Town of Essex Council meeting notes, October 19, 2020

by Sylene Argent and Adam Gault

Update provided on Regional Energy Plan

Council received a presentation from Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) Climate Change Specialist, Claire Sanders, regarding the ongoing planning of the Essex County Regional Energy Plan (ECREP), and the steps being taken towards a successful implementation.

  The plan, which was put in motion following Windsor and Essex County’s declaration of a “climate emergency” last year, is tasked with the development of a sustainable regional energy plan, to potentially be put into action at some point next year.

  This plan would make Windsor-Essex a leader in sustainable energy initiatives by the mid-point of the 21st century.

  Goals of the plan include the regional reduction of greenhouse gases by 60 percent by 2041, with a goal of net zero emissions by 2050, the creation of at least 1,000 jobs by 2025, and 50 percent energy efficiency improvement by 2041.

  “Right now, we’re really seeing two global crises coming together. We’re seeing coronavirus recovery, which requires employment and sustained economic development, and a climate crisis that requires urgent restructuring of energy efficiency in order to be carbon free by 2050,” Sanders said of the federal climate targets. “I think the Canadian government is recognizing the value in tying these two imperatives together.”

  Through several studies with third-party consultants, experts, and public feedback, it has been determined Essex County’s household energy usage accounts for around 15 percent of the region’s greenhouse emissions, higher than the national average, with combined regional transportation and the regional greenhouse industry accounting for nearly 70 percent of area emissions.

  To address these concerns at the local level, the plan is suggesting the further implementation of more energy-efficient homes, greenhouses, and construction projects, along with stronger reliance on solar and biofuels to bring the region inline with these climate goals.

  A final plan is expected to be voted on by Essex County Council as early as March 2021.

September development overview

Essex Council received the development overview for the Month of September from the Economic Development Department.

  The report notes the total construction value for September 2020 was $6,926,300. This includes all new and expanding commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential developments requiring building permits.

  This figure is down 60 percent when compared to September 2019.  

  Councillor Joe Garon wondered about the 60 percent drop.

  Lori Chadwick, Director of Development, said staff looked into it and it seemed there was a boom this time last year. She said she could dig into it a little more, but it could just be a record month.

  As far as real estate goes, the average sale price for September 2020 in Wards 1 and 2 was $391,009, which was higher than the $291,873 average in September 2019. In September 2020, in Wards 3 and 4, the average sale price was $341,619, which was lower than the $430,622 average in September 2019.

  There were 35 Single-Family Dwellings sold in September 2020; with 19 in Ward 1 and 2, and

16 in Ward 3 and 4. This is five more than September 2019. Total homes sold in 2020 to date is 292.

  Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said he received a complaint from a constituent, who claimed he or she has been trying to get a permit for a shed. He said it has been held up at ERCA for various reasons. That made him think, because he was told there were backups at ERCA for permit approval, and this was a minor project, about how many other projects are in the pipeline that are backed up.

  Chadwick said she does not have those stats on hand, but the Town’s building division is quite on top of receiving and processing permits. There is a mandate, that once a permit application is received and handed to the CAO or Building Inspector for plan review, the clock starts. And, that is no more than ten-days for a residential permit, and longer times for more complex permits, which is mandated through the Province.

  There are instances that are beyond the Town of Essex’s control, so there may be a delay. She urged Council to get residents, builders, and contractors to contact the Building Division if there are any concerns. She said the Town is caught up on its permit applications.

  She will look in to see if there are any issues she is aware of in relation to ERCA backups.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy said she has not hearing much on ERCA delays, but does know of one resident who has been waiting for an answer on his or her project for a month from the Town of Essex. She said she got complaints all summer, some being from residents who took time off work to follow through on projects, but they were unable to do so.

  She thought of a tracking number that can be issued to residents for simple permits, so Council can follow up, if needed.

  CAO Chris Nepszy said everyone knows this summer was extraordinary with homeowners completing renovations and because of COVID. EssexWorks can be used to track such instances, as Bondy suggested. If any resident had any issue, he suggests they contact the EssexWork system. Some of the kinks are being worked out with that system, he said.

More accessibility sought at John R. Park Homestead

Council has supported a recommendation from the Essex Accessibility Advisory Committee, to send correspondence to the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) pertaining to accessibility issues surrounding the construction of the new Visitors Centre at the John R. Park Homestead.

  This issue stems from discussion at a September 25 Accessibility Advisory meeting, where members of the committee expressed concern surrounding the construction of the new Visitor Centre, noting the pathways as planned are constructed entirely of stone, making navigation in an accessibility device a challenge.

  The letter from Council will request that either paved or packed stone walkways be installed throughout the homestead grounds, as well as an additional handicap parking spot.

Drainage works approved

• Council appointed Rood Engineering Incorporated as the Engineer, under Section 78 of the Drainage Act, to replace a bridge on the 10-11 Sideroad Drain.

  The mandatory onsite Meeting is planed for November 2020, the preparation and submission of the report and notification period is planned for March 2021, the consideration of the report by the Drainage Board is planned for March 2021, the preparation of Provisional By-law and Adoption by Council is planned for April 2021, and Construction is planned for Summer 2021.

• Council approved the abandonment of the most northerly 15-metres of the Hamelin Drain, under Section 84 of the Drainage Act, and gave the final reading to By-law 1958, providing for the abandonment of the north 15-meters of the Hamelin Drain.

  The Report to Council noted the Hamelin Drain runs along the east-side of Walker Sideroad, south of the ERCA Greenway to the north side of North Malden Road, where it outlets into the North Rear Road Drain. The Report adds the landowner has requested this to avoid having to appoint an engineer. Once the abandonment process is complete, the landowner will be able to install the culvert by applying for an Entrance Permit with the Operations Department.

• Council awarded the Request for Tender for the 5th Concession road bank repairs on the Richmond Drain to Sterling Ridge Infrastructure Inc., in the amount of $249,902.21.

  This amount is within the approved 2020 Capital Budget for the project, which is to stabilize the bank on the 5th Concession Road, along the Richmond Drain as per the design of Rood Engineering Inc., which Council adopted on July 6, the Report to Council notes.

  There were four bids on the tender, with Sterling submitting the lowest.

  There is no specific start or end time scheduled for the project at this time.

EssexWorks update

Essex Council received Communications’ report, which provided an update on EssexWorks report a problem system.

  The Report was provided to Council to summarize the use of EssexWorks virtual system for residents, which was launched in March. The system integrates citizen service requests directly into the current work order software.

  Alex Denonville, Manager of Communications, said the setup of the system was part of the Provincial Modernization grant, which called for municipalities to adapt their operations and use technology to become more efficient. It also tied into goals set in the Town’s Strategic Plan.

  Since its implementation, residents have made 72 EssexWorks submissions, the Report to Council notes.

  Through the Report, it notes Town staff completed work related to submissions in an average of seven-days, with 55 percent of submissions being addressed within three-days or less.

  It is estimated the COVID-19 pandemic likely had an impact on the overall number of submissions, as well as the types of submissions made.

  There were some technical issues, since the launch, associated with one of the online forms not properly connecting to the internal work order system. This issue has since been rectified and all EssexWorks users whose submissions were not addressed because of this were informed of the problem and followed up on.

  The next update on the EssexWorks system is slated for December.

  Councillor Joe Garon said he thinks residents will like the quarterly reports on this service.

NOM: New Diversity Training in the works for Council

A Notice of Motion, first put forward by Councillor Sherry Bondy at the October 5 regular meeting, asked Council to consider having administration come back to Council with an updated diversity training program.

  The motion was approved by Council on Monday evening.

  Stating she would like to see a program include all updates pertaining to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), Councillor Bondy hopes the training will ensure Council is up-to-date with current legislation and the human rights code.

“It goes along with our shared service and recommendations for training for Council,” Bondy explained. “It would be something as elected officials we should have.”

  While the motion did pass with unanimous decision, Councillor Chris Vander Doelen stated many people had gone through such training in the private sector decades ago, and that it would be a redundant exercise, at the expense of the taxpayer.

  Administration noted the cost would be minimal, with Bondy adding this initiative would be beneficial to all the residents Essex Council represents.

Residents urged to participate in #essexfallphoto

Councillor Sherry Bondy noted the #essexfallphoto contest is going over quite well to date, and that quite a big pot of gift cards to local businesses has been collected as prizes for this fun contest.

  Residents are urged to take a picture at the gazebo, located outside the Essex Municipal Building, which was recently decorated with a fall them. They are then asked to post the photo online with the hashtag: #essexfallphoto.