Rick Fryer

Council moving forward with open air burning bylaw



By Ron Giofu


A decision is still weeks away as to whether open air burns will be permitted in Amherstburg, but the town is moving forward in the process.

Town council authorized administration to move forward with an open air fire bylaw and permit process for council’s consideration at a later date with public consultation meetings to be set up to allow residents to speak to it.

Councillor Rick Fryer pointed out he was the one who brought the issue forward, noting that some residents may want to have a bonfire with their children. He said he has heard a lot of comments and innuendo from residents but said he understands both sides of the argument including the argument against smoke and fumes.

“I’ve had blood clots in my lungs and I understand the health issues,” said Fryer. “I do understand the flipside too. It’s not something I thought of willy nilly.”

Fryer said the idea would be to call a hotline and see if conditions were right to have a fire, though added there is a difference between a fire in a rural area and a small bonfire in urban areas.

According to Fryer, about 70 per cent of people he has heard from are “excited” for the possibility of it being easier to have a bonfire while 30 per cent have health issues they are concerned with.

“I feel for them,” he said of the latter.

The bylaw will be “complicated” and will have to come back to council after a public consultation process, he added.

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In a report from fire chief Bruce Montone, he said “open air burning and campfires are currently taking place in all (urban, sub-urban and rural) areas of the Town of Amherstburg. The current situation where campfires are not permitted anywhere is resulting in illegal burns taking place in spring, summer and fall with no appropriate controls in place. Enforcement of the current bylaw is not manageable with current resources. Fire services is limited to responding to complaints with very little information often resulting in full station responses. In the past three years fire services has responded to 133 open burn calls at a cost to ratepayers of approximately $40,000.”

Montone added in his report that “the proposed by-law establishes a set of comprehensive maps that define the regulated areas for open air fires. The proposed harmonized by-law continues to permit open air fires where such burning can be carried out safely and provides for control over open air fires. The intent of existing regulations will be maintained within the proposed bylaw. To address changes in population density and fire safety conditions however, certain geographical areas will not be permitted to have open air fires.”

Montone said that a processing fee of $25 for an annual open air fire permit and $75 specific event open air fire permit respectively are proposed for the processing of the permits but told council those were suggestions based on information gathered from other Essex County municipalities. He said they are trying to “strike a balance” between customer service, recreation and public safety.

Councillor Joan Courtney said the intention was not for Amherstburg council to pass a new bylaw quickly and said she wants to hear from the public.

“I understand both sides,” said Courtney.

Councillor Diane Pouget questioned no fines after responding to 133 calls. She added she is “adamantly opposed” to moving forward with the process, believing council should have just received Montone’s report and gone no further. There are many toxins that are emitted during such burns and people’s health could be negatively impacted.

“Council was very concerned about smoking and second hand smoke and eliminated all smoking near municipal buildings and parks,” she said, “yet we’re thinking of allowing open air burns?”

Pouget was particularly concerned about burns in urban areas, noting rural landowners have to have burns as part of their farming operations.

“They have a right to burn because it is part of their agricultural needs,” she said.

Montone told town council that all Essex County municipalities except Amherstburg currently have “permissive systems” with Fryer adding “we’re the only community in Essex County that doesn’t allow this.”

Council moved forward thanks to a 5-1 vote, with Pouget being the vote in opposition. Councillor Jason Lavigne was not in attendance.

Chief Building Official Steve Brown heads into retirement



By Ron Giofu


The town’s chief building official has reached the end of his career.

Steve Brown’s last day on the job was June 30 with a retirement party being held for him at the McGregor K of C Hall that afternoon and evening.

“Every day is going to be Saturday for me from now on,” Brown joked.

Brown started in the construction business working at L.D Warren Associates, Developer, Architect and Engineers in 1973 and worked on several projects for that firm. Brown also spent 22 years working at W.C. Crosbie Architects, Glos Associates Architects and Engineers, and John Hreno Architect.

Chief Building Official Steve Brown (centre) was presented an award at the June 26 council meeting in recognition of his retirement. Making the presentation were human resources manager Michelle Rose and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

Chief Building Official Steve Brown (centre) was presented an award at the June 26 council meeting in recognition of his retirement. Making the presentation were human resources manager Michelle Rose and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

Among the projects Brown was involved with include the Central Mall in Windsor, Pine Aire Apartments in Windsor, the General Motors transmission Plant, several Royal Bank branches, the Greater Essex County District School Board head office, Chrysler In-plant facilities and Parkwood Gospel Temple along with several co-op housing projects in Windsor, Chatham, Tilbury, and Amherstburg.

Brown said the architect he worked for did a lot of work in Amherstburg with his first significant involvement with the town coming in 1984. He was hired as deputy chief building official in November 1988 and served under John Hreno until becoming chief building official in 1994.

In all, Brown was employed for nearly 44 years, the last 23 with the town of Amherstburg.

“It feels great,” he said of his retirement. “Somebody told me to retire at 65 and not to retire in the winter. I took their advice.”

Brown said he will miss the people that he worked with, the contractors and those he encountered on the job.

Projects of note in Amherstburg that Brown had a hand in include Projects of note in Amherstburg the Amherstburg Police Station, the Westview Apartments, the addition to the town hall including fire station No. 1, two co-op housing projects, Victoria St. Manor, repairs and elevator addition to the library, the redesign of the visitor center, the re-purposing of the cultural center on Victoria St., renovations to the Lions Pool and the relocation and restoration of the Gordon House.

Brown noted the design of Families First Funeral Home was done by a former boss, Larry Warren, whom Brown started working for in 1973.

“The biggest highlight of the job was watching the town progress,” said Brown.

When he arrived, the Gordon House was boarded up, the Salmoni Building had just closed, and buildings that are now local eateries were used for other purposes. Now, buildings and homes are being developed in the downtown core and more walkable neighbourhoods have arrived.

Brown added he helped when local big box stores arrived in Amherstburg as well.

“For all the development that happened after I came, I was glad to be a part of it,” he said. “It’s been very exciting.”

Steve Brown (left) chats with former mayor Bill Gibb and retired administrator Tom Kilgallin at Brown’s retirement party last Friday afternoon.

Steve Brown (left) chats with former mayor Bill Gibb and retired administrator Tom Kilgallin at Brown’s retirement party last Friday afternoon.

Brown won’t become a stranger, however, as he still plans to be active in other ways. He is a trumpeter with the Essex Community Concert Band and they will play Aug. 5 as part of the Canuck It Up! Festival. He also plans on joining more concert bands.

Brown has also been a fixture at Remembrance Day ceremonies where he plays the trumpet as part of the service.

“I intend to do that as long as I can,” said Brown.

Along with wife Nancy, he also plans on doing some travelling as well.

“I have a ‘to do’ list a mile long,” he said. “I’ll be working on that.”

Brown was also honoured at town hall during the June 26 council meeting, where human resources manager Michelle Rose stated Brown “has generously donated the value of his retirement gift to the Essex Community Concert Band to sponsor an outdoor concert at Belle Vue as a fundraiser for Belle Vue sometime next summer or fall.”

“You have definitely left your mark in many ways,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

Council members also wished him the best of luck.

“You were always upstanding and willing to help any way you could,” added Councillor Rick Fryer.




Fryer hopes for fire pit bylaw to streamline process of backyard fires



By Ron Giofu


A member of town council has asked that the fire department comes back with a fire pit bylaw to streamline the process for people wishing to have backyard fires.

Councillor Rick Fryer made the motion to have fire chief Bruce Montone bring such a bylaw to town council, with the hope it could be done by the July 10 meeting.

“It was brought to my attention that other municipalities have a one-time fee and all you have to do is call a number and an automated message will tell you ‘yes, you can’ or ‘no, you can’t have a fire that night due to weather conditions’,” said Fryer.

Fryer said that would come with a “nominal fee” and would allow residents to have a bonfire in their backyards and “enjoy their summer” if they wish to have a fire with their friends and family.

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“Other municipalities do it,” said Fryer. “I don’t know that this was our intention when we said no open burns.”

Deputy fire chief Lee Tome said the current bylaw is “many years old and due for an update” but doubted the report could come back by July 10. Fryer said he spoke with Montone and said July 10 is possible.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she has a problem with open burns but Councillor Joan Courtney voiced her support of Fryer’s motion.

“This past Father’s Day, my little grandchildren asked ‘grandma, can we build a bonfire and roast marshmallows?” said Courtney.

Courtney was apprehensive as a councillor about doing that, quipping that she didn’t want to see a headline in the River Town Times saying “Councillor violates own bylaw.”

“I would be very happy if we do this,” Courtney said about implementing a new fire pit bylaw.

Councillor Leo Meloche said the bylaw has to have urban and rural components.

“The bylaw has to be cognizant of where I live. There are 500 acres of open area behind me,” the McGregor resident said.

Town council waives fees for Rotary Club’s Ribfest


By Ron Giofu


The Rotary Club’s eighth annual Ribfest is this weekend and organizers received some financial relief thanks to town council.

The town has waived $2,035 in fees for the Ribfest, with $1,352 being parks fees and the rest for equipment rentals. The Ribfest committee was represented by chair Carl Gibb and Rotary Club past president Lena Lazanja.

“We are a charitable organization and all the funds we receive continue to be funneled back into town,” Lazanja told town council.

Councillor Leo Meloche stated he supported the Ribfest and didn’t have any problem with waiving the parks fees but was concerned about waiving the equipment fees. He said equipment suffers wear and tear and wanted to ensure the town has the resources to replace equipment when need be and believed “at some point we have to draw the line.”

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.

The Amherstburg Rotary Club’s 2017 Ribfest is July 7-9.

“Unfortunately, the equipment – we use it and we have to replace it.”

Waiving the fees was an easy decision for Councillor Rick Fryer, pointing out that the Rotary Club has undertaken many projects that have benefitted the residents of Amherstburg. Fryer thanked the Rotary Club for its efforts over the years.

“If it was up to me, we can approve the waiving of the fees every single time,” said Fryer.

The Ribfest runs 12 p.m.-11 p.m. July 7 and 8 and 12 p.m.-7 p.m. July 9 at Centennial Park.

Council allows sign bylaw exemption and encroachment agreement for local business



By Ron Giofu


Town council has agreed to allow a local business to encroachment on town land and has granted a sign bylaw exemption.

John Collison from Woodland Home Renovations & Additions appeared before town council requesting that he be allowed to place a seven-foot by five-foot sign in front of his Sandwich St. N. business. He told council that if it were to be pushed back towards the building, people would not be able to see it.

Currently, he shares a sign with Riccardo’s Italian Restaurant but said people looking for his business sometimes go to the restaurant.

“My business is the residence,” he said.

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Councillor Rick Fryer said he was concerned about sight lines for drivers at the corner of Sandwich St. N. and St. Arnaud St. and the possibility of creating a blind spot for drivers and cyclists. Manager of licensing and enforcing Nicole Rubli said the town would work with the applicant on the sign to ensure such issues don’t arise.

Councillor Diane Pouget said she sits on both the parks committee and Communities in Bloom committees and both are “very concerned” about the application.

“They want to make sure we are following the rules we set forth,” said Pouget.

Councillor Joan Courtney worried that the town was setting a precedent by granting the request.

“If we grant this request, I think others will follow,” said Courtney, adding that council has to be cognizant of the bylaw.

Collison said he is in an area where he has all commercial units on that side of the street. He didn’t believe he would be standing out more than anyone else in the area. He added he is zoned similar to the other businesses in the stretch of road.

The motion to grant the sign bylaw exemption and encroachment agreement passed in a 6-1 recorded vote with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale and councillors Fryer, Courtney, Jason Lavigne and Leo Meloche being in favour while Pouget was opposed.