CAO David Cribbs in his office at Pelham Town Hall. VOICE PHOTO

The Voice asked Pelham’s new CAO for his impressions of the year just passed, and what’s on the horizon for 2020

Special to the VOICE

As 2019 comes to a close, it’s hard not to reflect on the new job, the new community and the profound changes in my life. Roughly six months ago my spouse and I took a hard look at both Pelham and Niagara, liked what we saw, and took a leap of faith. As with any new undertaking, we experienced a mixture of anxiety, hope, excitement and curiosity. I am pleased to report that there are no regrets. The town and the Town—both geographic and legal entities— have been most welcoming. I hope that I have earned this welcome and will endeavor to continue giving the best that I have in service to my employer.

In some senses, working for the Town of Pelham is like working for the other municipalities that I’ve been with: there is a stressful budgetary process, there isn’t enough money in the bank to address the infrastructure needs, there are challenges around public confidence, and rate payers understandably want to see value for their tax dollars.

In other ways this community sets itself apart —primarily by the strength of its passions. We’ve had standing-room-only meetings on the issues of cannabis, short-term rentals and gypsy moths. People invest time, engage, and voice their opinions, because the outcomes matter to them, and they believe (as do I) that the municipality can effect real change. This community is as politically engaged as any in Ontario.

Pelham’s civic engagement isn’t limited to politics. Even with some challenging weather, Summerfest blew the roof off. The Thursday nights in the park were fabulous, and the MCC is now routinely welcoming 3,000 people each day on the weekend. Think about that: effectively more than one resident in six walks through the doors of the MCC on Saturday or Sunday. It is literally the social hub of the community.

I have been asked to reflect on successes and failures over the past half year, and to prognosticate on what is to come. With hindsight it is clear that we handled the gypsy moth issue imperfectly. In particular, I want to apologize for the tenor and tone of the letter informing 294 residents of their need to pay for spraying. You deserved better manners from the Town that was asking you to pay. On the positive side, we have made great progress in developing financial policies that will prevent the errors of the past; in developing methodologies to address cannabis nuisance issues; and we are working towards reasonable controls on short-term rentals to protect residential quality of life.

What will 2020 look like? The Town closes the year in open litigation with Leviathan Cannabis Co., CannTrust, and RedeCan. Each of these legal disputes was initiated by the cannabis companies. I think that the Town will find a way to address the very real harm caused by cannabis production, but also find a way to co-exist with the cannabis producers, provided they can change their behaviour and govern themselves with enlightened self-interest. I also think we will see a regulatory regime that addresses short-term rentals, and likely a general overall enhancement of several bylaws, which will conjunctively modernize the Town’s regulatory, enforcement and legal operations.

Whatever comes, I’m glad to be part of the Town of Pelham and look forward to meeting more residents and hopefully making some new friends in 2020. Cheers!