During Pelham Town Council’s March 1 meeting, it was revealed that the Town has endorsed the Fonthill Rotary Club’s application for a $60,000 grant from the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative for their languishing Fonthill arches replacement plan.

The Rotary Club has been told by the Town they can reconstruct the controversial downtown structure at their own expense, including providing a reserve maintenance fund. However, the pandemic has severely curtailed the club’s ability to hold fundraisers.

“Fundamentally, the problem is there’s not enough money,” CAO David Cribbs said of Rotary’s plan. “Accordingly, [the Town] endorsing this application may well lead … to getting more money on the table so that, in fact, another proposal can come to you.”

Council shot down a design proposal for new arches last year based on their appearance, which some observers found lacking the grace of the original structure.

The only direct grant application listed from the Town regards a $50,000 request from the same federal program for the completion of fencing around Peace Park.

The proposed arches’ neighbouring building, Fonthill’s longtime TD Bank branch, was also a topic at the meeting.

Ward 1 Councillor Marianne Stewart moved a motion to appeal to the Toronto-based global financial services giant to reconsider the planned closure of the branch by July.

“Whereas the Town of Pelham has a large and growing senior population who will be seriously impacted by this closure, and … many residents of the Town of Pelham are not tech-savvy enough or do not have suitable access for internet banking,” Stewart’s verbiage read.

The motion passed unanimously.

“Excellent,” Mayor Marvin Junkin summarized.

Development news

Ward 3 Councillor Bob Hildebrandt asked staff several questions about its Residential Development Monitoring Report, which logs development and density in Pelham. One of them regarded how jobs-per-hectare in the Town is calculated, and Director of Planning and Community Development Barb Wiens admitted that it wasn’t a scientific formula.

“We don’t have definitive way of calculating employment numbers,” Wiens said.

However, Hildebrandt seemed more interested in the Town’s intensification targets. According to the staff report, “infill and intensification targets” for Pelham will change with the adoption of a new Niagara Official Plan in 2022. With that, it is likely that Pelham’s minimum intensification target will be increased beyond 15 percent.

Hildebrandt wanted a ballpark figure, but Wiens said it remains to be determined.

Ward 3 Councillor Lisa Haun then asked if the Town’s expected future bylaw changes allowing for second dwelling units (SDUs) will count towards intensification targets.

Wiens reminded members, as she did during the Feb. 8 public meeting on SDUs, that they do not count toward those targets.

I think there needs to be a distinction made between a granny flat and what’s truly a SDU

“Most jurisdictions do not count SDUs toward density calculations,” she said, saying there was no reasonable means of tracking the units because of the oft-shifting nature of their usage. Haun sought to clarify that a municipality could choose to do so if they wanted, which Wiens said she would seek to confirm.

Noted rental-property opponent Stewart then wondered aloud if SDUs could be separately defined based on usage.

“I think there needs to be a distinction made between a granny flat and what’s truly a SDU,” she said.

Wiens only replied that “SDUs can take a variety of forms.”

Pandemic updates

Council unanimously passed a motion to provide municipal picnic tables to local restaurants free-of-charge as the establishments endeavour to deal with ongoing pandemic regulations.

As the weather warms, patio season looms. Last year the Town provided the picnic tables as many establishments expanded their patios into parking lots to deal with physical-distancing measures. Ward 2 Councillor John Wink tabled the motion to ensure the same would happen this year. While the policy is set to run from May to October, Wiens said there is no hard rule on that.

“If the weather turns really nice, I imagine we’ll get interest sooner than that,” Wiens said. Director of Public Works Jason Marr confirmed that the Town has the necessary stock of picnic tables.

During his COVID-19 update, Cribbs announced the reopening of the community centre that day, March 1. “It’s a good day here in Pelham,” he said.

Related somewhat to the ongoing mental toll of the pandemic on many residents, Ward 1 Councillor Wayne Olson brought up items from the Pelham Seniors Advisory Committee and the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council on needs to make more citizens aware of programs available to help people cope. Specifically referring to seniors, Olson asked staff if mailing materials to certain residents was feasible given that not everyone reads the newspaper.

Director of Recreation, Culture and Wellness Vickie vanRavenswaay said it was possible in a limited form. “We could do so at high cost,” she said. “Perhaps target certain areas of the Town.”

Mayor Junkin agreed that many seniors are currently isolated both physically and mentally.

“There have been so many studies that have shown the number one complaint of seniors is how to combat the loneliness they suffer day in, and day out,” he said. “So it’s paramount that all communities do what we can to reach out to these individuals.”

Odds and ends

Council passed the bylaw to green light the redevelopment of 3 Hurricane Road. The matter was briefly hung up as Hildebrandt pointed out a typo in the staff report.

Jen Pilzecker of the Pelham Beautification Committee made a presentation including their plans to ask for a grant for a future “community gateway” feature at the corner of Hwy. 20 and Rice Road. The committee also asked Council for $250 for a thank-you card initiative.

Council passed the official bylaw to appoint David Christensen as a Town building inspector. Christensen has worked for the Town for over a year, but recently received qualifications for building inspection.