Alma heritage easement agreement preserves the few remaining remnants


city_scope_logo-cmykThirteen months after city council was apprised of plans to revitalize the Alma College property, members are being asked Monday (March 18) to endorse a heritage easement agreement with the developer, Patriot Properties.
If approved by council, the motion would – according to a report from city manager Wendell Graves – “direct staff and the city’s solicitor to undertake the required administrative processes and make application to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) to remove the requirement of the existing 2008 Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) order that any development or redevelopment of 96 Moore Street include a faithful replication of the north façade of the former Alma College building.”
Should the LPAT authorize such an action, the heritage easement agreement would replace the OMB order on the land title. Continue reading

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Women’s Breakfast for Everyone takeaway: ‘The shared capacity for change in this room is large’


city_scope_logo-cmykHis guest speaker engagement March 7 in St. Thomas was far from a routine outing.
In fact, his appearance Thursday morning at the St. Thomas Seniors Centre, proved a humbling experience for Globe and Mail columnist and award-winning author Andre Picard.
For the first time in the 14-year history of the Women’s Breakfast for Everyone, the 200 or so in attendance – including many high school students – would digest the thoughts and opinions of a man at the Violence Against Women, Services Elgin County fundraiser.
His appearance was equally compelling in the fact, as the first male speaker, he addressed the issue of sexual and domestic violence inflicted upon women by men.
And, as so often is the case, if anything goes wrong, it is the woman who shoulders the burden of blame. Continue reading

St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston’s challenge to residents: ‘Dare to dream all that could be possible’


city_scope_logo-cmykAs he stressed in his inaugural address on Dec. 3 of last year, smart growth in St. Thomas can be achieved through co-operation and open communication with neighbouring communities.
Mayor Joe Preston reiterated that mantra Thursday (Feb. 28) at the State of the Municipalities luncheon at St. Anne’s Centre.
Joined by Central Elgin Mayor Sally Martyn and Southwold Mayor Grant Jones, Preston stressed a healthy, expanding regional economy can be nurtured via a co-operative effort with the city’s neighbours.
“We are much stronger when we all work together,” Preston advised the business and community leaders in attendance.
“Will it be accomplished during our terms in office? Yes it will and we all are working together.”
That need for co-operation and communication was one of four key areas Preston stressed need to be addressed during his term in office.

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From bearings to big box, a makeover on the way for Timken site


city_scope_logo-cmykWhen completed, it will be a big box bonanza for St. Thomas and area shoppers.
Rock Developments of Tecumseh, Ontario is proposing to construct two, multi-unit retail buildings at the north end of the former Timken property on Talbot Street.
The structures would sit on the south side of the service road into the existing SmartCentre, opposite the Canadian Tire parking lot.
The subject land is six acres in size and would be severed from the approximately 20-acre footprint of the Timken plant. No firm plans have been announced for the southern portion of the property although it is likely to include some residential development.
Rock Developments’ client base includes Winners, Best Buy, Bouclair, The Brick, TD Canada Trust, Bank of Montreal, Staples, Boston Pizza, Rexall, Golf town, Shoppers Drug Mart and The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) among many others. Continue reading

From designation to easement: Alma’s heritage rise and fall


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Alma College, 1891. Photo courtesy Elgin County Archives.

Exactly one year ago today (Feb. 20), the journey to what is hoped to become the revitalization of the Alma College property began in earnest.
That afternoon, Michael Loewith of Patriot Properties, met for the first time with members of council and staff at the regularly scheduled reference committee meeting to introduce his proposal for the site of the former school for girls at 96 Moore Street.
Currently owned by London developer Gino Reale, the property is bereft of all but a few vestiges of its former life.
Patriot Properties is seeking the go-ahead to construct a trio of residential towers on the Moore Street property. The development is to be completed in three phases over several years and, when finished, will be comprised of 430 apartment units. Continue reading

Downloadable app would alert and advise St. Thomas residents


city_scope_logo-cmykThe Town of Aylmer is already on board and now St. Thomas has the opportunity to partner with that municipality on the implementation of a community notification/alert system.
Last year Aylmer, in conjunction with a pair of local industries – the Integrated Grain Processors Co-op ethanol plant and Air Liquide – entered into an agreement with ICEsoft Technologies of Calgary to purchase their Voyent Alert system.
The firm’s website notes, “The flexible platform serves the dual purpose of alerting and advising residents during a critical incident as well as providing targeted day-to-day communication services.” Continue reading

Area residents to become ‘sacrificial lambs’ in Alma project? – St. Thomas planner Sue Fortin-Smith


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McIntyre Street residences

More than a decade ago, we began referring to St. Thomas resident Dawn Doty as the Alma College watchdog. That was prior to the May 28, 2008 fire that marked the beginning of the end for the former school for girls.
Doty, who owns property on McIntyre Street across from the three-tower residential development proposed by developer Michael Loewith, was instrumental – via a Freedom of Information request – in obtaining an Ontario Heritage Trust report which the provincial government of the day withheld from the public for more than two years.
That document encouraged “the municipality to refuse any request for demolition or substantial alteration that would destroy the building or heritage attributes.”
It’s a moot point all these years later, but it demonstrates the passion of the Alma watchdog.
At Monday’s meeting (Feb. 11) she and Sue Fortin-Smith – a registered professional planner and former chair of the city’s Municipal Heritage Committee – appeared in separate deputations to council regarding what they believe are shortcomings in reports related to the development of the Moore Street property. Continue reading

St. Thomas city council dishes out dollars in a game of grant Whack-A-Mole


city_scope_logo-cmykOn the plus side – and there were few positive takeaways from Monday’s (Feb. 11) special meeting of council – the disbursement of almost a quarter-million dollars in community grants took less than 90 minutes.
And unlike previous years, council showed restraint in not exceeding this year’s budget target of $261,800 up for grabs.
In fact, it has a small reserve of $16,800 to be doled out at some unspecified time later in the year.
Was the process a model of fairness and efficiency?
Well, let’s hope the deliberations Monday afternoon do not become a template for the future.
It was less a cap-and-trade bit of bargaining as we suggested a few days ago and more a lightning round of Let’s Make A Deal.
Council protocol was abandoned in what was akin to a Saturday morning session at the auction house. Continue reading

Doling out St. Thomas grant money: the city’s own cap-and-trade program?


city_scope_logo-cmykCity council’s reference committee meetings – held immediately prior to the regularly scheduled council sittings – tend to be straight forward, down-to-business sessions with an abundance of information and plenty of questions.
While very informative, they can be a tad on the dry side.
Well, a dramatic change could be in order for Monday’s meeting (Feb. 11) which begins at 4:30 p.m. and will see members determine how to dole out community grants for the year.
In the past, this has been a totally unstructured affair with little in the way of guidelines to follow.
The overarching target – seldom adhered to – has been one-half per cent of the general tax levy or in the $250,000 range.
Last year, even with an attempt to pare back some of the requests, the city still awarded almost $330,000 in grants.
For 2019, council has received funding asks from 18 groups or organizations seeking a total of $455,600.
Some tough decisions are in order Monday.

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Can a local fix result in ‘a perfect case’ fire scenario at a pair of St. Thomas homes?


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Part 1 of this story can be found here.

City Scope has spent almost five years documenting the shortcomings at Walnut Manor in St. Thomas, operated by Niagara Supportive Living of Welland.
From meals described as appalling to bare bones maintenance and housekeeping to, most recently, an infestation of bed bugs.
Now you can add owner Vishal Chityal’s refusal to add a sprinkler system to the ageing facility which has housed upward of a dozen residents at any one time.
In the second part of our examination into fire safety at facilities housing the city’s most vulnerable individuals, we talk with St. Thomas Chief Fire Prevention Officer Bill Todd about Walnut Manor and Elizabeth Sebestyen, St. Thomas-Elgin Social Services director, about the options available for the city to protect residents of these unsprinklered group homes. Continue reading

After a close call at Caressant Care, will the fire focus shift to a pair of non-sprinklered facilities in St. Thomas?


city_scope_logo-cmykAlthough one resident remains hospitalized, the Jan. 26 fire at Caressant Care, Bonnie Place in St. Thomas is being called “a perfect case” where the sprinkler system worked, firefighters were on the scene within four minutes and staff and residents had participated in a practice fire drill less than three months previous.
The late-evening blaze sent seven people to hospital, including four residents, two staff and a firefighter. All have been released with the exception of one resident who remains in critical condition.
But, what if that blaze had, instead, broken out in either one of a pair of facilities that appear to have fallen through various cracks? Continue reading

COP’s soon to be the eyes and ears of St. Thomas Police Service


city_scope_logo-cmykFollowing a year that saw a record number of reportable incidents and operating at minimal staffing levels, the city’s police chief is undertaking an innovative approach to maintaining the overall safety of St. Thomas residents.
That means putting more COP’s on the street.
Although, that’s not what you think and, no, the police budget is not going to absorb a beating.
The COP’s, in this case, are Citizens on Patrol.
The program – to be launched later this spring – is modelled after an existing undertaking in Brantford which provides “a visible presence in the community while fostering partnerships with Brantford Police Services, local businesses and residential areas, to identify and expand opportunities to deter criminal activity and reduce crime,” according to the service website.
The COP volunteers – more than 100 now in the program – act as goodwill ambassadors who “foster positive contact with members of the community. COP’s will act as non-confrontational observers and report suspicious behaviour.”
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