Restrictive covenants: what a tangled web developers weave for homeowners . . . and the city


city_scope_logo-cmykThe following scenario is, no doubt, familiar to residents of the Lake Margaret area.
Some time back, when you purchased your dream home in the ideally located subdivision, you signed a restrictive covenant – an agreement between you and Doug Tarry Limited – which stated “the purchaser shall not use any building erected on a lot for any other purpose than as a private residence and no such building shall be used for the purpose of a profession, trade, employment or business of any description.”
The covenant went on to warn, “the purchaser will not park or store on any lot any trucks of greater than 3/4 ton capacity, boats, trailers and house trailers or any recreational vehicle other than in an enclosed garage.”
Fair enough. An assurance of a quiet, safe neighbourhood in which to raise a family or retire as empty nesters.

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From ‘beyond broken’ to a transit system St. Thomas can be proud of


city_scope_logo-cmykTransit was a prominent talking point leading up to last year’s municipal vote and now, thanks to provincial funding, city residents may soon be standing at a bus stop of “a transit system we can all be proud of.”
At an announcement Thursday (Aug. 8) in front of city hall, Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek indicated the provincial government is committing $1.8 million for transit projects in St. Thomas.
The money will be used for fleet upgrades – including the purchase of 10 new buses with an additional four vehicles for future expansion – and transit technology, including priority signalling for buses at designated intersections.
In addition, the transit projects are being nominated for federal funding under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP), a $30 billion, 10-year infrastructure initiative cost-shared between federal, provincial and municipal governments.

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This sign remains in place until the Ford government rolls out something to help autistic kids


city_scope_logo-cmykA blue-and-white sign in the front window at 378 Talbot St., at first glance, appears deceptively hospitable.
Its message, however, elicits a long second study.
“Welcome To Ontario
Open For Business
Closed For Autism”
Propped up against the glass in the former downtown branch of TD Canada Trust, the sign marks the office of CoField Inc.
Co-owned by Lyndsay Collard and Alison Ditchfield, the pair head up a team of instructor therapists who provide Intensive Behavioural Intervention to children with autism and their families.
Which has the two senior therapists butting heads with the provincial government over autism funding.
Hence the sign.

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New timber plant an innovation showcase for St. Thomas


city_scope_logo-cmykIt will be the first of its kind in Ontario and, as announced Wednesday (July 24), it is to be located in St. Thomas with an economic impact rippling across southwestern Ontario.
At the Dennis Drive Industrial Park, the province’s minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski and environment minister Jeff Yurek announced $5 million in provincial funding to construct a cross laminated timber plant that will create 60 high-paying jobs.
The $32 million, 125,000 sq. ft. Element 5 facility “will showcase the kind of innovation we want to see more of in Ontario,” stressed Yakabuski at the funding announcement.
Based out of Toronto, Element 5 has an existing plant in Ripon, Quebec which produces solid wood panels made with multiple layers of lumber planks cross-laminated with environmentally friendly adhesives. Continue reading

From community hub to municipal parking lot: Trading spaces on new St. Thomas childcare facility



city_scope_logo-cmykAs we noted last month, the city’s social services and housing hub springing up at 230 Talbot Street has run into what city manager Wendell Graves calls a “soft” business case concerning Phase 2.
Phase 1, well underway, includes office space for the social services department and 28 residential units.
Phase 2 was to include a childcare facility and 24 additional housing units on the second and third floors of the building.
In a report to council in June, Graves warned “preliminary cost estimates for the construction of the proposed Phase 2 project are high.”
He added, “At this point, the actual business case for the Phase 2 project is soft and the cost per residential unit is projected to be fairly high ($290,515 per unit).

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Awaiting the green light on an Elgin-Middlesex-London Liberal nominee


city_scope_logo-cmykWith just 99 days until the federal election, you might very well be wondering who the Liberal party has tasked with attempting to unseat incumbent Karen Vecchio in Elgin-Middlesex-London (EML) riding.
Well, the short answer is no one.
The nomination meeting was originally scheduled for January and here we are midway through July with no designated candidate although we know Lori Baldwin-Sands has filed papers.
Will she be acclaimed at some point in the very near future?
A phone call to David Goodwin of the federal Liberal riding association should result in some answers.
“They haven’t called the nomination yet,” advised Goodwin.

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MPP Jeff Yurek: More mental health and addiction supports needed to stop deaths at EMDC


city_scope_logo-cmykSt. Thomas will be the venue for the latest inquest into an inmate death at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC).
The coroner’s inquest into the death of 47-year-old Michael Fall on July 30, 2017, will begin Sept. 23 at the Elgin County Courthouse.
Fall was one of five inmates to die that year at the London institution which has experienced 15 deaths in the past decade.
An inquest is mandatory under the Coroners Act and it will examine the circumstances surrounding his death. The jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing future deaths.
It’s certainly not the first inquest into an inmate death and, most recently, on June 22 another male prisoner was found unresponsive in his cell and later died in hospital.
Two days later, Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek advised in a statement, “I will continue to work with the solicitor general to ensure the safety of correctional officers, staff and inmates.”

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Change of environment accompanied by a climate of controversy for MPP Jeff Yurek


city_scope_logo-cmykCan’t imagine Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP would immediately suggest enjoyable to describe his first week as the province’s head of the environment, conservation and parks ministry.
Just days after the cabinet shuffle that moved Yurek out of the transportation portfolio, he found himself in Halifax this past Thursday (June 27) at a meeting of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment.
The gathering allowed ministers the opportunity to brainstorm on such issues as plastic waste, climate change, air quality, and wastewater.
In a release issued following the discussions, Yurek noted “we are deeply disappointed that (federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine) Minister McKenna continues to focus on her tax plan, disguised as a climate change measure, and refuses to respect the legitimate ways provinces and territories, including Ontario, are tackling climate change in their own unique jurisdictions.”

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Is sensitivity training sufficient deterrent to deal with workplace harassment at city hall?


city_scope_logo-cmykExactly four years ago, we wrote at length about workplace harassment at city hall, referring to it as a “toxic environment.”
At that time, we postulated the City of St. Thomas, as a corporation, should be held to a high standard of excellence with regard to a workplace environment.
The issue in 2015 involved a city employee we identified as ‘Dave’ and his allegations of verbal and physical abuse involving fellow employees and managers.
In a conversation in June of that year with human resources manager Graham Dart, he conceded “As an employer, we don’t have to guarantee a harassment-free workplace, because we can’t do that.
“There is no expectation or requirement of that. But there is an obligation on our part — especially under the Occupational Health & Safety Act — that we address harassment in the workplace.”

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Crossing that bridge to affordable housing in St. Thomas


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s one of those unperceived neighbourhoods in St. Thomas . . . life beyond the hump of the Barwick Street bridge.
The residents, who enjoy a tranquil setting west of the railway track, may soon be joined by a couple hundred new neighbours if the city approves a proposed subdivision in the Hill and Barwick streets enclave.
The Ostojic Group of St. Thomas is proposing a 75-lot subdivision west of Hill Street with Nick and Joe Ostojic making their pitch to council this Monday (June 17).
It’s not the first time the Ostojics have sought to develop the open field nestled between the St. Thomas bypass and Kettle Creek.
The stumbling block in the past has been the restricted access across the wooden bridge that spans the CN line to London.

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Bob McCaig: Remembering a cautionary tale, that pre-election poll and a generous soul


city_scope_logo-cmykHe continually courted controversy, was synonymous with waste management and his legacy adorns the front of the Great Expansion at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital.
St. Thomas developer – and author of 2012’s cautionary tale Madame McGuinty’s Teflon Academy – Bob McCaig died this past Wednesday (June 5) at the age of 79.
The former Elgin county school board trustee was not only a frequent contributor to City Scope, but he was also the focus of numerous items in this corner. Inclusion of the McCaig name could be counted upon to generate a considerable response, both pro and con.
His was a black and white canvas, there was no gray on Bob’s palette.
Love him or loathe him, there is no denying – at heart – he was a prolific community booster.

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A reprieve for now, but prepare for pencil sharpening next year on city budget


city_scope_logo-cmykIs it a case of listening to the people or backpedalling in the face of stiff opposition?
The agenda package for Monday’s (June 3) city council meeting includes a letter from Premier Doug Ford with regard to cost-sharing with municipalities for land ambulance, public health and childcare services.
The proposed cuts to joint funding were to come into effect this year even though municipalities have already set their 2019 budgets and tax rates.
The funding changes are a move by the Ford government to address the province’s $15 billion annual deficit and $347 billion long-term debt.

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Provincial dollars to support St. Thomas crisis intervention team because ‘mental health is truly a community issue’


city_scope_logo-cmykWith a ballooning caseload and the threat of budgetary dollars evaporating next month, yesterday’s (May 24) announcement the provincial funding tap is to be turned on couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for the local branch of the CMHA and the St. Thomas Police Service.
The significance of the announcement was underscored through the appearance of a pair of Ford government heavyweights on hand for the investment news.
Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones, accompanied by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott, took to the podium outside the police station on CASO Crossing to announce $70,775 in funding that will allow a CMHA caseworker to continue working with the police service’s mobile crisis intervention team. Continue reading

The St. Thomas and Elgin Housing and Homelessness Plan: Beyond the Numbers


city_scope_logo-cmykOn Jan. 1 of 2014, the city implemented a 10-year Housing and Homelessness Plan, as mandated by the province’s Housing Services Act.
The goal of the plan – in conjunction with Elgin county – is to work toward meeting the housing and support needs of the community while eliminating long-term homelessness.
At Monday’s (May 13) meeting, a mid-term report was presented to council detailing four strategic directions: increase housing supply options; provide supports to keep people in the sustainable housing they currently have; enhance the current system to prevent homelessness and when homeless, “rapidly” move people into stable housing; and pursue community partnerships.
Let’s focus in on the homeless strategy as 2014 was a significant first year with the rollout of the city’s plan. Continue reading