognized and a distance requirement cannot be stipulated because they are existing.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said she is worried how it will be enforced, and does not want that to fall on OPP.  She said a hard approach needs to be taken on enforcement and licensing.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen noted many on Council have been working on the file for more than a year. He added while his motion is a good idea, it is half-a-year too late.

  He is in favour of having STRs, but controlling them.  

  After discussion, Matyi withdrew his motion, and Admin will host a special Council meeting on May 9 to introduce the amendment, then further consider passing the by-law at the May 16 meeting.

  Matyi thanked Administration for the solution.

Final summary on Essex Centre/Harrow CIPs presented

Essex Council received Economic Development’s Report, “Community Improvement Plan (CIP) – Essex Centre and Harrow Final Summary.”

  In the report, it notes the Town of Essex CIP plans were created in 2012 to stimulate private sector investment through municipal incentive-based programs, offering a variety of grant programs for eligible property owners to invest in façade improvements, new signage, and building renovations and improvements.

  Funding for CIP programs in Essex Centre and Harrow expired at the end of 2021. Funds are now, instead, being streamed into the streetscape projects in both project areas.

  The Colchester & County Road 50 CIP Program will not expire until 2027, and has an approved budget of $50,000 for 2022.

  The report outlines the Community Improvement Plan funds provided from 2012 to 2021 in Essex Centre and Harrow totaled $1,690,552; with $721,765.95 going through Essex Centre’s program and $968,786.05 through Harrow’s program.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said it is exciting to see the funds funnel through the programs, and that has paired nicely with the streetscapes. Private investment is coming to Harrow, she added.

  “People are now talking about downtown Harrow and how beautiful it looks,” Bondy said, adding Harrow’s CIP was built out of its strategic plan dating back to 2010 and 2011. “It has been a great program.”

  Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman thanked Town Policy Planner Jeff Watson for the work he completed on this file.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen noted the intention of the program was to always be temporary to revitalize the downtown areas after the 2008/09 economic trainwreck, when many units were boarded up and empty. He said it served its purpose.

Essex Fire & Rescue on track to meeting new regulations  

Essex Fire Chief Rick Arnel provided information to update Council on the new regulations under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 (FPPA) related to new requirements for mandatory training and certification for firefighters.

The Report to Council notes the new legislation identifies the fire protection service that the municipality is providing, and sets out the minimum training certification standard that the fire department needs to provide that service.

  Municipalities have until July 1, 2026 to determine the level of service provided by the municipality and train firefighters to that appropriate level of service, he said.

  “For the Town of Essex, I can say our team is phenomenal,” Fire Chief Rick Arnel said.

  Currently, Essex Fire & Rescue has 62 suppression personnel, with 30 being grandfathered in and 17 certified with the National Fire Protection Association’s 1001 Levels I & II compliance, four are non-certified, and there are 11 recruits.

  The new recruits wrote their exams and completed practical testing on April 30 and May 1 and are awaiting results.

  Pending all recruits pass their exams, Essex Fire & Rescue firefighters will be 94 percent certified/grandfathered to NFPA 1001 II standard. The four firefighters non falling in that category will be provided an opportunity to complete this training, if they choose to do so, by July 1, 2026 to be able to obtain certification.

  Arnel said these individuals have four-years to get certified, and Admin will have a conversation with those individuals to see if anything can be done to help them get certified.

  “We’ve got a lot invested in our people, and we don’t want to lose anybody,” he said.

  In addition, he said, all officers have to be certified. Three individuals over the weekend wrote their fire service instructor course. Hopefully, by the end of the year, all officers will be certified to Officer I and all District Chiefs will have Officer II, exceeding the current legislation.

  It adds municipalities offering technical rescue operations are to be certified by July 1, 2028; which include Essex Fire & Rescue’s Ice/Water Rescue team, which will continue training with the entire team to be certified under NFPA 1006 “Standard for Technical Rescue Personnel Qualification” to comply with the legislation.

  “I can assure you, Council believes that through you and through your team, that you have done things very professionally, and we are very proud of the fact that we have a fire department that represents us so well,” Essex Mayor Richard Meloche said.

 Supply and application of maintenance stone awarded

Council awarded the Request for Tender- Supply and application of Maintenance Stone 2022 to Jeff Shepley Excavating in the amount of $190,000, including non-refundable Harmonized Sales Tax.

  The Report to Council notes as part of the maintenance program, the Town must seek a qualified contractor for the supply and application of 100 percent crushed dolomite stone, and the material shall meet the requirements of the Ontario Provincial Standard Specification (OPSS) 1010, material specifications for Granular “M” material and shall have a minimum bulk relative density of 2.7.

  Jeff Shepley Excavating submitted the lowest bid and was the previous supplier for the same maintenance stone with satisfactory services.

  Administration will utilize the unit price to supply a quantity of maintenance stone to not exceed the $190,000.

 Amendments to Procedural By-Law for electronic participation

in meetings to be considered May 16

Council directed Legislative Services to rework the Procedural By-Law with amendments with respects to hosting electronic meetings, based on Council suggestions made, and that it come back for Council consideration on May 16.

  Robert Auger, Director of Legislative Services/Clerk, explained the Town of Essex was expected to terminate the COVID State of Emergency that was declared in March of 2020.

  In the Town’s Current Procedural By-Law, he noted, it outlines rules in regards to participation in electronic meetings that take place outside a declared State of Emergency: Council meetings must have a quorum of its members meeting in-person for open meetings, up to three Council members can participate electronically to facilitate personal emergency or temporary extraordinary situations, closed Council meetings must be 100 percent in-person, and committee meetings must be in-person only.

  Council could amend the Procedural By-Law.

  Auger asked Council how it would like to proceed. Any changes could be made, then presented to Council at the May 16 meeting for adoption.

  Even if Council wanted to support the status quo, Admin recommended allowing delegations to attend electronically.

  Auger noted Admin has been preparing the Council Chambers at the Essex Municipal Building to accommodate a regular meeting of Council, with the possibility of in-person delegates. It was also recommended that the live-streaming of Council meetings be a permanent element going forward, and that Admin be directed to review and bring forward recommendations relating to livestreaming committee meetings for the next Term of Council.

  Councillor Kim Verbeek said she supported as much flexibility for delegates as possible. With closed meetings being typically short, she wondered if they could take part electronically to save mileage expenses. She is anxious to get back in-person.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen is eager to get back to in-person meetings, but is glad to see the interest from the public who watch the livestream meetings from home. He believes meeting electronically for closed meetings may be okay for some of the quicker, less contentious meetings, but interaction between Councillors will be missed.

  Deputy Mayor Steve Bjorkman said if someone cannot get to the meeting, they should count as quorum if they participate electronically. Closed Council meetings should also be open to the electronic option, if needed. Committees, he said, will have more cost to livestream. That should be reviewed with the new Council. Flexibility should be given to delegates.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said special and regular meetings should be livestreamed. She does not believe electronic participation of Council members should be allowed if they are out-of-country for several months as that would not be fair to residents.

  CAO Doug Sweet said the Town’s Council Chambers is set up to accommodate all of Council and Directors for the Town. Media, Managers for the Town, and delegations will participate electronically.

  Potentially, the first meeting back at town hall will be May 16. Another venue could be used for larger topics that are planned to be discussed.

  Auger said Admin will come back to the May 16 meeting with proposed amendments. For the May 9 special meeting regarding STRs, as the amendments to the by-law will come later, a quorum would be needed in-person. Those participating electronically would not count towards quorum, but their votes would count.  

 Municipal Waste Collection Services awarded to GFL

Council awarded the Request for Proposal for Municipal Waste Collection Services to GFL Environmental Inc. (“GFL”) for a two-year period, commencing May 2, and directed Administration to return with the appropriate by-law for Council’s consideration to approve entering into an agreement for the provision of Municipal Waste Collection Services.

  Council also supported that the actual overage for the period of eight-months (May 1 to December 31, 2022) will be funded from the Garbage Levy Reserve and that the Garbage Levy be adjusted in the next fiscal budget to fund any deficit and subsequent rate increases.

  The Report to Council noted the Town of Essex provides Waste Collection Services consisting of refuse collection and organics collection.

  In 2015, the contract to provide these services was awarded to Windsor Disposal Services Ltd. (now owned by GFL Environmental Inc). The initial term of the contract was then extended as an option under the contract for an additional two-years, and it was further extended to December 31, 2021 with the same terms and conditions.

  Since January 1, 2022 the existing contract has continued on a month-to-month basis.

  The only request for proposal received was from the proponent/existing supplier.

  The estimated yearly cost of the contract is $945,146 and is subject to an annual price adjustment clause.

  This estimated yearly cost of the contract represents a significant increase as the 2022 budgeted annual cost of the contract for the services provided by GFL is approximately $880,000. This would mean an estimated budget overage for the period of 8 months of $44,000, to be funded from the Garbage Levy Reserve, the Report notes.

 Council asks County to review school safety zone for Colchester North

Council passed Councillor Kim Verbeek’s motion to have Essex Council request the County of Essex move forward on a school safety review of Colchester North Public School for a safety zone.  

 Council ends COVID State of Emergency

Essex Council terminated the local State of Emergency for COVID in accordance with Emergency Management and Civil Protection.

 Council proclaims May 4 as International Firefighters Day

Essex Council passed a request to consider proclaiming May 4 as International Firefighters Day, as they dedicate their lives to protect life and property.

  The proclamation notes it is a way to recognize the sacrifices firefighters make, including the risk of the ultimate sacrifice of a firefighter’s life.

World Ocean Day proclaimed for June 8

Essex Council moved the request from Nature Canada, asking the Town of Essex to proclaim World Ocean Day on June 8.

 Notice of Motion: 73’s gateway signs approved

At the April 19 meeting, Mayor Richard Meloche presented a Notice of Motion for the May 2 meeting, asking Council to consider directing Administration to develop insertable gateway signage for the five Essex Centre gateway signs to recognize the Essex 73’s 50th anniversary and being the “winningest Junior ‘C’ Franchise in Ontario.”

  Director of Corporate Services, Jake Morassut, presented a concept design the Town worked on with the team, each costing $110.

  Council moved the motion.

 Notice of Motion: update on sanitary sewage and stormwater capacity discussed

At the April 19 meeting, Councillor Sherry Bondy presented a Notice of Motion for the May 2 meeting, that requested Council request from Administration an updated sanitary sewage and stormwater capacity report for all wards in the Town of Essex.

  Bondy said the municipality is growing, which is fantastic.  

  Getting the capacity info, she added, is important. She doesn’t know what the capacity is, and was not sure if any information is available on that.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen thought drinking water should be added to the list.

  Director of Infrastructure, Kevin Girard, said it is a complicated question as there are multiple components. He said when a sewage facility reaches 85 percent capacity, an Environmental Assessment to start an assessment for upgrade is prepared. He said none of the Town’s municipal sewage systems meet that requirement.

  The Town has completed a sanitary model of the Colchester system, Harrow system, and Ward 1, with an associated study on capacity for conveyance, which assesses trunk sewers.

  The town has a storm sewer model for Harrow and Ward 1. The Southwest Storm Sewer EA is fully calibrated and is an active model.

  Any development proposal is required to conduct a functional servicing report, outlining the level of services a development will require, Girard said. Any upgrades required as part of a development are also assessed and studied.

  Administration, he said, ensures the Town’s infrastructure is protected.   

  A report or assessment on the matter would be a significant undertaking for his department and will take some time to put together, he said.

  Bondy believes this can be a conversation for the new Term of Council, and asked if Administration can pass along models they have to Council.  

  Girard said there is no user-friendly way to provide Council with a model, but high-level studies of certain sanitary sewage areas can be provided.

  Bondy removed her motion.

Notices of Motion to be consider at the May 16, 2022 meeting:

• Councillor Sherry Bondy will ask Council to use either grant money or funds from the Council Contingency fund to construct/install an accessible bathroom at the former Kinsmen Fieldhouse facility in Ward 1.

  • Councillor Sherry Bondy will ask Council to direct Administration to install a “No Dumping” sign on Dunn Road, due to repeat dumping in this location.

  • Councillor Sherry Bondy will ask Council to request County Council review its policy on the appointment of the EWSWA Board, to have one rep on the Board from the Town of Essex as the host municipality of the landfill.

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