Recent Key Decisions & Events: Feb. 19, 2017

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Hello Ward 4!

I just wanted to bring everyone up to speed on some recent decisions made, and what the impact is to the community, if any.

The Off-Leash Dog Park pilot project that ran last summer, and into the fall/winter due to the weather, was recently reviewed by Middlesex Centre staff and Council. The pilot program was hugely successful in many ways, but there were many negative impacts at the Kilworth River Flats.

  • A child was bitten by one of the dogs using the area.
  • Dogs were routinely getting into area residents’ backyards, necessitating a lot of trespassing by area residents and non-residents alike in order to retrieve their four-legged friends.
  • The traffic and parking issues that were inevitably going to happen did, in fact, happen, and perhaps were worse than thought they could be.
  • And several other issues.
  • As a result, Council voted to formalize the off-leash dog parks in Ilderton and Arva, but to end the River Flats off-leash dog park.
Large Tree Map Example

Large Tree Map Example

I’m using Highcharts.com’s tools to put together a budget visualization webpage. This will use a large tree map to show residents where their money is going, and I will also put together graphs to show the current budget in comparison with past years. I think it will be a nice addition to the presentations and spreadsheets normally provided to, well, everyone.

The variance for the new commercial plaza at Tunks Lane and Glendon Drive was approved, and that should be moving forward. I don’t have a timeline on when site servicing will begin, but I imagine there will be work on the site this spring or summer. All indications are that a Foodland and LCBO are part of the plan, but as written in the Middlesex Banner no confirmations have been provided.

I have been making an effort to act as a mediator between MXC staff and South Winds in order to try and speed up the negotiation process for Edgewater Estates, which has to have the agreements in place before the new pumping station and force main can be built, but neither party has taken me up on my offer.

As a result of some MXC residents being surprised with conditions on their recent severance applications, I made a motion on January 25 to have staff come up with a standard list of conditions that severance applicants can expect to see when the recommendation comes before Council, and also to standardize on whether MXC would share in any additional costs as a result of those conditions (e.g. MXC taking a 6m x 6m corner of a property to improve sight lines). We’re waiting for that report to come back.

D’Lux Auto Spa opened this past week in Komoka! I wish them all the best and success in their venture.

Automated External Defibrillator

Automated External Defibrillator; Image Courtesy AEDsToday.com

You may have seen a Woodstock Sentinel-Review story about Councillors in Zorra Township and Thames Centre bringing forth motions to ask the Province of Ontario, Ministry of Education, and Thames Valley District School Board to develop a policy to ensure all school can accommodate automated external defibrillators (AEDs), and for the TVDSB to install AEDs across all its schools. I’m happy to say that, in working with Thames Centre Councillor Kelly Elliott, I’ll be bringing forth a motion on March 8 to join the chorus and ask for the same things. It’s incredibly odd that the TVDSB, from all the information supporters have been able to gather, is the only school board in the province actively preventing AEDs from being installed in schools, despite the costs being covered by other means.

I think that about covers it! As always, if you would like to get a hold of me, the Middlesex Centre website has my email address, cell phone number, and links to my social media accounts.

Have a great Family Day, and don’t be shy to say hi!

Springer Ponds Development

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On January 25, 2017 a public meeting was held to speak about an application from Springer Ponds Development Inc. where they sought to receive approval for a draft subdivision plan, along with a zoning by-law amendment. Here are the:

That evening, though some will tell you otherwise, nothing was approved.

During the public meeting we heard from the property owner/applicant, many concerned residents in the area, municipal staff, and Councillors on topics such as:

  • The applicant’s financial capacity to complete any site works and related road works
  • The length of time required to complete the works
  • The potential for the pond to be partially filled in (based on past proposals that have since been withdrawn, but were included in the January 25 package anyway)
  • How the applicant planned to have the new lots developed
  • The potential for infringing on another neighbour’s property rights, whom also owns part of the pond
  • Noise, pollution, and related matters
  • Where water that drains from the pond goes (it seems to drain to the larger pond south of Glendon Dr, and then over to the ponds west of Komoka Rd)
  • And other concerns!

There was a lot of back and forth. Ultimately the staff recommendation put forth was to defer approving anything until staff had an opportunity to come up with a list of conditions. That is what was approved; to have staff develop a list of recommendations before reviewing the application and zoning by-law amendment again.

Again, for clarity: the draft subdivision plan and zoning by-law amendments have not been approved.

For me, personally, I’m not someone who allows themselves to be subject to “slippery slope” type issues. The owner of the property is currently seeking to sever the property he owns along Springer St in order to accommodate new homes, and based on what he said during the meeting, sell those lots to individuals/couples and have those folks find their own builders.

Regardless of what the property owner eventually applies for to do along Glendon Drive or Queen St, I will review and assess those applications individually when the time comes. They are not up for review right now as they were withdrawn.

As for the trees that were cut down on the property last week, neither Middlesex Centre, Middlesex County, or the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority had any legal manner to stop that. The property is not designated a significant woodland, nor is it designated a wetland. We were legally powerless to stop it. The property owner later informed us that he was only having dead trees cut down, but I have received information stating otherwise. Regardless, we couldn’t do anything about that.

Moving forward I will be keeping a keen eye on the conditions recommended, any changes to the plans, further variances/amendments requested, and ensuring I listen to the affected residents, and anyone else who can provide pertinent information or opinions, to ensure the best outcome is achieved.

Comprehensive Look at Glendon Drive Shopping Plaza

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If you’re already familiar with the information below, you can fill out this second survey now.

The reason for this evening’s zoning by-law amendment variance request is that the developer is asking Council to reduce the minimum requirement that 65% of the lot frontage of the property include building façades, from 65% to 32%. We got down to 65% after previously approving a reduction from 75%. So, Maverick is essentially asking Council to approve a reduction from 75% building façades, down to 32% building façades fronting Glendon Drive. They also want to increase the maximum front yard setback from 1.5m to 4.75m.

This is, obviously, a huge change and drastically decreases the municipality’s ability to achieve the vision for this property where you would feel like you’re walking in a nice, well-kept, urban environment with sidewalks, trees, and building façades near you.

Think of the best downtown you’ve ever been to. That’s what all the Municipality’s aims and plans for this area are trying to achieve.

Yesterday I put out a survey that looked at a very simplified version of the current site and landscaping plan. Overwhelmingly, many people like the current iteration. That’s great, I’m glad folks like it. I wanted to put together a bit more information and context after reading the full motion to make sure I get a more holistic perspective from residents.

Screenshot of current site plan.

Click the blueprint to view the full set of architectural drawings for the site, as currently envisioned by Maverick Developments.

And here are the elevation drawings I was provided last week. You can see that, for the most part, this is very much similar to the suburban plazas found in areas like Hyde Park Rd & Fanshawe Park Rd in London, and the Southdale Rd and Wonderland Rd S area of London.

So, now that you have a bit more context, please answer this new, short survey so that I can make a more informed vote at Council tonight on whether people are happy with only 32% of the lot frontage being building façades, or whether

Upcoming Public Meetings on January 25, 2017

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Municipal staff recently notified me that there are several public meetings coming up during the January 25, 2017 Council Meeting. These usually start at 7pm, so you don’t need to attend the whole meeting.

If you review these and want to ask me any questions, please feel free to do so via Twitter, Facebook, email, or phone.

If you have any feedback at all, let me know!

Designing with Empathy Using VR

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We are in a very exciting time, as usual, for technology. Virtual reality has risen from the ashes thanks to Oculus’ successful Kickstarter campaign a few years ago (and subsequent acquisition by Facebook), Google Cardboard, Samsung’s GearVR, and HTC & Valve’s Vive. Not to mention augmented reality platforms like Microsoft’s HoloLens, Meta, and LeapMotion.

The problem? Well, maybe not a problem, but certainly the short-term focus has been on gaming. Almost all of the applications to be released at launch, and shortly thereafter, are games or fun things to do. That’s fine, because it helps generate excitement and sales, which will hopefully lead to long-term platform sustainability. And while there are people talking about other applications, I feel like we need to start seeing some development on them.

One application I’d really like to see more focus on, and development for now, is building and public space design (architecture as a whole, if you will). I would argue that it hasn’t been good enough for decades now for someone to simply design a building, have engineers execute on the design, and then marvel in the result. The more people I meet, the more I realize how inadequate our buildings and public spaces are. If you were to try to get around your neighbourhood or the nearest downtown core in a wheelchair for one day, how would you fare? Not well, I’d bet.

I want to see a near future where designers are not only dreaming up crazy cool spaces, but also experience them the way others do before unleashing their vision on the rest of us. Where an architect will design the first few floors of a building, then plop themselves down in a mock wheelchair of sorts, strap on a VR headset, and wheel themselves around the building. From outside into the building, moving between floors, and determining how easy it is versus the ability to do so on two feet.

Perhaps more importantly, interior designers should be doing the same. I have worked in many workplaces that I feel would be completely unnavigable in a wheel chair, or even crutches! Why? Because an overwhelming majority of able-bodied people own the buildings, design the spaces, and then work in those spaces everyday. Unfortunately we don’t all have the fortune to have full use of all four limbs all day, and it’s high time that we all feel like our abilities are being considered when new building plans are being drafted, or interiors are being renovated, or our public spaces are being built and re-built.

Designing with empathy in mind is a good start. Living the experience yourself is the next step. Virtual reality can put you in the middle of a war zone with a plastic gun, and it can also show you how the world around you has been designed assuming you have four functional limbs, or that you have 20/20 vision, or that you see a full spectrum of colours that others cannot. Being more compassionate at how others will use the things you design and envision will make you better for it.