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Town of Essex Council notes - April 15

by Sylene Argent and Adam Gault


Fireworks storage rezoning application

Council received a public presentation from Victor Anber, a fireworks business proprietor, and his solicitor, Frank Saroli, regarding his request for a rezoning of his property to permit the storage of fireworks for his Tecumseh-based business.

  This comes in the wake of an April 1 statutory public meeting, where Anber had approached Council to request an additional permitted use to his currently zoned general agriculture property to allow for the storage of fireworks in a newly constructed pole barn, dropping the total number of containers storing fireworks on his rural Essex property from the current total of 26 to 8.

Anber and his solicitor explained that he has gone above and beyond the safety requirements required by the Federal Government, including the mandated distances between the shipping containers and houses, fire retardant measures, security cameras, alarms, and motion detectors.

  This had done little to relieve the concerns of various residents, who had before expressed concerns about increased truck traffic, potential water contamination issues, and general safety in the event of a fire or other similar incident.

Essex Policy Planner, Jeff Watson, noted the potential bylaw would not take away the agricultural zoning use, and there would be no commercial use/sales allowed on the property. He recommended Council move the approval.

Members of Council, however, thought otherwise, citing what residents expect property to be used for when it comes to agricultural zoning.

“I feel for Mr. Anber, he’s trying to do the right thing, put every provision in place that he possibly can to try to make this safe,” Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said, adding that in spite of that, the majority of area residents didn’t want the storage of fireworks in their vicinity. “When I have this many people in the neighbourhood that do not want this to move forward, and if something were to happen, and someone (got) injured, I would feel responsible for that happening.”

With that, Council voted in favour of a temporary zoning permission, which grants a temporary zoning to permit the retention of the existing storage containers for the storage of fireworks for up to three-years to provide Mr. Anber reasonable opportunity to relocate his storage activity.


Discover Ability Network asks Council to support partnership

Kevin McShan of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce: Discover Ability Network (DAN) Project, made a presentation to Council about the network and asked Council to support a partnership with DAN to hold a community forum in the near future to inform employers and job seekers about the benefits of the network.

  McShan noted DAN is an online portal and resource for Ontario employers and persons with disabilities seeking employment. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Discover Ability Network provincial partners launched it in September 2017.

DAN connects people with disabilities seeking employment directly with Ontario businesses

looking to meet their talent requirements. It showcases the business advantages of employing persons with disabilities and outlines guidelines on how they can hire a person with disabilities, information provided at the meeting notes.

Now in its second phase, DAN has two additions to the portal: an integrated job seeker site and local regional hub site in Windsor.

McShan shared that the organization’s 2019 Business Confidence Survey revealed 75 percent of respondents believe the ability to recruit and retain talent is critical to business competitiveness - filling a job position with the appropriate talent is essential for employers.

Information he provided noted 15 percent of Ontario’s population has a disability and almost 41 percent of this population has postsecondary accreditation.

He wanted Council to schedule a community outreach event that would link businesses to potential employees so that businesses and job seekers can use the benefits of the website.

Councillor Sherry Bondy said she supports the initiative and believes the program may help alleviate anxiety that may arise out of having a job interview. She wanted McShan to make notes for barriers in the county, like transportation, that may differ from the city.

McShan said there are many benefits of working with regional partners that may help eliminate barriers.

Councillor Steve Bjorkman thought there would be benefit of linking DAN with the Essex Centre BIA, the Harrow & Colchester South Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and Community Living Essex County to spread the information.

Councillor Kim Verbeek made a motion to support hosting a networking event in working together with DAN in using a local facility and to use the Town’s social media to promote it.

Council moved Verbeek’s motion and received the presentation.

At the event, McShan said job seekers would be encouraged to bring their resumes to the event and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce could provide computers to sign businesses up to the program.


Essex Tourism Events Fund Policy presented

Council approved the Essex Tourism Fund Policy that the Town’s Economic Development Officer, Nelson Silveira, presented at the meeting. Council also received the corresponding report.

  This provides for a policy on municipal grant support of tourism events through the Essex tourism Events Fund, it was noted.

The Report to Council notes this framework and plan was first discussed at the March 18 meeting to implement a revised municipal fund for eligible tourism-related events within the Town of Essex.

The policy defines a tourism event as having a unique audience or participant experience, which may provide an economic or tourism benefit to the municipality. The focus of the event must be to attract visitors. The policy also defines what a non-profit organization is (which is a status needed to quality), and outlines eligibility.

The report notes the Town of Essex’s Tourism Event Fund has a total budget of $30,000 for the remainder of this year. Based on how the funds are distributed this year, administration will come back next year to report on uptake.

Throughout the year, Silveira noted, the Town receives requests for funding for such events through the Discretionary Fund or through direct requests to Council.

The purpose of the policy is to ensure a fair, equitable, and transparent framework exists to guide the allocation of funding from the Essex Tourism Events Fund for non-profit-led Tourism Events that benefit the Town of Essex.

Councillor Steve Bjorkman said this is a great policy and program. He said he was surprised with the amounts allocated. He said he thinks the limit could be adjusted. If anything, he would like to see this grow.

Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche and Councillor Sherry Bondy agreed the amount may be too small. Meloche thought it could probably be looked at a per case-bases.

For events with a budget under $35,000, a potential grant for non-profits could amount to $1000, and $2000 potentially for events over $35,000, Silveira said.


‘Communities in Bloom Week’ declared

Council received Community Services’ report, “Communities in Bloom Proclamation – Week of May 6” for information; and further proclaimed Communities in Bloom Week for the week of May 6, 2019 through adopting the affiliated resolution.

  The resolution includes recognizing that communities are committed to ensuring sustainable development for future generations and that participation in the Communities in Bloom program builds communities, strengthens volunteer and community development, enhances social interaction, and creates community pride.

  It also noted Communities in Bloom may boost the economy, create sustainability, enhance property values, attract new business, and increase tourism opportunities.

In the report to Council, it noted the Town of Essex has been a partner in the Communities in Bloom program since 1999 and adds that over the years the Town has participated in the program, it has been very successful in implementing numerous initiatives and continues to be amongst the leaders in promoting civic pride in the community.


 Rezoning for the Essex Motel

Essex Council received the Planning Department’s report “The Essex Motel, 263 Talbot Street North.” Council also approved Bylaw 1805, adopting Official Plan Amendment 7 (OPA7) to the Town of Essex Official Plan, permitting multiple-residential dwelling units at 263 Talbot Street

North. Bylaw 1806 was also adopted to amend the Zoning Bylaw, 1037, to permit the conversion of the Essex Motel and additions thereto to accommodate multiple-dwelling units.

The Bylaw will take effect upon approval of OPA7 by the County of Essex Manager of Planning Services.

Council discussed the issue at meetings in March and April. The file considers permitting uses of lands designated and zoned Highway Commercial to further add the multi-residential use in pockets along Talbot Street in Essex Centre and in Harrow Centre. The Essex Motel was isolated and brought forward from this rezoning previously brought forward as there was interest in the project from a proponent.

The Essex Motel is a ten-unit facility.

The Report to Council noted the Town has not had new rental housing construction for over two decades and affordable rental accommodation is essentially non-existent, given the extremely low vacancy rate.

The Highway Commercial land use designation in the Official Plan, it adds in the report, applies to the motel lands permits retail, office, and service commercial uses.

The site is located within the Community Improvement Project Area for Essex Centre, which was designed to encourage the conversion of obsolete and under-utilized commercial space to affordable dwelling units, where permitted.

The report notes an affordable dwelling unit must rent for a maximum of $1000 (all in) monthly in order to qualify for grants monies.

Permit and a $5000.00 per unit conversion grants would be available, but normally these grants apply to above ground floor conversions, the report notes.

Mayor Larry Snively said the housing is needed.


Colchester Secondary Plan Discussion

Council received a report Policy Planner, Jeff Watson, and Planner, Rita Jabbour, prepared for the planning of a potential expansion of commercial zoning in Colchester Centre.

The report notes that over the course of the last decade, Colchester has undergone numerous changes in regards to the marina, expansion of parks, waterfront improvements, and cycling and walking trails, and being at the forefront of a tourist and recreational destination for the Town of Essex.

With that increased popularity, additional services are required to benefit the residents and recreational visitors.

“There has been some interest in seeing more commercial along Jackson [Street] in Colchester, but the zoning itself does not permit that as of right today,” Watson explained. “The zoning that we’re sort of contemplating would be designed for a transitional location where you have a mix of residential and modest commercial; boutique-type of commercial, mixed in with residential. Keep it modest, it’s the type of thing that would fit well in a village environment.”

Mayor Larry Snively echoed Watson’s sentiments, adding that it could be a great way to tie in with tourism.  

  A public meeting would be held for feedback before any potential zoning changes could be made.


Chamber of Commerce requests continued waiving of DC

Council received two letters from the Harrow & Colchester South Chamber of Commerce, regarding the zero-development fee in Ward 4.

Regarding the development fees, the Chamber had expressed concerns that if the waived development fees for Ward 4 elapse, the area could lose out on residential developments that would be needed to attract more residents to the area.

In the letter, the Chamber asked Council to waive the fees for another year in order to encourage building developments in the Ward.

“The zero percent ward development fees in Harrow expire this August, so this term of Council will have a decision to make on whether to extend that or not,” Councillor Sherry Bondy said. “I think that waiting until August may be pushing it a little bit. After that May 1 meeting, I’m hoping that Council will have that discussion about maybe extending it on a year-to-year basis.”

Mayor Larry Snively was in full agreement with Bondy on the matter, noting he believed it should be extended an additional year to make sure Harrow can grow with the town as a whole.


Control of invasive Phragmites

Council received correspondence from the Town of Kingsville, asking Essex to consider supporting its resolution calling on the Federal Government to enact regulatory measures to quickly approve the use of herbicides in aquatic environments in time for this year’s growing season, in addition to aerial control measures, to deal with the continued encroachment of Phragmites, an invasive species of perennial grass originating in Eurasia.

Phragmites can grow to over 5-metres in length, poisoning the soil in their 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.

An overabundance of the plant results in loss of biodiversity and species richness, loss of habitat, changes in hydrology due to its high metabolic rate, changes in nutrient cycling as it is slow to decompose, an increased fire hazard due to the combustibility of its dead stalks, and can have an adverse impact on agriculture, particularly in drainage ditches.

Council voted to support the Town of Kingsville in its resolution.


 Notices of Motion: Affordable Municipal Housing Strategy

Councillor Sherry Bondy brought forward a Notice of Motion at the April 1 Council meeting. She wanted to have Council consider directing administration to develop an affordable municipal housing strategy, due to the urgent housing crisis in Windsor and Essex County.

At Monday evening’s meeting, Bondy said she realizes a strategic planning session has not taken place yet, but she said there is a housing crisis locally.

Bondy said she attended a housing strategy town hall event Essex MP Tracey Ramsey hosted a few weeks back and received information there.

  She wants Council to think about what it has and what it could do to come up with different ideas.

  Bondy said she received three messages from families or individuals the about their need for housing the previous week.

  She wanted to have a high-level conversation and not wait six months to have those discussions.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman said housing is needed. He thought it was a great idea for an inventory to be created for Council to know what the Town can offer and what it can do.

Motion carried.


Bondy wants an information session to be held for Council on roads

During the announcement portion of the meeting, Councillor Sherry Bondy said she would like Council to have an informational session on roads to discuss processes used, including cold recycled asphalt.  

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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