John Miceli

Councillor questions process in putting up Belle Vue signage

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The recently-installed sign at the Amherstburg library promoting the Belle Vue Conservancy’s fundraising request has drawn questions from a member of council.

Councillor Leo Meloche brought up the issue during the March 20 town council meeting and questioned the process of how the sign was installed.

“The Belle Vue Conservancy is an independent, non-profit organization that should have had to go through the process to have the sign put up,” said Meloche.

Meloche stated he was not opposed to the sign itself, and added he has participated in the fundraising process with a donation. What he questioned was how the decision was arrived at to erect the sign and didn’t believe the method used to put it up complied with what is written in the bylaw.

“I’m looking for fairness in the process,” said Meloche.

CAO John Miceli said the Belle Vue Conservancy is fundraising on behalf of the town of Amherstburg for a town-owned building, adding the municipality is exempt from its own bylaw.

“The long and the short of it is, the Belle Vue Conservancy is raising money for town property,” Miceli said.

Miceli said town council had the option of having the sign removed and having the conservancy go through the process, but no further direction was given.

A sign promoting the Belle Vue Conservancy’s campaign on the Amherstburg library’s property at Richmond St. and Sandwich St. S. was a cause for concern at the most recent regular meeting of town council. The process to put it up was of particular concern.

A sign promoting the Belle Vue Conservancy’s campaign on the Amherstburg library’s property at Richmond St. and Sandwich St. S. was a cause for concern at the most recent regular meeting of town council. The process to put it up was of particular concern.

Meloche wondered if another non-profit agency wanted to do something like put up a swing-set in a park, would they be afforded the same privilege for a sign since that is for public benefit like the Belle Vue property restorations.

The debate on the Belle Vue sign came a short time after the Amherstburg Rotary Club was refused relief to the sign bylaw to promote Ribfest, which is scheduled for July 7-9. The Rotary Club wanted to have the ability to put up their signs for 28 days and be allowed to put up mobile road signs and wire push-in signs during that period on commercial and residential properties but the town will stick with its 14-day limit with no portable signs and event signs only allowed in front of commercial property.

The Belle Vue Conservancy has come to council, with the town agreeing, to partner with them on fundraising initiatives, Miceli added. He said the Ribfest was different in the sense that the town doesn’t dictate where the money goes whereas they do dictate where the $1 million they are trying to raise for Belle Vue will go.

“I think the argument is a little bit different,” said Miceli. “Even with non-profit groups, we don’t dictate where the funds go.”

Miceli pointed out the town holds the money collected by the Belle Vue Conservancy, something confirmed by director of corporate services/treasurer Justin Rousseau. Rousseau noted that the money is held by the Amherstburg Community Foundation, the charitable arm of the town.

The benefit of what the Belle Vue Conservancy and their fundraising efforts were not something Meloche said he had any argument with but noted he didn’t want the town to be seen as acting unfairly.

“I want us perceived as fair to every organization in town and every individual in this town,” said Meloche.

Nature and wildlife enthusiast presses council for answers

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A local resident and wildlife enthusiast returned to town council at its most recent meeting and pressed elected officials to try and do more to protect an area of the Big Creek watershed.

Greg Nemeth wants town council to take a greater role in protecting the area north of Alma St., with Nemeth showing the vast number of species he has photographed in that area. His delegation was slow to get off the ground, after a brief dispute with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo over the time he was going to be permitted. Nemeth believed the area was worthy of being a provincial park and that he was trying to help protect the habitat of the area “and you can’t give me five minutes,” he told DiCarlo, believing his delegation would take slightly longer than the five minutes DiCarlo was providing.

DiCarlo said the town has shown support for Nemeth and his requests. Once the time constraint issue was put behind them, Nemeth told council his belief that more should be done.

“If this area is done up right, this area could attract more people than Navy Yard Park,” he said.

Greg Nemeth addresses town council about the Big Creek watershed area north of Alma St. He wants additional protection given to the land noting the rare species that use the area.

Greg Nemeth addresses town council about the Big Creek watershed area north of Alma St. He wants additional protection given to the land noting the rare species that use the area.

Nemeth said it is an extremely important natural area and that more needs to be done to take care of it but DiCarlo said the town simply doesn’t have the jurisdiction to do what Nemeth was asking. Much of the land in question is privately owned and CAO John Miceli said it would either have to be purchased or expropriated to do what Nemeth is asking.

The mayor believed it to be a matter that the province should be looking at but Nemeth argued that a recommendation from council would go a long way.

“You guys have power. You don’t want to do it,” said Nemeth, with DiCarlo disagreeing with his statement.

“Do it, take the initiative,” Nemeth pressed, adding it wasn’t about him, but it was about saving the wildlife in that area.

Councillor Rick Fryer, who is the chair of the Essex Region Conservation Authority, said Nemeth needs to give his information to provincial agencies, adding it takes a long time to get ministries together. Miceli commented there is the potential for a meeting with the Ministry of Natural Resources in April, a meeting that would be eight months in the making.

DiCarlo thanked Nemeth for his passion and confirmed administration is actively trying to get a meeting with provincial officials.

Council agreed to allow Miceli to take a walk with Nemeth through the area and discuss their ideas further.

Building developers looking for relief from town’s development charges

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Developers of an affordable housing project proposed for Pickering Dr. are hopeful the town will give them some relief from development charges.

Steve Newman represented the group aiming to build an affordable housing apartment building at 182 Pickering Dr., a building that will be known as South Pointe Apartments. It would be a 32-unit apartment building for seniors and Newman said the roughly $170,000 in relief from the town would help offset $300,000 in upgrades to the proposed building to make it more energy efficient.

Other municipalities assist in relieving or offsetting development charges and if Amherstburg were to do so, Newman believed it would send a “clear message” that the town is embracing affordable housing.

Newman stated that according to the central housing registry in Windsor, there are 3,504 people on the waiting list for affordable housing in the region with 520 – or 15 per cent – being in Amherstburg. Town council has asked administration to come back with a report on the subject including a development agreement incorporating the request.

Town hall signWEB

“We’re about to start construction. We’re in the design phase,” said Newman. “We hope to be open for business in a year.”
The proposed energy efficient additions are over and above the Ontario Building Code requirements, he said, as he and his partners are looking to provide a high quality of life for residents.

CAO John Miceli called Newman’s request “commendable,” noting that electricity is a key concern of many, including seniors

“They want to demonstrate to council they are going to offer further savings for the community if we help them offset the costs,” said Miceli.

Miceli called the 520 people in Amherstburg on the affordable housing list “staggering.”

Some councillors questioned how they would satisfy the request, with Councillor Leo Meloche suggesting a letter of credit for the value of the development charges. The letter of credit would be held until all conditions are satisfied, he offered, calling it a “safeguard” for taxpayers. Councillor Rick Fryer said there has to be a development agreement, with Newman replying the proponents would be prepared to give the town whatever assurances they would need.

Newman said the original plan for the site was for an apartment complex but they were originally denied an affordable housing project during an RFP process. An effort to turn the site into a condominium development was shelved with another application made during another round of affordable housing submissions, with the latter application being accepted.

Demolition firm authorized to bring down AMA Arena

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The AMA Arena will be coming down soon, with demolition likely to begin early next month.

The arena, located at 209 Victoria St. S., will be torn down by the Jones Group with town council agreeing to authorize the Jones Group Ltd. to complete the work in a 5-2 vote at the Feb. 13 meeting. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and councillors Jason Lavigne, Rick Fryer and Leo Meloche.

Total cost of the project was listed as $144,077 with the approved capital budget being $150,000.

Councillor Diane Pouget opposed the motion with Pouget having made an earlier motion that was defeated. Pouget was seeking further information including experience, pricing, methodology and any and all violations against the companies involved in the bidding

Pouget referred to the report from administration that was on that night’s agenda as “inadequate” and sought more information.

“We have nothing here but Jones Group coming in first,” said Pouget. “This is a very heavily populated area. We have to make sure the best group gets the job.”

Pouget added there were several concerns when the former École St.-Jean Baptiste building was torn down on Brock St.

Councillor Joan Courtney also opposed the motion and said there have been issues with the successful proponent in the past. She was concerned about crushing and removal of debris on site but CAO John Miceli said there will be no crushing on site and that it will be trucked away to an approved site.

Miceli noted the report ranks the bidders and noted it was an RFP and not a tender process. He said a committee evaluated experience, the proposed scope and methodology, price and timing.

The Jones Group has been authorized to tear down the AMA Arena. Demolition is expected to start in early March.

The Jones Group has been authorized to tear down the AMA Arena. Demolition is expected to start in early March.

The committee was made up of the manager of facilities, deputy fire chief, chief building official and the financial planning administrator.

Miceli said there was a $47,000 difference between the first and second place finishers and a $49,000 difference between the first and third place finisher. He said municipal bylaws will be followed during the demolition process.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo added he has not seen the level of detail Pouget was asking for in other similar projects.

“As long as I’ve been here, council has never received this level of detail,” said DiCarlo.

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin said the process used “has integrity” and the report “speaks for itself as to what was factored into the decision.”

Old ArenaWEB

Miceli added the current schedule calls for the demolition to begin in the first week of March and is expected to last seven to eight weeks.

“They could take less but that’s what we requested in the RFP,” said Miceli, who added the residents will be notified.

The AMA Arena was originally built in 1970. It was in operation until 2011 when the Libro Centre opened and was used in recent years for storage.

Hobbs lawsuit continuing against town

 

 

The lawsuit filed by Graham Hobbs against the town of Amherstburg is continuing despite the fact Hobbs has since passed away.

Hobbs was banned for one year from town hall and all other town property following an alleged incident at the Amherstburg Municipal Building Nov. 20, 2015. He subsequently filed the $100,000 lawsuit against the municipality.

Hobbs’ lawyer Anthony Leardi pressed the town for more information on why the banishment occurred, telling the RTT in Nov. 2015 that Hobbs “has never before had a problem with anyone at town hall nor has anyone had a problem with him. Receiving this notice, without any contact from anyone at town hall, took him completely by surprise. You’d think if people had a problem with Graham, they would talk to him and tell him there is a problem. Graham is attentive and willing to listen.”

Town hall sign

In that same article, CAO John Miceli said he acted on a complaint he received from a staff member. Miceli added the decision was made based on the town’s health and safety policy regarding to workplace harassment and didn’t feel it was fair to Hobbs or the complainant to divulge any further information publicly.

The River Town Times e-mailed both Leardi and Miceli last week to try and get an update with Miceli replying that a new date of July 17 has been set to continue the trial.

Hobbs died Jan. 2 at the age of 76.