John Miceli

Ideas floated for what to do with the Belle Vue property

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg held the first of two public consultation meetings regarding the Belle Vue property last week with several ideas floated around on what to do with it.

About 20 people attended last Tuesday night’s meeting at the Libro Centre, many of whom are members of the Belle Vue Conservancy. The conservancy is fundraising for the restoration of the property that the town purchased in 2016.

Robert Honor, a local historian and member of the Belle Vue Conservancy, outlined the history of the 200-year-old Dalhousie St. mansion from when it was built by the Reynolds family to its various private owners and its stints as a veterans’ home and as St. Nicholas Ukrainian Church.

Town treasurer Justin Rousseau said the conservancy has been busy with fundraisers since it was formed.

“There’s always a campaign going on,” he said.

An image of what a restored Belle Vue would look like, according to renderings by Architectura.

The money the Belle Vue Conservancy raises is then given to the Town of Amherstburg with Rousseau stating that cash donations as of last Tuesday’s meeting were at $210,000 with another $65,000 of committed contributions. There are also $18,000 in in-kind contributions for an overall total of $292,000.

“The fundraising efforts have been very good,” said Rousseau.

The fundraising has helped offset costs of the new roof that is currently being installed, he noted, adding the town is also working to find grant opportunities.

The meeting turned into a question-and-answer period with CAO John Miceli, with Miceli calling the roof “a great first step” in the restoration process.

“We’ve got really good momentum,” he said. “We don’t want to lose that.”

The CAO added “the conservancy has done a tremendous job raising money.”

Miceli called Belle Vue an important piece of the town’s tourism industry going forward.

“It is going to be one of the catalysts of the tourism industry. I strongly believe that,” he said.

A proposed look at what the Belle Vue property would look like.

A restored Belle Vue will not just benefit Amherstburg, Miceli continued, but will be a boost to the region as a whole.

“I view Belle Vue as a regional property,” he said. “It’s not just an Amherstburg property, it’s a regional property. It’s a property that belongs to the entire region.”

What the property is going to be used for is still open for debate, though Miceli said the main comments he has heard are to use the building as a conference centre.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be driven by the community,” stated Miceli.

The chief administrative officer envisioned Belle Vue as a “tremendous opportunity” and one that will surpass another property he was responsible for when he was the director of parks and recreation for the City of Windsor.

“In my opinion, it will blow Willistead (Manor) out of the water,” he boasted.

Michael Prue, treasurer of the Belle Vue Conservancy, spoke in favour of a conference centre concept. He said the home is in relatively close proximity to the town’s downtown core and believed a conference centre would be a draw for the community and bring economic development.

Other ideas included themed boardrooms on Belle Vue’s upper levels, having horse-drawn carriage rides at the site, a greenhouse so the town can grow its own plant materials and hold plant sales, a café with caterers on site to prepare food, a seniors’ home and some botanical gardens.

Miceli said he envisions transforming the garage into a kitchen facility.

The potential gardens that could go behind Belle Vue are depicted in this rendering.

“I just don’t think we should be doing that inside the home,” he said. “These are just my thoughts. You don’t have to agree with me.”

Anne Rota, manager of tourism and culture for the town, said her research shows that tall ships and botanical gardens are top attractions for visitors in North America.

Paul Hertel, whose work with the Belle Vue Conservancy has included research into its time as a veterans’ home, said he has no problem with the conference centre idea as long as the public interest is protected. He also said the proximity to Iler Creek could enhance eco-tourism in the area.

Hertel believed a refurbished Belle Vue would enhance the “southern gateway” to Amherstburg.

Historian Robert Honor speaks at a May 29 public meeting regarding potential uses for the Belle Vue property.

The town purchased the site for $1.1 million and a $200,000 donation receipt with the town paying $100,000 down and $200,000 per year over a five-year period on an interest-free mortgage. Cost estimates have ranged from $2-3 million to restore the building itself with restoration of the entire 8.6-acre property estimated at upwards of $9 million.

The second Belle Vue meeting is Tuesday, June 5 at 6 p.m., also at the Libro Centre

Town places moratorium on future signage due to pending urban design guidelines

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A pair of local realtors got their signage request approved, but no more bylaw exemptions will be considered until the town’s urban design guidelines come to council.

Brad Bondy and Amy Bailey from Remax Preferred Realty appeared before town council with regards to a signage request for 103 Sandwich St. S. where their business name will also appear with Amherstburg Flowers & Gifts. However, town council requested that he work within the urban design guidelines and later passed a moratorium on any future signs from anyone else until the design guidelines are finalized.

CAO John Miceli said he wanted the moratorium so that council would have all the information from the guidelines, something a consultant is currently crafting.

“I wanted to make sure we took it into consideration with everything,” he said of the signage request. “All I’m asking for is a moratorium not to make a decision until we have urban design guidelines.”

Miceli added the goal of the urban design guidelines is to give Amherstburg a “sense of place” and that signs should have the “look and feel of the community we are trying to create.”

Councillor Leo Meloche questioned whether the business community should be consulted about types of signage but Miceli said efforts were made with only 20 of 211 businesses coming out to meetings.

“To be quite honest, we’ve had poor representation from the business community,” he said.

Councillor Diane Pouget agreed with the moratorium, saying the town spent “a lot of money” for a consultant to create the guidelines. She added past signage have created potential legal issues.

“Council has been cautioned several times by legal regarding signage and how it is distracting to drivers,” she said.

However, Councillor Rick Fryer reminded council that Bondy and Bailey’s request came before council at the May 14 meeting and was deferred due to council wanting more information.

“If Mr. Bondy was here, it would have been dealt with two weeks ago,” said Fryer.

Councillor Joan Courtney agreed with Fryer in that the matter would have been dealt with May 14 if Bondy had been asked to attend the meeting. She believed it would be unfair to Bondy and Bailey to put a moratorium in place before dealing with their sign request “but it should end here.”

Courtney said future requests should be subject to the moratorium.

Bondy indicated they are willing to work with the town.

“We’re willing to do what you guys want us to do,” he told town council.

Bondy added the proposed sign is attractive.

“It’s nothing grotesque,” he said. “It’s neat, it’s clean, it’s simple.”

Pouget said the town is trying to eliminate sign pollution and that if exemptions keep getting granted, it “defeats the purpose” of trying to come up with urban design guidelines.

Miceli said a report on urban design guidelines could come before town council in July.

“It’s about creating a sense of place in Amherstburg,” he emphasized. “It’s not about preventing signs.”

The area covered by the moratorium stretches from Texas Road to Lowes Side Road and from Meloche Road to the water’s edge.

Town moving forward with fast-food development

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The process to bring a new drive-thru fast food location to Amherstburg was moved forward by town council, but it appears there are issues that have to be resolved with the restaurant’s potential neighbours.

A special meeting of council was held last Thursday evening with the bylaws moved forward and that meeting and subsequently passed Monday night allowed for the Official Plan and zoning bylaw to be amended to allow for the fast food restaurant – identified as a Wendy’s – but while a draft site plan was shown to council and included on the public agenda package, that process has yet to be finalized.

The site plan process will likely involve Sobeys, which sits on the same parcel of land, as concerns were raised by representatives of the grocery store.

Joe Mikhail, whose company owns the 4.58-acre site at 83 Sandwich St. S., said he was glad to be back in Amherstburg but questioned Sobeys’ concerns.

“We haven’t been in these chambers for quite some time,” Mikhail remarked at last Thursday’s meeting. “We used to call it the chamber of horrors. We’re happy to be back. We want to do a lot more. This is just the beginning.”

Larger projects could follow, Mikhail suggested, and told town council “I think you will be pleased with what I bring to Amherstburg.”

Sobeys is “guided by our lease with them,” said Mikhail and that he was surprised to learn of the grocery chain’s concerns.

Councillor Rick Fryer had concerns over traffic but also welcomed the development to town.

“Welcome back,” Fryer told Mikhail. “Our mayor, CAO, staff and council have been open-minded about moving the town forward.”

The design of Wendy’s, which was approved by the heritage committee, is something Fryer believed is consistent with other locations across the province.

“Wendy’s always seem to be heritage-looking buildings,” he said.

Fryer believed it was a “huge opportunity for Sobeys” as well. Rennie Rota, owner of the local Sobeys franchise, said he approves of development but did voice concerns.

“I, too, am excited about development in Amherstburg,” he said. “I’ve been one of the biggest cheerleaders for development in Amherstburg.”
Rota said that Sobeys didn’t see the draft site plan until last Tuesday, two days before the public meeting.

“We at Sobeys had no time to do our due diligence,” he said.

Concerns for Sobeys raised last Thursday involved entrance and exit access, potential for conflicts with “daily loading operations” and the parking space reduction. Rota said he was disappointed that Mikhail didn’t approach them sooner.

“I know Toronto is very disappointed as well,” he said.

The process to bring a Wendy’s fast food restaurant to Amherstburg cleared an initial hurdle as council approved the concept of allowing a drive-thru at the proposed 83 Sandwich St. S. site. The image, included on the town’s agenda package for last Thursday’s meeting, shows the proposed design.

Sobeys wants time to look at the proposed site plan and have input, Rota added.

Manager of planning services Rebecca Belanger said the meeting was simply to move the concept of having drive-thru restaurants at that location forward and that “the final site plan can be amended.”

“I’m very excited about your proposal,” said Councillor Diane Pouget, “but we have to keep our people safe and we want our existing businesses to prosper.”

In addition to wanting to have Rota’s concerns dealt with, Pouget had other concerns she wanted to have addressed. Pouget wondered what will happen when General Amherst High School moves, noting there will be a lot fewer people activating the stop light at the crosswalk in front of the school. She wondered what that would mean for traffic at the Sandwich St. S.-Fort St. intersection.

“That’s going to be a very, very busy intersection,” she said.

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin told town council that there are “a number of things to prepare for” when the school moves to its Centennial Park location in a few years.

“I think the school leaving is going to create a different traffic pattern in town,” he said.

Mikhail said he tried to call Sobeys head office 15 times but didn’t get a call returned.

“For them to come in and cry wolf that they didn’t see it, they are crying big wolf tears,” said Mikhail. “We followed the rules. We gave them notice. It was in the paper. We did everything (the town) said we have to do. We will work with Sobeys if they will pick up the phone and talk to us.”

“Mr. Mikhail knows me very well. He has my phone number,” responded Rota. “If he wasn’t getting a response from Toronto, he has my cell phone and knows I am in the store pretty much every day of the week.”

Fryer said there will be more opportunities to “hash this out” and that last Thursday’s meeting was “just a stepping stone” along the way.

“We’ll work out the logistics later on,” he said.

Councillor Leo Meloche said it was a great development but hoped the proponents of the new Wendy’s and Sobeys could work out their differences. Meloche said he was concerned about town council having to “play referee” in the process.

Another issue was raised Monday night by Sobeys, with Rota indicating that while Sobeys is not opposed to the drive-thru restaurant on the site, they are “very concerned” wit the site plan proposed. He told town council Monday night that Amherstburg has “exploded” with development and that the traffic study used in the process dated back to 2001.

Pouget said 17 years “is too long for a traffic study” and questioned whether costs, should a stop light at Fort St. and Sandwich St. S. be necessary, be paid for by surrounding developers and not the ratepayers.

Manager of planning services Rebecca Belanger said the traffic study took into account if the Sobeys were to expand by 9,000 square feet and that the proposed Wendy’s is 2,200 square feet. Jeff Belanger, a consultant for Mikhail Holdings, indicated the traffic study is for the site itself and should not be looked at in terms of years but the size of the development. He said the study looked at a usage larger than what is currently there.

CAO John Miceli stated that Rebecca and Jeff Belanger are not related. He also cautioned council about getting in the middle of issues between a landlord and a tenant and said the site plan issues are between Sobeys and Mikhail Holdings.

“In my opinion, we are going town a slippery slope if we get involved with landlord-tenant issues,” he said. “We’re putting things way ahead of the cart. They can’t finalize the site plan until we give them the zoning.”

Town gathering input on new parks master plan

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s process towards a new parks master plan continued last week.

Part of the process was a public meeting last Wednesday night at the Libro Centre, which manager of planning services Rebecca Belanger said drew about 30 people. Belanger said consultants Steve Langlois and Joannah Campbell went over the process and the recommendations that are in the report.

In all, there are 71 recommendations. Some deal with upgrades and expanded services at some parks, while other recommendations deal with how repairs and maintenance should be funded.

Among the recommendations are adding baseball diamonds to the Libro Centre, adding a soccer shelter to the Libro Centre, remove deteriorated backstops at Anderdon and Warren Mickle Parks, investigate outdoor fitness equipment at an existing park, upgrade playground surfacing to meet current accessibility standards, continue to replace traditional playground equipment with “creative and challenging” play structures and providing playgrounds within 500 metres of residents within urban areas.

The replacement of the track at Centennial Park is not recommended.

“The plan has provided an audit of the condition of all of our parks,” Belanger told the RTT Thursday morning. “It maps out the locations and comes forward with over 70 recommendations.”

Moving more sports fields and features to the Libro Centre is a possibility under the plan, she stated, with additional amenities to possibly include a second splash pad, basketball courts and a relocated skateboard park.

Belanger noted that “there are recommendations that are park specific but there are overarching recommendations also.”

Under the plan, parks would be classified as destination, athletic, leisure, heritage, civic, natural and linear, the latter including trails and greenways. A natural park is described as municipal open space and “natural properties used for conservation and passive recreational activities.”

A public survey was taken with 120 responses, Belanger added, and there were six organizations that were met with. There are opportunities for redevelopment of existing assets, she continued.

Belanger said the full draft of the parks master plan is on both the town’s website and the town’s “Talk the ‘Burg” site and public feedback is encouraged. The town hopes to have people respond by May 23 with a final draft plan to go before town council June 11.

Consultants from Monteith Brown Planning Consultants conduct a public meeting May 9 at the Libro Centre regarding the draft parks master plan. (Submitted photo)

There are also recommendations that deal with the Belle Vue property and the former Duffy’s location, but Belanger noted there will be more public consultation on those projects.

Pertaining to Belle Vue, the town is hosting two public consultation meetings on consecutive Tuesday nights regarding the future of the Dalhousie St. property. Those meetings “will be held to assess future opportunities, identify potential uses and solicit public input on proposed concepts for the renowned heritage site.”

The Belle Vue meetings are May 29 and June 5 at the Libro Centre, both scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

Councillor Diane Pouget brought up the future of Centennial Park at Monday night’s council meeting, specifically the 12 acres that was not purchased by the Greater Essex County District School Board for the new public high school.

According to Pouget, the park was removed from the town’s inventory of parkland and questioned

agreements with the public school board to use the site. She also pointed out the park is named for former mayor Murray Smith, calling him “a great mayor” and stating he made many contributions towards the park’s development.

CAO John Miceli and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo disagreed with Pouget’s assessment of the status of the 12 acres. Although listed as “N/A” in the study, Miceli said when the draft plan was being written, it was not known by the consultants how much of the park would be sold.

“It does not mean it has been removed,” said Miceli, adding that council wants “opportunities” for the site explored.

Miceli doubted the public board would challenge the previous agreement about park usage, since the board is the purchaser of the adjoining lands, adding that a football field is no longer planned for the remaining acres anyway.

Pouget pressed on, stating the public has a right to know what is going on with that land and whether the town is going to get rid of it. Miceli repeated that nothing has been removed from the town’s parks inventory and that “it’s always up to council to do something with parkland. If anything does happen with the 12 acres, council will make that decision and make a responsible decision.”

DiCarlo questioned how many past bylaws Pouget was going to read, adding that issues surrounding the 12 acres was addressed in-camera.

“It will be addressed by council at a later date,” the mayor said of the 12 acres, adding Pouget was starting to get into issues that were discussed in-camera.

Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic approved for Amherstburg

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The nurse practitioner-led clinic that is likely to be moving into the former St. Bernard School is one step closer to reality.

The clinic has received official approval from the province and will be part of the seniors’ hub that is planned for the former Richmond St. school. The Town of Amherstburg recently announced it will purchase the school building from the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board for $550,000.

In a letter from Essex County Nurse Practitioner-led Clinic executive director Pauline Gemmell to CAO John Miceli that was included as part of Monday night’s agenda, Gemmell advised of the approval.

“I am very pleased to share with you that on April 30, 2018 I received notification from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that the application to expand access to lnterprofessional Primary Care Teams to the community of Amherstburg was approved,” Gemmell wrote. “Through this expansion, the Essex County Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic is committed to providing services to the unattached patient population in the town of Amherstburg with a focus on patients that are at risk of prevalence of chronic disease or frail/elderly.”

Gemmell said the Amherstburg clinic will have three full-time nurse practitioners, a registered dietitian, a health promoter, physiotherapy services, a full-time registered practical nurse, an office administrator and a full-time receptionist

“This team will target 2,400 patients,” she said.

The Essex County Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic in Essex is expanding to Amherstburg. The province has approved a clinic and it is expected to locate in the former St. Bernard School.

Gemmell told the RTT that “this story began last August when Caroline Davies, a nurse practitioner in the community suggested that I should consider bringing service to the town. I had several conversations with the CAO of the town John Miceli and the business case was written with input from the community. We held several town hall type meetings bringing our team to Amherstburg to respond to questions and provide information. We were joined at these meetings by our board of directors president Michael Lavoie, our Clinical Lead Nurse Practitioner Kate Bolohan, Miceli and Amherstburg nurse practitioner Caroline Davies.”

At a public meeting in March, Miceli told residents that the aim is to have the clinic open later in 2018 or by early 2019 and the clinic would take up about 4,300 square feet of the roughly 30,000 square St. Bernard School building. Kate Bolohan, a nurse practitioner and clinical lead at the Essex County clinic, said at the same meeting that appointments are roughly 15-30 minutes in length and can involve other health professionals to help treat the needs of the specific patient.

There are roughly 25 in the province with NP-led clinics within the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) currently being in Essex, Lakeshore and Sarnia. The Essex County Nurse-Led Practitioner Clinic also operates an “outreach site” on Drouillard Road in Windsor.

“I think people will be really happy with the service,” said Gemmell.