Town of Essex Council meeting notes - August 4, 2020

by Sylene Argent and Adam Gault

Council to send letter, asking Canada to

apologize for enslaving people of African Origins

Elise Harding-Davis, an African Canadian Heritage Consultant, sought Council support for the initiative to receive a formal apology from the Canadian Government regarding this nation’s role in enslaving people of African origins.

  In a letter to Council and members of Administration for the Town of Essex, she noted she has sent a letter to the government on this issue, but to date, has not received a reply.

  “Past feeble reasons for not apologizing are based on the fact that Canada was under British rule when slavery was practiced until Emancipation was decreed in 1833. There are also those who feel because slaves were deemed “property” that is sub-human, during that era, no apology is necessary from Canada because they were not actually people at the time,” Harding-Davis wrote in the letter.

  Harding-Davis wrote her reasoning as to why Canadians of African origins should get an apology, “is based on centuries of the misuse, abuse, and unfair benefit enjoyed by the dominant culture (European descent individuals) of the day (1600s-mid 1800s). She added France and Great Britain allowed slavery on Canadian soil during their reign.

  Once slavery was officially abolished, she added, “a continued course of oppression, racist legislations, and systemic thinking by many that Blacks were/are inferior to whites, kept up an oppressive regime that marginalized African Canadians.”

  She added the last black school in Ontario, SS#11 on the 3rd Concession just outside of Harrow, closed in 1963 by an act of legislation.

  “An official apology would make African Canadians feel part of Canada’s multicultural family,” she wrote.

  “I believe it is a reasonable case,” she told Council. “It would make me very happy if the Town of Essex Council supported an apology for enslavement in Canada, which also took place here in Essex County.”

  Mayor Larry Snively said her presentation was very moving.

In a recorded vote, Council unanimously moved to send the letter of support to the Prime Minister’s Office. In addition, Councillor Sherry Bondy said she would like the Town of Essex to declare August 1 as Emancipation Day. She thanked Harding-Davis for all her work in regards to preserving black heritage.

“Unfortunately, injustices are still present in our society, and I think anything elected officials can do to pave the way to lessen that is important,” she said.

John R. Park Heritage Centre update

Kristin Ives, Curator/Education Coordinator for the John R. Park Homestead, and Danielle Breault Stuebing, Director of Communications and Outreach for ERCA, approached Essex Council to provide a brief overview of the John R. Park Homestead’s future Heritage Centre as it relates to the Site Plan Control. They also provided details on the Town of Essex Tourism Hub, which will be situated in the new structure.

  Currently, this historical area, “does not have the capacity to welcome all visitors in a safe and assessable way. The new Heritage Centre will allow the Homestead to welcome all visitors through the same entrance, providing an important commonality of experience for all,” Ives said. She added it will also offer adequate, fully assessable washrooms, climate-controlled rest areas, and increased educational space in a modern classroom area for up to 60 students. There will also be tourism, exhibition, and gift shop space.

  She said she knows of a number of living history museums that have added modern, assessable heritage structures to enhance visitor services and preserve heritage structures by easing visitor pressure on original buildings. When the new Heritage Centre is built, all the original buildings will still be enjoyed, they just will not be used for washrooms and giftshops.

  The planned structural placement will be placed in a spot not often used, out of line of sight of the main building, and will not impede the feel of the pioneer era, Ives said.

  “This modern structure will complement the historic site, rather than compete with it,” she commented.    

  Breault Stuebing added the Heritage Centre represents a $1.2M investment in the Town of Essex. To date, over $1M has been raised for the structure. “Things have been going really, really well.”

  She added there is also excitement that the facility will include the Town of Essex Tourism Hub.

  The roadside sign proposed includes Essex as a donor. Essex’s donation will also be recognized on the donor wall.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy wondered if the $100,000 has been identified in the budget that Essex voted to contribute to the project, in return for the naming of the Tourism Information Centre. She said Council was looking at supporting the project by selling off surplus properties.

  Jeff Morrison, Director of Corporate Services, said the Town has not sold off any surplus properties as of yet, however, there have been a few properties identified. The way he sees it, the $100,000 has been committed, whether it be a combination of Community Improvement Plan or other funds. Potential savings in the operating budget will be identified as a potential source at the end of the year.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said he is in favour of the centre now that it has been assured the reception centre will not compete with others in the area. He wondered how many washrooms there will be. Ives said there will be two banks of traditional washrooms, where there will be four stalls, of which one is fully accessible and private. The male washroom has a fully accessible stall and two urinals. The facility will also have an additional accessible family washroom that could be used by anyone of any gender.

  Vander Doelen wondered if the septic field was adequate. Lori Chadwick, Director of Development, said she would get that information for him, and that is something the Planning Department would certainly calculate for the plan.

  Council received the presentation and passed Bylaw 1925, to enter into a Site Plan Control Agreement between the Corporation of the Town of Essex and the Essex Region Conservation Authority for the construction of the John R. Park Homestead’s 365 square-metre Heritage Centre.

  “This is going to be something great for our municipality,” Mayor Larry Snively said.

Ice cream bikes approved for Essex

Council approved a request from Glen Mills, President of the Essex County Ravens Football Club, who sought to implement ice cream bikes as a form of fundraising for the youth football organization.

  Mills explained fundraising efforts have been complicated by the ongoing pandemic, and that the ice cream sales will go a long way in supporting athletes who would otherwise not be able to afford to play.

  “Every young man or young woman gets an opportunity to play, we find ways to raise the [funds] through sponsorships and things like that, so they’re able to play,” Mills explained. “With COVID, it’s very difficult to [fundraise], so we’re trying a different avenue with ice cream bikes, and hopefully the money we raise through that will help offset some of the costs.”

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman asked Mills if the ice cream bicycle volunteers would be insured, with Mills stating that the entire organization will be covered with liability insurance.

  Normally, this request would fall under a transient vendor bylaw and an application for a trader licence, and that a vendor shall only be located or conduct business in a commercial, industrial, or institutional zone. Due to this request falling outside of the bylaw, Council’s approval for the exception was sought.

  Mills plans on having the bikes on the streets of Essex within the next week, noting that although summer may be getting late, there is still ample time for fundraising.

CREW withdraws sign application, for now

Scheduled to speak before Council, Bernard Gorski, proprietor of Colchester Ridge Estate Winery (CREW), withdrew his application for a request for a Site Specific amendment for his electronic sign, located at the roadside of the winery.

  As the sign currently stands, it is in violation of size and digital display regulation bylaws pertaining to businesses in agricultural zones.

  Stating that he was unprepared to discuss the matter at the evening’s meeting, Gorski added that he had been formulating some new ideas that would be more inline with the current bylaws and he would need more time to plan a proper presentation.

  “I’m sure all of the Councillors would be very pleased to see what I am going to propose,” Gorski commented. “I need the time to put it together, so that we can put this matter away.”

  At a previous July meeting, Essex Council had voted to maintain the current Sign Bylaw that was put in place five years ago, hence Gorski seeking approval for a Site Specific amendment for his business. Earlier this year, Gorski came to Council about his sign, which sparked the Sign Bylaw being reviewed for County Road 50.

  Some Councillors lamented the idea of deferring the decision, noting that this specific issue has now persisted for months, with many municipal resources being devoted to the process.

  “It’s kind of getting to the point where it’s exhausting and I want to move on,” Councillor Sherry Bondy said. “There are many more items on our radar that we need to address. This going to be four times now in front of our Council, I don’t know which other issue from one business has taken up so much time.”

  Until a final decision is reached, the electronic component of the sign must be shut off at all times.

COVID-19 update for the Town of Essex

At the time of the meeting, the region was still in stage two, but CAO Chris Nepszy said the Town of Essex was prepared for Stage 3 of the Province’s COVID-19 reopening plan. Stage 3, municipal-wise, will probably affect arenas the most, he said. Town staff has been working with user-groups and looking at how it will be operated.

  The pool is open and running well, he said. Day camps are running well. The beach and parking, with the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires as a third-party Municipal Bylaw Enforcement Officer, has had accolades from residents regarding their presence, he said.

  There have not been great results in the form of beach water testing, “but it shows we’re are doing our due diligence in doing that testing and keeping our residents safe,” he said. The Town of Essex’s contractors, who maintain its water and sewage facilities, the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA), has been hired to test the Colchester beach water twice per week.

  He said Town staff is looking at a second wave of COVID-19 training to keep it fresh in employee’s mind and ensure no one is getting complacent. This is to keep staff and visiting residents safe.

  Mayor Larry Snivley said he noticed there are very small groups at the beach, which means they’re following social distancing rules. The beach is clean, he added. 

Essex to send second letter to Health Unit asking for more detailed info

Councillor Sherry Bondy noted at the last Essex Council meeting, Council voted to send a letter to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, asking for more data as it relates to numbers of tests issued and where within a municipality positive cases of COVID-19 are. Kingsville Council also sent a similar letter to the local Health Unit.

  This has been front and centre in the region, she said. She wondered if Council was doing enough. She also wondered if the agri-sector crisis, in terms of the high volume of positive tests, had been solved.

  The additional geographical map the Health Unit has since issued, “is something. It’s a snapshot of the pandemic, but doesn’t give us data that is very usable data...” She said it has raised more concerns and questions for her.

  “I feel like we’ve failed to detect and isolate and contain on many fronts. And, we are going to have long-term impacts with our businesses and our mental health,” Bondy said.

  She wanted Council to continue to ask for better data.

She had concerns, as the Harrow rep on Council, that this hamlet within the Town of Essex could be sending students to another municipality for schooling. This is something that needs to be discussed, she said.

“I think we need to keep pushing,” Bondy said, hoping Council will continue to have discussions on the issue.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman said he supports getting more information. He put forward a motion that the Town of Essex requests more detailed information.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said he does not understand why people are demanding Council insert itself in jurisdictions that are part of other levels of government. The local MPP can be asked questions, Health Unit reps can be questioned, but he does not see how the Town of Essex gets to start issuing orders about clusters in Windsor. Sure, more information in needed, the Town should send a letter and that’s it.

  Deputy Mayor Meloche said he thinks that information needs to be spelled out, so they have an idea of what Council is looking for.

  For the letter, Bjorkman asked for information that is more up to date, within the last week. He would like a weekly report of positive cases, with a map to show where the cases were discovered. He said residents ask everyday, ‘where are the outbreaks?’

  Bondy was not sure maps were what Council was looking for. She wants daily reports. Council has to fight for businesses and residents. She also wants to see the trends. “We need to see where we were, to see where we are going.”

Motion carried.

  Later on in the meeting, Council also received and supported the letter from Kingsville Council, that was also sent to the Health Unit that asked for more data. Essex will send its letter of support to the Health Unit and other area municipalities, as well.

Town requests ELK Stakeholder/Director Information Session

Essex Council made a request that the Board of E.L.K. Energy Incorporated (ELK) direct Mr. Mark Danelon, in his role as Director of Stakeholder Relations, to participate and jointly present with Town of Essex Administration (before October 31) an information session to Town of Essex Council. This will be concerning their collective role as the ELK Stakeholder and their individual roles as potential, or existing Directors for ELK Energy Inc.

  The Report to Council on the matter notes the Town of Essex bought-out the former municipal partners, Town of Lakeshore and Town of Kingsville, in 2019. It is now the sole shareholder of ELK Energy Inc.

  Administration thought a joint information session with the Town of Essex and ELK administration would provide an overview, which Council has requested in the past, and offer the best information regarding these functions and their relationship as there have been questions regarding the responsibility of Essex Councillors, as the body leading the shareholders, versus Councillors who are appointed ELK Directors functioning to serve as the board, the Report to Council continues.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy thanked CAO Chris Nepszy for working on it and bringing it forward.

  Motion carried.

  At the July 6 Council meeting, Bondy put a Notice of Motion forward, asking Council to designate funds for the 2021 budget process to hire a Consultant for a valuation of E.L.K. Energy, being that it is a town-owned asset and knowing its value is important to shareholders.

  After discussion, Bondy changed her motion that Council get a quote so a discussion can be held on the matter during the 2021 budget deliberations. A majority vote had carried the motion. 

Report on possible improvements to municipal recycling efforts approved

Originally brought forward at the May 19 meeting by Councillor Kim Verbeek, Council approved her Notice of Motion to direct Administration to explore new ways at improving recycling efficiency in the Town of Essex.

  Noting that the recycling diversion rate was down from 2019, and that Essex is currently the host municipality for the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority landfill, Verbeek stated that Essex should be leading the way in the county’s collective recycling efforts.

  “My hope is for us to look at ways for improvements, maybe weekly [recycling] pickups or bag limits to the garbage,” Verbeek explained. “We as a Council, must get more involved and take a role to assist in the effort more seriously.”

  With this directive, Administration for the Town of Essex will allocate town staff to work with representatives from the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority to review municipal facilities and recycling efforts and return with a report on ways to increase efficiencies.

Notification approved for homeowners adjacent to new developments

Essex Council approved Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche’s Notice of Motion that will put new site control procedures in place, regarding new housing developments.

  This will have a requirement from the Town of Essex Planning Department to notify property owners abutting a new subdivision if their existing property lacks backyard drainage.

  Mailed letters would be the primary form of communication with the homeowners, informing them of any potential water pooling on their property, a situation which could be potentially exacerbated by the construction of new developments.

  “There’s been issues that have happened over the last few years, and I think we need to be more proactive,” Meloche explained of his motion. “Their water may have been draining onto another property, a vacant field, and there was no issue with it. Now that land is being developed, they’re having issues because elevations have increased.”

  With this motion, Meloche hopes the Town can act in the best interest of residents in aiding conversation between the property developers and the existing neighbourhood in coming to a solution with regards to water drainage.

  “I think we would be much better as a town if we could provide that service to our residents to advise them in advance of what has the potential to happen,” Meloche said.

NoM to be discussed at August 24 meeting

• Councillor Sherry Bondy will ask Council to request Town of Essex Administration to implement a Council Report Tracker, similar to the reporting spreadsheet the Town of Lakeshore uses.

• Mayor Larry Snively will ask Council to direct Administration to review if it is possible to remove the requirement of a Town-issued hunting license. If possible to do so, he will ask that Administration report back to Council on the feasibility and process for Council’s consideration.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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