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

Latest Information on Pumping Station and Kilworth Wastewater Treatment Facility

Map of Kilworth, Ontario
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This is the current lay of the land. Middlesex Centre (MXC) staff and Council all want to see the Kilworth WWTF decommissioned as quickly as my neighbours who live even closer to it than I do, and are affected by it more than me. I can walk there in three minutes. I sympathize.

If you have follow-up questions after reading recent information from the Kilworth-Komoka Ratepayers Association and this post, or something you saw on Facebook, I would be happy to do my best to clear anything up for you. My contact information can be found on MXC’s website.

Some Background

The Kilworth Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF) was upgraded in 2008 to use the membrane technology currently in use. At the time, the upgrade was done to handle all existing Kilworth wastewater flows. MXC’s Master Servicing Plan – dated April 2010, prepared by Stantec Consulting, and endorsed by the Council at the time – recommended that all future growth of Kilworth be supported by a new pumping station, as identified in the Kilworth Wastewater Outlet Schedule ‘B’ Class Environmental Assessment dated November 27, 2013, which was prepared by Delcan. This new pumping station is planned to be located within South Winds Development’s Edgewater Estates subdivision.

Once they are built, the new pumping station and forcemain will support all existing and future wastewater flows from Kilworth, which will ultimately be pumped to the recently expanded (2011) Komoka WWTF.

What’s Happening Now

The costs associated with building the new Kilworth pumping station and forcemain will, in the end, be shared three ways between MXC, South Winds, and Don Black Investments, with the costs being divided based on wastewater flow contribution. As I’m writing this, MXC remains in negotiation over the subdivision and cost sharing agreement with South Winds. Construction cannot proceed before the agreement is finalized and signed by all parties, at which time all required subdivision servicing will be completed to said pumping station.

Once the proposed works are constructed, the Environmental Compliance Assessment (ECA) recently received from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) does not have an expiry date. Based on the recommendations of the Natural Environment Report detailed in the Environmental Assessment, the timing of actual construction activities should be restricted to between October 1 and March 15 to avoid adverse affects on aquatic ecosystems, ground animals, and nesting activities of sensitive bird species that are present in Komoka Provincial Park.

Therefore, as soon as we can get shovels into the ground, we will. We have every hope, and anticipate, this will start in 2017. However, as stated above, there are a few more kinks to work out in the subdivision and cost sharing agreement. If there was a way to move more quickly, I assure you we would have pursued it by now. But have heart, we will get it done!

What to Expect in 2017 from Middlesex Centre

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Well, in a highly unexpected twist of circumstances (1, 2, 3), I was appointed Ward 4 Councillor in Middlesex Centre on November 30, 2016. You can see the municipality’s press release here.

During the months of November and December, I had the opportunity to hear from many residents already on a number of issues. Some I am supportive of, others I’m not. That is the nature of discourse, and perfectly reasonable. I wanted to highlight a few key measures I voted on during my first few meetings, and what to expect from the Municipality of Middlesex Centre (MXC) and me during 2017.

  • There was a vote to ask a consultant, Nigel Bellchamber, to participate in the interview process for the new Fire Chief. I don’t have any against Mr. Bellchamber, but it seemed there were already too many people involved, and Mr. Bellchamber had already provided a great report on what our firefighters and District Chiefs would like to see in a Chief. I voted no on spending additional money to hire Mr. Bellchamber, but the vote passed to ask him to join the hiring process.
  • Council voted to approve spending $30,000 from the Delaware Hydro Reserve Fund (no impact to taxes whatsoever) to help pay for a new floor at the Delaware Community Centre. We’re hoping that will be ready before Canada Day.
  • Rob Clarke Auto’s expansion was approved, and they have already started building two additional bays. It’s very nice to see a local business, located in Kilworth, grow!
  • Council voted to freeze water and wastewater rates for 2017. No, they aren’t going down, but the cost cutting measures taken in 2016 have enabled us to freeze the rates for this year. It’s a welcome reprieve from multiple years of increases.
  • Staff produced a report on whether fees for paper bills should be enacted. They found no evidence of other municipalities charging a fee for residents to receive paper utility bills, and therefore recommended MXC not being doing so. Council approved the recommendation, but it’s worth noting that water/wastewater bills will be sent out monthly going forward.
    • Yes, moving to a monthly bill increases mail costs a bit, but will also help families manage their budgets more easily. The more families that move to receiving their water/wastewater electronically, whether through Canada Post ePost or email directly from the Municipality, the lower our costs will be overall. You’re welcome to call the municipal office and get signed up for email bills, or use your online banking site to sign up for ePost.
  • We had a very contentious issue over online/phone voting for the 2018 municipal election. I was happy we used this system for voting in 2014, however the extensive research I have done on online voting, the discussions I have had with web development professionals, and even my attempts to design (on paper) a truly secure system that provides all the benefits of a paper ballot have all led me to have a very specific set of thoughts on the matter. Unfortunately, questions I asked like whether or not InteliVote’s code had been audited independently, could not be answered during the debate on December 14, 2016. The vote to continue using InteliVote passed, with me voting no only because I wanted answers to my questions first.
    • It’s worth noting that, at this time, MXC has not voted to introduce other voting systems, like ranked balloting. Given the dearth of contests in the 2014 election, I don’t think it would have benefited us. Hopefully there’s more competition in 2018!
  • I have fielded multiple, valid complaints from residents on the quality of snow maintenance so far this winter. The up/down temperature cycles haven’t helped, but you can easily see inconsistencies in how sand or salt has been laid down, how close (or far) to the curb the plows are getting, and so on. I’ve been actively engaging with staff to ensure your concerns are addressed, and so far it does appear things have gotten better during the last plow. I absolutely want to hear from you, and so does staff, if you have concerns regarding snow maintenance.
  • Lastly, I voted no to continue using our own closed meeting investigator. I wanted to opt for the Ombudsman instead, however I was not able to convince the rest of Council that this was, in my opinion, the right thing to do. I have heard from residents that choosing our own closed meeting investigator makes it look like we’re seeking preferential treatment, and that such a person can be dismissed at a whim if we don’t like what they say, like the integrity commissioner that was recently dismissed (which ultimately started the chain reaction that led to me ending up on Council). If you feel similarly, I implore you to speak with the Mayor and your Councillor and ask them to stop spending $1,000 a year on a service we have not used.

What to Expect in 2017

  • I’m going to be asking staff to do some homework later this year to see if we can lower the minimum water and wastewater usage rates, and what implications that will have.
  • I will help staff to find, and make suggestions on new measures, to continue to cut costs. I’m not out to slash and burn, but always looking at things critically to determine whether products/services we purchase, or services we provide, can be done at a lower cost.
  • I’m going to hold multiple sit-downs at local restaurants where you can come and sit down, enjoy a drink, and speak with me face-to-face. Expect the first one to happen before the end of March.
  • I’m confident that Edgewater Estates will be approved to move forward, and the construction of the new sewer line to Komoka will finally begin. Once that’s done and in service, the Kilworth Treatment Plant will be decommissioned, relieving many residents of awful smells throughout the year.
  • I have two residents, in particular, who are seeking relief from various bylaws. One, I am assisting to allow them to plead their case; the other is in clear violation of the Infrastructure Design Standards, and not allowing the developer of their subdivision to hand over control to MXC, but doesn’t seem to care. You can’t please everyone.
  • The new Ilderton Skating Park will begin construction.
  • MXC is replacing existing vehicles with three fully electric vehicles. I’m really excited about this! They will be shared by two departments, Public Works & Engineering and By-Law Enforcement & Building Inspections.
    • January 11, 2017: I previously stated we were buying two vehicles. This was incorrect.
  • We will receive a report from staff on the result of the off-leash dog park pilot program.
  • Finally, the website is undergoing a bit of a restructuring to make things easier to find. I’ve offered my assistance, providing advice where I can, given my role at a web development firm in London and experience building my own websites over the past 15 years.

Overall, you can expect to get regular updates like these from me, at least monthly. I want everyone to be in the loop on decisions being made that impact Ward 4, and the rest of MXC. If you have any questions at all you can reach me on Twitter, Facebook, email, or phone 226-448-6774 (please leave a message if I don’t answer). My contact information is also on the municipal website.