Essex Council Notes - Monday, December 16, 2019

by Sylene Argent and Adam Gault

Financial support requested for Heritage Centre

Kevin Money, Director of Conservation Services for the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), and Kris Ives, Curator of the John R. Park Homestead, approached Council regarding the John R. Park Homestead’s Heritage Centre.

  Around a year and a half ago, ERCA applied for a federal tourism grant, and was approved for $600,000 to build the Heritage Centre.

  Ives and Money are looking to raise a total of $1.2 million for the campaign, and requested Essex to invest $100,000 towards construction of a tourism hub, in partnership Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI).

  Money pointed out this project is aligned with the CWATS program, and would align with the Town of Essex’s tourism plans.

  Addressing Councillor Bjorkman’s concerns about parking, Money said he hoped to work with the Town and an area farmer to provide additional space and safe crossing over County Road 50.

  Lori Chadwick, Director of Developmental Services, said this site is the Colchester/County Road 50 CIP program heritage grant could be possible funding mechanisms. The tourism event funds could also be a consideration.

  Jeff Morrison, Director of Corporate Services, also spoke of a Community Partnership Fund possibility.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen raised questions about the number of washrooms the building will have. He also pointed out the Town has its own tourism and cycling efforts, and wondered if this new facility would step on the toes of existing facilities.

  Mayor Larry Snively urged ERCA to approach other municipalities within the region as this is a tourism destination. ERCA has not approached other municipalities in the area as of yet, as Essex is a host municipality.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said she wants the John R. Park Homestead to be sustainable. As the host municipality, she said Essex has to ante up, but she is not sure the Town has $100,000 to give.

  Bondy presented a personal donation to the project and put a motion forward to have administration look to see what grants/fundraising could be available through the Town of Essex.

Two Harrow businessmen thank Council for positive momentum

Harrow Businessmen Lonie Kady of Hometown Family Pharmacy and Sergio Braga from Naples approached Council to present gifts of thanks.

  Kady said there is a very positive momentum growing in the municipality and congratulated the Council reps on their positive momentum.

  They said they will invest event more into the community, which Kady said is the land of opportunity.

  Mayor Larry Snively said it was nice to hear that and that the Town is looking in the right direction.

Councillor Steve Bjorkman said it is a two-way street, and the businesses are stepping up, too.

Essex and Harrow CIP programs to end in 2021

Council received the Planning Department’s 2019 Community Improvement Plan (CIP) update, submitted by Manager of Planning Services, Rita Jabbour.

  In addition, Essex Council voted to allow the Economic Development Officer be a delegated authority for the administration of the Harrow, Essex Centre, and Colchester and County Road 50 CIP, and the execution of agreements on applications submitted under the individual Programs.

  Council also directed Administration to prepare a bylaw to amend the Community Improvement Project Area and Implementation Strategy for the Essex Centre CIP and to prepare a bylaw for the Implementation Strategy of the Harrow CIP and Colchester and County Road 50 CIP.

  Director of Development Services, Lori Chadwick, explained Essex had a very successful year. The Planning and Economic Development Departments worked hard to promote the three CIP programs.

  In 2019, the Harrow CIP (implemented in 2012) had nine applications, and the Essex Centre (implemented in 2014) had eight. As of November 29, $72, 287.95 in grant money was disbursed under the Harrow CIP, and $84, 728.47 was disbursed under the Essex Centre CIP. The Facade Improvement program is most popular in both urban centres.

  The Colchester/Country Road 50 program is relatively new, so word is still spreading about it. In 2019, four new applications were filed under the Colchester CIP and $8000 has been disbursed as of November 29.

  Administration is seeking clarification in some definitions, and the removal of some definitions, as well. They also wanted to have the administrator be the Economic Development Officer.

  Chadwick put forward an amendment to the timeframe to the Harrow and Essex Centre CIP programs. Administration is asking these CIP programs end in 2021.

  “We want everyone to know time is ticking,” she said, adding it is planned to use the funding from these programs for the streetscape programs.

  The report notes that in order to finance the debt related to the streetscape projects, it is being proposed the allotment of $150, 000 from the Community Improvement Plan program beginning in 2022 be allocated towards servicing the debt.

  The Harrow and Essex Centre Streetscape project has a combined total estimated cost of $8.4 million.

  She also requested an expansion to the Essex Centre CIP program, so that it is extended to encompass properties along the east and west sides of Talbot Street, from the intersection of Gosfield Avenue and Talbot Street, to the southern limit of Talbot Street.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman likes the ending of the programs in 2021. “If you want it, get after it, and get those projects done,” he said. To use the money to fund the streetscaping, perhaps when that is done, the Town can go back to the CIP.

CAO provides verbal report on 2020 budget

Essex’s Chief Administrative Officer, Chris Nepszy, presented an overview of Essex’s proposed budget and four-year forecast for 2020.

  For 2020, Administration has presented a balanced budget plan, along with a zero percent change to the Municipality’s Mill Rate (property tax).

  Although the Municipality’s Mill Rate is likely to remain unchanged, property reassessed at a higher value may see an increase in property taxation.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy brought forward if Council would be interested in approving the budget at that meeting.

  “I’m just wondering if there’s any appetite for this Council to look at pulling out our Operating Budget and approving it,” Bondy asked. “I see that there is Council wages in there, and a possible increase, but from my understanding is that’s something that can be debated at a later time.”

  Others on Council thought that one week was not enough time to vote on the budget, opting to wait until a meeting later in January. Essex Council first discussed the budget at a special meeting the previous Monday.

  On the subject of Council wages, Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said that municipality reps have not had an increase in 16-years, and that taking inflation into account, are making less than in 2004, he estimated.

  “We work for so low, that we essentially work for free,” Vander Doelen said.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche agreed that waiting until January would give more time to go through the budget in a more thorough manner.

 Site plan control bylaws repealed

In a report prepared by Essex Policy Planner Jeff Watson, Mark Skipper, a solicitor for 1544867 Ontario Incorporated and Brady’s and Vella’s Pharmacy Professional Corporation, had requested the repeal of two site plan control bylaws related to the properties at 186-190 Talbot Street South for the purpose of refinancing.

  The affected properties are the St. Michael’s professional complex and the adjacent BDO Insurance offices. The St. Michael’s complex was the subject of site plan approval by Council in 2015 when the building was converted into a pharmacy, a restaurant, and office spaces.

  The site plan agreement was approved under Bylaw 1449. The BDO offices were the subject of site plan approval in 2002 under By-law 430.

  Since the time the bylaws in question regarding site plan control went into effect in 2015 for construction purposes on the properties, work on the structures has been completed, thus rendering the bylaws redundant.

 Council hears development update

Essex Director of Development Services, Lori Chadwick, provided Council with a “Year-End Municipal-Wide Development Update,” which provided an overview of developments undertaken in the Town’s four urban centres over the past year.

  These included the Essex Town Centre and Townsview Subdivision in Essex Centre, Dalla Bonna and DaSilva Subdivision in Harrow Centre, the former Home Hardware site in McGregor Centre, and Parkland Estates in Colchester South.

  “The Planning Division has a progressive approach, making sure lands are ready for a variety of uses,” Chadwick explained, adding that a sound review is being done for the DaSilva subdivision, due to its close proximity to Atlas Tube.

  Chadwick highlighted the progress and stages of the various housing developments across the municipality, which included detached houses, semi-detached, apartments, as well as the exploration of the idea of tiny homes to provide additional affordable housing options.

  Several of the developments in question are in the processes of having gas and other infrastructure lines put in place, with some, such as the Weston Apartments at 22 Victor Street, scheduled for being ready for residency in the spring of 2020.

Site Plan approval for busing business

Essex Council received Planning Report “1627015 Ontario Limited Site Plan Control Approval” and approved Bylaw 1874, regarding site plan approval for 1627015 Ontario Limited, for the development of a bus repair facility at 337 Maidstone Avenue East.

  The report notes the lands affected are located to the rear of the Ives Insurance offices. The proponents have acquired the Ives property and consolidated it with their holdings to the rear. The proponents are to construct a three-bay bus repair facility and accessory office, in accordance with the provisions of the M1.1, light industrial zoning, of Zoning Bylaw 1037.

ELK Board changes

Councillor Sherry Bondy resigned from the ELK Energy Board, and Councillor Chris Vander Doelen was appointed in a separate motion.

  Bondy said the province wants less Councillors and more shareholders and independents on boards. Putting another Councillor on, is not following that best practices. She said there is no succession planning, people form community with expertise could do more justice, she said.

  Elected officials can’t speak about what goes on, she added.

  Mayor Larry Snively said ELK is owned by the Town of Essex. This is town-owned corporation.

  In a recorded vote, Bondy was opposed, the remaining of Council was in support. Vander Doelen declared a Conflict of Interest. The motion carried.  

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said ELK is controlled by the Town of Essex, and as such, there are five Council members on the Board. They are also residents. So, because it is a separate entity of the Town, the Town needs to try to keep control of the asset. There are also four Councillors from other municipalities on the Board, from Lakeshore and Kingsville. He said he does not see any issue with how things are set up.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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