Pelham Town Council voted 4-3 to approve a staff report endorsing a new subdivision east of Station Street at its May 16 meeting, a site proposal that includes two new roadways.
The matter appeared to be contentious based on objections from some neighbours and the developer of a separate plot of land on the north side of Summersides Boulevard, with councillors Ron Kore, Bob Hildebrandt and Lisa Haun raising concerns.
“I don’t want to be a referee here. I think the two developers should come to a mutual agreement that would make our lives a little easier,” Kore told council.
The Director of Community Planning and Development Barb Wiens and Councillor John Wink, however, both reminded members that the land was marked for development as part of the 2013 East Fonthill Secondary Plan, even though some roadway routing has changed slightly from those initial drawings. A public meeting has been held regarding the proposed development.
“The proposed street networking system is appropriate. It conforms with the policies of your official plan,” Sara Premi, a lawyer representing development firm Hummel Properties told council.
Kore and Haun were concerned that the owner of a house near the corner of Station and Summersides would see property devaluation due to the construction.
“I think it does devalue [the address],” Haun said.
Hildebrandt, meanwhile, took issue with developer signage not accurately representing updated plans.
“I sincerely dislike these large signs that the public all see … and then the residents all of a sudden get up in arms,” he said. “I’m not sitting here approving things when things continue to go wrong.”
In the end, Hildebrandt, Haun and Kore voted against approval but it wasn’t enough with Marianne Stewart, Wayne Olson, Wink, and Mayor Marvin Junkin voting in favour.
Hildebrandt backtracks on supply chain criticism
Hildebrandt initially took issue with Public Works’ stalled attempts to procure a tractor and some trucks for the Town’s fleet, but appeared to backtrack when told the realities of ongoing global supply chain issues are the reason for the inflating budget on the equipment.
Staff asked council for an extra $21,000 for a baseball diamond grooming tractor alone, citing supply chain issues and associated pricing.
“What concerns me is that you [haven’t gone] far enough afield to the big suppliers of this kind of equipment rather than just locally,” Hildebrandt told Public Works Director Jason Marr and Manager Ryan Cook. “You’re asking me to double the value of the quote without enough investigation.”
Marr, Cook, and Treasurer Teresa Quinlin-Murphy all shot back at Hildebrandt’s assertion.
“We don’t make [prices] up,” Cook said. “This [proposal] went out to 5,000 different vendors.”
Marr said the same procurement process is being used for the equipment as with any significant Town of Pelham purchase.
“We’re following the Town’s purchasing policy, it is going out in a competitive environment,” the director said. “It is going through our procurement policy and it is a competitive process, we’re just not getting the bids.”
Quinlin-Murphy summarized that, “the vendors don’t have the equipment. It’s a supply chain issue.”
Olson raised a concern that delays on new snow removal equipment until late 2024 could adversely affect his Ward 1 roads, which are deemed lower-priority than in the urban zone.
“There certainly is a supply chain issue,” Olson said. “With Class-A trucks, I looked up the capacity for the industry in North America and it’s 360,000 right at the moment, per year, and demand right now is 600,000 … might as well get your name on the list. We need reliable vehicles on the road.”
Hildebrandt then relayed a personal anecdote about the auto industry.
“Talking to one of my friends who is in the automotive business, the market in the U.S. is so strong that when you drive by the new car dealers here in town, what’s happening to a lot of their vehicles is they’re being sold at a profit to the U.S. market instead of staying where they should and servicing the local community,” he said. “I think is the real crime of what is happening to the Canadian economy. It’s a terrible situation.”
Haun asked Quinlin-Murphy why the Town purchases some vehicles rather than leasing them. The Treasurer said a 2017 report demonstrated better value in purchasing, but that the report is due to be updated later this year.
Councillor, staffer spar over privacy
Council voted to include a planting strip with coniferous trees a minimum of seven feet tall as part of approval for new townhouses in the 690 block of Quaker Road. Hildebrandt and Haun moved the amendment, requiring the trees be planted on the rear (north) side of the property so as to provide privacy for the existing single-storey homes behind the development.
Wiens minimized the issue.
“I think there’s a lot of fear about privacy,” the Director of Community Planning and Development said. “What I can tell as someone who lives in a two-storey house, I look out my window, I don’t look down into my neighbours’ yards, it’s just not something you do. You get up in the morning and open your blinds, and look at the sky. I think there’s a lot of fear around privacy that is really … to a certain degree misplaced.”
Haun, explaining that she used to live nearby, took issue with Wiens’ remarks.
“On more than one occasion, a two-storey house—and it’s hard to believe, but privacy is pretty important to most people— and when you actually have binoculars looking down at you from a two-storey house that’s not far from your backyard that’s a huge invasion of privacy,” Haun said. “It’s not paranoia, it’s reality. I think people were pretty much locked at home for two years looking for things to do as they couldn’t leave their homes for all intents and purposes because of Covid, people got curious. And hopefully we’re over that period where we have to be in lockdown. I don’t think that’s an issue that should be downplayed in any way.”
The amendment passed unanimously.