An unusually short Pelham Town Council meeting May 3 still wasn’t without antics of its own after members again shot down a development design proposal they had earlier sought to reconsider, and another councilor had to change their vote on different matter.
At council’s March 22 meeting, political allies Lisa Haun, Marianne Stewart, Ron Kore and Bob Hildebrandt had balked at a design proposal by Mountainview Homes for a townhouse development in East Fonthill. Following public outcry, given that the design was aimed at a lower price point, Haun later claimed she didn’t have proper information about the project—despite other council members stating that they had been supplied with all relevant documents. Haun instead criticized the Voice at council’s following meeting, on April 6, suggesting the newspaper had cast her as anti-affordable housing.
Last Monday, with the townhouse application back on the docket, the same bloc of four councillors — Haun, Stewart, Kore and Hildebrandt — once again voted against the project, without explaining their rationale despite being invited to comment before the vote by the chair, Mayor Marvin Junkin. [See related story, on developer’s response.]
Immediately prior on a separate agenda item, also related to planning, Councillor Stewart had asked to change her vote after it was recorded.
Stewart herself had brought the item forward several months back— a proposed system in which developers could meet separately with neighbouring residents before involving Town Planning staff in a proposed development design. Stewart had taken inspiration for the project from the City of Burlington.
However, in drafting their report, Pelham Town staff—using Burlington’s model— recommended the hiring of another planner to offset the added workload.
“Planning staff are currently working to maximum capacity and currently are challenged with meeting timelines for review and processing of development applications,” the report read.
This didn’t sit well with Stewart, and councillors Hildebrandt and Wayne Olson.
While Stewart said that Burlington’s initial project did not involve municipal staff in the process—outside of providing developers with neighbours’ contact information — it has in fact grown into a system that brings all three parties together. Hildebrandt suggested splitting the motion, and attempting to move forward with the project without involving Town staff.
For his part, Mayor Marvin Junkin wanted to stick with staff expertise.
“If we’re going to follow the Burlington protocol, then we should have planning members [at meetings],” the Mayor said. He added that not doing so could turn some meetings into “something not productive.”
As a point of reference, Councillor John Wink noted a rancorous developer/resident meeting over a proposed Pancake Lane apartment complex not long ago as an example.
However, on the first vote, Stewart voted against the overall proposal, helping kill it along with four other members. Only Haun and Hildebrandt initially supported it.
Then, after the vote was tallied, Stewart raised her hand to ask if she could vote again.
CAO David Cribbs pointed out the item would still lose 4-3 in that case, but said that barring objections, Stewart’s vote could be changed to “accurately reflect [her] thought pattern.”
The item then again lost, officially by 4-3.
In other planning-related news, council unanimously voted to endorse a request by the City of Kitchener to appeal to the provincial government to loosen timelines for review of Planning Act applications. Under Ontario’s new Bill 108, several timelines have been shortened by months — something that Kitchener said was problematic “even outside the context of navigating city business in a global pandemic.”
Director of Community Planning and Development Barb Wiens conceded that the province’s new timelines are more “difficult” now.
“Planning has become more and more complex,” Wiens said.
Stewart and Haun led the charge at Pelham’s last council meeting to ask the Niagara Region to advocate for a delay in the Region’s Official Plan, a separate matter.
Video streaming coming to MCC
Council approved going forward with installing $51,000- worth of video streaming equipment for the Accursi Room at the community centre. The money will come from upper-level pandemic grant funding, and allow seniors’ programs to be streamed live from the complex. A separate proposal to install video streaming from the hockey rink and basketball courts— in theory allowing family to watch their kids play sports remotely— is expected in another report at the next meeting.
MCC key to fight against COVID
In his COVID-19 update, Fire Chief Bob Lymburner confirmed that the vaccination output at the MCC will be doubled, making it the largest vaccination site in Niagara.
“The fact we have that facility really means we are able to help Niagara Region out of this pandemic,” CAO Cribbs added. The CAO also took a moment to publicly thank Lymburner for his work on the pandemic response.
“Getting to this point took a lot of staff time and resources,” Cribbs said. “Every team needs a leader and our fire chief has been the leader on this file.”
Lymburner reported that as of May 3, 186,022 people had received at least one dose of a vaccine in Niagara.
Hildebrandt reminded council that vaccinations are also available at various local pharmacies and through personal physicians. (Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are currently provided at scheduled clinics, while the AstraZeneca vaccine is available through pharmacies and family doctors.)
Bauer Trail snow removal
The cost of snow removal on the 1.6-kilometre paved stretch of the Steve Bauer Trail will be $125 per “winter event” according to the Town.
Pelham receives between 25 and 35 winter events per year, according to an estimate provided by Public Works.
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