No Bauer Trail transverse

Pelham Town Council reaffirmed its commitment to not allow any roads to cross the Steve Bauer Trail between Port Robinson and Merritt Roads at its Dec. 6 virtual meeting, while heeding a staff report recommendation that a grade-separated option wasn’t feasible.

Ward 3 Councillor Bob Hildebrandt earlier floated the bridge idea as a potential solution during council’s Oct. 4 meeting, after the developer of the Kunda Park subdivision expansion was essentially denied an application to have a road traverse the trail to another future development eastward.

“The value of this trail is immense to this community,” Hildebrandt said, agreeing with Ward 2 Councillor John Wink’s assertion that while “the concept was worth considering, in practicality it is not.”

The staff report said that clearance requirements would make a road underpass or overpass impractical, while portioning a stretch of the trail into a bridge would be above the height of the privacy fences of future properties. The price of a pedestrian bridge alone was pegged in the vicinity of $750,000, with a road bridge or tunnel costing substantially more.

Councillors Lisa Haun and Ron Kore appeared disappointed, although for differing reasons.

“I’m nearly in disbelief, I’m having a hard time believing it’s not an option,” said Haun, while stressing she still wouldn’t support a level crossing.

Kore meanwhile, sounded perturbed that council was still even discussing traversing the Bauer Trail.

“How many more times do we have to vote on this?” the Ward 2 Councillor asked. “I think this is the third time?”

CAO David Cribbs replied that an earlier debate on the matter was “procedurally incorrect” but that this decision would ensure the stretch of trail wouldn’t be crossed by vehicle traffic.

“It’s extremely impractical, unfortunately, as it turns out to build under or over the trail. I was hopeful that would be a solution too,” Cribbs said. “From the staff, this is the last time. This is our earnest advice to you.”

The ban on any road crossings would limit the new subdivision to just two possible vehicular access and egress points — one of which would need to cross sensitive wetlands to the south.

Mayor Marvin Junkin slammed that notion during the Oct. 4 meeting, and, as such, was the only vote in support of a potential grade-separated crossing last Monday.

“It’s another case of the human race not wanting to be inconvenienced,” the Mayor said in October. “So, let’s make Mother Nature pay the price.”

The developer said at that time they planned on proceeding with the development regardless of council’s ultimate decision.

Parking problem

Ward 1 Councillor Marianne Stewart moved a motion to direct staff to look into adding temporary parking at the community centre as soon as possible.

“We need to get the parking increased, whether it’s just gravel for now,” Stewart said.

The limited parking at the community centre has been a bone of contention since the facility opened, and the Town owns a plot of land to the southeast of the current lot.

However, Public Works Director Jason Marr said that constructing a temporary gravel lot is not feasible in the winter months, and that the price tag on a paved lot would be in the vicinity of $850,000 given stormwater management needs. That financial prospect didn’t sit well with Junkin.

“With a [tax] levy of 4.7 [percent], I just don’t understand where the money’s going to come from,” the Mayor said.

Haun then asked Treasurer Teresa Quinlin-Murphy if upper-level grants were available for parking, including “environmentally sustainable-type-parking” grants.

Quinlin-Murphy replied that grants for parking don’t really exist given current sustainability sensibilities, but that she was “always looking for grant opportunities, and I am aware of the outstanding capital items on our list.”

Another issue with expanded parking is enforcement. As new East Fonthill developments come online, it’s predictable that new residents or visitors could abuse the arena parking.

Director of Planning and Community Development Barb Wiens said signage and bylaw enforcement would be required. Hildebrandt relayed an anecdote about receiving a $20 fine for parking at the Welland arena.

The staff report is expected back in February, well after three scheduled major hockey tournaments occur at the MCC. Meanwhile, Wiens said that she is expecting a first draft of the Town’s long-awaited parking study in the next few weeks.

Still with the MCC, Hildebrandt presented a report highlighting savings achieved through his work on the Utility Sustainability Committee.

“Every year we’re increasing the savings,” Hildebrandt said, pointing out that when the MCC opened, the estimated annual cost of utilities was $521,000 per year.

While 2020 limited activities at the building due to the pandemic, the facility has been used as a mass vaccination clinic since early this year. On that note, Quinlin-Murphy said that the Town is in the process of figuring out reimbursement from the Ontario Ministry of Health—which they are entitled to through a memorandum of understanding with Niagara Health.

“We know what those vaccinations cost in terms of hydro usage,” Hildebrandt said. “That’s one of the reasons I ran for council.”

New CAO performance review approved

Councillors voted 5-2 to adopt a new CAO performance review procedure, with Junkin and Olson voting against the more comprehensive option.

Known as “Template 3”, the new annual review is 17 pages long, something Junkin felt was excessive. Olson agreed.

“If you can’t do it on one, or two, pieces of paper,” said Olson, “then you’ve probably got more problems than you realize.”

However, Wink, Kore, Haun, Hildebrandt and Stewart all supported the lengthier review, which will normally take place at the end of the year—except in this coming year’s case, when it must be done no less than 90 days prior to the fall election.

“None of us might be here. Mr. Cribbs might be writing his own review,” Wink joked.