John Miceli

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.

Town council refuses Woofa-Roo signage request, to look into programmable signage

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Woofa-Roo Pet Festival will have to seek other ways of promoting its event after town council nixed a signage request at the April 23 meeting.

Lorene Clayton, festival director, asked council if the Woofa-Roo Pet Festival could share the Miracle League of Amherstburg sign along Front Road North. She said she was willing to have other festivals share the sign posts as well, not just her event.

“I would like to use the sign every year for one month prior to the festival,” Clayton requested. “I’d like to open it up for other festivals and special events.”

Clayton said she used to use the sign in front of Duffy’s Tavern and Motor Inn, but with that gone as part of the demolition of the site, she needs to use other options. Lawn signs are used, but Clayton said she understands the need to limit signage within Amherstburg.

Noting she has only two weeks to use lawn signs in Amherstburg, Clayton said that presents difficulty in advertising her event.

Additional signage to be affixed to the Miracle League sign on Front Road North was the subject of debate at the most recent town council meeting. The town is exploring programmable signage.

Asked whether she had permission from the Miracle League to erect the signs, Clayton said “they have no objections” to the plan. However, manager of licensing and enforcement Nicole Rubli told town council she was in receipt of a letter from the Miracle League requesting no additional signage be attached. That also meant a request from the Rotary Club of Amherstburg was denied later in the meeting.

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin said the Miracle League sign was not paid for by the town and noted there would be “a number of competing interests” if town council were to allow others to post on the same sign posts.

“It would be very difficult to co-ordinate that,” said Galvin.

Clayton disagreed, believing it would be no different than the banners that hang over Sandwich St. S. that are booked on a first come, first served basis.

CAO John Miceli suggested the town consider programmable signage at the north and south entrances to the municipality. He believed the town should be proactive as it pertains to promoting tourism and special events.

“It will be done tastefully. It will be programmed to a municipal standard,” said Miceli.

Council will receive a report on the matter with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo trying to console Clayton by stating that while her request wasn’t granted, her delegation did spark further investigation into the signage matter.

The Woofa-Roo Pet Festival will be held at the Libro Centre this year on July 21-22.

Two CIBPA award winners come with an Amherstburg connection

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association (CIBPA) presented its “Awards of Excellence” last week with two of the six winners having an Amherstburg connection.

Among the winners were John Miceli, Amherstburg’s chief administrative officer (CAO), and Sobeys Amherstburg franchise owner Rennie Rota. Miceli won the community service award while Rota and Sobeys Amherstburg were named CIBPA’s business of the year.

Videos were played for each award winner with the winners themselves outlining their stories and testimonials coming from associates, colleagues, family members and friends of the winners.

Miceli noted he and his five siblings are children of Italian immigrants and their parents instilled hard work and family values into them.

“My family was the key to my success,” he said.

Miceli said he learned customer service while working in an Italian grocery store. He said public service is a career where “you are there to serve the people.”

After a 23-year career in Windsor, Miceli came to Amherstburg as CAO in 2015. He said he has been proud to work with council, including Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Deputy Mayor Bart DiPasquale, to help move the town forward.

“Working with council, I was able to influence a number of changes,” he said. “Today, we are a community to watch and a community on the rise.”

CIBPA award winners included (from left): Dr. Geri Salinitri, Dr. John Francis Cappucci, John Miceli, Lina Marie Mastronardi, Olimpio Ferrara and Rennie Rota. At far right are CIBPA president Emanuele Calamita and board member Frank D’Agnillo.

One of the children of Miceli and his wife Rita is a son who is autistic and Miceli was also recognized for the work he was done fundraising for autism.

“I’ve been very proud to raise millions of dollars and help over 300 families in Windsor-Essex with autism,” he said.

Miceli said he was humbled to receive the award and had a number of council members and administration on hand Friday night at the Ciociaro Club to support him and his family as he received the award.

As part of the video presentation, Windsor city councillor Bill Marra called Miceli “one of the most genuine, value-based, hard working, ethical people you can meet” and “in my opinion, one of the greatest champions” of Windsor-Essex County.

John Miceli (left) was CIBPA’s community service award winner Making the presentations were CIBPA president Emanuele Calamita and board member Frank D’Agnillo.

“I’ve learned so much from John,” said Marra.

DiCarlo said the community service award is “perfect for John Miceli.”

“He cares about the community,” said DiCarlo. “He never stops working to make it a place to live, visit and work.”

“John is a man who is truly proud of his heritage,” added Miceli’s wife Rita.

Rota, who was surrounded by his family at the ceremony, also got his start with an Italian grocer with him pursuing that career as he advanced through school. He joined Miracle Food Mart and travelled with wife Anne throughout the province while with that company.

“It was a great experience for us,” he said.

They came to Amherstburg after their third daughter was born and purchased Rocco’s Fine Foods, which was located on Victoria St. S.

“We decided to put down some roots,” he said. “Rocco’s Fine Foods was for sale and the rest is history.”

Admitting they struggled for the first few years, they grew the business and started to experience success. They would eventually explore a relationship with Sobeys, who offered a format Amherstburg needed at that time, he said.

“They were looking to develop new supermarkets in Ontario,” he said.

Sobeys opened the Amherstburg store 15 years ago and the 40,000-square-foot store now employs 120 people.

Rennie Rota (left) and Sobeys Amherstburg captured the business of the year award. Making the presentations were CIBPA president Emanuele Calamita and board member Frank D’Agnillo.

Rota calls Amherstburg a “tight knit community” and thanked Tino Riccio for nominating him and the local Sobeys store. He said there are a number of great non-profit organizations in Amherstburg, citing the Rotary Club, Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce and Amherstburg Food and Fellowship Mission as some of them.

“These wonderful organizations have done great work,” he said.

Rota stated that “it is a real honour to be recognized” and said “this is an award our family and I will cherish for a while.”

Other award winners included Dr. Geri Salinitri as professional of the year, Dr. John Francis Cappucci as young professional of the year, Lina Marie Mastronardi as young professional of the year and community service and Ferrara Income Tax as the family business of the year.