More Gang of Four, please
Much appreciation given to Councillors Hildebrandt, Kore, Wink, Haun and Stewart who, at the last council meeting (as reported extensively in the Voice), chose to raise their voices (and not sit on their hands) in questioning staff concerning the City of St. Catharines/Trout Unlimited Canada Twelve Mile Creek project as proposed to take place in Pelham’s backyard.
I was particularly struck by the editorializing of the Voice in admonishing these councillors for doing their job. Clearly it was preferred by Town staff, the Mayor, as well as the paper that these councillors zip their mouths, wash their hands of the whole affair and call it a night! We along with many of our neighbours (who live in the area where this project is to take place) applaud those councillors, who after all, have oversight responsibilities for all of Pelham’s lands (and waters), private or public. In reading the Voice the emerging pattern strikes me as to their near-continuous chastisement for some councillors who dare to take Town staff to task, ask questions and/or voice an opinion. Since when is dissension a bad thing? Perhaps the Voice would prefer a return to the modus operandi of yesteryears; this where almost all council votes went 7-0 and nary an objection was heard. Oh ya, and where did that get us; unfettered development, a dirty/polluted watershed and mounds of debt! I say, thanks to these councillors for taking their civic duties seriously!
“I was here first”
A while back in the early days of this nightmare created by the Town’s refusal to enforce the rule of law, having had endured the whining air dryers of the car wash at 151 Highway 20 E. in Fonthill for three or four months, I was walking along the Steve Bauer Trail one morning when I had occasion to encounter owner Gail Levay near the rear of her property. Seizing on this opportunity to speak to her in a neighbourly “across the fence” sort of way, I suggested that she “do something” to quiet down those maddening blowers.
I recognized Ms. Levay from a Voice photo accompanying an article published in November 2018, wherein she was posing with a Rotarian of the Year plaque, and an Object of Rotary tablet. The first line of the article proclaimed that Ms. Levay had put “Service Above Self” in the community for 27 years.
Now, personally, I worry about disturbing my neighbours with my coffee grinder in the morning, so if I were a business owner who learned that I was tormenting an entire community with noise from my business, I would be mortified and would do everything possible to remedy the situation, and I’m not even a Rotarian—proof that ordinary people can also be respectful of others.
As Ms. Levay had been a past Rotarian of the Year and presumably an archetype of “Service Above Self,” I wasn’t expecting the, “I don’t have to do anything” reply, nor the indignant, “I was here first!” remark as she turned on her heel and walked away, seemingly insulted at the mere suggestion of her having to be a good neighbour, and perhaps believing that shouting “I was here first” negated our concerns and effectively established her “right” to disturb our community.
Maybe such contrary behaviour is why Ms. Levay didn’t want to be outed as a bad neighbour in a recent article in the Voice, (“this can’t go in the newspaper”). As I don’t imagine that suppression of freedom of the press is a Rotary objective, I assume this was a personal initiative.
So besides being something you typically hear from a child, does Ms. Levay’s proclamation of, “I was here first,” mean anything—legally that is?
Not being a legal scholar, I can’t say, but on the surface it seems to suggest a belief that having occupied the car wash property “for 52 years…” she cannot be interfered with, even if it means that others who have lived in the community for 30 years must forfeit their rights to quality of life and peaceful enjoyment of their property. Perhaps exclaiming, “I was here first” trumps our Charter right to enjoyment of property.
It also suggests a belief that she has an exemption from the law, maybe even from the common decency that might prevent a person from inflicting suffering on fellow human beings day-in-and-day-out.
As it is clear that Ms. Levay has no intention of being a good neighbour—recall the “I don’t have to do anything” remark—our neighbourhood has relied on the Town to enforce the rule of law and dismiss any imaginary privileges Ms. Levay thinks she may have by being there first. Unfortunately that has not been the case. In fact, the message from the Town to Ms. Levay is that she is indeed exempt from the noise bylaw. Perhaps that’s why she is content to symbolically thumb her nose at us every time those air dryers sound.
So in the final tally, the “I was here first” argument appears to be a specious one, which, in this situation, is meaningless but which has been given life by Town officials letting Ms. Levay have her way. Evidence of this favoritism was on display in last week’s article, wherein Fire Chief Lymburner exposed his bias toward Ms. Levay with his statement, “We don’t want to shut down businesses, and affect people’s livelihoods. So we try to mitigate to make both parties happy.”
He couldn’t bring himself to personalize us and say the word “residents,” I guess, relegating our entire community instead to one of the “parties.”
Nor did he explain just what he would be “mitigating” in this particular case. So far he has made just one party happy—the bylaw-violating business—leaving us, the other “party,” better known as “the victims,” waiting for our turn at happiness.
So far there has been no sign of anything having been mitigated except for our quality of life, the peaceful enjoyment of our neighbourhood, and our property values, not that that seems to matter to anyone. Keeping Ms. Levay happy is what appears to be important to Town officials.
What happened to live and let live
I have been keeping track of the antics of council and also some of the comments being made in the Voice, but Larry Cote’s comments last week was like throwing more gasoline on the fire of discontent with the “noise” concerns [“The Highway Traffic Act is loud and clear,” May 26, p.4]. It seems as though a lot of society no longer has any tolerance for their fellow neighbour or business owner. Smell, noise, dust, have become trigger points within Pelham, with no regard for the business owner, who may have been operating in Pelham long before the subdivision was built, or conversely who plunked an offensive business in the midst of a residential area, eating up farmland. In Pelham, I believe the reason that everything seems to have become such a contentious lightning rod has to go back to council and planning staff’s decisions regarding development.
What would those residents on Hurricane Road say if Fonthill Lumber was still operating, building trusses for new homes, trying to maintain demand on two shifts, or if Fonthill Concrete was still operating in Fonthill? It seems as though the car wash on Highway 20, judged by the comments, residents won’t be satisfied until it is closed down. Is this what Pelham Town Council wants—less business and more ill-placed subdivisions, causing potential confrontation? I believe that location has operated as an auto garage since the 1950s, as Law’s.
This council has shown from the start that they cannot work together, and it seems every week that it is becoming even worse, and we only have 16 months before an election. They are divided when it comes to adapting planning rules, and in fact the Mayor and Councillor Diana Huson will not support Pelham Council at the Region. Who says that Regional government knows what is best for Pelham? The people of Pelham elected each one of you—isn’t it time you all get your act together and try to remember who you represent and work together for a constructive solution? I am concerned that the sense of getting along within a community is leaving urbanized Fonthill, since more and more people want everything regulated by bylaw. We do not want that in Fenwick, where neighbours try to get along.
Our small town is facing many issues that seem like they could have been avoided had councils and planners past and present done their homework to avoid developmental confrontation. Don’t you think that you are asking for trouble, sooner or later, if you plunk housing near a business, or visa versa, or allow a developer like Montemurro to use loopholes to plunk housing subdivisions beside precious farmland and operating livestock facilities?
Pelham seems to be hiring more legal and planning experts, and I see why. If something doesn’t change with the course of planning in this town, I can only expect to hear more complaints and confrontation—from both residents and business owners—as society seems to have little tolerance for give and take.
The poor location of cannabis greenhouses, the poor location of development and the poor location of residential development encroaching on farmland is causing Pelham taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and court appearances.
Pelham residents don’t need more bylaws or bylaw officers, Pelham needs better planning and foresight and a better council who can work together. Couldn’t some of this have been avoided with better forward planning to avoid confrontation? Maybe council should start acting by example and being less caustic with each other and stop wasting taxpayers time and money on legal fees and stop the bickering.
Now, for Larry Cote’s remarks. I’m a car guy and I am involved in the car hobby both racing and restored. All my cars have mufflers and are installed in accordance with the law by professionals. In fact every car, including my restored Dwarf race car, has an approved muffler. I don’t believe that high performance street cars are offensive, but it is up to the operator to be responsible and considerate. Electric and hybrid cars are here to stay, but they themselves will pose their own concerns environmentally as more battery-laden cars become involved in accidents or wear out and need their batteries disposed of and replaced. My point is internal combustion engines make noise as fuel is burned, always have. All technology seems to carry its own challenges. My 1922 vintage car makes more noise than my 2016 pickup, and as far as hobby and sport those of us who are involved in the hobby take pride in our well-maintained vintage cars and motorcycle-powered race cars. Again, we don’t need more bylaws, just better understanding between neighbours. I do agree that there will always be those that circumvent the law, but there are many of us in the car hobby who respect the law while enjoying our restored, high performance and vintage automobiles.
Let’s start by rebuilding a sense of understanding, by reducing confrontation in Pelham, with less bylaws needed!
Editor’s note: To be clear, Larry Cote’s commentary on noise was not aimed at law-abiding drivers or car collectors who operate their vehicles as they were designed. We like a ‘64-and-a-half Mustang as much as anyone. It was aimed at a minority—a very audible minority—of car and motorcycle owners who extend a middle finger to the law, operating their vehicles with disregard for the harmful effects of their noise pollution on the rest of us. We would go so far as to say that this conduct is deliberately antisocial, and it is getting worse. Hence the NRP’s anti-noise enforcement campaign, which this newspaper firmly endorses. We agree that no new bylaws are needed—just the enforcement of those that already exist.
Supports car wash
The traffic on Highway 20 is way louder than the car wash noise. And there was an automatic car wash there prior but just not used in a few years. I support it staying.
Car wash clearly heard south of community centre
Thank you for excellent coverage of the 151 Hwy 20 E car wash [Wanted: Peace and quiet on Hurricane, May 26, p. 1]. It was unsettling to hear the owner, Gail Levay, dismiss the occupancy dates of actual homeowners. Some, I know, moved in between 1997-1999 and are still living there. After 52 years at that same location, information from her should be accurate.
My main concern is the impact that this type of constant noise will have on the new 160-unit seniors residence that is to be built on the parcel of land located just south of Hwy 20 and east of Food Basics and directly opposite the car-wash. Surely, seniors deserve more. I am fully aware that this information is accurate, as I walk daily from Stonegate, south past Food Basics, Wellspring, Meridian, the four new townhouse buildings and the new, four-storey Mountainview condominium building on Summersides, and out to Rice. The car-wash can be heard clearly from that point south, which means the new housing development south of that receives the same impact of noise. So you can appreciate how the homes on Hurricane/Stonegate are impacted by this, being only 100 ft. away.
Also, I cannot imagine why Ms. Levay would be concerned about residents walking through her property, when ATVs and dirt bikes ride through nightly from Hwy 20 to Hurricane.
Open letter on Options
Mayor Junkin, I am writing to implore you to alter your vote from Option B (Exceeding Provincial minimums and protections for woodlands in urban areas) to Option C (Exceeding Provincial minimums and protections for woodlands, and protections for small linkages between woodlands and wetlands, as well as buffers on non-regulated features in urban areas) for the Natural Environment System component of Niagara Region’s new Official Plan. By working together in urban planning to ensure citizens and future generations have truly livable, ecologically healthy communities, all those involved will leave a legacy to be proud of. This plan is important.
During my 32 years living in Niagara, resistance among municipalities to working together for the benefit of all of the region has been damaging—leading, for example, to costly delays in building infrastructure such as hospitals. Now it is putting our region, beleagured as it is by explosive, under-regulated and environmentally damaging development, on a fast track to becoming another intensely built suburb, with residents depending upon commuting to large urban centers for work.
If our municipalities work together to foster our precious agricultural capabilities, attract industry and focus on protecting and planning for healthy communities that respect and protect nature, all politicians and Town staff can feel proud of their legacy.
We voted for you to act bravely in the best interests of all of us, including future generations. Please do not let us down. Change your vote to Option C.
E. J. Smith
COTE’S COMMENTS | Larry Coté
Here a Zoom, there a Zoom, everywhere a Zoom-Zoom
There is a misguided notion that technology has left most seniors behind. There is plenty of proof out there that nothing could be further from the truth. Many seniors say to the latest innovation, “Bring it on!”
For example, I am aware of a couple of so-called seniors groups that have courageously embraced social media, video messaging, and other computer-related technologies with courage, enthusiasm and without fear.
One of these casual groups has a membership that has been meeting since the early ‘70s, coincidentally at a time when computers were just being introduced. The eldest of these is into his 90s and the youngest is just shy of 80. Some of the original members have passed on and been replaced with other colleagues from that era. Prior to the pandemic, this group met every week at a local coffee emporium to develop solutions to the world’s problems, and very often just to disrespect one and other’s deportment, appearance and character. However, the pandemic curtailed these in-person confabulations and meant that other measures needed to be undertaken if the world was to continue to benefit from their collective wisdom.
That’s when the group hooked up to the internet and made arrangements to keep the wisdom output going as if world collapse was at stake if their brainstorming were to be curtailed. Their temperament followed the dictates of the adage that “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
And now, every week this group of self-acclaimed sagacious men meet over the internet from the comfort of their homes via Zoom, the video conferencing application. They are all neatly groomed, and attired, as far as we know, at least from the waist up. They are, after all, a dignified group and were brought up to appreciate that proper decorum is of uppermost importance. Each of them is acutely aware that attendance at these weekly sessions is extremely important, else their personality, wisdom and character might be denigrated without their on-site defence.
Another of such groups of seniors is comprised of fellow workmates. These retirees meet via Zoom occasionally and with comfortable dexterity. Many memories, good and bad, are recalled in these sessions about workplace experiences. This group, like the former one and prior to the pandemic, met at a local pub for pizza, wings and a cold pitcher, and continued that practice following retirement. Although the average age is well into the Golden Years they also have embraced computer technology without a trace of hesitancy or fear.
So when it comes the latest technology all the members of both of these groups of seniors have no fear and welcome the challenge of adopting the innovations to their use. So it would be wrong to assume that seniors are confounded by innovations in technology.
There is no doubting that many seniors are computer literate and regularly emailing, Facebooking, and meeting with their families and friends over the internet. Their cellphones, modems and computer applications are as familiar to them as are the aches and pains of aging. ◆
PELHAM AND COVID-19 | Mayor Marvin Junkin
Cases continue to drop; Considering those options
Stating the obvious, Canada’s chief public health officer confirmed on Friday that Canada is heading in the right direction, and is generally progressing out of the third wave. Theresa Tam attributes the improvement to strict public health measures and a robust vaccination campaign. The reproduction number, which is a strong indicator that has been used from the onset of the pandemic, has been below one nationally for the last month, which is exactly what the scientists want to see. Since mid April, which is when Canada’s Covid numbers peaked, new daily infections have fallen from over 9,000 to 3,400, and the average number of Covid patients being treated each day in hospitals has dropped 34 percent.
Provincially, daily new cases are consistently in the 1,200 – 1,500 range with the seven-day average on Friday at 1,353, down from 4,600 or higher in mid April.
In the Niagara Region, new daily cases have reached as low as 20, and are rarely above 50. The number of Covid patients in Niagara hospitals has fallen from low 70s to 30, again as of Friday, and active cases in Pelham were at 18, which puts us slightly lower than the middle of the pack in the Region.
Vaccinations in the Niagara Region now total 274,000, which has 53 percent of all Niagara residents administered one dose. Unfortunately, only 4.1 percent of Niagara residents have been given both doses.
There has been a lot of conversation lately concerning a portion of the new Niagara Official Plan, specifically the part concerning the Natural Heritage Systems, which alludes to our forests, wetlands, and other natural areas in the Region. There was a 3B and a 3C option, which contrary to the popular belief, are the same, except 3B keeps the planning decisions at a local level whereas 3C would put these planning decisions at the Regional level. Regional planners recommended 3B, wisely thinking that the planners/politicians at the local level would be more knowledgeable of these areas located within their municipalities than Regional planners would be.
A very senior planner, who has just recently retired from the Region but is still retained as a consultant, and for whom I have a lot of respect, feels this same way. Think about it—wouldn’t you want to discuss a planning decision with your neighbour/ councillor, instead of some councillor living in Grimsby, or Fort Erie?
This idea of local councillors caving in to developers, more so than at the Regional level, is, in my opinion, nonsense. We all have to follow the same Provincial Planning Act. I personally think these decisions are best made by local people, local politicians. At the last Regional Council meeting, council instructed Regional staff to complete mapping throughout the region, and we will then make a decision when this additional work is brought back to council. ◆