open house

Parks Master Plan subject of open houses

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town is taking a closer look at its parks system and went out into the community to see what residents want.

The town and planners from the firm Monteith Brown Planning Consultants (MBPC) held a pair of open houses with regard to a new Parks Master Plan last Thursday with one being at Amherstburg Fire Station No. 2 in the afternoon and the other at the Libro Centre that night. Joannah Campbell, a recreation and parks planner with MBPC, said the plan will be for a ten-year period and deal with parks, open spaces and trails.

Campbell said data has been collected on all town recreational space with visits also having been made to each park. They have been looking at usage and growth forecasts as well with meetings with stakeholders and user groups also planned.

“We will review the data and come up with a draft plan,” she said. “We hope to have the draft plan ready in early 2018.”

Another open house would be scheduled around that time, Campbell added, and the community would again be invited to give their input on what they would like to see in Amherstburg’s park system. Some parks could be refreshed while other uses could be changed or added, she noted.

“We want to animate space,” said Campbell, adding they would like to see people active and out in the community.

Paul Hertel and Gord Freeman discuss elements of the proposed parks master plan with consultant Joannah Campbell last Thursday night.

CAO John Miceli said the open house was to see what the community wants in its parks. He pointed out that there has been a lot of change in the parks industry and that the town wants to have parks that reflect the wishes and wants of the residents.

“We have a significant amount of parkland,” he noted.

The Parks Master Plan could identify new uses for parks or the creation of new parks, such as a dog park, Miceli indicated. Residents could also say they like the uses of the parks as they are now.

“It’s going to be driven by the whole community,” said Miceli. “There’s so many things we need to look at.”

While seed money could be part of the 2018 budget, the town would be looking to start building a capital budget for parks in 2019. Much of the implementation of the plan’s recommendations would likely be in 2019.

“Once we know what the community wants, we are going to plan accordingly,” said Miceli. “We need them to participate. We want to get it right. It’s a long term plan for the town.”

There is also an online survey people can fill out to give feedback on town parks. People can visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/AburgParks. Hard copies of the survey can be picked up at the Libro Centre or at town hall. The survey runs through Nov. 6.

Community Improvement Plan, Urban Design Guidelines to be subject of open house

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Now that town council has authorized the development of a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) and urban design guidelines, administration is moving ahead with those efforts.

An open house is planned for Oct. 30 at the Libro Centre with sessions planned for 3-5 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. The town stated that the purpose of these two plans is to assist the municipality with enhancing Amherstburg’s downtown core and commercial area “through a variety of planning, incentive and design strategies.”

One of the main drivers of the Community Improvement Plan is to provide a program for attracting overnight accommodations in the commercial area of the town. Town council authorized administration to move forward in August.

A Community Improvement Plan is described as “a tool that will support and provide incentives for sustainable revitalization and heritage conservation within the downtown and commercial areas of town” while “Urban Design Guidelines with a heritage theme will work in conjunction with the Community Improvement Plan as it relates to incentives for commercial façade improvements. These documents will assist in guiding the evolution of the urban fabric of the town in terms of commercial developments and streetscapes.”

Manager of planning services Rebecca Belanger said town council approved the initiative and Monteith Brown Planning Consultants awarded the contracts for both projects.

“The purpose of the open house is for the public to meet the consultants, have them introduce the study and hear people’s ideas on the project,” said Belanger.

Belanger said “it’s very preliminary at this point” and that past documents on heritage districts and similar studies will be incorporated into this project.

“There’s a lot of background work that was done in the past,” she said.

Noting it is a “multi-phase program,” Belanger also noted the CIP is designed to attract overnight accommodations to Amherstburg while the Urban Design Guidelines are geared towards incentives for façade improvements and infilling opportunities downtown as well. She said the programs will help support the town’s business community and enhance built heritage.

Speaking specifically of the CIP, Belanger said possibilities include setting up grant or loan programs for interested developers and offering relief on fees.

“It may be multi-tiered depending on what is proposed,” said Belanger.

There will be a lot of consultation throughout the process, Belanger added, and it will also be placed on the recently-launched “Talk the Burg” website as well.

“The CIP will provide a business friendly program that the Town of Amherstburg will offer to businesses to support the competitive market for the attraction of overnight accommodations and business façade improvements” says Mayor Aldo DiCarlo.

 

Public information session being held regarding basement flooding subsidy program

 

The Town of Amherstburg is holding a public information session regarding the Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy program that was recently passed by town council Sept. 25.

The public information session will be held Thursday evening at the McGregor K of C Hall, located at 9560 Walker Road, from 6-8 p.m.

There were 34 homes in the McGregor area reportedly impacted by basement flooding from a heavy rain storm Aug. 28.

The town is offering a financial subsidy to disconnect foundation drains that are connected to the sanitary sewer; install a backwater valve on the internal plumbing system in existing homes;

and install a sump pump overflow to discharge outside to surface (applies to existing sump pumps only).

The Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program can be viewed prior to the information session at www.amherstburg.ca. Town administration will be on hand to answer any questions that arise.

If members of the public are unable to attend the public information session and have any questions, they may contact the Public Works Department at 519-736-3664.

Open house coming Wednesday night on proposed elimination of vacancy tax rebate program

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The County of Essex is hosting a vacancy tax rebate program open house Wednesday night and businesses from around the county are expected to attend.

According to the county’s website, the vacancy tax rebate program was established in 2001 under section 364 of the Municipal Act.

According to the county, “the program provides tax rebates to owners of vacant property in the commercial and industrial tax classes. The commercial class receives a 30 per cent rebate, while the industrial class receives a 35 per cent rebate if the property has remained vacant for a minimum of 90 consecutive days.”

The county further notes that recent changes to the legislation now affords municipalities the opportunity to review and assess the merits and success of the program.

The total value of vacancy rebates for the town of Amherstburg in 2016 was $54,536.

Reasons listed for consideration of scrapping the program include the belief that vacant properties have a negative impact on neighbourhoods; funds recovered from the program could be re-invested in incentives for growth and development and could be better aligned with Community Improvement Plans and that funds recovered would be invested in enhancing municipal services.

The county states there is “some concern that the program encourages a lack of property development and also discourages seasonal renting” and “there is no guarantee that the tax savings from the rebate program is used to increase rental viability.”

The program also requires “significant administrative resources” to administer with the number of applications for vacancy tax rebates also being on the decline in many Essex County municipalities in recent years.

Mary Birch, director of council services/clerk for the County of Essex, told county council last Wednesday night that in order to make changes to or eliminate the program, a public consultation process has to be undertaken. She said the open house will allow businesses and property owners the opportunity to come in and explain how eliminating the program would impact them.

“We’re anticipating there will be representation of each municipality at the open house,” said Birch.

Birch said recommendations will go back to each of the seven Essex County municipalities with a report to come back to county council, likely in November.

“It’s a lengthy process,” said Birch. “We hope to have it completed by the end of the year so we can have it completed by the 2018 taxation year.”

Justin Rousseau, director of corporate services/treasurer for the town of Amherstburg, also noted the request to change the program must be made to the Minister of Finance by the upper tier municipality, which is the County of Essex.

“The rebate applies to commercial property owners in the town, they will no longer be able to get a property tax reduction for empty store fronts.  By not offering the program the town will be able to keep the additional $54,536 that it was not able to in 2016,” said Rousseau. “The benefit to that is it helps reduce pressures on the municipal tax mill rate for all the residents of the town.  The drawback is now there is no relief for the owners of vacant store in the town.”

The open house is Sept. 27 from 4-7 p.m. at the Essex Civic Centre, located at 360 Fairview Ave. W. in Essex.

Victoria St. Manor staff report “very busy” open house

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Victoria St. Manor opened its doors to the public and report a “very busy” open house.

Over 50 people passed through the halls of the renovated seniors home at the recent open house with some agreeing to become residents while others took information packages home to think about it with their families. The renovations of the home included new sprinkler systems, a renovated kitchen and other upgrades.

VictoriaStManor

The County of Essex closed the home in 2014 due to concerns over fire safety and sold the building to Dr. Nadeem Khan and his wife Farah, who undertook the upgrades so that it could be opened again.

“It’s been very busy today,” said Nicole Courtney, business and client developer with Victoria St. Manor. “It’s been amazing. It’s very overwhelming.”

An upstairs library and sitting area is available to residents.

An upstairs library and sitting area is available to residents.

The open house also saw families of former residents coming in just to see the inside of the home again.

The home features 14 rooms, with some having beds and some not as potential residents have the option of bringing in their own furniture if they like.

“If people want to come in and share a room, we’re able to facilitate that,” said Courtney.

There are social areas, a screened-in porch, dining room, laundry facilities and other common rooms in addition to the suites. As of last Friday, there were nine people on staff including a nurse, several personal support workers (PSW’s) and an event co-ordinator with more staff expected to be hired, Courtney added.

The kitchen at Victoria St. Manor has undergone renovations and upgrades.

The kitchen at Victoria St. Manor has undergone renovations and upgrades.

Victoria St. Manor “ran into a few issues” such as parts delays for what was needed for the upgrades but Courtney stated that “everything has finally come together.” The original opening was planned for March.

“It took a little longer but I’m glad to see it paid off,” said Courtney.

There are talks of having a garden for the residents and other special events. Thus far, three people are committed to be moving in while another four are possibilities, said Courtney, who added rates start at $2,700 per month.

For more information, visit www.victoriastreetmanor.com or call 519-713-9536.