Thirteen 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.
The heritage easement agreement to be presented to council includes existing heritage attributes which will be rehabilitated, new commemorative elements which will be introduced to the site, performance guarantees and overall project
scheduling/timelines, according to Graves.
He goes on to stress, “pending approval from the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, prior to the development actually proceeding, council will be required to manage the planning matters for the site which include the removal of the holding zones, final approval of the site plan and the city will be required to enter into a Community Improvement Program grant agreement for the project.”
The most contentious of these elements are the heritage attributes and the proposed commemorative features.
The built heritage elements are the Moore Street entrance gateway and pillars along with the amphitheatre.
As per the agreement, replacement or changes to either of these requires prior approval of the city.
As outlined in the heritage easement agreement, the commemorative features to be installed by Patriot Properties are as follows:
– a permanent outline in paving materials delineating the former footprint of the main Alma College building;
– a permanent spire sculpture representing a portion of the former central tower above the front entrance of the main Alma College building;
– a garden commemorating the original landscaped forecourt of Alma College, including a central flower bed in its original ellipse shape; four interpretative panels, other signage, and historical plaques conveying information about the history of the site at various locations in the zones.
These will be housed in three distinct zones (see map).
Zone 1 will be a landscaped heritage forecourt; Zone 2 the Alma College main building footprint and Zone 3 the amphitheatre, to include the original walkways, level performance area, and heritage interpretation plaques.
Prior to the issuance of a building permit for Phase 1 of the three-tower residential development, Patriot Properties must safely remove and store the stone gate posts and collect and store the remnants of the metal gate.
And, arrange for the replication of the gates, iron fencing, and lanterns.
Restoration of the amphitheatre is to include the removal of invasive and rooted vegetation from the stonework and stone joints.
And the repair and resetting of stones, with accommodations if required by Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry habitat report: Snake Hibernation Emergence Study.
The timeframe on the LPAT is a great unknown at this stage.
However, based on a tribunal that wrapped up this week in Port Stanley dealing with a Prespa Homes condominium development, a pre-hearing public meeting would likely be held in St. Thomas to quality parties and participants wishing to appear at the hearing.
Scheduled for five days of witnesses and submissions, the Port Stanley tribunal concluded after just three days.
Overseeing that hearing, LPAT member Anne Milchberg indicated a decision could take up to three months.
CRITICAL MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge cuts to the chase, “We’re not trained mental health people.”
That is why shortly after assuming the top spot with the service in 2017, he saw the need to address new priorities.
Speaking with Herridge in November of that year, he observed “Policing now – and I’m ballpark guessing – we’re dealing with 70 to 80 per cent of our calls are social issues. Mental health, youth, homelessness . . . you name it and we’re out there dealing with it. People, when they need help, we are the first responders and we are going to try and help them solve some of their problems.”
To deal with the substantial uptick in calls to city police – many involving mental health issues – the service was the recipient of a one-time $91,000 grant from the provincial government which allowed for the hiring of Canadian Mental Health Association response worker Alex Paterson.
A month after she came aboard, Herridge noted “I’m reading her daily reports and it’s just amazing the impact she is already having out there.
“And, that’s the important part. She can come along with us and provide those vital resources and follow up with people in St. Thomas who are suffering from mental health issues.”
“To have that understanding that when you’re dealing with a person, there can be more in their background for them to be acting the way they are.”
The funding went beyond the hiring of Paterson, as Herridge explained.
“As part of that grant request we made to have a CMHA employee here, we’re also going to train our officers in a two-day mental health/first aid course that I received myself two years ago at the hospital.
“It’s a very good course for dealing with people with mental health issues on the front line so officers can recognize the symptoms. To have that understanding that when you’re dealing with a person, there can be more in their background for them to be acting the way they are.”
The one-year funding infusion ran out last October, with the CMHA stepping in to support the program until the end of this month.
The merits of the CMHA program were discussed last month at a special meeting of council to discuss community grants.
Members were in agreement the program is vital to the police service with Coun. Linda Stevenson suggesting the program might be funded through the city’s social services department.
City Manager Wendell Graves went a step further, calling for a broader plan to fund it through to the end of June.
A report dealing with that proposal is on the agenda Monday (March 18).
Graves is asking council to authorize an $18,000 expenditure to fund the CMHA clinician through the month of June.
As per Graves’ report, the police service responded to 1,400 calls related to mental health last year, with Paterson interacting with 564 clients, 25 per cent of those involving youth.
Approving the funding extension request would allow the police service additional time to pursue financial support opportunities through the province.
With the opening of the Food Basics outlet in the coming week, you have to marvel at their meagre attempt to pay homage to the city’s railway heritage.
One would have hoped, in recognition of obliterating views from many angles of the iconic Canada Southern Railway station, a serious attempt would be made to compensate in an appropriate fashion.
Certainly, a series of black and white photos in the window frames overlooking Talbot Street is a far cry from talked-about murals which might have added a splash of colour along the downtown strip.
Ironically, one of the posters – reprints from the Elgin County Archives – portrays the expansive park that used to front the CASO station. There for all to see in its grayscale glory.
Thanks for the memory of what might have been.
Perhaps this is a temporary bargain basement measure until something more meaningful is put in place.
Really, the profits from the first fully loaded shopping cart would have paid for this effort.
So, you have to ask, why does the city spend valuable taxpayer dollars establishing and promoting a heritage conservation district, and then allow developers to pay little more than lip service?
Just a heads-up that a page out of the Justin Trudeau playbook will be before council on Monday.
On the same evening members debate a community notification/alert system – which can warn city residents of approaching severe weather – Coun. Lori Baldwin-Sands is asking council to endorse a motion declaring a climate emergency.
Specifically, the motion which is symbolic in nature, “declares a climate emergency for the purposes of naming, framing and deepening our commitment to protecting our economy, our ecosystem and our community from Climate Change.”
Kingston, Halifax, Vancouver, and Calgary have already approved such a motion.
It is odd the motion comes from Baldwin-Sands, who voiced opposition to a move by the city’s police service to an energy-efficient new home and who is not in favour of adopting the above alert system, a valuable tool in dealing with the increased severity of storms related to climate change.
And, when campaigning in the lead-up to last fall’s municipal vote, there was nary a word from Baldwin-Sands on a climate change emergency.
In fact, at one candidate meeting in October, she listed her four priorities as jobs, a new recreational facility, affordable housing, and the expansion of Valleyview Home.
Now five months later she is urging the city to declare a climate emergency?
Is this at all related to the upcoming federal election in which Baldwin-Sands hopes to represent Elgin-Middlesex-London riding as the Liberal candidate?
So she can resume being a bit player in Trudeau’s rock star video world.
ON THE CALENDAR
The St. Thomas Rotary Club will hold its annual Keynotes Concert on Friday, April 5 beginning at 7 p.m. The venue is Central United Church, 135 Wellington St. The musical showcase features talent from the city, Aylmer and surrounding area and is open to the public. Goodwill donation only. For more info, visit www.rotarystthomas.org
Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope
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