Leo Meloche

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.”

Meloche aiming to move into deputy mayor’s role

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

After four years as a councillor, Leo Meloche is seeking a higher office.

Meloche is running for deputy mayor in the Oct. 22 municipal election, believing he has helped the town make progress over the past four years.

“I worked hard over the last four years to improve the town’s situation and I think we made some good inroads compared to where we were four years ago,” said Meloche, noting his campaign slogan is “Keeping the Momentum.”

Meloche said he wants to take on the deputy mayor’s position as he would like to contribute further to Amherstburg’s future, one that will include a new public high school and possibly a hotel.

“There are so many positive things coming out,” said Meloche. “It’s an exciting time to run for council given the success we’ve had the last four years.”

Continuing the growth of Amherstburg is a goal for Meloche, with small businesses being a key to that growth. Small businesses help bring jobs but also expand the tax base and “creates a domino effect in enabling Amherstburg to reach its potential,” he said.

“It’s the old saying ‘success breeds success’ and we are heading in the right direction,” he said.

Other local issues include building a community that looks after its aging population and continuing to carefully watch the town’s finances. Regarding the latter, Meloche said although progress has been made, “you never overextend yourself.”

Leo Meloche, a current town councillor, is aiming to be Amherstburg’s next deputy mayor.

Meloche believes he has the leadership skills and decision-making ability to be deputy mayor and if the voters agree, he would also join Essex County council. Meloche believes the county is run “very well” and that money is regularly budgeted for new roads and the new mega-hospital. However, in his day job of owning his own accounting and consulting business, Meloche works with the affordable housing industry including as the executive administrator with Leamington Lodge. That is a segment of the population that needs to be looked after, he believes.

Being on town council the last four years gives Meloche the experience he believes will help going forward. His experience as a councillor is something he thinks lends him insight as to what the town needs going forward.

One of the more controversial issues of the past four years was the policing issue, with Meloche being one of the three votes that got the motion passed and the service switched to Windsor. Policing costs were one of the major issues that he heard four years ago and continued to hear at conferences.

Meloche said Essex had $3.9 million in policing costs in 2018 as compared to Amherstburg’s $5.8 million.

“Yes, we get a higher level of policing but what we need to look at is are we really getting value for the difference,” he said.

Regional policing was discussed as far back as amalgamation and the deal with Windsor allows for a “hybrid formula for policing all the while containing costs.” The wishes of the people were respected, Meloche believes, in that the same officers, cars and police station will still be used while officers will get additional advancement opportunities if they wish.

“Overall, we thought it’s a good deal for Amherstburg as a whole,” he said, noting there are $14 million in potential savings over the next 20 years.

Getting out on the campaign trail is something Meloche said he is eager to do.

“I’m looking forward to campaigning and I hope to get another four years of serving the community,” he said.

Town approves $50,000 to fund implementation of staff accommodation review

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Town of Amherstburg has addressed a “staffing resources shortage” during the 2017 and 2018 budget deliberations and now are having difficulty finding places for them to work.

Town council authorized an amount not exceed $50,000 for implantation of a staff accommodation review. The results of that will see the lower level of the Amherstburg Municipal Building reconfigured to provide for additional work spaces. A report authored by treasurer Justin Rousseau stated that plan will “accommodate the current staff accommodation needs at the municipal offices potentially for the next few years, subject to growth in the town and administrative demands.”

However, Rousseau cautioned that it does not provide “a comprehensive long-term solution” to address long-term growth in municipal operations nor does it address compliance with accessibility legislation.

Councillor Leo Meloche questioned why the study was not a budget item during 2018 deliberations with CAO John Miceli admitting it had been missed. He said “for full transparency, we came to council” regarding the matter.

Meloche further pressed as to whether the matter should have been put off to the 2019 town budget, but Miceli said the staff have been hired and now need a place to work out of.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo indicated that he has first-hand knowledge that there are tight quarters at town hall.

“I’m sharing my office with a new hire,” he said, “not that I’m complaining.”

The Town of Amherstburg had previously applied for grant funding to assist with town hall upgrades and the ability to move further services to the Libro Centre. That grant was unsuccessful. The building and planning departments have been based out of the Libro Centre for the last few years.

Hazen Price recognized for his 95th birthday, seven decades in Rotary

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Rotary Club of Amherstburg paid tribute to its longest-serving member last week though he was a little taken aback at being the centre of attention.

“I don’t think I’m going to live long enough to live up to the expectations,” quipped Hazen Price, as he addressed fellow Rotarians and guests last Wednesday night at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157.

The Rotary Club of Amherstburg presented a special celebration in Price’s honour as Price has now been a Rotarian for 70 years. He also was honoured for his 95th birthday, which actually arrived last Saturday.

Despite honours from dignitaries and fellow Rotarians, Price remained humble and said after the celebration that he was “very embarrassed to say the least.” He said he has always enjoyed the fellowship within the club.

“I’ve always enjoyed the Rotary Club and I probably wouldn’t be here as long if I didn’t,” he said.

Councillor Leo Meloche (right) presents Hazen Price with recognition on behalf of the Town of Amherstburg. Price has been in the Rotary Club 70 years and just turned 95-years-old.

Price pointed out the saving of the Park House Museum as one of his major accomplishments, though his name has also been attached to the Gibson Gallery, Gibb House, John R. Park Homestead and a second pensioner’s cottage. The progress made to eradicate polio is another accomplishment Price has seen in his years in Rotary.

There have been changes to the club itself in his seven decades, Price noted. When he started, women were not allowed to be members. Attendance was also important early on, as regular meeting attendance was required but that has since been relaxed.

Price said he was the young member of the Rotary Club of Amherstburg when he first joined.

“Ol’ Doc Hutchinson Sr. came to the farm and asked if I would consider joining,” he recalled. “I was 20 years younger than everyone else.”

Despite being in an uncomfortable position as the guest of honour, Price said he was grateful for the kind thoughts and gifts.

“I appreciate their thoughts about the work I’ve done,” he said. “It’s really nice to be appreciated.”

Patti Hayes, outreach and community assistant with Essex MPP Taras Natyshak’s office, represented both Natyshak and Essex MP Tracey Ramsey.

“Your volunteerism is an inspiration to everyone,” said Hayes.

Rotary Club of Amherstburg president Dan Hunt (right) bestows praise on Hazen Price April 25. Price just turned 95-years-old and has been a Rotarian for 70 years.

Councillor Leo Meloche, representing the Town of Amherstburg, said he researched what it means to be a Rotarian, with his research concluding that “being a Rotarian is a way of life and can be a satisfying lifelong adventure for those who are willing to give of themselves to enjoy and benefit from all that Rotary has to offer.”

Meloche added that “Hazen Price truly exemplifies what a Rotarian is.”

Police chief Tim Berthiaume thanked Price “for all that you do” and said many don’t realize how much the Rotary Club accomplishes in the community. Price was presented a “Chief’s Award of Excellence” with Berthiaume stating that Price would have earned such recognition 50 years ago.

Assistant Rotary District Governor Peggy Little also thanked Price for his accomplishments and for his dedication with past District Governor Neil McBeth pointing out Price was one of the first people he met in Rotary.

“It is because of dedicated members like you that we are Rotarians making a difference,” said McBeth.

Laura George, a past president of the Rotary Club of Amherstburg, pointed out that a $100 donation was made to the Park House in Price’s honour. She called Price her biggest supporter and that when she was deciding whether or not Rotary was for her, Price gave her helpful advice.

“You have a very special place in my heart,” George told Price.

Rotary Club of Amherstburg president Dan Hunt also had kind words for Price.

“He is a very special man,” said Hunt.

Town to fill in rumble strips, look at alternative measures

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town is looking at alternative measures instead of having rumble strips on rural roads.

Town council voted Monday night to remove rumble strips from concessions and other rural roads they are on as a result of noise complaints filed by residents who live near them. The rumble strips will be filled in and replaced with increased signage, pavement markings, larger stop signs and additional flashing lights and beacons.

The Town of Amherstburg will also try and work with the County of Essex, where applicable, to resolve the issues.

The cost of $13,565 to carry out the work was deemed “very reasonable” to Councillor Diane Pouget.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Pouget, believing safety measures were still being taken while at the same time, the noise from the rumble strips would be eliminated for nearby residents.

Councillor Rick Fryer said he didn’t have an issue with filling in the rumble strips, but suggested other measures in addition to more signage. He said there are areas, including some streets in Windsor, where a granular surface was placed on the road and painted over when road lines are put on. He wondered if that would help get a driver’s attention while, at the same time, not be a nuisance for people who live nearby.

“From the beginning, I said they were too deep,” Fryer said of the rumble strips.

Rumble strips, such as the ones pictured on Concession 3 North, will be filled in when the asphalt plants open. Town council agreed to fill the rumble strips in after several noise complaints were made by residents who live near the rumble strips throughout Amherstburg.

Fryer was concerned over foggy weather and distracted driving, adding “I just feel there’s got to be something else” in addition to the recommendations but something that wouldn’t negatively impact residents. Pouget added that alternative countermeasures were “part and parcel” of the motion

Councillor Leo Meloche said he measured the depth of the rumble strips in some areas and said they were “not that deep.”

“It’s the design that makes them so loud,” said Meloche.

Meloche indicated the number of rumble strips make the noise worse, as there are four to five sections where rumble strips are cut.

“If one doesn’t (get a driver’s attention), five won’t,” he said.

Michelle Poberezny, who lives near Concession 8 North and Middle Side Road, equates the rumble strips to having someone ring the doorbell five times every time a car went by.

“It significantly impacted our quality of life,” she said.

Poberezny said they can hear the noise at night while in bed and when a school bus goes by, dishes rattle in the cupboards.

“It literally gets on your last nerve,” she said.

Residents want the intersections to be safe, Poberezny added, but added that cyclists also have to ride around rumble strips putting them at risk.

“I think this is a good resolution,” she believed.

Dino Gidillini, who lives near Concession 3 North and Middle Side Road, wanted more empathy from council members, adding there was little to no remorse. He believed more research should have been done before the rumble strips were cut.

“It’s going to cost taxpayers money to fix this,” he said. “They should have done their homework first.” A report on Monday’s agenda, public works reviewed Ontario Traffic Manuals, related legislation and guidelines as well as policies from other municipalities. An engineer’s report said use of rumble strips are not recommended within 200-500 metres of residential areas.