From left, Councillors Bob Hildebrandt, John Wink, and Lisa Haun participated in last week's Pelham Town Council meeting via Skype. YOUTUBE

Town Council news

Pelham Town council went ahead with its regular meeting and Committee of the Whole gathering March 23, with COVID-19 precautions in place.

The Mayor, three councillors, the Town Clerk, and five staff members attended chambers in person, with three other councillors appearing via video conference.

One of those remote attendees, Ward 3’s Lisa Haun, led off the meeting by making a motion to defer less time-sensitive Town business due the global coronavirus pandemic.

“Only the most urgent items from our agenda should be tackled during this time,” Haun said.

Mayor Marvin Junkin didn’t appear to be on board at first, saying that issues appearing before council are important issues for the people involved.

“The thing that we’re trying to do during this pandemic is conduct business on an ‘as usual’ basis as possible,” he said. “When something comes to council it’s usually because the people who are bringing to council, it’s an important item for them.”

Not so, said Haun, who has worked in the province’s emergency management sector.

“We are in a pandemic, it seems a little trivial to be talking about items that are re-zoning and things like that,” she said. “This is not necessarily business as usual.”

With that, the motion passed, with council agreeing to defer such matters on a case-by-case basis as they come up.

The only major piece of COVID-19-related business to come out of the meeting was council agreeing to waive penalties and interest for non-payment of taxes and water/wastewater payments through April 30. Further assessment based on the state of the pandemic will be made then.

“This is an important step to take to help those affected by this unprecedented pandemic,” said Junkin. “As a community we work together, this is no different. If we can help our community get through these difficult times we will explore ways of doing so.”

Treasurer Teresa Quinlin estimated that the financial impact on the Town to be $27,000 for the one month. However, that is based solely on its average number of delinquent accounts in any normal month.

“Cash flow becomes an issue if this continues for a couple of months,” Quinlin said.

(After last Thursday’s Regional Council meeting, Mayor Junkin, one of Pelham’s two Regional councillors, told the Voice that discussion of potential delays in tax and other payments had taken place, and the matter was under review. The majority of taxes collected by Pelham are in fact collected on behalf of the Region and schools, and must be paid on a timely basis to the Region.)

“The spraying must go on”

Council voted to approve the 2020 gypsy moth spray program. Director of Public Works Jason Marr confirmed that 120 hectares of both public and private land in Pelham will be aerially sprayed in May and/or June. That’s about double the area sprayed last year. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a monkeywrench into plans to hold two public information sessions about the strategy. Marr instead proposed that those meetings be substituted with online information sessions, with print advertising and paper handouts for those without access to a computer.

“The spraying must go on,” Ward 1 Councillor Mike Ciolfi said.

Odorous industries nuisance bylaw passes

Cannabis Control Committee (CCC) chair Tim Nohara appeared in chambers to advocate that his committee’s work be ratified by council.

Ciolfi used the presentation to move that the Odorous Industries Nuisance Bylaw be passed—which it was, unanimously.

“It’s very important we pass this,” said Ciolfi, adding that he’d received cannabis odor complaints from residents the previous weekend. “It’s not something that can wait two, three, four months.”

“It’s very important we pass this…It’s not something that can wait two, three, four months.”

CAO David Cribbs explained that passage of the bylaw also implied something of a “grace period” before enforceable regulations begin, ideally upon expiry of the Interim Control Bylaw in July.

The Town has $13,000 budgeted for enforcement of the odor bylaw, likely involving the purchase of a contraption called the “Nasal Ranger” which uses the science of olfactometry to measure the strength of smells.

(Ontario’s cannabis sector — including both growers and retailers — was deemed “essential” in the province’s first shutdown order of non-essential businesses last week.)

Parking vote chaos

Meeting later as Committee of the Whole, council accidentally voted to defeat a motion that would consider preparing a municipal parking study and strategy to be included in the 2021 budget. The staff report came about over concerns of the proposed redevelopment of Fenwick’s old Royal Bank branch into a hotel — and its anticipated parking needs—as well as overall parking concerns in town.

“You just voted to instruct us to do nothing and reject every single part of that report,” Cribbs told council, visibly dumbfounded.

Ciolfi appeared to be tripped up by an element in the text, noting that a study for such a parking plan could cost up to $60,000.

“We’re specifically not asking you for money right now,” Cribbs explained. “We’re telling you how much it’s going to cost to come up with a parking strategy, we’re asking you to refer it to a future budget.”

Given that council appeared to not understand what they were voting on, Cribbs and Town Clerk Nancy Bozzato said the group could vote again.

“We get a mulligan if there’s a complete mistake of fact,” Cribbs said. “We were unclear how we wrote the report … it wasn’t clear what you were voting on.”

Upon the mulligan vote, the motion passed.

The parking issues didn’t end there. Council voted to refer back to staff a final site plan approval for the residential development known as Summerside Mews—which would see the land immediately west and south of the community centre’s parking lot developed into townhouses. The reason? A perceived lack of parking.

Ward 2 Councillor Ron Kore initially moved to defer the matter outright, which Councillor John Wink gently but firmly pushed back on. “By delaying this or deferring it further, who knows when [the sale] going to close,” Wink said. Kore’s motion was defeated.

The central issue, however, was that despite staff’s assertion the proposed 41 housing units would be served enough by the developer’s plan of 61 parking spaces, several councillors were concerned about spillover into the already high-demand community centre parking lot.

“If we can just have some communications with the developer so he can see our concerns about parking,” Ciolfi asked.

Director of Community Planning and Development Barb Wiens said that the developer’s plans are already above and beyond the bylaw for required parking in the East Fonthill development. The bylaw requires 1.25 spaces per residential unit, while the developer is offering about 1.4 per unit.

According to both Wiens and Cribbs, the developer has already sold out the townhouses—which include some units defined as affordable housing.

“You should not be held hostage to other visions,” said Cribbs. “May I suggest to council… I appreciate it’s imperfect, but may I submit to you that in this case, the developer has sold 100 percent [of units],” Cribbs said.

Junkin asked Wiens if the developer’s existing plans were well designed.

“It’s not only my idea that it’s a well thought-out plan,” Wiens replied, “Our planning staff has looked, our fire services staff have reviewed it, the Regional transportation people have also reviewed it.”

In the end, council directed staff to reach out to the developer to further discuss parking issues, though it was unclear whether this would happen before council’s next meeting, on April 6.