Second Dwelling Units (SDUs) will be legal in Pelham after Town Council unanimously passed a bylaw at its Sept. 7 meeting. No discussion surrounded the vote, but such units will be restricted to 800 square feet in the urban residential zone and 1,000 square feet in the rural agricultural zone. Secondary structures cannot exceed the size of the property’s primary dwelling. Most of the public feedback to the Town over the course of developing the bylaw had been supportive of the idea as demand continues to increase for more housing options, including rental units and “granny suites.”

Airport hangar motion by Haun

Ward 3 Councillor Lisa Haun moved a late motion to add an agenda item for the next meeting on Sept. 20, which will ask Pelham to chip in on the construction of new airplane hangars at Niagara Central Dorothy Rungeling Airport. Haun, who sits on the airport board, successfully led the charge this year to keep Pelham involved in the little-used aerodrome’s operations, along with three other municipalities, rather than endorse uploading it to the Region.

“We have a historic opportunity,” Haun said of the hangar proposal, which would be used for rentals.

Regional Councillor Diana Huson also attended the meeting, and when asked, conceded that she doesn’t see the Region being in a hurry to uptake the airport anyway.

“I don’t expect this issue will come before this [Regional] Council in this term,” Huson said. “I don’t see it as a priority.”

Haun also announced the launch of a new $1,500 flight training bursary from the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association at the airport.

Mandatory vaccinations likely for Town staff

CAO David Cribbs said that while work remains ongoing, mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations appear probable for Town staff.

“We are highly likely to end up with a mandatory vaccination policy for Town staff,” CAO said. He added that the situation remained fluid as of Sept. 7, with the Town waiting both on cues from the Region and the Provincial government, which has announced Sept. 22 as the date to launch public vaccine passports.

“We have been watching that closely, we have started working on a policy … but we make no bones that we’re waiting to see where Niagara Public Health and where Niagara Region would land,” Cribbs said.

Huson said that the Region is currently working on their policy, which would include limited exemptions on health or human rights grounds. A report is expected to be ready at the Sept. 20 meeting. Just under 67 percent of eligible Niagara residents were fully vaccinated as of Sept. 7, approximately two percent less than the province as a whole on the same date.

Foss Road sewer work balloons in cost

A staff report indicated that the Foss Road sanitary sewer upgrade project has more than tripled in cost from the $800,000 earmarked in 2019 to $2.9 million now. Public Works Director Jason Marr attributed the massive jump due to the soft soil in the area. Ward 2’s Ron Kore asked if dipping into the development charge reserve fund could help offset that, but Treasurer Teresa Quinlin said no.

“That fund needs $1.6 million every year to pay MCC debt,” she said.

The option was then discussed to require developers of future subdivisions front the money to the Town in a loan capacity.

In better public works news, Marr reported that the contractor on the long-delayed Sulphur Springs Road rehabilitation project finally received permits Sept. 3 from the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and the Niagara Escarpment Commission, and that work had commenced. Ward 3 Councillor Bob Hildebrandt meanwhile claimed that he had seen no work being done during a recent bicycle ride.

(Later in the week, the contractor applied to, and received a deadline extension from, the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans for in-water work, taking the finish date to Oct. 15.)

Delegation of powers bylaw nitpicked

Hildebrandt made an amendment to go through each item on an update regarding which matters can be delegated to staff in a proposed bylaw. Most of the discussed items included minor contracts such as the authorization of Town facilities for federal election officials, but Cribbs said that it remains council’s will to determine a price tag that would be considered too high to delegate.

“If $50,000 is too high an item on a lease, vary it to 20, 15, ten, whatever hits your comfort level,” the CAO said, stressing that all information is still public domain. Hildebrandt proposed making the limit $10,000. One area that councillors didn’t want to delegate to staff on was related to planning and development, with Kore saying those matters should solely remain up to elected officials. Only Mayor Marvin Junkin voted no on that item.

Integrity Commissioner fees modified

Councillors debated proposed changes to rules around complaints to the Town’s Integrity Commissioner, with a staff report recommending all initial complaints come with a $100 fee. However, CAO Cribbs admitted that he wasn’t keen on the idea —specifically noting the relatively low $15,000-a-year salary for councillors.

“You should not have to pay hundreds of dollars for legal advice to help you do this job that you do almost for free to start with for the community,” he said.

Council did agree that multiple complaints do merit a charge, with Junkin saying that a citizen “should have some skin in the game” at that point.

In the end, it was agreed that a first complaint would come free of charge, with a $100 fee for a second complaint, and $300 for a third and any that follow.

No staff holiday Sept. 30

The federal government’s June announcement making Sept. 30 a national-level holiday to honour National Truth and Reconciliation Day appears to have thrown both the province and municipalities into a last-minute decision about whether to make it a statutory holiday. After some discussion, Pelham Council opted not to close Town Hall on that day, effectively following what the Government of Ontario announced the next day by choosing not to make it a statutory holiday. Mayor Junkin and Ward 2 Councillor John Wink voted for closing Town Hall, but Wink asked if the recommended educational seminars for staff on Indigenous recognition could be scheduled for Sept. 30. Cribbs couldn’t guarantee it, due to “the 11th hour nature of this.”

Unflood motion successful

Ward 1’s Wayne Olson tabled a motion for Pelham to explore joining Unflood Ontario, an organization that tries to mitigate the coming effects of climate change using natural infrastructure. Haun and Ward 1 Councillor Marianne Stewart were the only votes against.