It should be a fair assumption the city has an open door policy to welcome new business to St. Thomas and make the move here as seamless as possible. Why would you operate in any other fashion?
So why are city staff — and to a lesser extent some members of city council — throwing up roadblocks and mounds of red tape in the direction of Kristie Morgan, who operates a much-needed adult day nursery at 24 Elizabeth St?
A nursery that operates six hours each weekday and employs five people in a city starved for jobs.
Yes she was afforded a small victory Monday when council allowed her to continue to operate her Time For You 2 facility in an area zoned residential, which permits churches, private schools and day nurseries limited to children under 18 with a developmental handicap.
Morgan’s operation deals with those over 18 years of age who benefit greatly from the life and social skills offered by Morgan and her staff. In the process affording much needed relief for the parents of these individuals.
This should be a minor zoning amendment, however if it continues to drag on — as it has for close to a year — it could very well become an election issue. And hasn’t the city got more important issues to deal with than a much-needed adult day nursery?
On more than one occasion city department heads have bemoaned the fact their staff are overworked. In Morgan’s case, are three or four planning department staff making best use of their time and resources dealing with her zoning variance?
Morgan is offering such a valuable service, she is toying with the possibility of opening an adult day nursery in Aylmer. She is also fielding questions from interested parties in Ingersoll.
Hard to imagine these two communities would force Morgan to jump through the myriad of hoops she has had to deal with at city hall, including another meeting with planning staff next week.
St. Thomas is open for business? Not in Kristie Morgan’s case.
PROMISE OR PLOY
If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
Such holds true of the provincial Liberals promise of a high speed rail service linking London with Toronto, announced in April of this year.
Elgin-Middlesex-London Tory MPP Jeff Yurek labels the pledge nothing short of an election ploy.
Speaking to the Times-Journal on Thursday, Yurek advised the Libs “haven’t released any studies to prove the rail link would be self-sufficient. No ridership studies and there’s no costs. We asked the government this week for reports to be tabled and they are refusing to hand them out.
“So my question is, was this a real promise to the people of our area or is it in fact just trying to buy some votes.”
When making the announcement in London, then Minister of Transportation Glen Murray advised the initial cost would be $3 billion.
If the province is putting forth a true high speed rail line, it would require a dedicated right-of-way with limited or no road crossings and, ideally, no slower rail traffic or such use limited to off-peak hours.
It is estimated the construction costs associated with high speed lines now in existence in Europe are in the $40 million per mile range for routes that are fairly level in nature.
In Spain, the Cordoba-Malaga line worked out to $37 million per route mile.
In France, construction of the Paris-Strasbourg route was $42 million per route mile.
Expensive business high speed rail. And that doesn’t include the electric train sets required to operate the service.
So, Kathleen Wynne and her government are promising to establish this line from scratch for $3 billion?
Or, is this another public-private partnership the province in enamoured with but which can ultimately cost more than conventional contracts.
No wonder there is skepticism on the part of Yurek and the PC party.
The story in Friday’s T-J prompted the following response from Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca.
“Thanks to the leadership of MPP Deb Matthews, a champion for transportation infrastructure funding in London and Southwestern Ontario, our $29 billion, 10-year “Moving Ontario Forward” plan will help deliver new transportation options to the people of the London area.
“The Ministry of Transportation has recently completed a prefeasibility report on high speed rail, and is making progress on finalizing a business case and beginning the Environmental Assessment which will include the London area by the end of the year.
“This is a project our government, Minister Matthews and Premier Wynne are very excited for and committed to seeing move forward.”
In speaking to Yurek, he told the T-J his party “asked the government this week for (prefeasibility) reports to be tabled and they are refusing to hand them out.”
Del Duca’s press secretary offered the following explanation for the tardiness.
“On background, the prefeasibility report was conducted by First Class Partnerships (FCP Inc.) and contains commercially sensitive information. The Ministry is working on determining what can be released at this time, as they proceed with finalizing the business case and doing an Environmental Assessment.”
The plan may be all about Moving Ontario Forward, however high speed rail is going to have a difficult time keeping up.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“As the parent of a young man (25 years of age) with severe disabilities, I can tell you that this bylaw the way it currently reads is highly discriminatory. People with disabilities of all ages belong in neighbourhood communities, not in industrial zones.”
Reader Donna Thomson commenting on last week’s City Scope dealing with Kristie Morgan who is attempting to better the lives of adults with developmental handicaps but has run afoul of the city’s zoning bylaws.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow @ianscityscope