Niagara COVID vaccinations on the rise

At its regular meeting on March 22, Emergency Management Coordinator and Fire Chief Bob Lymburner provided Pelham Town Council the latest pandemic statistics, indicating that Pelham had 13 active cases, of a total 342 in Niagara. Viral “variants” had been identified in six Niagara residents. Some 374 Niagara residents have died since the pandemic began, and 7244 in the province.

Public Health had vaccinated 6897, and Niagara Health 34,471, according to Lymburner. Ontario had vaccinated 1,553,040 residents, and Canada 4,000,227.

Lymburner reported that Niagara Region would immediately begin to vaccinate migrant workers, and that Ontario residents aged 75 and older could now book vaccination appointments.

With Niagara in the Red zone, restaurants may allow indoor dining to a 50 percent capacity to a maximum of 50 persons.

Council keeps MCC in ice this summer

With indoor events such as the annual home show, art festival, and local high school graduation ceremonies cancelled due to the coronavirus, Pelham’s Meridian Community Centre (MCC) will maximize its ice rental revenues this summer, keeping both arenas frozen.

Pelham Minor Lacrosse Association (PMLA) will have a delayed and shortened season in 2021, and would have paid less than $5500 for use of one of the MCC arenas. Given that the cost of removing and reinstalling ice is almost $8000, and summer ice rentals for both the Duliban and Accipter rinks would generate over $130,000, council decided to go for the profit, and send lacrosse down the road to the Welland Arena, which will be ice-free. Any additional costs to PMLA in relocating their program to Welland will be covered by the Town of Pelham’s COVID-19 Financial Relief Fund.

Pelham Basketball Association (PBA) is being displaced from one of the MCC’s gymnasiums, which will be occupied as a coronavirus vaccination centre this summer for an undetermined amount of time. The Town plans to financially compensate PBA for the inconvenience through anticipated revenue from the vaccine distribution.

Hoop houses and greenhouses

Council received a presentation regarding hoop houses by John Langendoen, of Willowbrook Nurseries in Fenwick, who is chair of the Pelham Greenhouse Growers Group (representing 11 local greenhouse and nursery operations). Langendoen told council that the consortium has a total of 1.6 million square feet of permanent greenhouses used year-round, and 1.1 million square feet of temporary hoop houses, which operate from November through March, depending on the weather. The group has 135 full time employees, and 205 part-time and offshore workers, with a total payroll of $10.5 million.

At issue is the Pelham requirement that building permits be obtained for the hoop houses. Langendoen asserted that no other municipality in Ontario except Pelham has this expectation —a point refuted by Pelham CAO David Cribbs, who detailed other Niagara municipalities that expect building permits for such structures.

Langendoen said that building permits are expensive, slow down expansion, and trigger property taxes, which in turn eliminates exemptions from retail sales tax for hoop house building materials.

Since 2019, according to Langendoen, Pelham greenhouses have no longer been exempt from Site Plan Control like all other agricultural uses, due to cannabis legislation. He argued that hoop houses are temporary structures, without the elaborate heating and ventilation components typical of greenhouses, and accordingly are not ideal for cannabis cultivation.

The greenhouse and nursery business has also been hit hard by the COVID pandemic, said Langendoen, and he implored council for some consideration.

Councillor Lisa Hahn spoke in support of a building permit exemption for hoop houses that are winterizing dormant plants, and council agreed to refer the matter to Town planning staff for a review and report.

Gypsy moth assessment and defoliation forecast

A report submitted to council provided evidence that Pelham’s gypsy moth population may have peaked and is on the cusp of decline. However, for 2021, residents can expect significant levels of defoliation throughout Fenwick, Fonthill, and also in rural forested areas.

The report provided three options: do nothing; target primarily urban areas for treatment; or conduct large-scale urban and rural aerial spraying. Given a budget of $150,000 for gypsy moth control, staff recommend the middle option, based on BioForest’s 2020 Gypsy Moth Monitoring Program Report.