During Pelham Town Council’s regular meeting on April 6, Ward 3 Councillor Lisa Haun took issue with the way the Voice had earlier reported her apparent misunderstanding of a proposed development in East Fonthill.

During council’s previous virtual gathering, in late March, Haun led the charge against the design of Mountainview Homes’ proposed townhouse complex on Summersides Boulevard—which, based on modern design principles, would make the development more affordable for first-time buyers, retirees, and lower-income residents.

“Contrary to the local tabloid,” Haun said of the Voice, “to suggest that we were provided information as to the appearance of [the townhouses], we were not.”

Haun’s complaint, however, is groundless.

Neither in its March 31 story, nor before, did the Voice report that council had received any such information.

Pelham Councillor Lisa Haun. VOICE FILE

Yet in an ironic twist, it turns out that council was, in fact, provided with the townhouse design on an earlier occasion. Ward 1 Councillor Wayne Olson kept it handy, knowing that a final vote was on the horizon.

“I had a file from the previous time the development came to council,” Olson told the Voice last week, “so I had the rendering in front of me. I knew what I was voting for [on March 22].”

Haun, alongside political allies Ron Kore, Marianne Stewart and Bob Hildebrandt, supported the development at the March 22 meeting, but only after insisting on a design change to eliminate the layout of the townhouses, citing what they maintained was a lack of yard space, among other concerns.

Such a move is unusual by municipal councils, and potentially opened Pelham taxpayers to costly legal challenges from the developer.

Mountainview Homes, for their part, sent a letter to council afterward stressing that the plans were in line with common townhome designs seen in many urban and suburban settings.

Her design concerns mollified, Haun wasn’t done. She disagreed with the Voice’s viewpoint in a March 31 editorial that she was effectively obstructing affordable housing choices in Pelham, and cited an irrelevant Provincial Policy Statement on affordable rental housing as the basis for her rebuttal.

“I’m overjoyed to know that these are apparently affordable houses, because that is not something that also was addressed in the last meeting. The term ‘affordable housing’ has been thrown around now in the local paper,” Haun said, digging in on semantics.

“I think it’s important to understand that the actual term, ‘affordable housing,’ per the Province of Ontario, is that it’s a unit for which the rent does not exceed 30 percent of the gross annual household income … I’m going to hazard a guess here that’s not actually the case here. I think the paper has erroneously projected these to be affordable homes which they are in fact not.”

The Voice, however, being aware that the development was never proposed as either rental units or low-income housing, made no such assertion.

Director of Community Planning and Development Barb Wiens then reminded Haun that the term “affordability” can also be applied to the real estate market.

“These are not rental units,” Wiens said. “There is similarly a similar type of definition for affordability for home ownership and it’s tied to the percentage of [income] that you spend [on mortgage payments]. Whether or not these will be affordable and meet that definition I cannot answer that. I don’t know what these houses are being marketed at, or what their price point will be, but they will certainly be less than other single-detached or other conventional townhouses.”

Haun said she just wanted to clarify her position.

“Clearly there’s miscommunication that’s been intentionally put out there, that and the fact somehow I’m against affordable housing, which of course I’m not,” she said.

Haun did not acknowledge a request by the Voice to cite specific, factual errors in the newspaper’s reporting or commentary about her stance on the townhouse design.

Kore, who was seen raising his hand three times in an attempt to jump in, was finally granted the floor and told council that he had spoken to a Mountainview official, who told him the proposed development’s units will be priced between $550,000 to $600,000 for 1,100 to 1,300 square feet—figures that the Voice has not independently verified.

(Another new townhouse development, The Refuge, broke ground on Pt. Robinson Road late this past winter, just south of the Mountainview project. Starting prices in The Refuge are advertised as $850,000.)

“I support affordable housing, and it’s sad that the communication can’t be accurate at all times,” Kore said. “I’m glad that we’re going to be redoing this again,” apparently referring to council’s about-face on the issue.

Proxy voting finally put to rest

In another change-of-heart, after repeated requests by some councillors to study its feasibility, council unanimously decided not to adopt proxy voting, accepting a staff report recommending against the policy.

Haun, Hildebrandt and Stewart had kept the idea alive despite the fact only one of Ontario’s 444 municipalities has permitted the controversial measure. The latest staff report found that the municipality of Mississauga did so because of its unique circumstance, in which its city councillors also sit on the Peel Regional Council— which oversees a population of 1.4 million residents.

Haun and Hildebrandt said they were satisfied with the findings. Stewart was not in attendance for the virtual meeting.

“I feel more comfortable having done my due diligence,” Haun said.

Kore, saying that he had read Brock University political science professor David Siegel’s critique of proxy voting in the Voice earlier this year, was also in agreement.

Ward 2 Councillor John Wink added that the issue was the most common topic he heard about from constituents in recent months.

“I’m glad that this will be put to rest,” Mayor Marvin Junkin concluded.

On-demand transit up for renewal

Niagara Regional Transit’s Robert Salewytsch made a presentation on the Region’s on-demand transit pilot project, which is up for a one-year renewal in Pelham by late summer.

Salewytsch stressed the on-demand service remains separate from any future regionalized transit proposals, the potential costs of which have been a point of concern lately.

Salewytsch said that Pelham accounted for 2,292 on-demand transit rides between last August and February, with a mostly-even split between destinations inside Pelham and those in neighbouring municipalities. He said that rider feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, but conceded there are shortcomings when it comes to users who don’t have smart phones.

Hildebrandt presented Salewytsch a “wish list,” including altering routes to Welland to include stops at the Seaway Mall. Ward 1 Councillor Wayne Olson inquired about the possibility of Sunday service.

Bylaw, ticketing changes

Council received a staff report on changes to the Town’s bylaw enforcement policy, which proposes alterations that will include more “proactivity” versus “reactivity” when it comes to enforcement—i.e., not waiting for a complaint to come in before writing citations.

However, Fire Chief and Chief Bylaw Enforcement Officer Bob Lymburner explained that this doesn’t necessarily mean stricter enforcement and more fines.

“The proactive [approach] is along the lines of winter maintenance, where we go out and give warnings … we proactively try to eliminate the problem before it exists. Reactive is more the complaint-driven kind of thing.”

Lymburner said the Town’s last resort is ticketing and fining.

“We’ll exhaust all measures before we get to that point, unless it’s a life-safety hazard.”

Somewhat related—although not at the municipal level — was a Regional proposal mentioned at the meeting that would eliminate any revenue Pelham receives from fines stemming from Provincial Offences Act (POA) court. Those fines mostly come from police-issued traffic tickets, for which Pelham and other municipalities in which the infractions occur receive a fractional portion of revenue.

Hildebrandt brought up the matter, concerned that the Region would be taking money away from the Town.

“I really don’t appreciate that kind of action,” the Ward 3 councillor said.

CAO David Cribbs explained that the Region’s plan is to use 100 percent of the revenue to re-invest in traffic safety measures such as red-light cameras.

The Region is scheduled to make its presentation to Pelham on the matter at the next Town Council meeting, on April 19.

Motions, odds, ends and goodbyes

Councillor Haun presented a notice of motion wherein she wants to rescind the previous council’s attempt to upload the Niagara Central Dorothy Rungeling Airport to Niagara Region. Haun, who sits on the airport board with members of Welland and Port Colborne municipal councils, has developed into a staunch proponent of the aerodrome. During a December council meeting, she got into a heated argument with Mayor Junkin over her seeking a municipal tax break for the airfield without informing council.

Junkin tabled a motion to investigate the cost of regular snow removal from the paved portions of the Steve Bauer Trail. At present, snow removal is conducted along streets and sidewalks only.

Council received a report on the Town’s 2021 gypsy moth spray program. One notable item is that contractor Zimmer Air — which has been criticized by councillors and residents alike for various aspects of their previous spray programs — has been retained, because, according to the Town, they remain the only applicator in eastern Canada with the ability to spray over urban and residential areas.

It being the final council meeting for retiring Town Clerk Nancy Bozzato, Junkin took the opportunity to say farewell.

“The clerk will have to forgive me for breaking procedure,” the Mayor said, half-jokingly. “Without fail, Nancy has had answers ready for questions we have all asked her. The long hours spent poring over agendas can now be spent pouring drinks on the dock. Thank you for all that you have done for the Town of Pelham.”

This earned a round of applause from staff and councillors on the Zoom call. Bozzato has been Town Clerk since 2010, and retires with some 40 years public service at municipal and Regional levels.

“I just want to express my appreciation to this beautiful community,” said the Pelham native and E. L. Crossley alum. “I wish everyone every bit of continued success.”

With files from Dave Burket

 

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