Up until this past Monday (Jan. 22), the city’s ambitious proposal to develop “a social services and housing campus” on a large tract of land purchased last year from London developer Shmuel Farhi has been little more than vague concepts outlined in several reports and updates.
That all changed in stunning fashion at this week’s reference committee meeting where a rendition of Phase 1 of the project at 230 Talbot Street was presented to council and staff.
“The architect provided council with a high-level overview of the design concepts for the project,” explained city manager Wendell Graves.
“This week we are requesting proposals for contractors to pre-qualify them (for tendering).
The hub will be developed in three stages over several years, anchored by a new home for Ontario Works, which is currently leasing space in the Mickleborough building at 423 Talbot Street, the second property purchased by the city from Farhi in the same transaction.
The city paid $1.4 million for the parcel of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and extending down to Centre Street. The property includes three houses on Queen Street.
Farhi Holdings is donating $400,000 back to the city as part of the deal.
“A goal we have at this point in time is by April 16th, we would be in a position to actually award a tender for the project,” explained Graves, who added the building will occupy the north end of the property abutting Talbot Street.
“That would be the social services building with two floors of affordable housing, 28 units.”
In the 2018 city budget, $11.3 million has been included for 15,000 square feet of office space and the affordable housing units.
To help finance the project, city council approved Graves’ recommendation to “sell vacant free-standing homes within the affordable housing program and the transfer of the sale proceeds to the development of new housing stock” at 230 Talbot Street.
The homes to be sold would come from the supply of 75 single-family homes on Simcoe and Dunkirk streets. Graves anticipates 12 to 14 of these units would become available over the next two years.
Site remediation of the Talbot Street property is expected to cost between $400,000 and $600,000 and the tendering process is underway.
Cleanup of the property “will start as soon as we can firm that up,” noted Graves. “We need to get the site cleaned up prior to the contractor being on site.”
The plan is to clean the bulk of the site and not just the area needed for Phase 1.
“It seems prudent to get the whole thing done,” advised Graves.
As for the trio of houses on Queen Street, demolition is expected to proceed this spring.
No one would deny the city’s Burwell Road animal shelter is hopelessly inadequate and has been that way for years.
The cramped, uninviting facility was scheduled to be renovated this year but that was put on hold because the lowest tender bid came in $38,000 over the $260,000 budget allocated to the project.
What is needed is a complete rethink on the role of animal services and, to that end, Lois Jackson, chair of the city’s Animal Welfare Select Committee and founder of All-Breed Canine Rescue, organized a Jan. 23 tour of London Animal Care Centre, a for-profit organization operating out of a well-equipped building on Pine Valley Blvd.
Only two members of council – Joan Rymal and Mark Tinlin – took advantage of the invite and they were joined by two members of staff, including bylaw enforcement officer Rob McDonald.
The entourage was rounded out by members of the animal welfare committee.
The centre has a five-year contract with the City of London, valued at $2 million per year.
The city provides 40 hours of vet services per week under a separate agreement.
It handles pet bylaw enforcement and licensing of the animals. A crew of bylaw officers aggressively targets dog owners, going so far as to knock on doors to check for compliance.
“Revenue really comes from licences and not adoptions,” stressed director of operations Kent Lattanzio.
Ironing out the kinks and fine-tuning the process has been a 15-year process, explained Lattanzio.
While he wouldn’t go so far as to say it has a no-kill policy, Lattanzio’s target is 90 per cent live release. Any animals euthanized are for “humane reasons.”
By way of comparison, Lattanzio noted many shelters are euthanizing as many as 60 per cent of the cats brought in.
The centre has a capacity of 140 cats and 45 dogs, although the population was far below that on this day.
A Facebook page is utilized strictly for pet adoptions, which Lattanzio stressed is the key to moving animals.
The facility has an effective Meet Your Match program in place to team up those interested in adopting with pets that fit their lifestyle and personality.
It also gives staff a reason to say no to potential adoption situations unlikely to succeed.
Such a program also lowers the stress on animals in a shelter environment.
Councillors Rymal and Tinlin asked a bevy of excellent questions and returned to St. Thomas armed with vital information to hopefully move the animal shelter off the back burner where it has simmered for years.
Optimistically, staff and council will realize the valuable resource they have in Lois Jackson.
STEPPING UP THE FIGHT
There are a lot of Dutton Dunwich residents generating plenty of noise about noise.
And, they are attracting a considerable amount of interest, not to mention media attention.
Dutton Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines (DDOWT) has filed a judicial review application against the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change alleging provincial regulations limit the amount of noise any resident should have to tolerate from industrial wind turbines.
Modelling is used to establish these limits and the ministry has admitted previous guidelines underestimate the actual noise endured by residents adjacent to wind turbines.
New regulations have been established, however DDOWT contends the Strong Breeze wind turbine project proposed for the municipality – along with at least four other large-scale undertakings across the province – will be allowed to proceed without adhering to these new regulations.
At a media conference Thursday near Wallaceburg, Bonnie Rowe of DDOWT – with the support of three similar groups in eastern Ontario and Wallaceburg – announced a challenge of the ministry for failure to protect the public from industrial wind turbine noise.
It’s a move not take lightly, stressed Rowe.
“We estimate that these five proposed wind power projects will be out of compliance with noise levels as soon as they go online.”
In the case of the Strong Breeze project in Dutton Dunwich, Rowe asserts “the majority of these proposed turbines, as well as the transformer, will likely produce noise over the ministry maximum allowable levels.”
“The government knows the modelling done by the wind companies is wrong,” adds Eric Gillespie, legal counsel for the group.
“However the government now doesn’t require them to follow the proper process. It’s not surprising people from across Ontario are joining together to vigorously oppose this.”
While not a participant in the application, Dutton Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam and municipal council have long voiced opposition to the project, along with more than 80 per cent of the residents.
So far, to no avail.
Noise is just one piece of the puzzle, noted McWilliam, “but I still can’t figure out when you have a bigger turbine and you are not even making them follow the guidelines, how that doesn’t lead to more noise or vibration.”
A new concern for McWilliam is the recent collapse of a tower in nearby Chatham-Kent.
More so in light of the fact the proponent of the Dutton Dunwich Strong Breeze project, Invenergy, built the Chatham-Kent tower. Several years ago Invenergy sold the industrial wind farm development to another firm in the field.
“That’s our concern,” stressed McWilliam, “they seem to be more of a design and build company and then sell it as soon as it’s running.
“All these proposals should be shut down until they are able to determine what happened (to the tower). And what’s the mitigation.”
No date for the judicial review – likely to be heard at Osgoode Hall in Toronto – has yet been determined.
FOR THE CALENDAR
- A public information centre will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Best Western Stoneridge Inn to garner input on improvements to the Highway 401/Col. Talbot Road interchange and realigning and replacement of the existing Glanworth Drive bridge over the 401.
- The 45th annual Honours and Awards banquet will take place at Memorial Auditorium on Thursday April 19, beginning at 6 p.m. The evening recognizes St. Thomas youth, individuals, teams, or groups which enjoyed an impressive achievement in 2017 and deserve civic recognition.
Watch for an interview with Const. Travis Sandham regarding the St. Thomas Police Service’s newly launched Vulnerable Persons Registry.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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