Mark Galvin

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.

Council members look for resolution on rumble strip issue

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The fate of rumble strips, the grooves in the pavement near rural intersections, may be learned next month.

Town council is expected to receive a report in April on the matter, it was learned, after Councillor Leo Meloche brought the matter forward at the most recent town council meeting. Meloche said the noise being made by people driving over the rumble strips is still a problem for many who live near them.

“We have to address this one way or another,” said Meloche. “I’m asking when.”

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin said his recommendation was to wait as administration gathers best practices from other municipalities.

Council was also told that the town has changed the engineering firm that was looking into the issue. However, Meloche wanted a solution sooner than later, suggesting that some rumble strips could be filled in when the asphalt plants re-open for the season.

“We’ve got to get urgency into this matter,” said Meloche. “I don’t think a whole summer of this would be pleasing to any of us.”

CAO John Miceli stated administration is performing its due diligence into the matter but Councillor Rick Fryer said rumble strips in other areas of the province that he has travelled don’t result in the same level of noise as the rumble strips in the rural areas of Amherstburg.

“The depth is too deep,” he said, though public works officials informed him the most recent installation was at a quarter-inch depth as recommended by the county. Galvin added that rumble strips in other areas may have been carved some time ago and have worn down, as compared to the “fresh” rumble strips that are in Amherstburg.

A report is expected to be before town council April 9.

Town council puts two-hour limit on downtown parking lot

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A two-hour parking limit is coming to the lot at the corner of Richmond St. and Ramsay St.

Town council voted to implement a parking limitation at that lot during Monday night’s meeting and to support the concept of a downtown parking study after the development of the Duffy’s property is complete.

The issue stemmed from an Oct. 23, 2017 request from Storey and Denomme Family Dentistry to have two dedicated spots in that lot. That request was denied but it sparked the investigation into options for that lot. The parking limitations would be Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Councillor Joan Courtney spoke against the two-hour limit, stating that it could deter people from eating out and enjoying the downtown area.

“Everything is two hours,” said Courtney. “I find that unreasonable.”

Courtney cited an example of a family eating at a restaurant and going for a walk in the summer with an ice cream only to have to keep checking their wristwatches in order that they don’t violate a two-hour parking limit.

“My wish will be no time limit from May until late August,” she said.

Two-hour parking is coming to the lot at the intersection of Ramsay St. and Richmond St.

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin said the town has dealt with complaints that people park in the lot downtown all day and said issues related to downtown parking in any municipality is a tough one.

“Finding the right mix of short-term versus long-term is something municipalities struggle with,” he said. “You will never make everyone happy.”

Galvin added he has seen four-hour parking limits on occasion, but “not that often.”

Councillor Rick Fryer said he was fine with introducing a two-hour parking limit in the lot. He said there are spots available in a town-owned lot east of the Heritage Square lot.

“From the downtown core to Heritage Square, it’s not that much of a walk,” said Fryer.

Fryer believed the issue for downtown businesses is “convenience over what is available.” He added a major issue is people parking in public spots for days without moving their vehicles.

“How do we move cars that have been there for days upon days?” he asked. “I hope the bylaw is strong enough so we’ll be able to tow.”

Courtney questioned where downtown employees will park. Manager of licensing and enforcement said there was material sent to downtown businesses showing there were a lot of spots just out of the core area and suggested that strategy could be used again.

“A report to council on March 9, 2015, identified that a parking review was conducted for the downtown in the area of Rankin Avenue to Park Street, and Dalhousie Street to

Sandwich Street. Through this exercise, administration reviewed all town-owned parking lots within this area and completed an inventory of available parking spots. Further, administration reviewed and created an inventory of all on street parking within the identified area along with time limits where applicable,” Rubli stated in her written report. “In 2015, it was identified that the town has a total of 97 parking spots available for use in town-owned parking lots and approximately 373 on street parking spots within the identified area.”