Bits ‘n’ Pieces: A roundup of municipal miscellany

BY JIM PITT
Special to The Voice

Developers Delight: A clever commercial real estate agent has capitalized on the Town’s generosity with an ad for 7 Hwy. 20 East. “Community Improvement Plan in the Area Offers Incentives to Builders including Intensification Cash Grants, Development Charge Waivers & Rebates. Minimum Tax Rebate of 70% per Annum for 10 years. Site is land value. Property is Downtown Core At the Major Intersection. Across from Shoppers Drug Mart. $350,000.” The ad also mentions that there is a house with a tenant on the land. Sounds like a no-brainer for prospective developers. As for all those financial incentives, wowsa. We need to defer street repairs, but a minimum 70% tax rebate for 10 years? No problema.

What chicanery is this? It seems some affected residents are not fully behind the Mayor and Council’s plans to calm everyone down. In fact some drivers are being downright aggressive. The Haist Street chicane is creating a new type of driving challenge. People are speeding through the chicane, laughing and being a nuisance. Ambulances, fire trucks, plows and garbage trucks are plodding through, feeling their way gingerly and slowing everything down. How property values are being affected is anyone’s guess.

Here’s a modest proposal to turn local frowns upside down: Incorporate a series of chicanes, say ten in all, and turn Haist into a Challenge Drive. One chicane was $20,000, so nine more would be a bargain at only $180,000.

Organize time trials for various types of vehicles and make it a semi-annual event. A Winter Challenge and a Summer Challenge. Strategic ice patches—like sand traps in golf—could really jazz up the winter event. Invite competitors from all over the Region to Chute the Chicane. Perhaps the Mayor could promote it by donning a jaunty yachting cap—er, rather, crash helmet.

Lines on the wall: The Town has been on a growth spurt over the last decade. I don’t mean population-wise; that hasn’t changed much from 2008. We’re up only about 5%.

No, I mean the growth in Town staff. In 2008 the Town employed a measly 49 people. It’s a wonder anything got done. Now we have 67 staff, a 27% increase.

And just wait until next year when the new Community Centre opens. The Town will be complementing the existing Arena staff of 16 (seven full time, three part time and six seasonal) with four more full time, six more part time and eight more seasonal, for a total of 34 employees for the new arenas alone, bring the Town total to 85—a 73% increase in 10 years.

Now that’s growth we can cheer about. These numbers will include a Community Centre Manager at $97,000 per year and a Maintenance Supervisor at $90,500 per year, two more future Sunshine listers. The budget for salaries will rocket from $713,000 to $1,325,000. We’re catching up to you, Mississauga.

Poth Hole: We all know that with progress and growth come sacrifice. It’s the only way forward and we all must keep moving forward. Change is inevitable, as we are constantly informed, so just pipe down and live with it. In the latest update concerning the cash cow known as the East Fonthill development, things are starting to happen. The CAO is preparing a report on land sales in the coming weeks, or would that be months — depends on the number of weeks, I guess. The co-developer is hot on the trail of prospective occupants for land the Town owns. It seems that seven or eight doctors are possibly, maybe, considering committing to a new medical facility. More on that maybe, possibly, in 2018. A major seniors’ residence maybe, possibly, could consider building on the site, but more work needs to be done to make the development attractive.

The Town, ever proactive and forward thinking, is not dropping the ball on this. They have made building new streets their number one spending priority.

The Station Street rebuild is a go. The province said we are too well off to receive any money from them for this project, so, as is our way here in Pelham, we will go it alone. The $2.7 million rebuild will be added to the Town’s credit card. (I hope they get reward points, or at least 4 cents off at Shell.)

Station Street provides one of the new entrances to our East Fonthill future. Once you circumnavigate a traffic circle, you will be able cruise down the new Summersides Boulevard to Wellspring Way, pass through the wondrous Woonerf, (be careful here, it’s European), and gaze upon progress.

This new $2 million road, along with next year’s $7 million Cultural Plaza, will definitely draw in the prospective builders and complete this forward thinking brand new community. I’m breathless with anticipation, or possibly hyperventilating. Meanwhile, Poth Street, in dire need of repair but on the wrong side Pelham, will remain closed until at least September 2018.

Crossing over to the other side: The crosswalk at the foot of Church Hill and Pelham Street has undergone a major Town-sponsored study. The study involved video surveillance, photos, staff and public input. It seems that this crosswalk is dangerous. The Region has washed its hands of it. The Town concluded that cars aren’t stopping, traffic is backing up and people are risking life and limb to cross east for their gelato, or west for their salvation.

Ever proactive, the Town is considering making the turn off of Church Hill right-turn-only.

After allocating millions of dollars to new roads to and through the East Fonthill development, it was necessary to save some money, so forget the originally planned three-way stoplight, a comparative bargain at $130,000.

This bold experiment in right-eousness would require drivers heading to the banks, stores, restaurants, post office, Shopper’s, Giant Tiger, PetValu, the Beer Store, Town Hall, and the Library to turn right on Pelham, then left on College Street (where they’ll surely travel at a sensible, law-abiding speed down the College Street slope all the way to Station Street), then turn left (assuming yet another mandatory right turn isn’t in the works) onto Station, unleashed finally to zig-zag their way back to where they were ten minutes earlier.

Alternatively, I imagine most people will instead just flip u-turn in the Meridian parking lot, which is bound to make dashing into the lobby to use the ATM a lot like trying to cross Pelham Street at Church Hill, but this time absent even a crosswalk. (Do you think we could get Meridian to put that stoplight in their lot?)

Meantime, the merchants and banks and restaurants will just have to adjust to this brave new world. Not only are parking spaces already a rarity downtown, now even driving to them will be a challenge.

Councillor Accursi feels it will make downtown more walkable. (One imagines that the absence of customers on sidewalks will give those walkers even more room to roam.)

Accursi, ever the visionary, also wants to make the turn out of Pelham Town Square from under the Arches right-turn-only as well, meaning your only choice is north toward Highway 20.

It’s not hard to picture the natural evolution of this bold experiment in commerce-killing. All Pelham turns could be switched to right-turn-only. Imagine the savings! Now that would be proactive, forward thinking (well, forward and to the right) progress! College Street residents, you might want to buckle-in for a few hundred highly annoyed drivers speeding down your leafy street daily. Better install a chicane.

Splendour in the grass:  Pelham is in the process of entering The Green Street Challenge. In a worthy attempt to get people to participate in unstructured outdoor play and put down their cell phones and iPads and enjoy some fresh air and physical activity, Fenwick residents will be delighted to know that Canboro Road, downtown, will be covered in sod. This grassy oasis will be “planted” on Saturday, August 19 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Pelham will be, as usual, the first community in Niagara to participate in this Challenge. Cost to the Town, a tiny $1,000. Councillor Junkin observed that Centennial Park, which, being a park, is already covered in grass, and is a mere 300 meters away. The rest of Council was not deterred by this underhanded attempt at logic. So on August 19, kindly exit any actual parks, get off your lawns, put down your bats and balls, kick off your soccer shoes, get off your bicycles and walk, hike or even drive down to Fenwick, find a parking spot (there are at least eight), and enjoy the Challenge of breathing country air. The donated sod will be re-gifted to a worthy charity, so if you know any charity in need of a lightly used lawn let Recreation Director, Vickie vanRavenswaay know. WiFi availability has not been confirmed, but sod it. Put away those devices!

Biker Wars:  It seems Welland has one-upped our Town Hall. This cannot go unchecked and our leaders are acting even as you read this. Bicycle repair stations and a bike-friendly map are in the works. These stations, costing merely $2,000-3,000, will be installed in various parts of town. Harold Black Park was mentioned. Surely it would be a Grumpy Gus who points out alternatives including the (multiplying) gas stations around town that already have air pumps. Or that cyclists could continue to pack a small repair kit along with their water bottles, air pumps and cell phones. No matter. It’s good to see the Town anticipating all our needs, real and perceived.

A Pelham Heritage Moment: On June 5, Pelham Council decided not to designate 1 Hwy. 20 West as a heritage building under the Ontario Heritage Act. The site had been used since Jacob Osman built an inn in 1830 on what was then Canboro Road. The building will likely be demolished to make way for a residential/commercial building. Councillor Accursi said he understood the historical significance, “but you have to be practical.” Councillor Rybiak said the planners’ report justified the denial. Councillor Durley said the interior pictures of the building told “the whole story.” Councillor Papp said he supported the decision, saying the location is a hallmark for people coming into town. The Mayor wholeheartedly agreed with the recommendation not to register the building as historic. The volunteer Heritage Committee was dismantled at the beginning of this Council’s term. Heritage issues have fallen to the Planning Department. This Pelham Heritage moment is brought to you by the Mayor, Councillors and senior administration of the Town of Pelham.

Cheer Unaffordability: The Niagara Real Estate Association released their May sales numbers and they are inspiring—if you are a real estate agent. From May 2016 to May 2017 prices rose from a Region-wide average of $319,000 to $403,000, a 28% increased, but if you look at the numbers closer a trend may be appearing. Year- over-year sales were down 6% in May. Listings were up 20%. May is traditionally the hottest month for house sales. NOTL tends to skew numbers because prices are now averaging $804,000, up from $591,000, a 36% rise. In the GTA, from June 1 to June 9, condo listings are up 11% while sales are down 22%. House listings are up 34% while sales have fallen 44%. The hinterlands around Toronto can expect to see similar numbers in the months ahead as people rush to the exits.

Pelham Community Centre update for May: The CAO informed Council that the Community Centre continues to progress ahead of schedule despite losing 16 days to rain. Phases 1, 3 and 4 are complete and the remaining steelwork will be completed by mid June. Tender 2, the largest, has closed with the results being in line with expectations. Masonry will be completed by mid- December. We look forward to reading the Oversight Committee’s June 19 report. Oh, wait. That’s confidential.

Updated 6/17/17 with minor corrections.

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