Leo Meloche

Sidewalk snow removal gets passing grade from council members

 

 

By RTT Staff

 

The initial year of the town’s sidewalk snow removal program has received positive feedback from council members.

Councillor Rick Fryer, the liaison to the Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee, believe the program went well since it was initiated with the committee also being “very, very supportive” of the initiative.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo agreed, saying he also heard “very little negative feedback” on the sidewalk snow removal program. He noted it is a positive program for seniors and those with disabilities.

“It’s a welcome service,” added Councillor Leo Meloche.

(Photo taken from Town of Amherstburg advertisement)

(Photo taken from Town of Amherstburg advertisement)

However, it was noted that in some areas of Amherstburg, there was damage to some lawns as the snow removal machine chewed up strips of grass and dirt on residents’ properties.

CAO John Miceli pointed out the sidewalk snow removal project was a pilot project and said they will find ways to try and make it better. He urged the public to bear with the town and allow for further enhancements to be made.

The town agreed to institute the pilot project in January. In all, Amherstburg has 58 kilometers of public sidewalks with the goal being to allow the town to be in a better position to defend itself in case of liability.

The town had previously been clearing sidewalks along Front Road North while others areas were done on a complaint basis.

Economic Development Advisory Committee wants council to revisit Ribfest sign issue

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s economic development advisory committee plans to appear before council to ask that the issue of the Rotary Ribfest sign issue be revisited.

The Ribfest committee, which operates under the umbrella of the Rotary Club of Amherstburg, asked for an extension from 14 days to 28 days prior to their July 7-9 event to better promote the festival but were refused at the March 22 meeting. A motion from Councillor Leo Meloche that night failed to get a seconder.

Carl Gibb, Ribfest committee chair, appeared before the economic development committee and noted the signs “are very important to us” and used the example of the Rotary Club’s recent pasta dinner to show how important signs are to them.

Without a roadside sign, Gibb told the committee that attendance dropped.

Gibb said they would put up ten larger signs around the town in the past and took them down immediately after the event. The club currently cannot have the smaller push-in lawn signs erected on homeowners’ properties as well.

“These are not ugly signs. They are not bristol board with magic marker,” said Gibb. “We spent a lot of money on these signs.”

It was “amazing” to Gibb that the push-in lawn signs are not allowed on residential property. He added they could put up signs in other communities, but not Amherstburg until 14 days before the event.

“It’s frustrating. I don’t know what we are going to do,” said Gibb. “If attendance is down, we may go to another municipality.”

Members of the Rotary Ribfest Committee, an event that operates under the umbrella of the Amherstburg Rotary Club, are disappointed with the guidelines they have to operate under to comply with the sign bylaw. Town council upheld the current sign bylaw at the March 20 meeting.

Members of the Rotary Ribfest Committee, an event that operates under the umbrella of the Amherstburg Rotary Club, are disappointed with the guidelines they have to operate under to comply with the sign bylaw. Town council upheld the current sign bylaw at the March 20 meeting.

Gibb said that two weeks is “not enough” for people to be aware of an upcoming event. He said they are not trying to threaten council, but noted the committee puts a lot of time and effort planning the festival.

“If the numbers aren’t there, you can’t sustain it. That’s a fair statement and not a threat,” replied Meloche.

Manager of licensing and enforcement Nicole Rubli said that section of the bylaw has been in place since 2006. She noted the bylaw department is “complaint driven” and there were concerns about an abundance of signage last year with Communities in Bloom judges coming.

The town is participating in Communities in Bloom again this year. Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale pointed out that Communities in Bloom and Ribfest did not occur at the same time last year.

Rubli said there were also concerns about signs for multiple events being up simultaneously.

“Because the town is blessed with so many events, there could be a lot of signs up at one time essentially promoting six different events as timelines overlap,” she said.

Meloche believed such restrictions like the town has in place limits freedom of expression and believed it should be pointed out that the town risks losing Ribfest.

Carolyn Davies, president of the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce and that organization’s appointee to the committee, wondered if distance between signs could resolve the issue.

“Maybe it’s a matter of limiting the number of signs,” she said.

Economic Development Advisory Committee chair Bob Rozankovic said the issue at hand was the 14-day extension.

“I support the bylaw the way it is. I support its intent,” said Rozankovic, but said the spirit of the bylaw must also be considered.

“This bylaw does create opportunities for exemptions,” said Rozankovic.

Rozankovic believed any court in the land would uphold an exemption, particularly for a worthy cause.

Davies said there was little to do in Amherstburg when she arrived 20 years ago and “by 2006, we still didn’t have very much.” Things have changed since 2006 and she believed the bylaw needs more updating, particularly since the tourism component to Amherstburg has evolved.

“I think this bylaw is archaic,” said Davies. “It needs to be redeveloped. We’re dealing with a different era than when it was written in 2006.”

The committee, led by Rozankovic, plan to appear before town council April 24 regarding extending the period for Ribfest signs to 28 days.

The Ribfest is scheduled for July 7-9 at Centennial Park.

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.

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.

No relief for Rotary Club under town’s sign bylaw

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Members of the Amherstburg Rotary Club are disappointed after town council did not grant them any relief from the sign bylaw.

Three members, all of whom are also on the Rotary Ribfest committee, appeared before council asking that they be allowed to have mobile signs and signs on residential and commercial properties for a 28-day period prior to their eighth annual Ribfest, which is scheduled for July 7-9 this year. Ribfest committee chair Carl Gibb, Rotary president Laura George-Jurilj and Tony Ross appeared at Monday night’s meeting.

Currently, they can only put out signs 14 days in advance of their events and based on the lack of seconder for a motion by Councillor Leo Meloche asking for the 28-day period, those restrictions will stay in place. They are not allowed portable signs, with event signs only allowed on commercial properties.

“The Ribfest Committee is totally opposed to these regulations. They are too restrictive and they pose a problem in getting people to come to our event,” said Gibb.

Gibb said the Ribfest has not presented any problems and has brought thousands of people to Amherstburg.

“These signs that we put up are professionally made by a local business,” said Gibb. “Fourteen days is not long enough to properly advertise an event. It is a known fact that you have to pass a road sign three times to know what it actually says.”

The Rotary Club has spent “considerable money” in acquiring the signs “and now we cannot use them.” He said until last year, they have put up signs four weeks prior to the event and removed them the day after.

“Two years ago, we had 15,000 people. Last year, we had just over 10,000. Is this a result of your restrictions on our advertising? Quite likely, some of it,” said Gibb. “It is ironic that we can put up any of our signs in Harrow, Kingsville, Leamington, Cottam, Essex, Lakeshore, LaSalle and even Windsor. How many phone calls, how many complaints we’ve had? Zero.”

Members of the Rotary Ribfest Committee, an event that operates under the umbrella of the Amherstburg Rotary Club, are disappointed with the guidelines they have to operate under to comply with the sign bylaw. Town council upheld the current sign bylaw at the March 20 meeting.

Members of the Rotary Ribfest Committee, an event that operates under the umbrella of the Amherstburg Rotary Club, are disappointed with the guidelines they have to operate under to comply with the sign bylaw. Town council upheld the current sign bylaw at the March 20 meeting.

Gibb said some businesses told him they make more money in sales during the Ribfest weekend than any other summer weekend. Banners over Sandwich St. S. may not be as effective, Gibb added, as some may not drive past it.

“Why do you want to restrict residents from showing their support for our event,” he asked, “with no signs on residential property?”

Signs are also placed strategically in high traffic areas.

“You allow roofing, siding and renovation companies from out of town to advertise for weeks but we can’t do it once a year,” said Gibb. “I don’t understand your concerns.”

The committee works year-round on the event and Gibb also pointed out the investment the Rotary Club has made in Amherstburg including the Miracle League field. He said they are also planning on supplying carbon monoxide detectors to homes at little to no cost this spring to low income families

“We are presently contemplating another new project that the town desperately needs. An announcement could come shortly,” he added.

Meloche questioned only allowing two weeks for the Rotary Club to put out signs and believed they are restricting their cause. He believed it is not up to government to put such restrictions in place and the signs are “a cost effective way of advertising.”

Meloche even quoted Supreme Court of Canada cases in similar matters.

“As far as I’m concerned, we are, in effect, being restrictive,” said Meloche.

“I am totally opposed to this request,” said Councillor Diane Pouget, adding she did support the Rotary Club in general.

Pouget said they went through a sign bylaw updating process for two years, and said they would be going backwards if they started allowing amendments to it.

“I believe in keeping it the way it is,” said Pouget.

The Communities in Bloom judges that came to Amherstburg last year also commented on the “sign pollution” matter when they were here, she said.

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin said it is “a very difficult area of the law” and that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is an ever evolving area of the law.

Councillor Jason Lavigne said there were two years of discussion and public consultation on the sign bylaw and then suddenly after it passed, “all these concerns are coming up.” Manager of licensing and enforcement Nicole Rubli said the bylaw passed last year dealt with off-site portable signs and the bylaw that was being enforced in the Rotary Club’s case has been on the books since 2006.

“We do help,” Councillor Rick Fryer told the Rotary members, noting money is spent to help festivals advertise. “We are trying to help festivals as much as we can.”

George-Jurilj said they “are very disappointed by council’s decision in not working with us. The fact that this law has been in place since 2006 and never enforced until 2016 goes to show it has not been a real cause for concern for many of the residents in Amherstburg.”

She added the committee spends thousands of dollars on advertising for Ribfest in Amherstburg each year.

“We pay for billboards from Windsor to Chatham, radio, TV and newspaper ads, and lawn signs that we place in all our neighbouring communities. To spend this amount of time, energy and money bringing people and venue into the town of Amherstburg is something we are happy to do. We love this town and its people,” she continued. “But when I am told I can’t put a sign on my own front lawn supporting an event and organization that has done so very much for this town, I must say its extremely frustrating to say the least.”

George-Jurilj added: “This situation coupled with a few other factors has really made us re-evaluate our event. This may be ‘a sign of the times’ for us and our future here in Amherstburg.”