Monday, December 16, 2013

Yet More Improvements in 2014!

Last week, I wrote about some of the major improvements planned for the Town in 2014, including “Uptown Fonthill” Reconstruction, Downtown Fenwick Revitalization, Peace Park improvements, East Fonthill Roads / Services, and Port Robinson Road reconstruction.

As Council continues to focus on maintaining and improving infrastructure, we also budgeted for other important improvements.

Roads & Sidewalks:
First, the Town will complete the reconstruction of Highland Avenue next year. (It was great to see the southern-portion of Highland finally being paved last week!)
The Town will also continue reconstructing Effingham Street – next year from Metler to the south (approx. 550 meters)
Some urban roads will be resurfaced: Vinemount Drive, Berkhout Terrace, and Sunset Drive. In these areas, a contractor will mill-off the old road surface, repair the base road, curbs, and sidewalks (as needed), and resurface the road.
Balfour Street (Welland to Chantler), Brady Street, Cream Street (from Memorial to Canboro and Chantler to Webber), Maple Street (Kilman to Metler), Metler (Cream to Centre), Moore Drive, Sawmill Road (Moyer to Maple), and Tice Road (Victoria Ave to Balfour), will be resurfaced by receiving a single surface treatment. In addition, Effingham (Roland to Sixteen) will receive the missing top-coat of asphalt.
Finally, as well as our annual sidewalk maintenance program, Council also approved the construction of a sidewalk on Church Street, from the train tracks to Martha Court.

Parks & Recreation:
At the request of Pelham Minor Baseball, the Town will be rehabilitating the existing limestone infield at Harold Black Park Diamond #2 with clay baselines, grass infield, and a pitching mound. We also budgeted to replace the rusted backstop and infield fences at Centennial Park Diamond #1 and at Harold Black Diamond #1.
Following this year’s improvements to Marlene Stewart-Streit Park (Riehl Skatepark and Pool House upgrades), Council budgeted funds to reconfigure and build a proper parking lot.
Finally, Council approved the next phase of the rail trail – from Balfour to Centre Street – on the abandoned rail line that will link with Centennial Park.

Other Improvements:
Instead of counting on majority landowners to involve the community and complete the studies, Council earmarked funds take-over and restart the East Fenwick Secondary Plan process.
So that we can be as prepared as possible for flooding that future storms may bring, Council budgeted to carry out a watershed master plan study.
Regional Council approved funds to construct a dog park on the former landfill on Centre Street (just north of Hwy 20); following the property’s rezoning, all we will need to proceed will be $10,000 donated by the community.

I look forward to working together with you on these and other improvements in 2014.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Budgets Mean More Improvements in 2014

Since Town Council approved our 2014 Capital Budget last week and Regional Council is set to approve our 2014 Operating, Capital, and Rate budgets this week, I wanted to inform you about some major improvements planned for Pelham next year.

“Uptown Fonthill” Reconstruction:
Regional Council’s 2014 Capital Budget includes $4.0 million (including nearly $1 million from the Town) to reconstruct Regional Road 20 from Peachtree Park to Lookout Street, and to reconstruct Haist Street from Canboro Road to RR20. The works will include adding bikelanes, adding new sidewalks, upgrading the watermain, road reconstruction (including a turning lane to Haist Street North), and a new traffic signal. Regional staff hopes to begin work in early-spring and be done in early-September. Because of significant developments between Haist and Lookout on Hwy 20, I refer to this area as “Uptown Fonthill.”

Downtown Fenwick Revitalization:
While Council budgeted funds to revitalize Downtown Fenwick in 2013, staff ran into delays with design, with added work (storm sewer to Church Street) and with utilities. In 2014 we budgeted $4.0 million to reconstruct the roads, bury the hydro lines, and make the Downtown more pedestrian friendly. The consulting engineers will meet with the public on December 19 to review the final design with the hope that work can begin in early-spring. Council directed staff to ensure as little negative impact on Downtown businesses as possible.

Peace Park:
Council earmarked funds to landscape and improve Peace Park so that the overwhelming success of the Fonthill Bandshell, the Farmer's Market, and Summerfest can grow. The plan includes tiered seating (for lawn chairs) around the Bandshell, fully-accessible internal pathways, enhancing the cenotaph, and opening-up the park for more multi-use activities. Council directed staff to ensure these improvements do not interfere with the June start of the Bandshell.

East Fonthill & Port Robinson Road:
As you know, the Town has been planning for growth and development in the East Fonthill area for several years. This area includes +450 acres from Regional Road 20 and south along Rice Road, past Merritt Road. The area could accommodate 5,000 people over the next 20-25 years and includes significant commercial / mixed use lands along Hwy 20. Council insists on a great development that is walkable, cyclable, fully integrated to Downtown Fonthill and existing neighbourhoods, and adds to our small-town feel. The Town will reconstruct Port Robinson Road from Station Street to Rice Road next summer and will begin constructing services and internal roads in late-summer / early-fall.

I look forward to working together with you on these and many other improvements in 2014.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Busy Christmas Season in Pelham

Except for the North Pole, I cannot imagine the Christmas Holiday Season being busier anywhere else than in Pelham! Businesses, service clubs, volunteers, and artists fill nearly two months with Holiday activities.

The Christmas “kick-off” began with Holiday Gift Showcases and Downtown Strolls in early November in both Fonthill and Ridgeville. (These shops are continuing with wonderful displays for the Holidays. Please check them out!)

Bev Sneath, renowned artist and teacher, hosted her annual Art Studio Open House on the second weekend in November. And, the Fonthill United Church held their annual Homes for the Holidays House Tours in mid-November.

Thanks to the dozen elves who lovingly decorated the Town with fresh, seasonal garland, wreaths, sashes, and bows last week; it looks wonderful and enlivens the Town!

Now that we are into December, Temperanceville (historic models of Pelham buildings) is on display in Peace Park. In addition, the Fonthill United Church will be hosting Lessons, Carols, and Cookies on December 4 (from 2:00 to 4:00 PM).

And, the Turkey Raffles have begun – Fonthill Firefighters Association held one last Friday, and Fenwick Firefighters will host one on December 6.

Building on the Pelham Business Association’s celebrations in the past, key Town volunteers with the Christmas in Pelham committee will host an Outdoor Christmas Market on Friday, December 6 from 4:00 to 10:00 PM. What some have dubbed “Winterfest”, the event “Under the Arches” will feature gift and food vendors, “Christmas Cheer”, a visit from Santa, and Christmas Caroling in Downtown Fonthill. Watch for the special light display! Then, the next day, from 10:15 AM to 1:00 PM, Downtown Fonthill will feature horse drawn wagon rides, Santa, and youth carolers from throughout Pelham. Please plan to be there!

Also on December 7, please volunteer at the Fonthill or Fenwick Lions Halls and / or place non-perishable food items at your door for the Annual Pelham Food Drive from 9:30 AM. This door-to-door campaign not only do we help those less fortunate, but it also draws the community together.

A tremendous event of fellowship and fun will be the annual Senior’s Christmas Dinner, hosted by the Fonthill & District Kinsmen at Old Pelham Town Hall on December 10.

And, the Fenwick Lions will host the Annual Santa Claus Parade in Downtown Fenwick and in Centennial Park on Saturday, December 14. A great family event!

Unfortunately I could not include all the Christmas in Pelham events here. Please watch our local media for more information or check out www.pelham.ca for full event details. And, I hope you and your family enjoy a wonderful Holiday.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Should We Appoint or Hold A By-Election?

As you know, Larry Clark resigned from Town Council effective November 5 because he and his family will be moving back to British Columbia in February. He served as Councillor since 2010 and will be missed for offering a common-sense approach while representing Ward One residents. Council accepted his resignation “with regret” on November 4.

During our November 18 Council meeting, we will officially declare the seat “vacant.” Later that evening, during our Committee meeting, Councillors will discuss a report outlining the options to fill the seat.

Vacancies like this have occurred three times in Pelham’s history. The first was in 1972 when a Councillor died while in office. Since the vacancy occurred within 90 days before the next election, Council followed the Municipal Act and did not fill the vacancy.

The second time was in 2008, when Malcolm Allen was elected to the House of Commons. With two-years remaining in the term, Council appointed the candidate who placed third in Ward One in the 2006 Municipal Election – James Lane.

The third time was in 2011 after Debbie Urbanowicz resigned for personal and health reasons three-months into our current, four-year term. At first, a majority of Councillors voted to call for applicants and vet them behind closed doors. However, because of the strong, negative community reaction, Council agreed to hold a by-election. That’s how Councillor Rybiak was elected in June 2011.

Essentially, the Municipal Act provides two options to fill a Council vacancy:

First, Council may hold a by-election. Eligible candidates must be Canadian citizens who are at least 18 years old and reside in the Town. (In March 2011, Staff estimated the cost for a by-election at approximately $8,000.)

Second, Council may appoint an “eligible” person within 60 days of declaring a seat vacant. An eligible person consents to the appointment and meets the above criteria for election.

Some Councils simply appoint the candidate who came next in the previous election; in this case, following his 2008 appointment, James Lane came third in the 2010 general election and second in the 2011 by-election.

Other Councils call for applicants and interview candidates in full, public view; the voting also occurs in full, public view. The City of Toronto used this process in October when they appointed Peter Leon to replace Doug Holyday (who was elected to the Ontario Legislature in August).

Before our discussion next Monday, I am very interested in hearing your views; please call me or email me at mayordave@pelham.ca. You may also want to speak to your Councillors directly; please click here for their contact info on the Town of Pelham website.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

As Volunteers Aspire For Better They Inspire Others

Last Wednesday, Council and I hosted the Town’s Annual Volunteer & Community Corporate Recognition Ceremony at Lookout Point Golf Club. It’s one of my favourite events of the year because we recognize the dedication and hard work of hundreds of Pelham’s volunteers.

Volunteers work to beautify our Town – as part of Communities in Bloom, or the Horticultural Society, or those that have “adopted a road”, or the Downtown Beautification Committee.

Other volunteers organize Pelham’s significant public events – from the Fonthill Bandshell Concerts, to Biketoberfest, to Fenwick’s 160th Anniversary Celebration, to the Canada Day Celebrations, to Summerfest.

Volunteers – like coaches, convenors, team managers, and score keepers – in every sport from figure skating to soccer, ensure that our children and youth practice skills, enjoy sport, and learn how to play fair.

Others work to ensure that our Town progresses and moves forward including those serving on the Library Board, the Active Transportation Committee, and the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council.

And members of Pelham’s service clubs work to enhance community – from supporting our parks to our teams to local charities.

We presented the “Peer Award” as a special way of recognizing outstanding individuals.  Each community-based group or organization in Pelham nominates one of their most exemplary volunteers.

Deep appreciation to Peer Award recipients:

  • Michael Andrus, Knights of Columbus;
  • Roxanna Bowman, Pelham Farmers’ Market;
  • Tom Boyce, Pelham Cares;
  • Gary Chambers, Fenwick’s 160th Anniversary;
  • Doug Gaylor, Fonthill Lions Club;
  • Leo Giovenazzo, Canada Day Committee;
  • Bill King, Communities in Bloom Committee;
  • Andrea Keus, Pelham Soccer Club;
  • Cora-Ann MacKinnon, Niagara Centre Skating Club;
  • Joseph Marchant, Pelham Active Transportation;
  • Gladys Recchia, Fenwick Lioness Club;
  • Norm Recchia, Fenwick Lions Club;
  • Linda Roach, Fonthill Lioness Club; 
  • Heidi TeBrake, Pelham Art Festival;
  • Madeline Wallace, Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council;
  • Diane Weeks, 613 Royal Canadian Army Cadets;
  • Jim Wellington, Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 613;
  • Loraine Woods, Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 613 Ladies Auxiliary.

We also honoured our Corporate Citizens – those businesses that give money, resources, product – to all facets of our community. We especially honoured the Lazy Loon Restaurant with a Corporate Peer Award for their generosity to so many charities and commitment to improving our Town.

Thanks to Joseph Veloce, Olympian and special guest speaker, and Taylor Wallace and Jessica Wilson, singers and song writers, for inspiration and entertainment. And, thank you Perry Wakulich for designing and creating a wonderful and new Peer Award.

I offer deep thanks to each of the Town’s volunteers and corporate citizens for giving of themselves to help other people and to make Pelham a vibrant, creative and caring community for all.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Final ANSI Boundary Protects Fonthill Kame!

I was jubilant when I received the letter and the map.

After nearly four-and-a-half years, the Ministry of Natural Resources recently issued the final ANSI (Area of Natural & Scientific Interest) boundaries for the Fonthill Kame-Delta. This final ANSI boundary includes most of the former area and increases the protection from 930 acres to 993 acres.

You will recall that the “Fonthill Kame-Delta” is our rare, 75-metre-tall landmark that was formed by retreating glaciers 13,000 years ago. The Kame boasts the highest point in Niagara and the headwaters of Twelve Mile Creek. It’s the “hill” in Fonthill and Shorthills and the “ridge” in Ridgeville. The Kame’s microclimatic and soil conditions create an ideal environment for tender fruit production.

MNR identified the Fonthill Kame as provincially significant in 1976 and as a Provincial ANSI in 1988. This designation restricts development for reasons of heritage, science or education.

In May 2009, MNR recommended significantly reducing the ANSI’s coverage to “representative samples.” Pelham Council, Niagara Regional Council, Niagara Escarpment Commission, Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, scientific experts, dozens of Pelham residents, Tim Hudak, MPP, and Minister Jim Bradley, St. Catharines MPP, voiced opposition to these changes.

As a result, in early 2010, Pelham received a strong commitment from Donna Cansfield, MPP, Minister of Natural Resources:  “Please let me assure you that it is our intention to maintain and, where feasible, enhance the current ANSI boundary.”

Despite that assurance, in 2011, MNR proposed reducing the ANSI to “Swiss-cheese” by failing to protect huge portions of the Kame – especially those areas that are under direct threat of new or expanded development. Again we expressed our significant concerns.

In June 2013, MNR informed Council about proposed improvements to the ANSI boundaries and the plans to expand the ANSI. Both Pelham and Regional Councils acknowledged these 2013 improvements but sought MNR’s rationale for not including the entire Kame.

In their letter, MNR clarified that the parts of the Kame not included in the new ANSI boundaries “…have been extensively disturbed or impacted by various land uses and development.” The two major areas now excluded are the Chestnut Ridge subdivision and the Lafarge Pit.

To better preserve the ANSI area, MNR suggests that the Town and Region incorporate the new ANSI boundaries in municipal planning policies and in all planning decisions moving forward.

I believe that these protections are great news for Pelham and the Region! I appreciate MNR living up to the goal of maintaining and enhancing the former ANSI boundary.

In the past I have asked you to write to the Minister to encourage ANSI protection; now, I invite you to write to Minister Orazetti and thank MNR for protecting the Fonthill Kame:

Hon. David Orazietti, MPP
Minister of Natural Resources
Whitney Block, 6th Floor, Room 6630
99 Wellesley St. West
Toronto ON   M7A1W3
minister.mnr@ontario.ca

Please click here for a copy of the Ministry of Natural Resources letter and a map of the final boundaries.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wind Energy Votes and the Region

A few people have written to me about my position during a recent vote on wind energy at Regional Council.

In July 2012, I was among the majority when Regional Council approved a motion that designated Niagara as the Green Energy Capital of Canada. The positioning makes sense to me because of Niagara’s long history of hydro-electric power generation and of the number of recent green energy businesses and initiatives developing in Niagara.

But, during our June 20, 2013 Council meeting, we considered a motion brought forward by Mayors Jeffs and Joyner:

That the Regional Municipality of Niagara supports Wainfleet and West Lincoln in their request to the Province of Ontario to be deemed an 'unwilling host' for Industrial Wind Turbines.

During the debate, I voted in favour of postponing the vote so that we could receive additional information; when that vote lost (11 in favour, 12 against), I voted in favour of the motion as presented. At the time, it seemed to me that the motion essentially highlighted the “unwilling host” resolutions from West Lincoln and Wainfleet to the Province. Others must have thought the same, because that vote carried 15 to 8.

On August 1, Councillor Katzman gave notice that she wanted Council to “reconsider” the vote on the June 20 motion.

When the issue returned to Regional Council on September 19, we heard four presentations – two in favour, and two opposed. If not expressly stated, I asked each presenter what the motion meant to them.

For those in favour, the motion meant that Regional Council “supports” the efforts of Wainfleet and West Lincoln; for those presenters opposed, the motion gave a signal that Niagara was “closed” for green energy business. These answers clearly show that the motion means different things to different people.

With this type of dichotomy, I felt that we needed to discuss the motion further and, perhaps, clarify the wording.

As a result, I voted to "reconsider" – that is, to consider again – the motion. I hoped that we could support residents concerned about wind turbines while balancing the feedback from the business community. (Because our “rules of debate” don’t allow discussion on the “reconsideration” of a motion, I could not publicly state my reasoning.)

Unfortunately, the “reconsideration” motion (which required a two-thirds majority vote) lost with 17 in favour and 11 opposed.

The story is not yet over.  Regional Council will consider Councillor Zimmerman’s motion to reconfirm our “support for development and investment in the green energy sector” during our October 10 meeting.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Committed to Revitalizing Downtown Fenwick

Pelham Council decided during our regular meeting on Monday, September 16, 2013, to temporarily postpone the revitalization of Downtown Fenwick from the fall of 20 13 to early 2014.

You will recall that Council budgeted $2.1 million to revitalize Downtown Fenwick in 2013. The improvements were intended to help make the area more pedestrian friendly, bury the hydro lines, and enhance the historic flagpole (thanks to funds raised during Fenwick’s 150th celebration).

We had a wonderful celebration of Fenwick’s 160th Anniversary in the spring (thanks to a number of very committed and community-minded volunteers). And, thanks to the work of the Pelham Heritage Committee, Council officially designated the Fenwick Flagpole as a significant heritage structure in May – the first flagpole so designated in Ontario.

So, why have we agreed to postpone the reconstruction and revitalization of Downtown Fenwick?

Council made this decision after receiving a staff report outlining the complexities of the project requirements, including: total road reconstruction to address storm water and soil conditions; and reconfiguration of overhead utility wires to an underground system

In essence, to deal properly with the storm sewers and to tie them correctly into the systems on adjoining streets, construction crews will have to dig fairly deep; with a high water table and poor soil conditions, the best time to undertake that work would be in the winter months. Second, the requirement to bury the hydro lines and other overhead utilities means that the Town must work closely with Ontario Hydro; Hydro had said they could not undertake that work until 2014.

As a result, the Town cannot complete the project before the end of 2013. Council felt that there was no reason to dig up the road now to bury the storm sewers, only to have it a mess until the utilities could be buried next spring.

Council also directed staff to firm up the revitalization schedule so that any negative impact can be kept to a minimum and to also give the community plenty opportunity to plan and prepare for any potential disruptions.

Finally, the planned work may require additional finances. I understand that staff may also be submitting an additional budget request to Council for consideration during the 2014 capital budget deliberations.


I want to assure you that Council remains committed to revitalizing Downtown Fenwick. Instead of starting construction now and impacting the downtown all winter, we intend to start early in 2014. We are all looking forward to it!

Monday, September 23, 2013

How should we spend your money in 2014?

Do you have a suggestion on how the Town should spend your money?

The question seems timely not because the final instalment for 2013 property taxes is due September 30, but, rather, because Council will start formally thinking about our 2014 budget in October.

Council will begin our 2014 budget process with a special public meeting where we listen to you about what you would like to see in future budgets. That meeting will occur on Tuesday, October 15 at 6:30 PM in the Council Chamber at Pelham Town Hall.

While Pelham Council first started this type of a “pre-budget consultation” for the 2007 Budgets, we continue each year to welcome residents and property tax payers to provide input.

I am pleased that, following Council deliberations each year, we have been able to follow-through on most of the suggestions offered by your friends and neighbours. In previous year, folks have requested a dog park, a skate park, sidewalks along a number of roads (like Pelham Street), crosswalks, and sidewalk snow clearing on every sidewalk in Town; each of these examples are either currently being done or have been approved and will get done soon.

That’s why we are undertaking this consultation process again. Council and I want to hear directly from you about your needs, wants, and ideas for our Town.  Our community improves when more and more people become involved in its success!

And, this is just the start of our 2014 budget deliberations:
Pre-Budget Consultation – beginning October 15, 2013;
Draft Capital Budget available to public – November 22;
Draft Capital Budget presented to Committee – November 25;
Council consider approving Capital Budget – December 2;
Draft Operating Budget available to the public – January 24, 2014;
Draft Operating Budget presented to Committee – January 27;
Council consider approving Operating Budget – February 3;
Draft Water & Sewer Budgets available to the public – February 14;
Draft Water & Sewer Budgets presented to Committee – February 18;
Council consider approving Water & Sewer Budgets – March 3.

Prefer to provide written input?  Simply send a letter via email to a special email address:  ourbudget@pelham.ca. You will also soon be able to view background budget information at the Town’s website: www.pelham.ca.

Not internet savvy?  You can also provide written comments via normal mail c/o Town Clerk, Town of Pelham, 20 Pelham Town Square, P.O. Box 400, Fonthill, ON   L0S 1E0.

I hope to hear from you and I look forward to discussing your ideas so that we can continue to build a better future for our Town together.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Creating a Dog Park in Pelham

Town Council recently agreed to work together with the Region toward the creation of a dog park in Pelham in 2014.

In May 2011, members of the public presented Council with a 200 name petition to request that the Town establish an off-leash dog park in our community. They cited several benefits, including: offering a place to promote responsible dog ownership and to hold dog related events; providing an easier place for elderly and handicapped owners to take their dogs; providing exercise and social benefits for both people and dogs. Council directed staff to develop a report.

In June / July 2011, a number of residents formed a coordinating group called “Pelham DOGS” and presented the idea to Council again. Council directed staff to work with Pelham DOGS, and referred the matter to the Town’s 2012 Capital Budget.

During the pre-budget public consultation meeting that October, Pelham DOGS presented a survey showing that 63% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed with the idea of a dog park for Pelham.

In December 2011, Council approved earmarking $35,000 in the 2012 Capital Budget toward a park. Council directed staff to work together with Pelham DOGS and recommend possible locations before proceeding further.

In August 2012, staff reported that dog parks are the fastest growing areas of municipal recreation services in North America and that dog owners currently use general parks and playgrounds as areas to exercise dogs. Staff recommended constructing a park on the former landfill on Centre Street (just north of Regional Road 20); after much discussion, Council directed staff to seek permission to use those lands from the Niagara Region.

After a year of planning with the Region and representatives of Pelham DOGS, staff proposed a design and a proposal to Council:
- The Region would retain ownership of the land, will maintain the park, and continue accept all liability for the property. (This is similar to the Port Colborne dog park and other public uses at closed landfills across Niagara.)
- The Town will begin to rezone the property and will contribute $35,000 toward the park’s construction;
- Pelham DOGS will contribute (via fundraising) $10,000 (Please see www.pelhamdogs.com for fundraisers like the community BBQ at Giant Tiger on October 12 from 11 AM to 2 PM.)
- The Region will seek approval for the remainder of the construction costs – approximately $66,000 – in their 2014 Capital Budget.

This plan was approved by Council (in a 5 to 2 recorded vote) on September 3. While a few important hurdles remain, the finish line is in sight for constructing and opening a dog park in Pelham in 2014.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Surveying Recreation and Culture Needs in Pelham

In March, I wrote here about the Executive Summary that staff prepared for Council about the recreational and cultural reports that various Councils have received over the years. I also wrote that “…because it’s been discussed and desired for many, many years, Council recently approved the development of a business case for community recreational facilities.”

As part of a creative problem solving session last December, Council identified reasons for such an Executive Summary and a business case:
• Council wants to develop the Town-owned-lands in East Fonthill (32 acres at Regional Road 20 and Rice Road) in the best manner and in conjunction with other property-owner groups;
• Council wants to define the recreational and cultural services the Town needs now and for the future;
• Council wants to stay focused on deciding what to do with Town facilities and those Town-owned-lands.

In June, the Town awarded the “Request for Proposals” for a Business Case to LeisurePlan International Inc. – a firm that specializes in planning and market research for recreation and leisure activities including YMCAs and municipalities.

We were hoping that their market analysis and business case study would have been completed by now. However, the CAO reported to Council last week on something many have been saying for a long time: “A review of all previous studies was undertaken which confirmed that no significant or meaningful financial work was completed requiring additional financial analysis for both an arena and community centre.”

So that they can present a comprehensive report and so that we can have meaningful discussions about recreation in Pelham, LeisurePlan began a phone survey last week. Randomly selected Pelham residents will be asked to participate in a brief 10 minute telephone survey. Residents will be asked about their recreation and culture habits and preferences. LeisurePlan will vary the time of calls so that no biased day or hour exists, and will survey more than 1,000 residents so that they can achieve a statistically significant result. All personal information collected will remain strictly confidential.

Over the last number of years, many in the community have expressed the desire for increased recreational and cultural services. I am pleased that we are finally undertaking a market analysis and business case. This statistically valid survey will gauge the need for these services and evaluate whether a business case exists to expand services like indoor aquatics, arena ice-times, fitness programs, and other facilities.

I hope that we can publicize the results of the business case over the next couple of months so that Council can work together with you and your neighbours to finally decide on the future recreational, cultural, and wellness facilities and needs for the Town.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Making Pelham More Walkable & Cyclable This Fall

Some imminent construction will not only improve roads but will also make the Town even more walkable and cyclable.

Port Robinson Road:
The Town will reconstruct Port Robinson Road from Pelham Street to Station Street including repairing some sewer sections, and replacing water lines and storm-sewers this fall. The rebuilt road will include bike lanes and parallel parking along the School. Finally, we will reconstruct and add sidewalks on both sides of the road and re-align the Steve Bauer Trail entrance to match Station Street. (While the Town awarded the contract in June to try to complete this work prior to the restart of school, an MOE approval, the surprise location of a gas-line, and the contractor’s schedule added to the project’s timeline.)

Pelham Street:
You will recall that while Council earmarked $2.5 million for reconstructing Pelham Street from College Street to Quaker Road, the estimate came back at $6.5 million. We did apply for special Provincial funding in January (thanks to the Glynn A. Green School community, the PBA, the Chamber, and all others who wrote letters of support!), but learned we were unsuccessful in the spring. Perhaps we can apply under a new, $100 million Provincial program this fall.

In the meantime, the Town will construct a new sidewalk on the west-side of Pelham Street from Pancake Lane to Brock / Port Robinson Road this fall. 

What about the idea of a traffic signal at Pancake? Installing a complete traffic signal did not meet the Ministry of Transportation’s “warrants” but did meet some opposition from local residents. Following the successful use of the Creative Problem Solving Process, Council recently approved the installation of pedestrian-priority traffic signals (like that on Haist Street at A.K. Wigg School) at Pancake Lane / John Street and at Spruceside Crescent / Bacon Lane this fall. We will also paint reduced lane widths as an attempt to lower vehicle speeds and to provide more room for cyclists.

Regional Road #20:
The Region will be constructing a special storm-sewer outlet from Regional Road 20 through Marlene Stewart-Streit Park this fall. Town Council recently approved reallocating some savings from this project so that we can add sidewalks along both sides of “Old Hwy 20” from Park Lane to Pinecrest and from Canboro Road to Church Hill. The Region will also resurface the road in that area.

And, did you notice the new school-zone lights on Regional Road #20 around St. Alexander School? Please watch for their activation next week during student’s morning and afternoon walks to school.

Pelham Town Square and Church Hill:
The Town will also reconstruct the sidewalk on the south-side of Pelham Town Square from Station Street to the Post Office and install a pedestrian-priority traffic signal at Church Hill across Pelham Street this fall.

Please be assured that Council and I continue to strive in making Pelham even more walkable and cyclable.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Discussing Issues 230 Times…and Counting

I believe that a huge part of my service as your Mayor depends on two-way communication about issues and challenges facing Pelham. Part of that communication centres on my weekly / bi-weekly columns.

A perfect example is my last column – about the idea of prohibiting recreational longboarding on all roads but closing one road to potentially provide a safe location for Pelham longboarders. Obviously the ideas need broad evaluation – of costs comparatives, legal implications, traffic impacts, safety concerns and guidelines, etc. – and that’s why I am pleased that the recommendation to Council was to hold a special public meeting on this matter.

But, the community reaction was swift, and the concepts sparked great dialogue in the Town. Council received three presentations (two opposed and one in favour), two petitions, +500 form letters, and +25 other items of correspondence regarding this issue at our meeting on Monday. While the dialogue will continue, I am pleased to have written about the issues.

How do I decide on a column topic? I write about what people ask me about or express concern about. Many columns are updates on progress or information about recent Council decisions. Through the years, I have given advance notice of numerous special meetings (about the East Fonthill Secondary Plan or the Official Plan), events (like Summerfest, the Mayor’s Gala), or Council debates (over the sign bylaw or an environmental protection bylaw).

I also report on Regional issues or decisions – like the Niagara Regional Police headquarters plans, or whether to hold a by-election to replace a Regional Councillor.

Some also focus on Federal or Provincial matters. These include several columns about the Fonthill Kame and the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) threat to lift the Area of Natural & Scientific Interest (ANSI) protection and about a proposed new Southern Hospital.

Finally, some columns appreciate the work of others – like our hundreds of committed and tireless volunteers – or are more light-hearted in nature.

The greatest numbers of my columns for you have been about budgets and property taxes – things like Council’s pre-budget consultations, the capital and operating budgets, property taxes and tax rates, and changes at the Province’s Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC).

And there have been many more topics – like the Town’s property at Rice Road & Regional Road #20 and recreational issues – and many, many more columns – 230 to be exact!

I deeply appreciate the local media continuing to publish my column week after week. And, I appreciate you reading them and being part of a dialogue so that we can continue to work together to improve our beloved Town.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Creative Solutions to Longboarding in Pelham

When Town Council recently prohibited skateboarding and longboarding on four sections of roads in Pelham, we acted to protect longboarder’s safety.

Town Staff and the Niagara Regional Police (NRP) brought their concerns to Council’s attention at our July 15 regular meeting. The NRP had received 37 calls (from 22 different individuals) about youth longboarding for hours-on-end on sections of Overholt, Elizabeth, Shoalts, and Effingham.

We learned that while our current Traffic & Parking Bylaw does prohibit “playing on roadways”, the bylaw is out-of-date and refers only to "roller skating" and "coastering" (whatever that was?).

Council decided to prohibit longboarding on those four road-segments and directed staff to draft an updated bylaw, to determine the cost to construct a longboarding run in the Riehl Skatepark, and to meet with youth and neighbours to develop creative solutions.

We met last Thursday with Pelham longboarders and parents, a concerned neighbour, the NRP, and Staff. We used our creative problem solving process to investigate “How might we work with the community to ensure the safety of youth long-(skate-) boarding on municipal streets?” After identifying 78 facts, the group developed 45 ideas, and settled on key ideas for Council’s consideration.

A multifaceted approach will be proposed:
close Overholt Road to vehicular traffic for the quarter-mile from Hansler to Pelham North; (It is anticipated that closing this infrequently-used section of road (with no driveways) to vehicle traffic (~30 cars per day) will be much more cost effective than constructing a run in the environmentally-sensitive Marlene Stewart-Streit Park.)
install two gates so that the road might still be used by local farmers, the fire service, and staff (for maintenance);
prohibit and establish fines for “recreational” longboarding on all other Pelham roads but allow “transportational” longboarding;
the Town and the user group enforce strict use guidelines – like mandatory helmets and pads, dawn-to-dusk usage, times for different ability levels, and a potential safety accreditation;
consider the installation of waste / recycling containers, a portable washroom, and a small, gravel parking area;
continue with the planned, small, novice longboarding area at the new Riehl Skatepark;
work with the user group for maintenance and to develop safety training / accreditation for novice longboarders;
youth immediately self-limited longboarding on Donahugh Drive to three-days-per-week for reduced hours.

“Recreational” Longboarding is the continual riding down and climbing up on a road for hours-on-end. This differs from "transportation" longboarding where a longboarder uses the road to travel from place-to-place. The Provincial Highway Traffic Act treats longboarders as “pedestrians” that must wear a helmet; longboarders weaving on roads could face Provincial charges.

I believe this proposal will help elevate safety and other concerns of longboarding in Pelham and I am very impressed with the group of youth with whom I met. Town Councillors and I are very interested in your feedback prior to our discussion at Council on August 12.

August 13 UPDATE:
Council received three presentations (two opposed and one in favour), 2 petitions, +500 form letters, and +35 other items of correspondence regarding this issue at our meeting last night.
Following receipt of these items, Council asked staff to conduct a creative problem solving session with key stakeholders before making a definitive decision regarding a safe home for recreational longboarding. 
Council also passed a motion that none of the longboarding options to be considered can include the permanent closure of any Pelham road – including Overholt.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Join Four Days of Summerfest!

Next weekend – Thursday, July 18 to Sunday, July 21 – I hope you will join in in the fun, art, food, music and great community spirit at the Third Annual Pelham Summerfest!

Summerfest started in 2011 as a one-day celebration following the lengthy reconstruction of Downtown Fonthill. It grew to a four-day festival in 2012 and welcomed more than 25,000 people. Building on previous years and improving all components, this year’s festival promises to be the best four days of free family fun yet!

Thursday, from 4 to 10 pm will be the “Summerfest Opener” when Summerfest will add even more to the already amazing weekly Farmers Market and Bandshell Concert. While Jim Wittle, known as “the Piano Man”, takes the bandshell stage, Summerfest will add Art in the Park – dozens of local artists showcasing their talents – and an artisan beer and a local wine garden. Thursday will also be the start of the Community Art Wall project.

Friday, from 4 to 11 PM will be Pelham Night of Arts & Teen Movie Night. This will be the time to celebrate art in all forms – from music to dance to dramatic to visual art. In addition to the Art in the Park, the stage will include live, local musicians and dramatists. Summerfest will also host a Teen Movie Night “under the arches” and outdoor patios in Downtown Fonthill will be open late.

Saturday, July 20th from 10 to midnight will be an action-packed, community day. Featuring more food and non-food vendors than previous years, Summerfest will provide a wide range of activities including buskers, a kid’s zone with more bouncers and entertainment, reptiles and a puppet theatre. The Main Stage will include Fonthill Music Academy and a Zumba challenge and will later feature Niagara bands. Local service clubs will run a beer garden under the arches and Art in the Park will continue with music on a second stage in Peace Park.

Sunday from 9AM to 2PM will include Art in the Park and Community Pancake Breakfast that will be prepared by the travelling Enbridge crew and that will include blues bands. Finally, you can work off those pancakes with a family fun walk.

On behalf of Council and the community, thank you to numerous sponsors and the 2013 Summerfest Committee for their vision, hard-work, and dedication! Thank you to Councillor Gary Accursi, chair; Todd Barber, from the Downtown Beautification Committee; Bea Clark, Pelham Active Transportation Committee; Kathleen Goodman, Pelham / Welland Chamber of Commerce; John Wink, Pelham Business Association; and Vickie van Ravenswaay, and other Town of Pelham staff.

I hope you and your family and friends will participate in this year’s Summerfest!

For more information, please check out www.pelhamsummerfest.ca.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Positive Step for a New Southern Hospital

On June 26, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati hosted a sign unveiling the “Future Site of the Niagara South Hospital: Serving Niagara” at the corner of Montrose and Lyons Creeks. The event also highlighted the generosity of the Grassl family who donated the 12 hectares of fully-serviced, shovel-ready land.

Some called the unveiling “distasteful” and “preposterous.”

Many others welcomed the announcement, calling it another “important step” in the process toward better health care.

You will recall that Dr. Kevin Smith, the Provincially-appointed Supervisor of the Niagara Health System (NHS), presented an Interim Report regarding restructuring of the NHS in May 2012. He recommended building a new Southern Hospital and asked the six Southern Mayors and the Regional Chair to recommend a site.

Based on an analysis of population densities, Emergency call volumes, drive times, municipal infrastructure, NHS referrals, and Emergency Room usage, the Mayors and Chair unanimously suggested two geographic areas about eight kilometers apart – Lyons Creek / QEW and 406 / 140  – for the new hospital.

Dr. Smith further analyzed the two areas and, in his September 2012 final report, recommended that the NHS construct a new general acute care hospital at the Lyons Creek / QEW location. He also recommended developing two free standing Urgent Care Centres.

His report also showed that this plan would cost much less (for both operating and capital costs) and provide better, 21st century health care than all other options.

Earlier this spring, both the Niagara South Medical Society – representing Doctors in the Welland-area – and the Greater Niagara Medical Society – representing Niagara Falls area Doctors – supported Dr. Smith’s call for a new hospital and suggested speedy implementation at the recommended area.

While I believe that communities need more local health care options and services, the trends show that they will not be in the form of a hospital; that's why the Town is working with doctors who are developing new facilities and family health teams in both Fonthill and Fenwick.

For example, plans for the Fonthill Health Centre in the East Fonthill development area were announced at Town Council in May. The physicians / developers plan for the 30,000 to 40,000 square foot “one stop integrated health care building” to begin construction in 2014 and to open in 2015.

My trip from Pelham Town Hall to the Montrose / Lyons Creek location took only 20 minutes. Given the close proximity of the new Northern Hospital and of this future Southern Hospital for Pelham, I hope that each of us can embrace the NHS’s plans, and encourage the Ministry of Health to work toward construction as soon as possible.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Getting Closer to Protecting the Fonthill Kame

Last week both Pelham and Regional Councils approved a staff report about the Ministry of Natural Resources’ (MNR) “last iteration” of the review of the Fonthill Kame-Delta Area of Natural & Scientific Interest (ANSI).

The “Fonthill Kame-Delta” is our rare, 75-metre-tall landmark that was formed by retreating glaciers 13,000 years ago. At 6 km long, 3 km wide, and nearly 1,000 hectares, the Kame boasts the highest point in the Niagara Region and the headwaters of the Twelve Mile Creek.

The Kame’s microclimatic and soil conditions create an ideal environment for tender fruit production including peaches, sweet and sour cherries, plums and pears.

The Kame is the “hill” in both Fonthill and Shorthills and the “ridge” in Ridgeville.

The MNR identified the Fonthill Kame as provincially significant in 1976 and as a Provincial ANSI in 1988. This ANSI designation restricts development for reasons of heritage, science or education.

In May 2009, the MNR recommended significantly reducing the ANSI’s coverage to “representative samples.” Pelham Council, Niagara Regional Council, Niagara Escarpment Commission, Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, scientific experts, dozens of Pelham residents, Tim Hudak, our MPP, and Minister Jim Bradley, St. Catharines MPP, voiced opposition to these changes.

As a result, in early 2010, Pelham received a strong commitment from Donna Cansfield, MPP, Minister of Natural Resources:  “Please let me assure you that it is our intention to maintain and, where feasible, enhance the current ANSI boundary.”

Despite that assurance, in 2011, the Ministry proposed reducing the ANSI to “Swiss-cheese” by failing to protect huge portions of the Kame – especially those areas that are under direct threat of new or expanded development. Again we expressed our significant concerns to the Minister.

Last week, Ian Thornton from MNR informed Council about the 2013 proposed improvements to the ANSI boundaries. Mr. Thornton outlined how the MNR plans to expand the Fonthill Kame-Delta ANSI from 376 hectares to 412 hectares.

Both Pelham and Regional Councils acknowledged these 2013 boundary improvements but advised the MNR that we maintain our position that the Kame’s total morphology should be designated as ANSI. We asked the MNR to provide a rationale for not including all of the Kame under ANSI protection.

Since this appears to be the final review of the Fonthill Kame ANSI, I ask you to write to the current Minister, the Honorable David Orazietti, thanking him for expanding the ANSI and asking him to continue to honour the commitment to “…maintain and, where feasible, enhance the current ANSI boundary.”

Hon. David Orazietti, MPP
Minister of Natural Resources
Whitney Block, 6th Floor, Room 6630
99 Wellesley St. West
Toronto ON   M7A1W3
minister.mnr@ontario.ca

Please click directly for copies of the MNR presentation, the detailed notification reports, and the endorsed staff report.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ward Review: 3 or 6 and Where?

As you may know, Pelham’s six Town Councillors are elected in three geographic areas called Wards. The people living in each ward are represented by two Councillors.

The Town last reviewed these wards in 1978, when the population totaled 10,808. Since then, Pelham’s population has increased 54% to 16,600 (2011 Census).

The 2011 Census shows disparities between the population levels in the wards. For example, Ward One contained 4,460 people, Ward Two 5,440 people, and Ward Three 6,700 people.

Our Town is expected to increase by nearly 3,000 people by 2022 (18%) with much of the growth expected in the East Fonthill area – or the current Ward Three. If that growth occurs and the current ward boundaries remain, the disparities will increase to 4,625 electors for Ward One, 5,602 for Ward Two, and 6,720 for Ward Three.

Given these facts, Council agreed that it was time to revisit the Ward boundaries and commissioned Dr. Robert Williams of Watson & Associates to conduct a Ward Boundary Review.

The 2013 Pelham Ward Boundary Review study principles include:
Effective and equitable system of representation;
Wards should preserve communities of interest;
Wards should recognize natural physical features or natural barriers/dividers;
Wards should recognize areas of growth/decline, population trends, and density;
Wards should recognize accessibility and or communication issues.

To help develop options for possible realignment of current wards or to increase the number of wards to accommodate growth and population shifts for the next three municipal elections in 2014, 2018 and 2022, the Town invited the public to open houses on last week.

Unfortunately, very few attended and provided feedback.

But, there’s still time for you to comment and offer your ideas.

Should we have three Wards with two Councillors each or should we have six Wards with one representative each? Should Fenwick and North Pelham and Ridgeville be in the same Ward? What should be the dividing line between the Wards in Fonthill?

The Town’s website contains information about this process, the analysis and forecasts, and five different options with specific maps. Please go to www.pelham.ca to see all the information and to fill in a comment sheet to rank the options. Full size maps are also displayed at Town Hall so you can review the options and provide your feedback to the Town’s Clerk for Council’s consideration.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Closed vs. Open Meetings

At our May 6 Council meeting, we received a letter from the Office of the Ombudsman about how we handled a “closed” portion of our Council meeting on March 4.

Except for some very limited and well prescribed situations, all of Council’s and Committee’s business must be done in public and in the open.

We publish our agenda and our meeting minutes on our website for each meeting. Over the last year, we have taken additional steps to be open and transparent by publishing videos of our meetings on our website.

But, occasionally, portions of Council’s meetings need to be closed to the public; we call this “in camera” – which in Latin means “in private.”

Generally speaking, the Ontario Municipal Act allows for Councillors to meet “in camera” for three things:  land, legal, and labour. That means, when we discuss the potential purchase or sale of a specific property, or the hiring of a specific individual, or we receive legal advice, we can hold the discussions in private.

Why does the Province allow this practice?

Because those closed session discussions protect the Town and all our shareholders – you and your neighbours.

If someone was suing (or threatening to sue) the Town over a matter and we discussed that matter openly, it would put our case at risk.

(Sometimes, this legal element spills over into other meetings with individuals who are taking legal action against the Town. We would only agree to such informal meetings if they are “without prejudice” and where we try to find solutions together.)

Or, if the Town was trying to buy a certain property and it became known publicly, the costs of the property could escalate.

Or, if Council discussed hiring a certain person, we would not want that person’s current employer to know they are seeking a job with the Town.

In the case of our March 4 Council meeting, we were discussing the Environmental Protection Bylaw. We heard from a few residents (including a lawyer) about their concerns with the bylaw. Our lawyer was present and Council wanted legal advice regarding some provisions of the bylaw; we moved into an “in camera” session, asked our questions, and received legal advice. Then, we returned to an open discussion and carried on debate.

Someone complained to the Ombudsman, suggesting that we had contravened the Municipal Act.

Following an investigation, the Ombudsman’s office said we followed the provisions of Act and did everything as we should.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Celebrate Fenwick this Saturday!

On August 6, 1978, Mrs. Edna Elliott, former head librarian in Fenwick, wrote about the Village of Fenwick’s origins:

“On April 1 in the year 1953, the little community of Canboro Road known as Diffins’ Corners officially became known as Fenwick when the first post office was opened by pioneer Leonard Haney.
“…According to the most probable records, the name was chosen because it was the birthplace of Dr. John Fraser, who was Reeve of Pelham Township from 1850 to 1856 and was the first Warden of Welland County.”

This year, therefore, commemorates the 160th Anniversary of the Founding of the Village of Fenwick. A very dedicated and hard-working volunteer committee has met and planned over the last number of months to celebrate the Village’s heritage.

Why 160 years?

As part of the wonderful 150 anniversary celebration of Fenwick in 2003, the organizing committee collected funds to improve and refurbish the Fenwick Flagpole at Canboro Road and Maple Street. With the Town revitalizing Fenwick’s Downtown area this year – helping to make it more pedestrian friendly, reconstructing the road, burying the hydro lines – we have also used these funds to refurbish and extend the historic flagpole, and install rigging and lighting. Further, at the suggestion of the community and the heritage committee, Council officially designated the Fenwick Flagpole as a significant heritage structure on May 21 – the first flagpole so designated in Ontario!

So, on Saturday, June 1st from 10 AM to 11 PM, the organizing committee invites all to “Celebrate our Heritage” and “Come Home Again to Fenwick.”

Events at the Flagpole include and unveiling of the Heritage Plaque and a formal Flag Raising at 10 AM, a War Bird Fly Over and Downtown Beautification sod turning at 11 AM, and a formal Flagpole lighting and fireworks at dusk. (You can also purchase commemorative, engraved bricks, to be installed around the Flagpole during the reconstruction.)

The municipal parking lot will house the “Big Tent” with live music and a street dance from 11 AM until 11 PM. All along Canboro Road, activities will include classic cars and antique power displays, live bands and street entertainers, children’s activities, buskers and venders, a Victorian Tea room, period demonstrations, the model railroad display, and museum. (To facilitate these lively activities, Canboro from Cherry Ridge to Church and Maple from Sandra to the Flagpole will be closed to vehicles.)

The event will also include carriage Heritage Tours of 30 sites from noon to 5 PM.

Finally, many historic buildings and homes both in the Downtown area and across the Town are displaying commemorative bunting and bows to celebrate “160 Year of Pioneer Spirit.”

Please join us for 160th Anniversary of the Village of Fenwick this Saturday!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Patio Policy Helps Enliven Downtowns


The first patio of the season emerged last week in Downtown Fonthill at Gelato Village. I understand that at least two more – a patio at Café on Main and a table and a couple of chairs at Presentations – are in the works.

Last summer Council allowed Café on Main to build a patio on Pelham Street. While approved without a formal policy, Council agreed to the request as a way to help the Town develop a policy and to gauge the public reaction.

Many loved the patio and saw it as a progressive move to help encourage lively streets and to extend activities in the Downtown. Some expressed concern that the patio forced them to walk around it and closer to the busy street. Others lamented the loss of the parking spot and found it inconvenient or, in the case of people with disabilities, difficult to walk a little bit further.

Council considered the feedback and approved a patio policy that addressed these concerns.

The policy reads: “The Town of Pelham… recognizes that streets play an important role in the urban environment. To encourage lively streetscapes, extended activities including the use of sidewalks may be appropriate. One way to achieve this is through the creation of opportunities for places to sit and gather, such as outdoor cafés and patios. A sidewalk café affords people the opportunity to dine al fresco (in open air) while enjoying the street’s vitality and when designed appropriately can make a significant contribution to the downtown community.”

To operate a sidewalk café, a business must enter into an agreement with the Town and can only operate it between May 1st and October 31st.

Because streets and sidewalks are public property, business applying for an agreement must take into consideration elements such as benches, light standards, planters and waste receptacles. Further, sidewalk cafés must not interfere with the use of the public right-of-way or pose a threat to public safety; that’s why, for example, Gelato Village used bollards to delineate a 1.5 metre pathway for pedestrians.

Finally, sidewalk patios must maintain barrier-free access for persons with disabilities and comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

If you are interested in reviewing the policy and design principles, please click here or ask for a copy at Town Hall.

I hope that the fulfillment of this new patio policy will ensure public safety while encouraging the establishment of successful cafés in Pelham’s Downtowns.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Demonstrating Pelham’s Vibrancy


Have you looked ahead to the number and variety of events and activities that are scheduled for May / early June? These events further demonstrate the vibrancy and vitality of our community!

Pelham Art Festival – May 10-12:
Now in its 27th year, the Pelham Art Festival features more than 65 artists, artisans, and photographers from Ontario, Quebec and the US at the Pelham Arena over the Mother's Day weekend. As the Premiere Spring Art Exhibition in Southern Ontario, the Art Festival’s large indoor show offers an Opening Night Wine Garden on Friday night, and live musical entertainment and delicious food in the “Salvador Deli” all weekend long. Over the years, the dedicated Festival volunteers have raised more than $350,000 in support of Pelham’s Libraries and Community Arts Programs. For more information see www.pelhamartfestival.com.

EL Crossley 50th Anniversary Reunion – May 17-19:
After 50 years of educating students and serving the community, E.L. Crossley Secondary School alumni and staff are organizing an anniversary reunion over the long weekend in May. Following the opening ceremonies, Friday night will include a “Welcome Back Pub Night” and Memory Lane Decade Rooms to catch-up with other alumni. Saturday events include a Sports Skills Competition, a Street Dance (including Redline, Smoothies, Gormans, and 83 Allstars), and a Dedication of the Gymnasium in honour of Lorne Ward. The celebrations conclude on Sunday with a Family Day and Arts, Drama, and Music presentations.  For more information, please see: www.elcrossleyalumni.com.

Fenwick Lions Parade & Carnival – May 24-26:
The annual Fenwick Lions Carnival opens with a parade through Downtown Fenwick at 6:30 PM on Friday night followed by rides, games and food of the Midway at Centennial Park. Saturday and Sunday will include automotive, tractor, and ATV displays, the Midway, the Fenwick Lioness penny raffle, and delicious Lions BBQ. Special events include a Plant Auction at 2:00 PM and Fabulous Firework at 10:00 PM on Saturday and the Purina Walk for Dog Guides at noon on Sunday. Don’t forget buying tickets on the Cow Plop Lottery! For more information, please see: www.fabulousfenwicklions.org.

Fifth Annual Mayor’s Gala – May 25:
Already sold-out for weeks, the 5th Annual Pelham Mayor’s Gala will support the Riehl Skate Park, Niagara Centre Skating Club and the Pelham Community Fund at the James Bond themed event at Lookout Point Country Club. The “Casino Royale” will include fun gaming, a mystery dinner theatre and a live auction. In previous years, the Pelham community has generously supported the Mayor’s Gala, helping to raise more than $110,000.

Fenwick 160th Anniversary Celebration – June 1:
Enjoy a summer’s day filled with heritage, activities, food, music and buskers – all for free – on the closed streets from 10 AM to 11 PM. The event will also rededicate the newly refurbished Flagpole while area residents and business display heritage bows and swags. Volunteers will also sell commemorative granite bricks that the Town will incorporate into the imminent Downtown Fenwick revitalization work.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hoping for a New Southern Hospital


You will recall that last May, Dr. Kevin Smith, the Provincially-appointed Supervisor of the Niagara Health System (NHS), presented an Interim Report regarding restructuring of the NHS. He recommended building a new Southern Hospital and asked the six Southern Mayors and the Regional Chair to recommend the site.

Based on an analysis of population densities, Emergency call volumes, drive times, municipal infrastructure, NHS referrals, and Emergency Room usage, the Mayors and Chair unanimously suggested two geographic areas (about 8 kilometers apart) for the new hospital.

In his September 2012 final report, Dr. Smith recommended that the NHS should construct a new general acute care hospital at the Lyons Creek / QEW location – as well as two free standing Urgent Care Centres.

By closing current facilities and building new, he estimated that this preferred option would cost $879 million in capital, but would save $9.5 million in annual operating expenses. The NHS needs the savings; Dr. Smith forecasts a consolidated deficit of $29 million by 2015.
He showed that a “revitalized status quo” – 3 acute care / ER sites (GNGH, St. Catharines, Welland), 3 complex care sites (NOTL, Fort Erie, Port Colborne) and 2 Urgent Care Centres (Fort & Port) – would cost $883 million in capital upgrades and save only $2 million in more efficient operations.

The hybrid option – 2 acute care / ER sites (GNGH, St. Catharines), 1 Ambulatory & Urgent Care Centre (Welland) and 2 Complex Care Sites (Fort & Port) – would cost $1,165 million in upgrades and save $2.8 million in operations.

Other options would cost substantially more, as well; for example, closing Niagara Falls site and redeveloping everything at the Welland Site would cost $1,433 million.

Providing local health care options and services in 2013 cannot mean “a hospital for every community” as it did in the 1930-50s when “Southern” communities constructed or relocated existing hospitals.

One can undergo day surgery for something today that would have kept you in the hospital for weeks in the 1950s. And, the hundreds of procedures that are routine today, weren’t even imagined two-and-a-half generations ago.

I do believe that communities need more local health care options and services –but that may not be in the form of a hospital; that's why the Town is working with doctors who are developing new facilities and family health teams in both Fonthill and Fenwick.

Our hospitals need to quickly evolve to the new realities of health care. I hope that each of us can embrace the position of the Niagara South Medical Society and the Greater Niagara Medical Society; these doctors recently supported Dr. Smith’s call for a new hospital and suggested speedy implementation.

Monday, April 15, 2013

What's in a Name?


Well, I know it was all in good fun but I cannot help but feeling a little hurt by a column last Tuesday (April 9) in the “Regional” section of the SunMedia’s Niagara newspapers.

You see, it was a column by Doug Herod that coincided with another story about how many of Niagara’s cities and towns are branding or rebranding themselves.

Entitled “Fun with municipal monikers,” Herod offered a tongue-and-cheek review of each municipality.

“Take, for instance, Pelham,” he wrote. “The possibilities were endless:  Leaf Blower Capital of Canada; A Town of Two-Car Garages; Underground Lawn Sprinklers R Us.”

“One, though, encapsulates all these elements.  Pelham: A Great Place to Sleep,” he wrote.

Then, Herod proceeded to skewer each of the unique communities of Niagara – from the Garden City, to the Rose City, to the Honeymoon Capital.

So, how do I react?

First, Herod missed a huge opportunity. He could have mentioned that we hired “Chimps” to oversee our rebranding. (In truth, we recently hired a well-respected Niagara firm called Chimpanzee to work together with the community to develop a Pelham brand.)

Second, Herod had to invent a brand for Pelham.

So, what was forgotten or missed?

He wrote nary a word about Pelham’s breathtaking vistas, babbling brooks, plentiful orchards or refreshingly rural character. He neglected our historic villages / hamlets and our distinctive, small-town feel. He offered no word about our diverse and creative businesses and nothing about the hundreds and hundreds of amazing and dedicated volunteers.

What about the Comfort Maple or the Bandshell or the Farmer’s Market? What about our parades or Summerfest, Biketoberfest, and other historic celebrations (like the June 1st commemoration of Fenwick’s 160th)? What about the Fenwick Flagpole or the Fonthill Arches? What about Old Town Hall or Veteran’s Park?  Each of these distinct elements were missed.

Through the years, Pelham has been known as “The Heart of Niagara”, “Five Villages, One Community”, and “The Most Vibrant, Creative, and Caring Community in Niagara.”

I think that the last time the Town involved the public in a type of branding was in the late 1970s / early 1980s while developing of the Town’s Official Coat of Arms. (Please note that our coat of arms and our motto “Floreat Pelham” (or “May Pelham Flourish”) will not change.)

That’s why it’s important for you and your neighbours and friends to work together with the Town over the next couple of months to develop and refine the right brand for Pelham. The first step is to take the online survey at www.yourpelham.ca.

Then, at least next time, Herod can lambast Pelham’s correct moniker.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Reviewing Property Taxes


At our March 21 Regional Council meeting, we approved the 2013 Property Tax Rates and Tax Ratios. These rates and ratios apply to all property tax classes across the Region, including in Pelham.

What does it mean for Pelham?

Reassessment Year:
As I wrote about last November, this is a “reassessment” year. That means that MPAC – the Provincial body called the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation – has re-evaluated and assessed all properties in the Province as of January 1, 2012. We will use that new assessment value for your property when we calculate your property taxes.

Property Tax Calculation:
The amount of property tax you pay to the Town of Pelham, to the Region, and to the Province (for Education) is not only based on the Market Value Assessment of your property; we multiply your assessment by each of the tax rates.

Despite your tax rate being set by each entity for their services, the Town collects the taxes and distributes it appropriately.

2007 to 2013:
In February, I wrote that “…the net effect on the tax levy will be $265,955 or an increase of 2.92% on the Town of Pelham portion of your 2013 property tax bill.” From following the budget processes from other Niagara Towns and Cities, we anticipate that Pelham’s increase will again be the second lowest this year.

But, what about over a longer period of time?  Let’s compare this term of Council so far with the last term of Council, and with inflation.

The average increase of property taxes on your combined property tax bill for the last three years was 1.7%; for the previous four years – from 2007 to 2010 – it was 1.8%.

If you blend the entire seven years, the average is 1.72% and the total increase in your property taxes was 12.7% for that seven year period (from 2007 to 2013).

How do we measure whether that is “good” or not? One important comparator would be inflation. Inflation for that same entire seven-year period was 13.6% or an average of 1.84% per year.

I hope you too are pleased that our tax increases have been nearly a full percentage point below inflation for that period. Please see the chart for more information.

Pelham Council continues to direct staff to ensure that we ensure minimal impact on you and other property tax-payers without decreasing the current level and quality of services.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Recreational & Cultural Executive Summary Leads to Action


Last week, I wrote that “…because it’s been discussed and desired for many, many years, Council recently approved the development of a business case for community recreational facilities.”

Some people asked me to identify what prompted these actions and, others, what is intended by them.

In November 2012, Council asked staff to develop an Executive Summary of the recreational and cultural reports that various Councils have received over the years. Why? As part of a creative problem solving educational session, Council identified reasons for such a report:
Council is interested in the best way of developing the Town-owned-lands in East Fonthill (32 acres at Regional Road 20 and Rice Road) in conjunction with other property-owner groups;
Council wants to define the recreational and cultural services the Town needs now and into the future;
Council wants to stay focused on deciding what to do with Town facilities and those Town-owned-lands.

On 3 December 2012, staff presented an outline of the relevant reports from 1990. The brief summarizes four consultant reports – from 1990, 2001, 2008, 2010 – and three staff reports – one from 2000, two from 2010.

The Executive Summary’s conclusion states, “It is clear that there has been considerable study and work conducted in an attempt to determine the recreational and cultural needs of the community. Although details differ (Twin Pad Arena v. Community Centre) it is abundantly clear that since 1990 the community has consistently voiced a need and desire for a new twin pad arena, new pool facilities and a community wellness centre.”

Since I do not have enough room here to summarize the Executive Summary, I encourage you to read the eight-page document yourself; please ask for it from the Town Clerk’s Office or download it by clicking here.

What did Council do after receiving the report? First, Council directed staff to work together with the other landowner developing along Regional Road 20; he owns 42 acres of mostly commercial lands and hopes to begin the first-phases of construction in 2014. Second, while the community “has consistently voiced a need and desire” for recreational and cultural facilities, the Town has yet to test the business case; therefore, Council directed staff to develop a “business case for community recreational facilities.” Finally, since there have been many discussions about the value of the Town-owned lands over the years, Council directed staff to get an appraisal on the property.

You and your neighbours will be invited to be part of further recreation and cultural discussions and decisions for Pelham in the coming weeks and months.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What is Community?


Over the last number of years, Council has concentrated on improving the infrastructure of our Town. Now, we are expanding our focus to include the building of community.

Some of the infrastructure improvements have been multi-million dollar, multi-faceted, and many-month projects – like reconstructing Haist Street, revitalizing Downtown Fonthill, constructing a new Fire Station #2, or replacing all nine playgrounds in Pelham. (Thanks to the Federal and Provincial governments for funding two-thirds of each of these important projects!)

Other improvements – like more than 9 KM of new sidewalks, including around Pelham Town Square or down Regional Road 20 from Station Street to Rice Road – have enhanced walkability throughout the Town.

We have also funded improvements to rural and urban roads and bridges:  Effingham from Pelham Road to Kilman; Church Street from Webber Road to Canboro; Line Avenue; Elizabeth Drive; Station Street north; Shaldan Lane; Chantler Road; Maple Street bridge; Sawmill Road bridge; etc.

We’ve installed +3,200 new, radio-frequency water meters to keep track of water usage and reduce unaccounted water use. We have replaced 7 km of cast iron water mains along roads like Churchill, Peachtree, and Hillcrest.

And, we budgeted for more infrastructure improvements in 2013 – like revitalizing Downtown Fenwick, and reconstructing Port Robinson Road from Pelham Street to Station.

In January, Dean Allison, our MP, announced $158,000 from the Federal Government to match the Town’s funding of improvements to Old Pelham Town Hall, including the historic Ridgeville Cenotaph, and the Pool House at Marlene Stewart Streit Park Swimming Pool.

As I stated during the funding announcement, a community is about more than roads, and pipes in the ground.

Community is about a “sense of place” like experienced in Pelham’s downtowns or beautiful rolling hills. Community is about our joint heritage and histories like with Old Pelham Town Hall and as annunciated in our Heritage Master Plan. Community is about volunteers – and Pelham has so many committed volunteers!

Just like a home is about more than four walls and a roof, community is about people – people coming together, interacting, celebrating, and remembering.

That’s why I am so proud of events like those hosted by Pelham service clubs or like Summerfest or the Riehl Skatepark Aviva Announcement or the Bandshell Concert Series.

That’s why the Town recently reorganized by adding a Recreation, Culture, and Wellness department.

And, finally, because it’s been discussed and desired for many, many years, Council recently approved the development of a business case for community recreational facilities. Council plans to give more attention to the building of community and hopes to finally decide on the future recreational, cultural, and wellness facilities and needs for the Town in 2013.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Location for Riehl Skatepark Decided


On Thursday, February 21, five Staff and I lead 23 members of the community through a creative problem solving process (the Simplexity Thinking System) to determine the preferred location for the Riehl Skatepark.

The working group included Bonita and Ted Riehl; Mariah Bunz; youth and adult skate boarders; a local Aviva Insurance Broker; and representatives from the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council; Niagara Regional Police; Pelham Youth Soccer Club; Pelham Minor Baseball; Pelham Slopitch; Bandshell Committee; Pelham Tennis Association; and local Service Clubs.

After discussing facts about the skatepark, the working group using maps and post-it notes to suggest 15 potential locations:
1. Harold Black Park - Soccer Field;
2. Arena Park - Multi Purpose Court;
3. Harold Black Park - near Storm Water Detention Pond;
4. Arena Park - south of driveway, east of arena;
5. Centennial Park - ball diamond #3;
6. Marlene Stewart Streit Park - asphalt pad behind pool building;
7. Town owned lands in East Fonthill
8. Peace Park - Adjacent to Professional Arts Building;
9. Glynn A School - near soccer field/Steve Bauer Trail;
10. Marlene Stewart Streit Park - near entrance to John Nemy Trail;
11. Woodstream Park - wooded area;
12. Centennial Park - east of furthest parking lot;
13. Gord Klager Fonthill Lions Park - tennis courts;
14. Arena Park - north of paddle tennis facility;
15. Centennial Park - front passive area at Church Street

With these potential locations in mind, each of three small-groups brainstormed and then short-listed the best criteria to evaluate the locations. The group results were combined, and further “converged” by everyone into seven criteria:
1. Safe access – getting to and from the park, EMS & Police Access, Near Majority of Town Population;
2. Available public washrooms and other infrastructure;
3. Isaac would have approved and it will increase civic pride;
4. Minimal impact on others (park users and neighbours);
5. Highly visible (for police,"eyes on park") and able to be lighted;
6. Enough physical space -minimum 110' x 110' and potential for expansion;
7. Favourable terrain/topography;

Each small group used the seven criteria to evaluate the 15 locations.

The result? Consensus on one location – the soccer field at Harold Black Park.

What will happen to those that currently use this improperly-sized soccer field? While the lights will stay for the Skatepark, Staff and Pelham Soccer have recommended that the Town advance the planned 2014 construction of a new soccer field and parking lot as envisioned in the Centennial Park Master Plan. (This can be paid for by delaying the construction of a “Central Park Building” and lighting Ball Diamond #2.)

Thanks to all who participated in and facilitated the special workshop; you proved the Ghanaian proverb true: “One head does not contain all the wisdom.”

UPDATE: March 4, 2013:
The Committee of the Whole approved the recommendation to construct the Riehl Skatepark at Harold Black Park. This recommendation will go to Council on March 18 for ratification.