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Town of Essex council meeting notes - Monday, December 6, 2020

by Sylene Argent and Adam Gault

Administration to explore potential for a surveillance camera by-law

Essex Council passed a motion directing Administration to create a report that will explore the possibility of creating a by-law pertaining to surveillance cameras on private property, following a public presentation from an Essex resident.

  Jennifer Weber presented her story to Council, alleging that a neighbour’s use of several security cameras, including one pointing directly into her backyard, violates her and her family’s privacy, and causes them to feel uncomfortable on their own property.

  “I told [my neighbour] that the only camera I was worried about was the one directed at my backyard, because in the front yard, you don’t have as much of an expectation of privacy,” Weber said, adding that the OPP noted that as it stands, the neighbour’s actions are not illegal. “[The OPP] told me that if my neighbour was holding the camera, that it would be illegal, but because it was positioned on his garage, then it was perfectly legal.”

  While some municipalities across Ontario have had by-laws regulating where home security cameras can be directed for some time now, the continued proliferation of home security technology in recent years has raised additional home privacy concerns surrounding the capturing of audio and video images.

  “It is going to be a by-law that if we do adopt it, it’s going to be difficult to enforce,” Councillor Joe Garon said, who had brought forward the initial Notice of Motion on the surveillance camera issue at the November 16 meeting. “That being said, without the by-law, we leave our by-law enforcement or police officers with anything to defend when they get a call from residents.”

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen stated that he had several concerns with the proposal, noting that security cameras have been an instrumental component in solving property and additional crimes.

  “There’s a question here of where one homeowner’s rights end and the next one’s start,” Vander Doelen said. “We’re hearing one side of a dispute between two individuals. I sure would not want to pass a law affecting 21,000 residents, based on a dispute between two individuals. I think we need to hear more about this feud before we rush about creating new laws.”

  Administration is expecting to have the report prepared by the second quarter of 2021.

 

Essex staff member to be appointed to take accessibility training course

Lisa Wallace, Vice Chairperson of the Essex Accessibility Advisory Committee, noted last year, this Committee of Council presented its multi-year accessibility plan. At its last Committee meeting, members reviewed the plan to ensure alignment with the goals set in the document.

  Two of the provisions in the document are set to ensure Committee members provide information to Council regarding national and international initiatives and continue to explore for training opportunities to remove barriers and create an inclusive town.

  She thanked the Town for recognizing December 3 as International Day of Persons with Disabilities though social media posts. Disability inclusion, she said, is essential to upholding human rights.  

  She also asked, through the Essex Accessibility Advisory Committee, that a staff member with the Town of Essex be appointed to take the Introduction to Accessibility in a Built Environment: the Accessible Spaces 101 program through Athabasca University, which the committee will fund.

  She said this is a self-paced online course, which examines the impact of the social and physical environment on people with disabilities and introduces the application of universal design for creating meaningful access.  

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said it was hoped a staff member would take part in the training session, likely from the Planning Department.

  CAO Chris Nepszy said he could look into who would be best suited to take the course, but sees it best suited as through a team environment.

  Council received the presentation and directed staff to nominate someone to take the training course.  


Upper Canada Growers wish to add two dwelling units, greenhouse

Lori Chadwick, Director of Development Services, provided Council with a verbal report on the Upper Canada Growers ZBA/SPC applications.

  She said this fruit tree nursery is looking to expand its existing operation to add two ancillary residential dwellings to accommodate the housing of farm help and a 37,000 square-foot greenhouse. It is located on Ridge Road.

  A minor zoning bylaw amendment is required for the dwelling units, since only one is permitted. This proposal will be brought to Council for consideration during the December 21 special meeting, to be held before the regular meeting.

  The greenhouse is a permitted, however, and is subject to Site Plan Control.

  Given the nature of Upper Canada Growers’ request to expedite planning approvals, Council has the option to make a decision on the Zoning By-Law Amendment the same night, during the regular Council meeting on December 21. A site plan agreement will also be ready that same night, to ensure all approvals can cross the finish line at the same time, she said.

  Upper Canada Growers, she added, will have the dwelling units completed by March 1.

  Council had to decide how to direct administration to process. There were two options Chadwick presented: Hold only the public meeting on December 21 and wait until January 18 to make the decision, or proceed with everything on December 21. If issues are raised at that point, Council can defer the decision, if needed.

  Council received the report and voted to deal with all three items on December 21.

 

Infill Residential Development: admin directed to investigate possibility of deferring Development Charges until the Town would collect taxes

  Council received Development Services Report on “Housing Affordability and Opportunity in the Town of Essex.” Members were also asked to consider the options and associated impacts to incentivize Infill Residential Development through the waiving of Development Charges in advance of 2021 Budget Deliberations.

  Lori Chadwick, Director of Development Services, explained the purpose of the report is to identify initiatives that could be and have been undertaken to supplement or support housing affordability, including the development of infill housing, which is an existing vacant lot of record on an available piece of land, located between existing homes on a street with suitable municipal services for residential purposes.

  To help meet the goal of proving a range of attainable housing – ensuring various income levels can find and secure suitable housing – opportunities, the Town of Essex has pre-zoned vacant, developable lands to allow for a mix of single, semi-detached, and townhomes; has zoned for attached second dwelling units in single-detached, semi-detached, and townhome dwellings in the Settlement Areas; and has provided $5,000 grants for the creation of rental dwelling units in commercial spaces in Community Improvement Plan project areas.

  To further assist in meeting the goal of proving a range of attainable housing opportunities, the Town could incentivize for infill residential development. In March, she said, a report was presented to Council that highlighted 132 potential infill residential units throughout the municipality.

  In support of Council’s resolution then, which was to investigate how the Town could finance Development Charges for these 132 potential dwelling units, Chadwick presented Council with six options: Defer payment for all 132 units; waive soft services (such as recreational and library services) by 50 percent for 98 “ready to build” Infill Semi-Detached Dwellings; waive soft services only for the 98 “ready to build” units; fully waive Development Charges for the 98 “ready to build” units; waive soft services only for all 132 units; or fully waive Development Charges for all 132 units.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman said Council has been looking forward to this report, and there is interest in the possibility. These areas, he said, are great for waiving Development Charges, because everything – all amenities such as sewer and water – is already there.

  He liked the idea of waiving the entire Development Charge because people are looking to the area. He suggested this be a time-limited offer.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche was not in favour of giving away all Development Charges, but liked the idea of waiving soft services. He asked about deferring the costs as well.

  To waive all Development Charges for the aforementioned properties, it would cost the Town $1,345,165. The Town still has to pay it, even if it is not collected, as mandated by the Province. Waiving soft services, would cost $640,969.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said waiving Development Charges is a dangerous and blunt tool. He only agrees with them if there is a sunset clause. He said he was in favour of tiny homes and affordable housing.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy is in favour of getting housing in the infill lots, where the services exist, and not on farmland.  

  CAO Chris Nepszy said Council does need to think of the impact on the budget in regards to any decisions made.

  Bjorkman noted waivers would be made back eventually in taxes. He said the services are already there, and do not have to be installed, like in a subdivision.

  “We need to take it real serious, and look at the dollars that are going to generate by filling in those spaces,” Bjorkman said.

  Meloche made a motion to direct administration to come back to Council at the next budget deliberation, entailing if it is possible to defer the Development Charges until such time the Town would collect taxes.

  Council received the report and moved Meloche’s motion.

  Two additional options will come to Council in the future through separate reports as part of the proposed general amendments to the Zoning By-Law:

• Administration is working on a way to provide for a range of housing options in zoning for detached second dwelling units on the same property. Chadwick said the Province of Ontario has just recently mandated the exemption or waiver for Development Charges for attached second dwelling units, and detached as well. Essex’s Zoning Bylaw will be update in 2021 to reflect this change.

• The other proposed option is to provide zoning for tiny homes. At this time, Chadwick said, the minimum floor area is 650 square-feet. This does not align with the minimum in the Ontario Building Code, which is 215 square-feet. She added the Town’s building and planning teams are working together on this proposal, which will also be discussed in the future, through a separate report.

  The Town, she said, could also consider land lease communities or eliminate the R1 Zoning.    

 

Draft plan approval for new Harrow subdivision

Draft plan approval has been sent to Essex County on behalf of Noah Homes, to request approval for the development of the “Parkland Estates” subdivision in Harrow.

  The approved residential subdivision would encompass 14-acres, immediately south of the Harrowood Seniors Community, and will construct single, semi detached, and townhomes, accessible from a single access point from County Road 13.

  Since a public meeting on the proposal in November, there has been feedback and concerns from area residents regarding proper storm water management and drainage with the development of the subdivision, with the Town assuring residents that these concerns are not taken lightly.

  “Topographic surveys, lot grading sheets, services plans, letters to abutting neighbours offering tie-in into storm sewers, are just some of the procedures that we are tightening and implementing as a part of the development process,” Essex Director of Development Services, Lori Chadwick, explained. “Finally, draft approval from the County will include the requirement that the proponent and Town execute a subdivision agreement, which sets the framework for the development of the subdivision, including provisions for drainage, lot grading, servicing, sidewalk, and so much more.”

  When completed, the proposed three-phase development will comprise of 26 single detached homes, and 46 semi-detached homes, for a total of 72 dwelling units.

  At this time, the Town of Essex will request that the Manager of Planning Services for the County of Essex approve the Draft Plan of Subdivision, subject to compliance with the recommended development servicing conditions, with final approval pending fulfillment of all those conditions.

 

General Insurance Services awarded to Frank Cowan Company

Council awarded a Request for Proposal for General Insurance Services to Frank Cowan Company Limited, for a one-year term, beginning January 1, 2021 and ending January 1, 2022.

  This agreement will also allow the Town to renew the services for each following year, up to a maximum of five-years, based on performance, quotes, and service.

  Over the past year, the Town of Essex has noticed an increase in the cost of its general insurance program.

This increase in premium cost was based mainly on the increasing risks being encountered by Ontario municipalities relating to general municipal liability exposure and its associated commercial general liability insurance coverage.

  By awarding the General Insurance Services to Frank Cowan Company, the Town will have an additional savings of around $69,000 on the 2021 budget.

 

HEIRS lease extended ten-years

Council received Community Services Report “Harrow Early Immigrant Research Society Renewal of Lease Agreement at Harrow Arena” and further approved entering into a renewal agreement with Harrow Early Immigrant Research Society for leased space at the Harrow Arena for an additional ten-year period, commencing January 1, 2021.

  The Report to Council notes HEIRS has been renting the space at the Harrow Arena to offer an ancestry research library and resource centre since around March of 2001.

  The lease will require HEIRS to pay an annual fee of $1,200, plus applicable harmonized sales tax (HST), or a monthly rate of $100, plus HST.

  The By-Law received three readings and was adopted.

  Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said this is a very worthy group to have as a tenant. The amount of information the members have about the community and local history is incredible, he added.

 

NoM: Bill 229

Councillor Sherry Bondy brought forward a Notice of Motion, to be discussed at the December 21 regular meeting, in regards to the Province introducing Bill 229, Protect, Support, and Recover from COVID Act and its relation to the Conservation Act. The legislation introduces a number of changes that could remove and or significantly hinder conservation authorities’ role in regulating development, permit appeal process, and engaging in review and appeal of planning applications, she noted.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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