Duffy’s

Duffy’s plans spur petition

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A group from the AMA Sportsmen Association have made it clear – they want a fishing wharf, marina and boat ramp at the site of the former Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn.

The Town of Amherstburg, owners of the property, seem open to keeping at least two of those amenities.

Brian Beattie and Kevin Sprague from the AMA Sportsmen Association appeared before town council Monday night to request input into the design process of the site and to ensure the wharf, marina and boat ramp were included.

Beattie believed more input and consideration was needed. He recalled an amphitheatre being built just south of the Duffy’s lands near the Caldwell Towers area years ago and “residents complained so much they had to tear it down.”

Sprague said he gathered 558 signatures on a petition that states “that a boat launch with an appropriate number of parking spaces for vehicles with boat trailers, a wharf and lookout with sufficient space that can be used for shoreline fishing and transient marina slips being incorporated into the final design of the Duffy’s lands.”

The town’s decision to purchase the Duffy’s site was an “awesome” one, Sprague believed.

“It’s a large piece of valuable property in the downtown core with huge potential that will be a popular future public asset,” he said. “Properties like this don’t come around very often and may never come around again anywhere even close to the downtown core.”

The majority of residents he spoke with said they want a boat launch, wharf for shoreline fishing and a small marina, stated Sprague. He said more feedback is needed and that the town’s “Talk the Burg” website, an online questionnaire and a public consultation with 25 people in attendance “is not properly providing anywhere close to an accurate representation of what the community needs and wants.”

“Amherstburg is the only municipality in Essex County with the exception of Tecumseh that has no public boat launch,” he said. “We have a few privately-owned boat launches but what happens when these private boat launches no longer exist, close or are sold for development or other uses? This could easily occur and there is zero guarantee that this won’t become a future reality. Residents who require a boat launch shouldn’t be force to drive to another municipality to launch a boat when our town is surrounded by water. Amherstburg needs an insurance policy to prevent this from ever becoming a reality.”

Sprague added that Amherstburg “has by far” the smallest public place for shoreline fishing in Essex County at “an embarrassing 53-foot long space. It’s sometimes so overcrowded that tourists drive for hours to fish in Amherstburg and leave with tickets because they are fishing outside of the permitted area. When parents, grandparents and children of our town have 53-feet of overcrowded and completely insufficient area to fish from, that’s wrong and the town’s fault for not addressing this problem many years ago.”

Residents don’t want the amphitheatre on the Duffy’s site, he added, and that a parking lot should be built on the site that could be used year-round. He acknowledged that it’s not as nice as trees or grass, but parking could be used by residents and tourists alike. He said the amphitheatre doesn’t have the support the town thinks it does.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the wharf and marina are still part of the concept plan with the boat launch being the only thing in question.

“The issue is really the boat launch,” agreed CAO John Miceli. “The question is what do we do with parking for the boat launch?”

Councillor Rick Fryer said he agreed with the concept for Duffy’s but believed there should still be a boat launch at the site.

“The town should look at other places to park boat trailers and vehicles,” he said, even floating the idea of a valet service where someone could assist boaters by driving their trailers to a different site for them.

Fryer said he is hearing yes to a festival area at the site but no to an amphitheatre. He added there needs to be more room for people to fish.

“I’m a firm supporter of getting fisherman downtown,” he said.

DiCarlo said the Duffy’s project is currently in the environmental assessment stage and that funding will have to be secured for the project since there is a desire not to have it totally funded by the taxpayer. Optimistically, he hoped for shovels to be in the ground early next year.

The mayor said he did hear from people who signed the petition and believed there are some misconceptions. He said some he talked to thought a marina or boat ramp was being sacrificed for an amphitheatre and that he explained to them that all are still in the concept.

“The only thing left is the boat ramp,” he said.

Overall, DiCarlo said the Duffy’s concept has been “well received” and that people are anxious to see it get started. He said there will be future opportunities for people to comment on the project.

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.

Mayor looks back on 2017, looks ahead to 2018

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The new year is upon us and there were positives and negatives from the year that has just ended, says the town’s mayor.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said that 2017 was a good one but it had its ups and downs as well.

“I think, overall, it was a good balance of successes and challenges,” said DiCarlo. “I think we’ve done well with the waterfront development acquisitions, we had the fibre (internet) announcement and I think the budget confirmed our financial restraint and investment.”

DiCarlo believes the town did a good job of walking the “fine line of paying down debt and increasing amenities that should keep people in town.”

Regarding the Belle Vue and Duffy’s property projects, DiCarlo said he has heard positive and negative responses from residents but acknowledged, “it’s impossible to keep everyone happy” and that council is trying to work for residents and address the needs of the community. He said many people want the Duffy’s property available for public use as soon as possible and “hopefully we can make progress on that” in 2018.

The town did make progress in 2017, the mayor stated.

“We’ve definitely moved forward again,” he said. “That’s my belief. At the end of the day, it always comes down to what the residents think. As long as we can maintain the balance of moving forward, which I think we did (in 2017), we’re in good shape.”

DiCarlo said 2018 could be “another year of challenges,” and the first one on the radar is the policing issue. The town will be hosting four public meetings later this month to discuss the proposal from Windsor police, one that forecasts a $567,000 annual savings to the town.

“That is obviously going to be a big decision we have to deal with,” said DiCarlo. “I’ve definitely heard from a broad demographic of residents on this particular issue. There are people on both sides and plenty of people in the middle waiting to hear what is said at the public meetings.”

The location of the new public high school by the Greater Essex County District School Board is expected at some point, and DiCarlo said that is good news. While noting that not everyone will be happy with the new location, he believes that the new public high school will be positive for the town.

“Everyone is asking where it is going and when it will be built,” said DiCarlo, adding that timelines suggest that the announcement could come soon.

Other development is tied to the school announcement, he suggested, and that more news could be revealed shortly after the location is revealed. While much of that development hasn’t been publicly revealed as of yet, the seniors hub development proposed for the former St. Bernard School appears to be one of them. The town and Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board are headed for arbitration over the building’s value as the town wants to acquire it.

DiCarlo said the town is committed to serving the senior population and that he is hopeful the dispute over the building can be resolved.

“We’re going to go through legal channels there to mediate some sort of solution,” he said.

Much of the plans for future development is hinged on one another, he said, and that “there are a lot of synergies to projects now.” He said fewer projects are done in isolation.

“I think that’s going to translate into success in the long run,” said DiCarlo.

The town remains focused on a hotel, he added, and that the rollout of the fibre internet should occur in 2018. The town will also continue to pay down debt and continue to invest in the community, with DiCarlo stating the goal of the latter being to do so with cash the town already has.

The mayor said there is some “misconception” as it pertains to the town’s debt, which has been brought down from $44 million to approximately $38 million over the last few years. While it has come down “millions,” DiCarlo said much of the debt is locked in and can’t be paid down faster than what it already is.

This year is an election year and DiCarlo said the town could be impacted if and when the current council achieves “lame duck” status.

“While we tackle everything we have to deal with, things have to be in the perspective of what happens with the election,” he said. “If we become a lame duck council, we’ll have to put the issues on hold and we would not be able to deal with them.”

The municipal election is Oct. 22 and the nomination period opens May 1 and ends July 27 at 2 p.m.

Town receives grant to assist with work at Duffy’s site

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn was demolished several months ago and now the town has received word it has received grant funding to help pay for that cleanup.

The Government of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) announced $45 million in Green Municipal Fund (GMF) grants and loans in support of 28 environmental initiatives led by local governments across Ontario. Those announcements came Friday and Amherstburg received $142,900.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo was pleased with Friday’s announcement.

“We did apply for it some time ago for the clean-up of the property and it looks like we were successful,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo said the town still applies for grants but the projects are not contingent on grant funding. Money is budgeted for projects and “grants are like a bonus” in that it frees up money for other things.

“It’s that much less we have to front,” said DiCarlo. “When you are working on the project anyway, it’s always nice to get a letter that says ‘by the way, the work you are doing is going to be paid for.’ It’s fantastic.”

Timelines on the Duffy’s property depend on other factors, said DiCarlo, and those factors are still being worked on and can’t be announced just yet.

“The residents want to see (the Duffy’s site) done ASAP,” the mayor acknowledged.

DiCarlo also credited town administration and staff for their grant writing abilities.

“We’re known for being successful in getting grants,” said DiCarlo. “We have people who understand government processes. They know what they’re doing, they really do. Full credit to them for that.”

Demolition was completed at the Duffy’s site in September. The town received a grant Dec. 15 helping with clean-up of the site.

CAO John Miceli confirmed the money will apply retroactively to the town’s clean-up of the site. He said the next phase is a report of site conditions, which will be worked on in 2018. He said their consultant Golder & Associates will go in, drill at various points at the site and perform an Environmental Assessment (EA).

The early cost estimate to develop the site is $5-6.5 million with a 500-seat amphitheatre, marina, boat ramp, fishing wharf, service buildings and plazas among what is currently proposed for the site. Miceli is hopeful of starting construction in 2019. He noted that is a federal election year and that additional grants could flow in the town’s direction.

“It’s a good sign,” the CAO said of Friday’s grant announcement. “That shows they want to help it come to fruition.”

Miceli added the town maximized the available grant funding for this stage of the process.

According to a news release sent by FCM: “Municipalities across Canada are modelling some of Canada’s most innovative green solutions. This highlights their commitment to being part of the solution as Canada works to meet its Paris Agreement commitments by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while creating jobs and growing its clean economy.
Some of the richest potential to reduce Canada’s GHG emissions lies in scaling up local innovation, and peer learning is at the very core of GMF, making it easier for municipalities to take on green innovation in their community.”
Fridays’s announcement was made by London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos on behalf of Jim Carr, Minister of Natural Resources and Clark Somerville, FCM past president.

“Our government is proud to support initiatives through the Green Municipal Fund that can help make communities more sustainable and provide a better quality of life for Canadians. These projects demonstrate the excellent work being undertaken throughout the province to promote innovative clean solutions and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Fragiskatos.
“Looking at the initiatives being funded today, it’s clear municipalities are taking the lead on some of the country’s most promising green innovations. Not only do they deliver tangible and ongoing benefits to residents, they are an important part of the solution in our national effort to fight climate change. With continued national leadership and investment, remarkable progress is possible,” added Somerville in the press release.

The Government of Canada endowed the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) with $550 million to establish the Green Municipal Fund. An additional $125 million top-up was announced in the 2016 federal budget. The Green Municipal Fund supports partnerships and leveraging of both public and private sector funding to reach higher standards of air, water and soil quality, and climate protection. To date it has funded over 1,400 municipal initiatives.

Demolition resumes at Duffy’s site after delays

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Delays have occurred in the demolition of Duffy’s Tavern & Motor Inn but the town’s chief administrative officer states the goal is still to be able to use the site during the Canuck It Up Festival.

Crews could be seen at points last week working at the site as demolition appears to have resumed.

CAO John Miceli said there were issues that caused the demolition to be delayed. One of the issues was a motorcycle crash that injured Jones Group owner Terry Jones.

A Jones Group excavator was seen working at the site of the former Duffy’s Motor Inn Monday morning. Demolition had been delayed at the site but has now resumed.

A Jones Group excavator was seen working at the site of the former Duffy’s Motor Inn Monday morning. Demolition had been delayed at the site but has now resumed.

“We are working with the Jones Group to provide us with a revised schedule as there was a couple of things that did delay the project,” said Miceli. “The first was Terry’s untimely accident and the second was an order that was issued to the Jones Group by the Ministry (of Labour) which has subsequently been lifted.”

Miceli pointed out the Ministry of Labour “has some overarching powers and on this project was seeking written protocols on the demolition process. Unfortunately this  was complicated from a timing perspective with Terry’s untimely accident and has caused some delays.”

The CAO added: “I have been advised by the Jones Group that they will be working diligently to make up time so that we can have access to the site in time for Canuck it Up. I know that the Jones Group knows how important this festival is for the Town and they want to deliver for us.”

The Canuck It Up Festival is Aug. 5-6.