Mark Galvin

Town gets update on pot legalization

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Town council has directed administration to hold a public consultation session with regards to the community impact on the legalization of cannabis and administration will also bring back a report with information on the province’s one-time opt-out option to host private retail cannabis outlets.

Council members received an update Monday night from manager of licensing and enforcement Nicole Rubli, who stated that while a public meeting will be held this term of council, it will be the next term of council that will be making decisions on the matter.

However, there are still questions municipalities have of the Ontario government and there are also concerns with what constitutes a nuisance and how such nuisance complaints would be handled by the municipalities.

“There’s an anticipated impact as it relates to nuisances and odours. There will be some additional enforcement required, but a lot of it is public education,” said Rubli, adding the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit will be of assistance as it relates to educating the public.

In a written report to council, Rubli noted that in April 2017, the federal government introduced Bill C-45, also known as The Cannabis Act, and Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code.

“These pieces of legislation plan to legalize, regulate and restrict access to recreational cannabis in Canada. The federal Bill C-45 is the overarching legislative framework that provides rules specifically to regulate the production, distribution, selling and possession of recreational cannabis. This Bill received royal assent in June 2018 and will come into force Oct. 17, 2018,” her report stated.

Rubli added that in December 2017, the Province of Ontario responded with corresponding legislation, the Cannabis Act, 2017 and the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation Act, 2017 (OCRCA, 2017).

“This provincial legislation will provide the regulatory framework for the purchase and use of recreational cannabis in Ontario,” she stated.

The legislation will prohibit the sale of recreational cannabis to anyone under the age of 19, prohibit the use of recreational cannabis in all public places, workplaces and motor vehicles, prohibit youth (under 19) from possessing, cultivating, consuming and sharing any amount of recreational cannabis, address illegal selling, including storefront dispensaries, allow adults to possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis and allow adults to grow up to four cannabis plants per household.

“Concurrently, this legislation strengthens the penalties for supplying cannabis to under-aged youth and for impaired driving. However in August 2018, the provincial government confirmed their plans to introduce legislation to allow the private sector to retail recreational cannabis in Ontario by April 1, 2019. This will change the intent of the OCRCA, 2017 that was to establish a new Crown corporation, the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC) to sell cannabis and related products through a network of dedicated storefronts and an online channel,” Rubli’s report stated. “In the interim and as of Oct. 17, consumers 19 or older will be able to purchase recreational cannabis through an online retail platform operated by the Ontario Cannabis Store. The Minister of Finance also confirmed that municipalities will have  the ability for a one-time opting out of having a retail store in their communities.”

“This is going to be brand new for all us,” said Councillor Joan Courtney. “I hope the new council has fun with it.”

Courtney said she attended an Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference and the issue was raised that a definition of nuisance has not been clearly established. She was concerned that municipalities could face issues with enforcement and that it would present added workloads to bylaw enforcement officers.

“This is a political minefield that we’re getting into with this,” said Courtney.

CAO John Miceli shared much of Courtney’s concerns, saying “I don’t think we’re going to be on the winning end” of the issue. He agreed that additional resources may be required on the enforcement end.

“It’s going to be a big education (process) for residents and future councils,” he said.

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin said no one has figured out the nuisance issue as of yet, including U.S. states that have legalized marijuana.

“It doesn’t seem any state has figured it out yet,” he said. “It’s going to be a process.”

Councillor Rick Fryer pointed out there could be WSIB issues with police and bylaw officers facing additional exposure to cannabis. However, he compared the issue with that of the gas tax in that money could flow back to municipalities.

“Get on the bandwagon,” said Fryer. “There is going to be a revenue stream heading back to municipalities.”

Councillor Leo Meloche noted there is the issue of proximity to other municipalities that has to be considered.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said municipalities are “in limbo” with regards to the matter and that more communication needs to come from the province.  More information is expected in October and that leaves municipalities a short time to decide to opt-in or not. Both he and Rubli noted municipalities can opt-out one time and then opt back in.

“To me, it should be called the opt-in clause,” he said. “If you do opt in, there’s no getting out.”

DiCarlo said he has heard from people interested in opening private shops and knows those people, as well as those opposed to such businesses, are anxious to see the next steps and noted there will be opportunities for public feedback.

Rubli, who is part of a town “task force” on the issue, also said she has heard from people interested in running retail stores or lounges.

“We want to ensure that we’re touching as many residents as we can to see what the town residents want and feel about cannabis storefronts,” she said.

 

Councillor interested in four-way stop at Texas Road and Thomas Road intersection

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A town councillor is passing along concerns about a local intersection, as speeds have become a factor in the area.

Councillor Joan Courtney voiced concerns over the intersection of Texas Road and Thomas Road/Concession 2 North at a special council meeting held late last Thursday afternoon. Courtney said noted there is a stop for drivers heading east and west along Texas Road but no stop sign for drivers heading north and south on Concession 2 North with the latter turning into Thomas Road at that intersection.

Courtney wondered if a four-way stop at that intersection was a solution.

“Is it feasible? Should I ask for a report?” asked Courtney.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo pointed out that Concession 2 North/Thomas Road is also a county road in that area so the County of Essex would also have to be involved in the process.

Councillor Joan Courtney raised the issue of looking into a four-way stop at Texas Road and Concession 2 North/Texas Road.

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin pointed out that a four-way stop can’t simply be installed, there has to be warrants that justify it before a four-way stop can be put in place.

Additional signage in the area advising people of the speed limits could help slow people down, he suggested.

“It tends to decrease the speeds,” said Galvin.

Courtney also questioned the status of the LED street lighting project along Front Road North between Ranta Marina and Malden Road. Manager of engineering Todd Hewitt said it was a struggle to find an electrical engineer but now they are working with Fieldcraft Engineering on the project.

Hewitt stated that lighting levels have to be studies with costs also having to be obtained from Hydro One.

Full report on new hires discussed, will not be provided

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A request from a town councillor for a report on new hires will not be coming forward as her colleagues were concerned it wouldn’t show the full picture.

Councillor Diane Pouget asked for a “full report” on all the town’s new hires in the past four years including all costs relating to salary and benefits. She said she has read documentation where wages alone have increased $2.2 million in the last three years.

“The reason (for the report request) is we will have a new council and I think it’s important they have the information after they’re sworn in,” said Pouget.

The report would have come back in September, had it been approved.

“If it’s intended for the next council, why is it requested for September?” asked Councillor Leo Meloche, with the reply being that it would give incoming council members time to prepare for budget sessions.

Pouget added later in the meeting that in January, the town would be obligated to pay “a large amount for wages” and the report would help be a starting point for the new council.

Councillor Jason Lavigne said if a person wants to be elected, they should be looking at budgets otherwise they could be in trouble going into their first year of budget deliberations. He noted that the information for such a report is already in the budget documents.

Lavigne didn’t believe such a report could provide a “clear picture,” saying that while there have been new hires, those hires have produced savings in such areas as legal and engineering due to work not having to be farmed out.

“We’ve already seen the report in budget (sessions) that the people we’ve hired have more than paid for themselves,” he said.
Lavigne added “it’s easy for a pundit to say ‘oh yeah, you’ve hired these people and this is how much it’s going to cost the town’ when it’s not a true representation of what happened. We hired these people to save money, not spend money.”

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin added that staffing requests have come with a “fulsome report” dealing with why the request was made and the financial implications. He said council has to “look at the larger piece of the puzzle” and that information on why the hires were requested is readily available.

Lavigne added his belief the report “is designed to make us look bad.”

“In my opinion, it’s easy in an election year and going into a new council to say ‘they hired all these new people.’ I don’t think it’s legitimate,” he said.

Councillor Rick Fryer agreed with Lavigne, stating that the public has to have “the full picture.”

In the end, council did not proceed with Pouget’s request.

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 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.