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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex Council Notes from January 16, 2023

by Sylene Argent

2022 Municipal Election Accessibility Report details

review of voting locations will be undertaken

Essex Council received a report regarding the 2022 Municipal and School Board Elections, regarding accessibility.

Feedback during the 2022 Municipal Election indicated several concerns regarding the location of the Colchester Community Centre and wait times in Ward 1 and Ward 3. As a result, a complete review of the locations will be undertaken prior to the 2026 election to ensure all residents have equal access, the Report to Council notes.

The report was completed as the Municipal Elections Act requires a Town Clerk to prepare a plan regarding the identification, removal, and prevention of barriers affecting electors and candidates with disabilities before the election, then prepare a follow up report within 90-days after voting has taken place.

The 2022 Municipal Election Accessibility Plan was received and supported by the Essex Accessibility Advisory Committee and adopted by Council.

Administration will investigate ways to improve collaboration with individuals with disabilities along with internal staff and external organizations, the Report to Council continues.

Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy asked how the use of proxy votes went this election, with the Town adopting a policy on the matter.

Acting Clerk Shelley Brown said the Town created a registry to handle proxy votes, and 15 were registered (four from Ward 1, two from Ward 2, six from Ward 3, and three in Ward 4). Of those, 11 were certified and 10 of those voted.

Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley asked about using internet voting in the next election. Brown said Administration will present a report on various voting methods that Council can discuss in the future.

Councillor Jason Matyi noted he heard concerns with the ramp at the Colchester Community Centre, and how some with accessibility needs still have trouble accessing the building via the ramp.

Though the ramp meets accessibility standards, CAO Doug Sweet said the Town has heard feedback on that concern and staff will look into alternatives.

Bruce P. Elman to be new

Integrity Commissioner for Essex

Council awarded the Request for Proposal for Integrity Commissioner Services to Bruce P. Elman LL.D., for a one-year term, commencing January 1, 2023.

This will be subject to an option to renew for a further term of two-years at the Town’s discretion.

The Report to Council notes each municipal council is required to appoint an Integrity Commissioner, who is responsible for investigating complaints and concerns in regards to the application of the Code of Conduct for members of Council and of any procedures, rules, and policies of the municipality governing, in addition to the ethical behaviour of members of council and local boards.

The position needed to be filled as the Previous Term of Council did not extend the contract of former Integrity Commissioner, Robert Swayze, in August of 2022.

After reviewing the three proposals submitted to the RFP in early December, Bruce P. Elman LL.D. scored the highest evaluation and was also the lowest bid.

The proposal provides for a yearly rate for advisory and education of $1,800, and an hourly rate of $300 that will apply to complaint investigation and resolution, letters of advice, advisory bulletins, policy consultation and advice, brief service and brief advice, and other matters involving ethical concerns.

According to the Report to Council, $44,071 was spent on Integrity Commissioner services in 2021, while $11,188 was spent in 2020, and $5,784 in 2019. As of October, $12,005 was spent in 2022. It adds it is difficult to anticipate costs associated with the Integrity Commissioner Services for 2023, however, Administration believes the budgeted amount of $20,000 will be sufficient.

Request for Community Safety Zone

on South Talbot Road deemed premature

At the August 22 Council meeting, the previous Term of Council heard resident concerns regarding speeding on South Talbot Road, from Victoria Avenue to Maidstone, since the road had opened up.

At that time, Council supported using the Town of Essex’s policy on creating Community Safety Zones to see if the section of this road would qualify for that, and further directed Administration to reach out to the MTO to see if the Town of Essex could temporarily reduce the speed from 50km/hr to 40km/hr.

In the Report to Council that Director of Infrastructure, Kevin Girard, prepared, it was recommended that a Community Safety Zone not be implemented at this time. Should Council wish to investigate the need for a Community Safety Zone in the future, a thorough traffic study in accordance with the Town’s policy, was recommended.

It adds that a traffic study should occur at least one year following the completion of the Highway 3 widening project.

The Report to Council also adds that Community Safety Zones are typically identified on roadways near schools, daycares, playgrounds, parks, hospitals, senior citizen residences, and roadway sections with identified high collision or road speed violations rates. They are meant to help modify driver behaviour and improve safety on municipally selected sections of road where public safety is of special concern.

The local OPP replied to the Town’s request for feedback on the matter and noted the request for a Community Safety Zone seemed premature, given the status of the newly opened portion of this road, coupled with the incomplete construction of Highway #3 expansion.

“It would be more advantageous to have the construction be completed and then evaluate the traffic volume at that time,” it states, adding, when construction on Highway 3 is completed, “We can set up better evaluations and assessments for the road and what demands there may be to the Municipality and the actual impacts.”

Councillor Katie McGuire-Blais agreed with the report that it may be premature to add a Community Safety Zone to the area, but said she was sympathetic to the residents.

She said the Victoria Avenue access to Highway 3 was only recently closed-off, and that the Hanlan Street extension is not yet complete, which should help alleviate traffic going down South Talbot.

Mayor Sherry Bondy also voiced sympathy for the residents as she believes the concerns are real. She would look forward to traffic calming measures in the future, such as using the Town’s Black Cat devices, which collect traffic data, in the spring for further documentation.

Bondy also believes the intersection near the Tim Hortons and McDonald’s needs to be looked at.

Two radar signs to be purchased for Gesto Sideroad

Council directed Administration to implement a speed radar signage program, and further approved around $8,000 for the purchase of two speed radar signs.

This will focus on Gesto Sideroad, from South Malden Road to County Road 12.

At the October 22 meeting, the previous Term of Council passed Councillor Kim Verbeek’s motion that directed Administration come back with some suggestions on how to slow traffic, which is already posted at 50km/hr.

At the time, Verbeek said because of the way this road is laid out, there are speeding concerns. She wanted to have the study completed to see what can be done to mitigate the speeding and let the residents of the area know their concerns have been heard.

In the fall of 2022, the Town’s Operations Department conducted a traffic study on Gesto Sideroad, from County Road 12 to around 1km to the Southeast, using the Town’s Black Cat Radar Recorder. The device collects traffic data, such as speed and vehicle type without being visual to the public.

It was observed an average of 58 cars travel on the road per day. Around 36 percent of traffic was travelling in excess of 10km/ph of the posted speed limit, which would indicate a trend of enforceable speeding on this stretch of road and an increased need for enforcement measures, the Report to Council notes.

As part of any Town of Essex traffic study the Town also calculated and reviewed the 85th percentile speed in the study area – the speed at which 85 percent of drivers are observed to travel at under free-flowing conditions past a monitored point, was 69kph, well above the posted 50km/hr.

Director of Infrastructure, Kevin Girard, said speed limits set above or below the 85th percentile could create unsafe conditions, due to speed differential.

Staff recommended that prior to the future capital replacement of this section of Gesto Sideroad, Infrastructure Services make changes to the characteristics of the roadway design to fit the existing 50kph speed limit.

It was determined that there are very few opportunities and strategies for traffic calming in rural areas, however, temporary speed radar signs could be installed, as the best way to improve speeding is through enforcement and education, he said.

These signs flash a driver’s speed. They are slightly different from the speed radar trailers that the Town currently owns, as these can typically be installed much closer to the road. They can also be temporarily installed in problematic areas that require additional speeding awareness and can be moved through the municipality as needed, the Report to Council details.

It was also recommended enforcement measures be increased to bring awareness to the 50kph speed limit. Infrastructure Services will ensure the OPP are provided a copy of this report and the associated speed study data, which will include details of when speeding typically occurs and when enforcement is most needed.

The Report noted the radar signs are around $4000 each, and two would be required, one for each direction of travel. It was suggested the funding come from the $20,000 set aside in the 2022 Capital Budget for additional Black Cat devices. $12,000 was spent on two of those devices.

Verbeek said she is grateful for the solution. She said she was in contact with the OPP on the matter, and its staff confirmed officers were issuing tickets every time they were positioned there. She hopes this will work to reduce speed, and, if it does, Council should consider purchasing more temporary radar signs in the future.

Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley said he grew up in the area and does not believe the speed has changed. He is glad Council will purchase the signs to try and make a difference, but was not sure they would make a difference. He believes the only thing that will correct the issue is police presence.

Councillor Joe Garon asked if another study will be conducted when the signs are up to see if they are working. Girard said the intent is to leave the Black Cat device up to continue to collect data. That will also help staff determine how long the signs should remain up.

Debt Management Policy adopted, Shoreline Loan Program to be repealed

Council adopted a Debt Management Policy, and further directed Administration to prepare a by-law to repeal By-Law 1908 that authorized the Essex Shoreline Assistance Loan Program, effective August 31, 2023.

Kate Giurissevich, Director of Corporate Services/Treasurer, said this policy has been in the works for the past year. It ensures Administration and Council have guidelines to follow when taking on debt.

The four goals associated to the policy includes adherence to regulations, defining the uses of debt and how it can be obtained, promoting fiscally responsible financial management, and minimizing the cost of long-term financing.

According to the Report to Council, Essex has not had a formal debt management policy.

The policy has a benchmark of 15 percent of debt servicing costs to the Town’s own source revenues. This allows for a 10 percent excess for what the Ministry of Affairs allows, providing for a buffer if the need arises, she said.

It adds that By-Law 1908, the Shoreline Loan Program, was approved on April 20, 2020 to assist local owners of shoreline properties to repair or construct protective works on the shoreline. It allows property owners to finance shoreline protection work through their property tax accounts.

While this program does provide a financing alternative to specific benefitting property owners, it exposes the municipality to risk as this debt is present in the Financial Records at the Town, the Report to Council continues. It directly impacts debt levels of the Town, which in turn impacts the Town’s Annual Repayment Limit.

At the onset, there was good uptake on the Shoreline Loan Program, Giurissevich said, and it is believed it served the problem of the day. Recently, there has been minimal resident uptake. When there has been interest, it was for substantial and significant loan amounts to individuals.

It is difficult to predict when a Shoreline Loan would be dispersed, so it was recommended it be discontinued with significant notice.

Mayor Sherry Bondy said it was a great program. Like many municipal programs, the Town cannot afford to keep them forever.

Holding Zone Restriction removed,

performance securities released for Phase 1 of Greenleaf Trails

Essex Council passed By-Law Number 2214, to amend The Comprehensive Zoning By-Law for the Town of Essex, which was required to authorize the removal of the Holding (H) restriction and permit the construction of residential dwellings for Phase 1 of the Greenleaf Trails residential subdivision.

Phase 1 of the Greenleaf Trails residential subdivision comprises 28 lots for single-detached dwellings and four blocks of semi-detached or townhouse dwellings in Harrow.

The lands are zoned HR2.2. With the “H” prefix, no use, building or other structure is permitted, but it can be removed when preconditions have been met. Town of Essex Infrastructure Services has confirmed that all major deficiencies have been addressed. It is now appropriate to remove the “Hold,” the Report to Council notes.

Council also authorized the reduction of the commercial letter of credit from Dalla Bona Estates INC by $147,740.46, and approved any over budget amount for Development Charge waivers be funded through the Landfill Reserve and repaid at a period no longer than five -years from the date of building permit issuance.

All Development Charges applicable to the construction of residential dwellings in the Harrow Primary Settlement Area are waived at a rate of 50 percent in 2023. The Town is required to fund the waiver.

The total number of dwellings to be constructed in 2023, and subject to Development Charge (DC) waivers under Bylaw 1850, is unknown at this time.

Protection of Highways By-Law provisionally adopted,

Council to provide further feedback

By-Law 2219 to provide for the protection and regulation of Town of Essex Highways, Road Allowances, and Right of Ways was provisionally adopted, giving opportunity for Council to provide additional feedback for official adoption.

Kevin Girard, Director of Infrastructure Services, explained the existing By-Law was adopted in December of 1999 and is in need of updating to relevant standards and updated practices. The Report to Council adds that the update presented the Town with an opportunity to review its needs from a “care and use” perspective, which the current by-law does not cover. Part 5 of the proposed By-Law includes a number of proposed regulations for the care and maintenance of the Town’s rights-of-way.

The By-Law, the Report to Council notes, speaks to the specifics of what is not permitted to take place within the Town rights-of-way, without expressed permission from the Town; exemptions; care and landscaping of Town rights-of-way; and requirements for permits. It also identifies enforcement measures.

It adds that it is recommended each individual property undergo review on a case-by-case basis for requested landscaping within the Right of Way, allowing residents the opportunity to apply through the permitting process for landscaping for a Town Right-of-Way.

That recommendation came after Council directed Administration to prepare a report to Council on October 10, including recommendations on a best practices policy concerning landscaping on the Town’s right-of-way.

The Town, he added, does not have a care in use by-law, but needs one. The By-Law provides for that. Section five identifies the care in use section, which designates a property owner’s obligation to cut the grass at the boulevard in front of their house and that the driveways within the Town’s property need to be in good repair to protect against liability concerns.

Councillor Jason Matyi said when he moved to ask Council to direct Administration to prepare a report with recommendations on a best practices policy concerning landscaping on Town rights-of-way, he was looking for a more objective set of criteria.

Girard said the recommendation is to not permit landscaping in a right-of-way, unless there is no potential for any future improvements, based on research staff conducted. This takes enforceability into consideration.

The difference between the old and new By-Law includes that in the old document, no landscaping is permitted at a public right-of-way and the new one could allow exceptions to properties that may never have matters going on in the future that would have an impact from landscaping. The new By-Law also will have more teeth for enforcement.

CAO Doug Sweet said the Town is developing an Appeals Committee, and looking at what By-Laws this committee will oversee. He sees this By-Law as one that can be included, so residents do not have to go to Council for exemptions.

As it was provisionally adopted, there is time for Council to potentially tweak the By-Law by providing staff with feedback on the matter, based on concerns they voiced during the meeting, before official adoption at a future meeting.

In a recorded vote for provisional adoption, Councillors Matyi, Allard, and Verbeek were opposed, with the remainder of Council in support.

Drainage apportionment, water billing fees and charges adopted

Council directed Administration to incorporate the fees and charges as described within By-law 2040, to establish a schedule of miscellaneous fees and charges.

The Report to Council notes when the Infrastructure Services Department recently completed an annual review of the current Fees and Charges By-Law, it was discovered that there were some charges that were not captured.

New charges added to the By-Law includes a fee for the supply of the water meter for a new build, a $100 flat rate per month following a 90-day grace period until the water meter is installed and approved by the Environmental Services Department, and a $100 refundable fee to encourage the customer to contact the Town/ELK for non-payment to avoid escalation of collecting upon property taxes.

It also includes a fee of $200 on property owners requesting a Drainage Apportionment Agreement to cover the administrative cost to the Town for preparing this agreement.

Report a Problem

4th quarter update received

Essex Council received a report detailing the submissions made to the online Report a Problem tool that allows residents an opportunity to forward municipal-based issues to the Town of Essex during the final quarter of 2022.

The Report to Council notes between October 1 and December 31 of 2022, Town staff received 196 submissions through the online Report a Problem portal. The largest complaint, with 51 submissions, regarded roads, sidewalks, and bridges. There were also 36 submissions regarding streetlights, powerlines, and overhead utilities, and 16 submissions for Drinking Water / Water mains, and an additional 16 submissions regarding playgrounds, parks, and splashpads.

On average, tickets were closed within seven-days of submission. Of all submissions, 54 percent were closed within three days or less, and 86 percent were closed within 14 days or less. There are still 49 submissions remaining open, the Report to Council notes.

Grant funding to cover additional Heritage Gardens Park washroom costs

Council received information noting the Town of Essex was awarded $28,646 in grant funding through the “My Main Street Community Activator Program” for the Heritage Gardens Park Washrooms.

Council also approved using the grant funding to cover additional project expenses, totalling $15,132.95 for unforeseen excavation and land work, which included additional labour for the removal of large foundations and rocks encountered underground when installing the waterline from Wilson Avenue to the building location.

In addition, it was approved to use the remaining $13,513.05 towards the total project cost, instead of using Parks and Recreation General Reserve monies previously approved on September 6. At that time, Administration asked Council for additional funding as the tenders received were $43,440 over budget.

In the Report to Council, it notes the previous Term of Council approved building washrooms at the Heritage Gardens Park to promote events and tourism at that location. The approved budget for this project was $300,000, including a $50,000 donation from the Rotary Club of Essex and a $100,000 contribution from the Essex Centre BIA.

January to be recognized as Crime Stoppers Month

Essex Council received and supported correspondence from Windsor and Essex County Crime Stoppers Inc, which asked Essex to recognize January of 2023 as Crime Stoppers Month.

This supports Windsor and Essex County Crime Stoppers Inc in promoting public awareness on its service within the community.

Council to ask Province to allow residents claim drainage bills on income tax

Councillor Kim Verbeek put forward a Notice of Motion that was to be presented at the February 6 Regular Council Meeting, asking Council to direct Administration to send a letter to the Provincial government, requesting residents be allowed to claim drainage bills on their income tax.

As the Notice of Motion fit the criteria, it was moved to the New Business section and dealt with Monday evening instead.

She said this matter is significant in Ward 2 as a lion’s share of drainage work is done in that area. Farmers can write that off on taxes, but non-farmers cannot, she said.

Deputy Mayor Rob Shepley, Mayor Sherry Bondy, and Councillor Jason Matyi voiced support for the motion.

Council passed the motion, with an amendment that the resolution also be sent to County Council, ROMA, and AMO as well.

Fortification By-Law passed

Essex Council gave third reading to and passed By-Laws 2210, to prohibit and regulate fortification and protective elements of land.

This was discussed and provisionally passed at the December 19 meeting.

Final reading of Greenhouse light

Abatement By-Law deferred

On the advice of CAO Doug Sweet, Council deferred By-Law 2211, to require the abatement of interior greenhouse light emissions.

He said public and Council feedback has been brought forward on the matter, since it was presented, and believed it should be reviewed when a new Director of Legislative Services/Clerk is selected.

By-Law for declaration and disposition of surplus

lands for portion of Hunter Park passed

Council gave three readings to and passed By-Law 2220, for the declaration and disposition of surplus lands for a Portion of Hunter Park, 0 Bell Avenue.

At the May 16 meeting, Council declared a 200’x 25’ portion on the northwest extent of 0 Bell Avenue as surplus to the needs to the municipality, and further directed Administration provide the required public notice and bring back to Council a by-law to sell the property by way of private sale.


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