Earlier this month, council unanimously approved recommendations from the planning department concerning amendments to the city’s official plan to support hotel and apartment use at Elgin Centre (formerly Elgin Mall).
The report from Jim McCoomb, manager of planning services for the city, followed a public meeting held July 15 where some residents expressed concerns about noise emanating from the hotel, snow removal and storage, fire safety for the upper levels of the hotel and parking and traffic.
A traffic assessment study submitted to the city concluded, “the proposed redevelopment of a portion of the existing Elgin Centre shopping mall will not significantly change the existing roadway traffic volumes and on-site parking accommodation.”
It was noted a petition had been received signed by 40 individuals opposed to the proposal.
It’s the recent recipient of a 210-foot wooden boardwalk, a continuous 600-foot concrete sidewalk and is the home of an 11-piece art installation.
And it officially opens from end to end on Saturday (Sept. 14) with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 5 p.m.
The St. Thomas Elevated Park – Canada’s first – was previewed to the media today (Sept. 12) a little more than two years after the first phase of construction began atop the 850-foot Michigan Central Railroad bridge crossing Kettle Creek at a height of 95 feet.
It’s the third bridge on this site and opened in 1930 at a cost of $689,000 and carried as many as 50 trains a day.
In a ceremony held this morning at the main fire hall in St. Thomas, several dozen firefighters, members of the police service and EMS gathered for a 9-11 memorial service and to recognize the efforts of the people “willing to step up and answer the call to action when it is needed.”
Hosted by the St. Thomas Professional Firefighters’ Association, the ceremony honoured the more than 400 firefighters and law enforcement officers who died in the World Trade Center and on the ground in New York City.
It was also an opportunity for elected officials to pay tribute to the city’s first responders.
“Thank you so much for all of the work you do each and every day to keep us safe,” observed Elgin-Middlesex-London MP Karen Vecchio.
The question was posed recently by Peter Ostojic of Walter Ostojic & Sons Ltd.
“Just do not understand why the city is involved in building affordable housing units themselves.”
The former mayor of St. Thomas was referencing the community and social services hub now under construction at 230 Talbot St.
The subject was broached again this past Tuesday (Sept. 3) at the reference committee meeting in which city manager Wendell Graves updated council on Phase 2 of the project, which will front onto Queen Street.
With Phase 1 nearing completion this fall – “something Graves described as a shiny, new nickel for us” – he presented a conceptual business case to council members.
The structure would contain a minimum of 48 housing units on two floors with the possibility of more units should the structure be expanded to a third or fourth floor.
The estimated cost of constructing each unit is $225,000 with 24 of them renting out at $500 or so per month and another 24 geared to income at approximately $300 per month.
Is another provincial backtrack in the offing?
On Aug. 16 MPP Jeff Yurek, minister of the environment, conservation and parks, noted in a statement, he is working “to improve public transparency and consistency” in dealings between municipalities and the conservation authorities.
Yurek continued, “The legislative changes we’ve made ensure conservation authorities focus on delivering core services and programs that protect communities from natural hazards and flooding while using taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively.”
Last week in this corner, we questioned the impact this legislation would have on events such as the maple syrup festival hosted by the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority (CCCA)at Springwater Conservation Area.
Well, what should appear in the agenda package for Tuesday’s (Sept. 3) city council meeting but a letter from Rick Cerna, CCCA board chairman and Ward 3 councillor in Malahide Township.
An ambitious construction schedule this month along the St. Thomas Elevated Park is resulting in transformative development closer aligned to the final design.
This beehive of activity meant the closure of the park atop the Michigan Central Railroad bridge during August.
And now, due to unforeseen delays, it has resulted in the cancellation of the annual Elevated Picnic scheduled for tomorrow (Aug. 25).
We caught up with On Track St. Thomas director Serge Lavoie hard at work in the park for an update.
“Because the construction schedule was slipping, we felt it wasn’t going to be safe enough to do the picnic,” advised Lavoie.
“What we’re doing instead is a grand opening on Sept. 14,” added Lavoie, “which coincides with an event the city and the health unit are doing called Trails Open St. Thomas.”
The 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.
Transit 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.
A 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.
It 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
As 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).
With 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.
St. 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.”
Can’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.”
Exactly 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.”
It’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.
He 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.
Is 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.
With 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
On 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