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Essex Council notes - Tuesday, September 3

by Sylene Argent and Adam Gault

Administration to look at election policies and bylaws

At the August 6 Council meeting, Councillor Sherry Bondy put forward a Notice of Motion that Council discuss tightening the policy on proxy voting and fixing the Use of Corporate Resource Bylaw and the Sign Bylaw. The issue was brought forward for discussion at last Tuesday’s meeting.

  After the October 22 election, Essex Councillor Sherry Bondy brought forward concerns she had heard from residents about the use of proxy voting. During the election, some of the candidates made complaints regarding actions other candidates made that were believed to be non-permissible in relation to the Sign and Use of Corporate Resources Bylaws.

  The OPP is currently investigating the proxy issue. 

  Bondy wanted Council to look over these election policies to update the bylaws. As the Town gets new information, they should be reviewed, she said. She wanted to see policies easier for staff to enforce and penalties incorporated for the rules that get broken.

  “I don’t see why Council wouldn’t want to investigate this, give it to our administration – give them formal direction – and say ‘hey, can we look at this and where can we make improvements?’” she said, adding she realizes the policies, after review, will not come back perfect, but she believes they could be better.

  Essex CAO Chris Nepszy said administration can come back, after looking at the bylaws, to come up with improvements and enhancements. Possible bylaw and policy changes, he said, will be brought back to Council in the form of a Report to Council in the fall.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman asked that the proxy voting be removed as a friendly amendment from this request as it being invested by the OPP currently. He had seconded the motion.

  Councillor Morley Bowman added that this should be administration-driven because if Council does, it’ll look like the players are setting the rules for the game. If it comes through administration, the officials are setting the rules.

  Clerk, Robert Auger, said the Report to Council would come from the Clerk’s office. If Council has feedback, staff will take note, he said.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen wanted the OPP report and the administration’s report to be completed before recommendations are made on the issue. Splitting the proxy issue away doesn’t make sense, he said. During the election, if one looked at the list of complaints, it is the same few people that complained.

  Councillor Joe Garon said the issues have to be separated as the police report on the proxy issue could take a few years. He’d like to see recommendations come back in the fall.

  To wrap up the discussion, Mayor Larry Snively said, “The whole thing got over-blown. There was a handful of complaints, that’s all there was. I’ll leave it at that.”

  In a recorded vote, Council voted unanimously to give administration direction to review the election bylaws and policies and to come back with a report.

Animals running at large

At the August 6 Council meeting, Councillor Sherry Bondy put forward a Notice of Motion for Council consideration. Her motion asked Council to give direction to the Town of Essex’s Animal Control Officer, until a policy can be addressed by the Dog Pound Committee, that any animal running at large that is apprehended and in need of medical attention be released back to the owners or brought to a veterinarian within a reasonable amount of time. This is so long as the owners are willing to cover the costs of the veterinarian fees.

  Last Turesday evening, Bondy explained that at a recent Dog Pound Committee meeting, a concern was brought forward regarding an incident there where a pregnant dog was apprehended in LaSalle, who ran away because she was in labour and the owners were frantic. She said the Animal Control Officer was following the policy of not letting the dog leave the pound.

  Because the owner could not bring their dog home, it had its puppies in the pound. The puppies made their way out a little trough over night which could have had tragic results. The puppies ended up being okay, Bondy said.

  Each member of the Dog Pound Committee was to bring this motion back to their municipality to pass.

  Council passed the motion.


Federal Government responds to correspondence on Phragmites control

Essex Council received correspondence from the office of Richard Aucoin, the Executive Director of Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), that was in response to a letter sent to the office of the Prime Minister from Essex Council. The letter pertained to a resolution asking the Federal Government to take appropriate measures to “expedite and approve the use of herbicides in aquatic environments by the 2019 growing season” to combat Phragmites, an invasive species of perennial grass.

  Phragmites can grow to over five-metres in length. It can poison the soil in its immediate vicinity, preventing native plants from growing, while lowering wetland water levels and providing a poor food source for many local and at-risk species.

  In the response from the PMRA, Aucoin said the organization has worked closely with provincial government ministries in the past, granting short-term allowances for the use of herbicides where Phragmites are found, and that the use of herbicides in control of the invasive species is being discussed by the Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Committee on Pest Management and Pesticides.

  Noting the ongoing trial of a new herbicide in Ontario and the United States, Mayor Larry Snively noted that efforts are being made to deal with the issue.

  “In the U.S., they have a product out now, I don’t know if it’s a similar product or not, but they’re trying it,” Snively said. “Just to give the public an update, they are doing something about Phragmites.” 


External audit services extension

Essex Council received Finance and Business Services Report titled “External Audit Services Extension” and awarded the one-year extension to BDO Canada LLP in the amount of $36,952, including HST.

  The intent of the extension is to complete some of the work associated with preparing Financial Statements and the Financial Information Return (FIR) beginning in 2020/21 internally. This would reflect a change to the current scope of work, the report notes.

  The report to Council adds that in accordance with the Municipal Act, a municipality shall appoint an auditor licensed under the Public Accounting Act, 2004, who is responsible for annually auditing the accounts and transactions and expressing an opinion on the financial statements of the municipality and it boards based on the audit.


Amendments made to the Sign Bylaw

Council received the Planning report “Amendments to the Town of Essex Sign Bylaw” and further adopted Bylaw 1834, which introduces new regulations related to the removal of abandoned signage.

  Administration sought approval of revisions to the Sign By-law to address signage advertising or identifying an activity, business, or service that has ceased thereby rendering the sign obsolete.

  The Bylaw introduces the definition of abandoned signs, the 90-day forgiveness period, and the 15-day removal period. It also adds provisions for accessible parking space signage.

  The report to Council noted a statutory public meeting was held on August 6, 2019.

Policy Planner, Jeff Watson, noted the Town’s Community Improvement Plan (CIP) program provides for funding for sign replacement and abandonment, but the Planning Department will come to Council about changes to the program in the neat future.

Accessible Parking Provisions

Council received the Planning report “Accessible Parking Provisions in the General Zoning Bylaw and Sign Bylaw” and adopted Bylaw 1848, for new accessible parking standards for the Town of Essex in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. 


Funding approved for new economic development website

Essex Council approved $30,000 in funding from the contingency reserve to cover costs associated with the development and implementation of a new economic development website and related marketing activities.

  In a report Nelson Silveira, Essex’s Economic Development Officer, prepared, it was outlined that administration is currently undertaking a complete revamp of the Town’s corporate website in an effort to provide a more accessible online experience for all visitors.

  Alongside the creation of the new corporate site will be the development of an economic microsite, which will ensure the “seamless” launch of the new webpage.

  The new site will focus on providing information to prospective investors, entrepreneurs, and business decision-makers, showcasing the Town’s top industry sectors, their strategic advantages, available commercial/industrial properties, as well as municipal incentives to drive business to the town.

  $18,000 of the allocated funds will be used to cover the design of the page, site upload, MLS available lands feature, URL, and hosting costs, with the remaining $12,000 being used for the cost of marketing, promotion, and content development.


Council receives findings of Essex and Harrow Centre Walkabouts

Through a report Nelson Silveira, Essex’s Economic Development Officer, prepared, Essex Council received the results from surveys carried out in Essex and Harrow Centres this past March.

  The surveys were conducted when Council toured both of the municipality’s downtown cores to address issues pertaining to commercial, parking, the general physical state, and public amenities of the Town’s centres.

  Councillors’ scores on the various topics of the surveys ranged from “Excellent” to “Needs Improvement,” with transportation and related signage being a common thread in areas sought to improve.

  “I think this is a really good activity that we do [the walkabouts], and I know that something [that] came up a couple of years ago was wayfinding signage,” Councillor Sherry Bondy said, addressing Silveira. She asked if this was something that could be addressed in the future.

  “Administration is currently working on something, hopefully [it] will be out shortly,” Silveira explained, adding the logistics of sign placing is something that would need to be explored.

  Through continued Walkabouts, Essex hopes to enhance communications and community engagement, and continue to strive towards improving the municipality’s flagship downtowns.


Parking Lot Control Exemption Approved

As part of the development of a new subdivision, Essex Council approved Bylaw 1847, authorizing a parking lot control exemption (PCLE) to permit the development of the first phase of the Essex Town Centre Subdivision.

  The subdivision in question was split into 21 blocks by the registered plan of the subdivision approved by Essex Council in 2006.

  This was predicated by the option to further subdivide each block into a variety of residential units, including single, semi-detached, and town homes. Granting the PCLE allows the blocks to be subdivided into the various housing types.

  The increase in unit dwelling density has also necessitated the development of a traffic impact assessment. At this time, it is still under review with the County, however, no impediments to the start of Phase 1 of the development have been detected.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman asked if the passing of the new Bylaw would result in any additional development. Essex Policy Planner, Jeff Watson, responded that no new development would be allowed with the Bylaw, but would allow the removal of the hold of Phase 1 for the project. 


NoM to be discussed at September 16 meeting

At the next Council meeting, Councillor Sherry Bondy would like to have a discussion about continued concerns with Gore Road and the 8th concession, including water puddling and damage.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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