Diane Pouget

Developers proposing new condominium development for town



By Ron Giofu


The area of Sandwich St. S. and Fort St. may have a new look soon if local developers have their way.

Developer Dr. Dante Capaldi and realtor Ron Deneau appeared before town council Monday night to introduce elected officials to a new condominium project they are proposing. Their hope is to construct a 24-unit, three-storey condominium building at the southeast corner of Sandwich St. S. and Fort St.

“We have owned the property on Fort St. and Sandwich St. for 20 years,” said Capaldi.

Dr. Dante Capaldi and Ron Deneau appeared before town council to introduce them to a new 24-unit condominium project that is being proposed for the corner of Sandwich St. S. and Fort St. (Special to the RTT)

Each unit would be approximately 1,100 square feet and generate about $60,000 in property taxes for the town, said Capaldi. The estimated value of the building would be $6 million with Capaldi adding it would have “a major economic impact on the community and local businesses.”

Councillor Diane Pouget wondered how many homes would have to be torn down.

“I’m not opposed to it but I need to know the answer,” she said.

Capaldi said three existing homes would have to be demolished to accommodate the building. He added they still have to work with administration and go through the process before a shovel goes into the ground.

“With the assistance of administration, we will work towards applying for site-specific zoning which is required,” said Capaldi. “We’re anxious to get this started.”

Councillor Rick Fryer welcomed the development and believed it will enhance the downtown area of Amherstburg.

Pictured is a drawing of how a new condominium project would be situated at the corner of Sandwich St. S. and Fort St. (Special to the RTT)

“This will be an apartment building that is in walking distance of most amenities,” said Fryer.

Deneau said most of the condominium units will likely sell in the mid-$200,000 range, adding that it has been over 15 years since such a development came along. He added they are not sure of timelines just yet but they have already had interest.

About eight to ten of the 24 units are “somewhat committed already,” Deneau said, even though they haven’t officially gone to market with the project yet.

“The town is ready to explode,” said Deneau. “This will allow people to live right downtown. We weren’t even talking about it and we’ve got this much interest.”

“It appeals to the retirees, in my estimation, and younger couples as well,” added Capaldi.

If approved and built, the condominiums would each feature two bedrooms and two baths.

Town council, business owners participate in workshops on Community Improvement Plan



By Ron Giofu


The Town of Amherstburg and its partners from Monteith Brown Planning Consultants held workshops last week where people got a chance to give input towards the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) and urban design guidelines.

The workshops were held at the Libro Centre March 5 with business owners invited during the afternoon session while town council received an opportunity to participate during a late-afternoon meeting.

A series of questions were put to the participants with those involved asked to brainstorm answers. Questions included what is most important to you in the downtown core and what is missing, what is the biggest opportunity to attract visitors, what are the biggest challenges for attracting businesses to Amherstburg, how can the town improve its street facades and how to incorporate heritage into designs.

Members of town council and administration discuss the Community Improvement Plan (CIP) and urban design guidelines during a workshop held at the Libro Centre last Monday night.

Answers ranged from the obvious – the need for a hotel – with others including a desire for increased accessibility, downtown Wi-Fi, more parking, better traffic flow, transportation and a more accessible waterfront.

Manager of planning services Rebecca Belanger said 60 businesses were invited to the afternoon session with 15 people showing up. At the session with council a few hours later, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and councillors Leo Meloche, Diane Pouget and Rick Fryer joined members of administration in participating in the sessions.

There were some council members concerned the study didn’t go far enough.

Fryer said “you need to look at other areas rather than the downtown,” believing more attention should be paid to smaller hamlets. Meloche said having a busy downtown core is important but so too are the other areas of town.

“Building a vibrant downtown core will lead to trickling into other areas,” said Meloche.

Consultant Michael Clarke from Monteith Brown Planning Consultants listens to some of the conversations.

Meloche added that other areas are sometimes “forgotten” and that more attention should be paid to them, but Pouget said the downtown was the mandate of this particular study. She said the next council may proceed with a larger project.

Belanger said policies in the town’s Official Plan direct how to go forward with the CIP and that if the town were to look at secondary settlement areas, it “may be a larger process” as amendments to the Official Plan might have to occur.

CAO John Miceli said businesses and developers will need to get on board when the plan is implemented. As for the Duffy’s property, he said it is at the environmental assessment (EA) stage now and that further development is included in the 2019 capital budget.

Town council votes to contract out policing services to Windsor


By Ron Giofu


In a decision that drew boos and catcalls from the audience, Amherstburg town council is switching its’ policing services to Windsor.

Town council voted 3-2 Monday night to enter into a 20-year contract with the Windsor Police Service in a meeting that lasted only about 30 minutes. Voting in favour were Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and councillors Leo Meloche and Rick Fryer.

Councillors Joan Courtney and Jason Lavigne were opposed.

Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and Councillor Diane Pouget did not vote due to being in conflict. Pouget was there in person, declaring conflict due to her son-in-law being a member of the Windsor Police Service while DiPasquale was absent from the meeting.

DiCarlo said that “we’ve hit the second last stage of the process,” noting that the switch from the Amherstburg Police Service to the Windsor Police Service still has to be approved by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC). That could come by 2019, when the contract with Windsor is due to begin.

“Obviously, some things are going to hinge on the approval of the province,” the mayor stated.

The switch is believed to amount to over $567,000 in annual savings but DiCarlo said that could amount to $18-20 million over 20 years, including the long-term post-retirement benefits that Windsor taxpayers will now absorb.

DiCarlo said he heard from many residents that wanted to switch to Windsor and for the town to save money on policing. Cost savings and cost containment were the reasons he said he voted in favour of the switch, noting Windsor committed to cost parity and the savings “could actually go up” in the future.

A report from CAO John Miceli stated: “The Windsor Police will guarantee cost parity will exist between the annual operating budget of the Windsor Police Service and the cost of contract policing the Town of Amherstburg. This guarantee of budgetary parity would commence in year six and be honoured throughout the twenty year commitment for policing services, subject to renewal every five years.”

Many decisions the town makes are now looked at not just for the immediate future, but for 15-20 years down the road, the mayor said.

Acknowledging that he fielded threats from the public that warned they would not vote for him if he voted to switch, DiCarlo said he has never voted on an issue just to win votes regardless of what position he was in.

“I can honestly say I’ve never voted with the intent of getting re-elected,” he said.

While Windsor police will provide a wide array of services for free, DiCarlo said the OPP has changed their billing model and there was concern that the Amherstburg Police Service could start getting billed in the future if OPP services were needed.

“This was a couple of municipalities that saw the benefits for both of us,” he said of Windsor and Amherstburg. “For Amherstburg, we get the same level of policing for less money.”

DiCarlo balked when asked if this could lead to regional policing in Windsor-Essex County, but said he has heard that other municipalities in the area are “watching to see what happens.”

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo speaks to the media after the Feb. 26 vote that saw council vote 3-2 to contract policing services to Windsor. DiCarlo and councillors Leo Meloche and Rick Fryer were in favor. Voting in opposition were Councillor Jason Lavigne and Councillor Joan Courtney.

Lavigne said the issue has “consumed quite a bit of our lives” from both a council and administration perspective to the public point of view as well.

“It’s been a very difficult decision to have been placed on our shoulders,” he said. “I’ll respect the decision of council. I won’t criticize it.”

Stating that administration “did a good job” and calling the Windsor police proposal “sound,” Lavigne said he was opposed to switching because he didn’t hear from very many people who supported it. He said people want to keep the Amherstburg Police Service and he was going to listen to them.

“I was put here because of the people in the community,” said Lavigne. “People can claim silent majorities all they want to. The majority of people are saying to me that they don’t care about the costs, they want to support their local police.”

Lavigne said the town has spent money on property acquisitions and new hires this term but want to save money in the area of policing. Acknowledging he has been accused of bias because he is on the Amherstburg Police Services Board, he added that Amherstburg police is efficient and the community is safe.

“(The public) has told me they are comfortable with what we have,” said Lavigne.

Meloche said a lot of communities are struggling with police costs and he took the approach that the town’s financial sustainability has to be considered.

“That’s the direction I took,” said Meloche.

Pointing out the town’s status as one of the safest in Canada, Meloche said that isn’t just about the police department.

“We have the safest community in Canada, and no disrespect to the police, it’s because of the people here,” said Meloche, drawing boos and moans from the crowd. “Don’t sell ourselves short. We’re law-abiding, safe people.”

Courtney said she had to be “true to myself” and said she considered the issue carefully.

“I vowed I would listen to the people,” said Courtney.

Most of the comments Courtney said she heard were “we want to keep our local police service” and that was the “overwhelming message” she received.

“Do I think it’s a good contract? Yes, I do,” she said of the Windsor police proposal. “Will it save money? Yes, it will.”

Courtney said she would respect the decision and believed Amherstburg will continue to be a “vibrant” town.

Finances were at the forefront of Fryer’s comments.

“We do have fiduciary responsibilities as a council,” Fryer stated.

Fryer said it was “a great contract for the town,” and pointed out the issue dates back to one of council’s first meetings of the term. The town has reduced its debt, he noted, and believed switching will be the right road for the future.

There were only two delegations at the meeting, the first being from Neil Stewart. Stewart had concerns over HST cost and the fact that the recommendation from administration grew from what was thought to be a five-year proposal to a 20-year proposal.

Miceli said he was tasked with getting costs over a 10, 15 and 20-year period and stated that direction came as a result of the four public meetings with some concerned over savings over just a five-year period.

“I find it hard to believe those figures could come up in the last one, two or three weeks,” said Stewart. “It’s hard to believe that happened.”

“I’m sorry if you don’t believe that but that’s what happened,” said Miceli.

Stewart added his belief those costs should have been made public much sooner.

“I don’t believe we’ve been given the full facts,” he believed.

DiCarlo said the timing of the costings was what it was and there was no attempt to “sweeten” the deal to push it through.

Stewart also questioned the cost per capita, noting Windsor police is $480 per person and Amherstburg is $270. Miceli said Amherstburg’s costs will go down with a switch and that Windsor’s costs are higher because of the additional services they provide.

Pat Simone, noting she was speaking for herself and not representing any committee or board she is on, believed the decision should be deferred until a human rights complaint the Windsor Police Service is currently involved with is resolved.

A female officer is accusing Windsor police of passing her over for promotions based on gender, and Simone said Amherstburg officers would follow Windsor police policies and procedures in the event of a switch.

“I’m not saying it’s a women’s issue, but it’s a human rights issue. It concerns men and women,” said Simone.

After the meeting, residents were upset with council’s decision.

Jen Ozyer said the decision was simply about cost, and she questioned if it would improve the town.

“It’s not about making things better. How is it making it better?” she asked.

Trudy Dempsey said she was “really, really upset” with council’s decision.

“I really don’t think they took everything into consideration, all the meetings that people came to and said ‘no,” she said. “They already decided this long before tonight. That’s exactly how I see it.”

George Kritiotis noted it was one step in the process, noting the matter still has to be approved by the OCPC. He suggested the fight wasn’t over.

“That’s who makes the final decision,” he said.

A petition is at several local businesses and “I think there is a significant amount of people who are against it,” said Kritiotis. He added the fact Windsor and Amherstburg don’t share a border could work in the favour of those opposed to a switch.

“This is not a done deal,” said Kritiotis, adding that opponents may also bring up that it wasn’t a full council that voted.

Const. Shawn McCurdy, president of the Amherstburg Police Association, said the process has been stressful but that they will honour the decision.

“I’m still a little shocked about the decision,” said McCurdy.

McCurdy said the job of the association is to protect its members and they did that the best way they could.

“I can assure you the men and women with the Amherstburg Police Service will continue to do their jobs,” he said. “It’s a council decision.”

The association has no choice but to accept the decision, he conceded, adding that officers took an oath and they will continue to honour that oath.

Moving forward, the association will negotiate any severance payments that may be owed and continue to work on behalf of its members and the residents.

During the four public meetings on the subject, in which the majority of residents stated they favoured keeping Amherstburg police, Miceli noted that 23 per cent of the town’s budget is tied up in police costs.

The Windsor police proposal called for administering existing staff in existing organizational units, the continuation of service delivery, existing Amherstburg officers and staff “working exclusively” for Amherstburg, the town being able to keep the existing Amherstburg police station, and local officers continuing to respond to all calls for service.

While there was anger and disappointment from many in the public locally last night, town council’s decision was endorsed by Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkins.

“Way to go Amherstburg!” Dilkins stated on his Twitter account Monday night. “We look forward to providing enhanced policing services while saving the Town a lot of money. Your foresight is a win-win for residents in both of our municipalities.”


Fryer’s attempt to discuss busing in bad weather with officials fails



By Ron Giofu


Councillor Rick Fryer was vocal over the past week about the decision last Wednesday to have buses run in snowy weather.

His attempt to bring student transportation officials before council for some questions, however, failed.

Fryer said the decision to run the buses “should not have been made” and that he was disappointed that his town council colleagues didn’t agree with his request.

“It’s a decision of council and I’ll have to live with it,” he said after the meeting.

Fryer also had questions over the timing of busing announcements, noting that decisions are made many times around 6:20 a.m. and that can “cause havoc” with families who may have to make alternate arrangements. He pointed out a decision was made earlier last Friday when that winter storm rolled through.

A school bus sits on its side after going in the ditch Feb. 7. Councillor Rick Fryer has questioned why the buses were allowed to run that day. (Submitted photo)

Multiple buses went into the ditch last Wednesday and Fryer believed others would be feeling differently if someone had been injured.

Councillor Joan Courtney, a former Catholic school board trustee, said there are spotters in all parts of the county. She noted that weather conditions could be different in various parts of Essex County and that parents could be upset if a decision is made based on weather conditions they may not be experiencing in their area.

“It’s a very difficult call to make,” she said.

Councillor Jason Lavigne said it wasn’t town council’s issue, noting school boards don’t have town officials at their meetings questioning town decisions.

“I’m not on the school board, I’m on town council,” said Lavigne. “I don’t feel pulling them here for an inquisition is in our best interests or theirs.”

“I agree with Councillor Lavigne,” said Councillor Leo Meloche. “It’s not our decision.”

Councillor Diane Pouget agreed with Fryer, stating safety is a concern and that the goal was to see if there was a better way to make busing decisions. She said the goal would not have been to chastise anyone, but to have a discussion on the matter.

Town passes new open burn bylaw



By Ron Giofu


A process that resulted in three public meetings late last summer has concluded with a newly passed open burn bylaw.

Town council passed the new open burn bylaw thanks to a 5-1 vote Monday night. Fire chief Bruce Montone said the bylaw is “reasonably close” to what was presented last year.

Voting in favour of the new bylaw was Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and councillors Jason Lavigne, Rick Fryer, Joan Courtney and Leo Meloche. Councillor Diane Pouget was opposed while Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale was not at Monday night’s meeting.

Properties will have to be inspected before a permit is granted. The bylaw also contains other provisions depending on the type of fire set, the setting (urban vs. rural) or if a device such as an outdoor fireplace or chiminea is being used. Montone said firefighters will assess each lot before a permit is granted and that an inspection has to be passed before a permit is issued. Some lots may be too small for a campfire but that will be determined through inspection.

“The biggest challenge we had in the community were bonfires,” he said.

A frequent request was to have small campfires so that people could enjoy each others’ company and enjoy outdoor cooking, he added, though noting all fires have to be properly extinguished and will not be allowed to burn out on its own.

A hotline will be established so that people can call in and see if they can have a fire that day, he noted, with the Amherstburg Alert system being another way to notify residents.

“I’m hoping we found a happy medium between those in the community who wanted open burns and those were against it,” said Montone.

Another challenge will be the volume of inspections in the first year, he noted, though that is expected to subside in subsequent years. Upwards of 1,000 people could ask for a permit, he estimated.

DiCarlo said the bylaw was very well thought out and said it won’t amount to Amherstburg being a “pollution zone” as not every resident will be eligible for open burns will be allowed to do it or will want to have a fire.

“It will come down to a property by property basis,” the mayor stated. “There will be things to learn. Now we have put the fire department in a position to educate people.”

Pouget voiced numerous concerns, including the possibility that smoke could infringe on other people’s property and negatively impact seniors, children and those with disabilities.

“(Smoke) contains many of the same toxins as tobacco smoke,” she said. “I can’t play Russian roulette with the health and safety of our residents.”

The bylaw could also “pit neighbour against neighbour,” she believed, as some neighbours won’t be able to have a fire while others will depending on their lot size.

“It will tax our fire department’s resources,” she added.

Courtney admitted she was on the fence until speaking with Montone earlier in the day Monday but was satisfied with what she heard. Fryer said outdoor fires can do such things as uplift a person’s spirit and provide “joyful experiences,” adding that ancestors spent years cooking over open fire.

“Many of us experience more smoke over a barbecue or a stove than a campfire,” added Meloche. “Education is going to be a big part of how you manage smoke from campfires.”