Two major pieces of legislation that have consumed local politics for a number of years were passed by Pelham Town Council during its July 13 virtual meeting. Most notably, council unanimously ratified official planning and zoning amendments to deal with cannabis producers — two days before the expiry of the Interim Control Bylaw that had frozen cannabis producers from establishing new operations or expanding existing sites.
“In the end I believe that the product of the work is a very good balance between providing a path forward for future operations should they wish to consider locating in the town, and protecting the overall public interest,” said Nick McDonald, President of Meridian Planning Consultants, which worked closely with the Cannabis Control Committee (CCC) to craft the regulations. “I think we struck a real good balance,” McDonald told council during his presentation.
Before the meeting, Niagara Region gave the CCC a formal exemption to the official plan and zoning bylaw amendments.
The new bylaws are highlighted by mandating producers to apply for rezoning for any new grow-op, adds specific definitions for indoor and outdoor operations, and enforces issues around odour and lighting, while setting guidelines for setbacks. Cannabis production will remain classified as an agricultural endeavour. Yet McDonald added that until the government of Ontario comes up with a more uniform approach to cannabis production, Pelham is in a unique position to chart its own course.
“Until the province does come out with guidelines, it is up to municipalities to figure out a path forward,” he said.
Mayor Marvin Junkin thanked the CCC, represented by Chair Tim Nohara, for the group’s hard work over the past year.
“On behalf of council, Tim, we thank you for the time of life you have donated to this,” the Mayor said. “It was worth it, we’ve got a bylaw that is both defensible and protects the rights of the citizens, while allowing the [cannabis] industry their rights.”
Nohara said that the late Councillor Mike Ciolfi, who was on the CCC, would have been proud of the final product.
“Thank you for trusting us with this,” Nohara said. “I’m sure somebody dear to all of us—‘Big Mike,’ I’ll quote you Mr. Mayor—is very pleased this evening.”
Council also unanimously passed a new bylaw for short-term rentals in Pelham, a little over a month after it was referred back to staff. The amendments removed short-term accommodations from being permitted in medium-to-high density residential and in any other types of houses, except for single detached dwellings.
“I think we have captured the changes council was looking for,” Director of Community Planning and Development Barb Wiens said.
The core rules remain the same, however. Short-term rentals will not be permitted unless the homeowner can convince council to make a zoning amendment. Existing bed and breakfast establishments — which are owner-occupied and not rented by absentee landlords — have been grandfathered in. Junkin asked Wiens if that aspect means a bed and breakfast could be passed along to a new owner if a property is sold. Wiens replied that would only be permitted if there was no cessation of operation during the property’s sale period.
Council switches path on trail funding
Almost a month after voting down the paving of a large stretch of the Steve Bauer Trail, council heard from Pelham Active Transportation Committee (PATC) Chair Bea Clark, and unanimously heeded her plea to reconsider.
During its June 15 meeting, Councillors Bob Hildebrandt, Ron Kore and Marianne Stewart voted instead to devote Town resources to the removal of rumble strips on Canboro Road. This was despite $75,000 in funding from the provincial government being available only until the end of this year, specifically earmarked for cycling and accessibility-based infrastructure. Because the vote was tied, under quorum rules the effort to pave the trail was lost. The decision left both Councillor John Wink and Town CAO David Cribbs criticizing Hildebrandt, Kore and Stewart for ignoring the opinions of specialized committees such as the PATC.
Last Monday, Clark set out the PATC’s logic for choosing the trail over Canboro Road.
“We know that Canboro Road is an important link between Fenwick and Fonthill and many cyclists use it for sure,” Clark said. “Because this project requires extensive road work and the fact that simply removing the rumble strips will not improve the safety of the road for all users of the road, we felt that as desirable as this project was … it was considerably more costly and it could not be completed before December 31st of 2020, and therefore it wasn’t feasible for action at this time.”
She then highlighted the grant money from Cycle Ontario, the access to which expires on New Year’s Eve.
“Here’s my final pitch—the Active Transportation Committee is asking to please use the Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling funds that were provided by the Province of Ontario,” Clark said. “Returning the funds, I believe, would not be wise, we are very concerned because given the current funding situation, and the seriousness of other issues that municipalities and all levels of government must deal with, we’re pretty sure we’re not going to see funding like this again for quite some time.”
Public Works Director Jason Marr also came to the defence of the trail paving, bringing a pleasant surprise in the form of additional funding through a 2021 Canada Summer Games legacy project grant.
“Staff thought this was a great opportunity to again bring forward the Steve Bauer Trail paving project as one of those [Canada Summer Games] legacy projects,” Marr said.
The legacy grant is for just over $21,000, which if combined with the Cycle Ontario grant puts funds at about $96,000. Furthermore, through competitive tender pricing, Marr said the overall cost projection has come in 30 percent lower than expected, giving the Town up to $120,000 to pave the Bauer Trail from Port Robinson Road south to the town limit at Line Avenue and Quaker Road.
Still scheduled for next summer despite the ongoing pandemic, Pelham will host a road cycling race event as part of the Canada Summer Games. Because part of the course includes Canboro Road, Hildebrandt defended his decision at the last council meeting by wondering if the existing infrastructure was safe enough to handle the peloton of riders.
“Here’s my concern—we do have this cycling race coming up. I really do consider [the rumble strips] a big safety issue,” Hildebrandt told Marr.
“In speaking with the Canada Summer Games, race organizers have went through the course, they are satisfied with the race route,” Marr replied. “The improvements they are looking at doing along Canboro Road … is much more significant than the removal of rumble strips.”
He pegged the cost of removing the strips at $40,000 to $50,000 alone, and said the road will likely have to be widened at some point in the future anyway.
Kore and Haun vote against lands bylaw
As part of a handful of presentations by Fire Chief and Chief Bylaw Enforcement Officer Bob Lymburner, staff issued a report proposing a bylaw that would take certain disagreements between neighbours out of the Town’s hands and provide them with an avenue for civil litigation. At issue is accessing one’s property from another.
“The Town does have a somewhat archaic Entry onto Lands bylaw,” Cribbs said, referencing yet another rule on the books from the 1980s. “In a perfect world neighbours always get along. The purpose is to create a system when Neighbour A can inform with adequate warning, that would otherwise be a trespass, but traverse [Neighbour B’s] property to bring equipment — to build a pool, to fix their foundation, whatever that is. Then it obligates them to put it back to what it was.”
The measure would essentially privatize such disputes, and in the report’s words, relieve the Town from responsibility to settle matters in dispute.
“Bylaws such as these are increasingly necessary,” Cribbs said. “The reality is construction in urban areas can be difficult.”
The measure passed, with Kore and Haun voting against it without providing any elaboration as to why.
COVID-19 reopenings smooth so far
Director of Recreation, Culture and Wellness Vickie vanRavenswaay lauded the Town’s job in opening the pool, its summer camps, and one ice pad at the community centre amid Stage 2 of COVID-19 reopenings during the second week of July.
“Obviously our advertising has worked, because that was seamless,” vanRavenswaay said.
“What’s common about all three … it’s a new way of operating. You can’t just show up. You either have to register or reserve a space, or reserve a swim time to be able to participate.”
She reported that 171 people gathered at the pool for family swims along during the week of July 6-12, two summer camps commenced with more planned, and stated the business case is clear for opening the MCC’s main ice pad, the Accipiter Arena.
“There’s high demand for ice time in the Niagara Region, with only three arenas open,” she said.
After overhead, vanRavenswaay predicted that the Town could clear another $57,000 in revenue from the opening. As such, Accipiter is scheduled to be available for rentals beginning July 27.
“I can confirm that openings have gone extremely well,” Cribbs added. “We’ve got positive feedback from the public and staff. I am unaware of a single complaint. We are the only municipality out of 13 in Niagara to offer … kids camps, full aquatics and ice. We’re the only one to have all three.”
Mayor Junkin agreed.
“We’ve been right on the front curve,” he said. “The residents want to get out there and resume their lives, with precautions.”
Church Hill/Pelham report referred back
Councillor Hildebrandt succeeded in to referring back to staff a report on the pedestrian crossing at Church Hill and Pelham Street in downtown Fonthill. The T-intersection, which features only a pedestrian crossing light, not a full traffic light, has been a bone of contention for residents for some time. The report stated that there has only been one automobile collision reported at the corner within the past three years, and that other methods of intersection control such as a three-way stop or full T-intersection lights are currently not warranted.