Essex Council Notes for December 18

Filed under: IN THE NEWS |

by Sylene Argent and Adam Gault

Rural Business and Tourism Community Improvement Plan

Economic Development Officer Nelson Silveira offered a presentation on a case for County Road 50 expansion into the Colchester Community Improvement Plan (CIP). This plan would seek to add the consideration of value-added incentives for agriculture and tourism development along County Road 50.

During the presentation, Silveira noted that County Road 50 is by far the most travelled part of the municipality by tourists, and most of the town’s visitor dollars are spent at the many wineries and tourist destinations along this stretch of road.

By providing businesses and entrepreneurs along 50 with financial incentives, such as waiving development charges or providing property tax incentives as seen with the success of Essex’s other CIP programs, the plan would look to expand economic and destination development throughout this part of the municipality.

Councillor Larry Snively noted that there had currently been no applications to the Colchester CIP as it currently stands, and asked Silveira what could be done to encourage businesses in the area to take advantage of the plan if it were to be implemented.

Silveira explained by correctly marketing the program, and expanding the boundaries of the Colchester CIP, more businesses would be able to take advantage of this unique program.

Councillor Sherry Bondy expressed concerns that funding for the initiative might take away funding from other critical projects in Harrow at this time, and if the Town had the funding to take on the expansions of the Colchester CIP at this time.

Council made a motion to go ahead with the bylaw amendment process to expanded the Colchester CIP along County Road 50.

The Town will host a public meeting to garner feedback from stakeholders and citizens about the project early next year.


Economic Development Report

Council received an Economic Development Report prepared and submitted by Economic Development Officer Nelson Silveira for activity in the Town between the months of September and October 2017.

The report highlighted several new businesses and real estate figures during this period.

These included Colio Estate Winery adding an additional 1 million litres of tank capacity, and 44 homes being sold in Essex over the two months.


Downtown Walkabout Report

Economic Development Officer Nelson Silveira also submitted a report on the walkabouts held in Essex and Harrow in the fall.

With these walkabouts, members of council and administration had the opportunity to see first-hand the effect the Town’s Community Improvement Plans have had on ongoing beautification efforts and business improvements throughout the downtown cores.

Successful projects for 2017 included the Tourist Information Kiosk in Harrow, Essex branded parking signs for municipally-owned parking lots, an Essex Centre BIA parkette, and Christmas Lights for Harrow.


CIP Update

Council received the report “Community Improvement Plan Update” for information purposes, and amended the Rehabilitation Grant to include the construction of ground signs with peripheral landscaping as an eligible project.

Essex’s Assistant Planner Rita Jabbour, through the report she submitted to Council, provided an update on the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) program, which provides incentives to property owners within a defined geographical area to stimulate physical improvements to commercial buildings, spur new business activity, and encourage the development of affordable residential and tourist accommodations.

The report states that over 40 business owners and operators have benefited from the CIP program since its launch a few years back.

The program was initiated to strengthen the economic base of the downtowns of Harrow Centre and Essex Centre, and Colchester Centre as of this year.

Council approved the expansion of the Essex Centre Community Improvement Plan (ECCIP) project area to include the north side of Maidstone Avenue (13 to 87 Maidstone Avenue East), Heritage Park, a portion of the former Canadian National Railway corridor, and the properties at 87 Station and 91 Scratch Street in 2017. Earlier this year, Council approved a transfer of $61,000 to the ECCIP budget from the Contingency Reserve.

In 2017, Planning received a total of 14 new CIP applications for Essex Centre and 10 new applications for Harrow Centre.

It is highlighted in the report that there has recently been a spike in requests for funds for the installation of free-standing ground signs.

“It has been a very good year for the CIP program,” Jabbour said, adding 2017 has been the best uptake year to date.


Recreation Programming

Council received the report “Subsidized Recreation Programming.”

The report to Council notes The Town of Essex has been committed to providing all residents recreational opportunities and makes every effort to ensure they are affordable, inclusive, and responsive to community needs.”

The Town of Essex has been a provider of multiple subsidy programs that assist in access to recreational opportunities, including the Pathway to Potential Recreation Discount Program.

In 2017, to date, 343 participants received funding for a variety of programs such as hockey, gymnastics, dance, soccer, and swimming. “This funding allows us to reduce barriers and increase access to participation in recreation, ensuring support for affordable recreation,” it states in the report.

A one-time Pathway to Potential funding enhancement will allow the provision at no cost for each of the remaining unsponsored recreational skates and swims at the Essex Centre Sports Complex, Harrow and Colchester South Community Centre, and the Essex Recreation Complex.

Director of Community Services Doug Sweet said because of this, five free public skates and 13 additional swims will be offered.


Chief Administrative Officer Report on Ward Open Houses

A report submitted by Essex’s CAO Donna Hunter broke down general open house information and questions from residents heard during the restive Ward open houses held in November of this year.

This report included a chart of most common questions asked during the open houses, and from what Ward the specific concerns came.

Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche thanked Council and administration for the work they did in organizing the events, noting they were fairly well attended. There are plans on having more in the future.


Ward 3 By-election post report

A report was received detailing the breakdown and results of the Ward 3 by-election.

The election was called earlier this year with the resignation of Councillor Bill Caixeiro, and was won by current Ward 3 Councillor Ron Rogers.

22.1% of eligible voters participated in the by-election.


Election procedures

Council received the report “2018 Municipal Election Procedures, forms for voting, and the use of vote-counting equipment.”

In the report it notes the Town of Essex, for the 2018 municipal election, will award a contract to a service provider to use Optical Scan Vote Tabulator equipment. It further states this equipment was successfully used in the recent Ward 3 by-election. The Clerk’s Department is currently reviewing quotes.


NoM on CIP expansion

During the December 4 Essex Council meeting, Councillor Sherry Bondy put forward a Notice of Motion for Council to consider at the December 18 meeting that would have administration expand the Community Improvement Program (CIP) boundary area in Harrow to include the junior and high schools.

She also wanted to have administration see if it would be possible to expand the demolition grant in the CIP program to above $6000.

Councillor Steve Bjorkman said he did not see the schools fitting into the CIP and thought there would be a better source to get somebody to utilize the empty buildings.

Council passed a motion to have administration come up with different ideas on how those properties could be developed, with the CIP being one possibility to look at.


NoM on Water run-off

At the December 4 Essex Council meeting, Councillor Larry Snively put forward a Notice of Motion regarding residents taking in landfill and building up their properties so high that water run-off affects their neighbours. He hoped the current regulatory bylaw could be reviewed and that administration could provide some recommendations on how to improve the situation.

He said he has received complaints about this from a handful of residents. When neighbours build large berms with landfill, and there is a heavy rainfall, the water can sometimes affect neighbours.

“I can’t see how we can allow this to happen,” he said.

Administration will review the bylaws.


Administration to investigate the feasibility of fiber optics

Councillor Sherry Bondy put forward a notice a motion to investigate the feasibility of fiber optics throughout the entire Town of Essex.

Bondy explained other municipalities in our region have been investigating the feasibility of town-wide fiber optic internet connection and that if all of Essex had fiber optics, it could really be marketed as a business destination.

It would likely come at no cost to the Town as a service provider would decide if there is demand present to upgrade the internet infrastructure.

Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche added he has many calls about internet connection problems, and said it has been a common topic of discussion throughout the town. The motion carried.


Upcoming Notice of Motion for January 15

Councillor Sherry Bondy will put forward two motions at the upcoming January 15 Council meeting.

First, that the Town of Essex send a request to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and all other municipalities in Ontario, requesting that when school boards make decisions to close schools that they have to offer the building to the respective local municipality at the cost of one dollar.

Second, that administration receive and review the Ward 4 feedback items on the list provided and report back to Council with an update or obtain council’s endorsement for any further action items recommended by administration.


2018 Budget Estimates

Essex Council gave three readings and passed bylaw 1668 to adopt the 2018 Operating and Capital Budget estimates.


Bylaw amendments required to comply with Bill 68

A report entitled “Procedural Bylaw Amendments Required to Comply with Bill 68” was submitted to Council.

This included the passing of Bylaw 1665 to amend Bylaw 1592, which would align the definition of meeting with the definition provided in Bill 68, Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act, which will come into effect on January 1, and bring it in line with the new legislation.

This includes the definition of meeting, four more exceptions to the ‘closed meeting’ rule, discussion to trade secrets, and ongoing negotiations.