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.”
That day is dedicated to the opening of the trail system in St. Thomas with a ceremony in Pinafore Park.
“It’s to celebrate the trails around Lake Margaret, the Whistle Stop Trail (along the London & Port Stanley Railway corridor) and that’s the day we’ll inaugurate the move of the Trans-Canada Trail up to the bridge.”
The official ceremony at the elevated park is set for 5 p.m. but between 3 and 5 p.m., there will be music, horticultural tours and other activities for visitors to explore.
“We will be completely finished (construction) in time for the grand opening,” stressed Lavoie. “The cement work is done, so the 600-foot sidewalk is completely done.
“We’re just working on the deck now and pretty much every day next week we’ve got crews coming in and we expect to be done by the end of next week for the deck.
“Then we start doing the bits and pieces of things to make it look nice.”
It will also be a venue for the Doors Open Ontario event in St. Thomas on October 5 that conveniently melds with the elevated nature of the park.
“What we’re doing that night is our annual star-gazing night with telescopes. People will be able to come on the bridge at sunset. We’ll have live music and talks about the stars and people will be able to watch the stars and planets through telescopes.”
A very family-friendly event at no charge noted Lavoie.
“We’re trying to get as many events up here as possible after the opening and before the bad weather comes.”
And, speaking of winter weather, Lavoie has long envisioned having the park adorned with a large, lighted Christmas tree to honour the season and the idea is still within the realm of possibility, said Lavoie.
“I haven’t given up on that. It certainly is more possible now because we’ll have something to secure the tree to. Stay tuned. If it is going to happen, we’ll be able to announce it sometime around the early part of October.
“I’m more confident now than ever that we’ll be able to do it.”
The sky truly is the limit when it comes to events and activities soon to be possible in Canada’s first elevated park.
SHEDDING LIGHT ON RESTRICTIVE COVENANTS
In the evolving saga of restrictive covenants in the city’s residential developments, a group of Lake Margaret residents opposed to commercial ventures operating in their neighbourhood have received mixed messages in the past week.
They, along with all home purchasers in that subdivision, signed an agreement with 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.”
Of late, that agreement doesn’t appear to be worth the paper it was written on as various home businesses now operate out of Lake Margaret residences.
The most recent example is a childcare facility based out of 18 Hickory Lane.
The residents opposed to this facility are attempting – so far unsuccessfully – to meet with Doug Tarry to determine who enforces the covenant restrictions.
Via an email from a Doug Tarry Limited representative, they were advised this week any enforcement falls to the residents.
No doubt that interpretation begs a legal opinion and the residents are set to follow that path.
However that email sends a positive message in that Doug Tarry Limited is confirming the covenant remains in effect and so the neighbours have every right to pursue enforcement further, including legal action if necessary.
“If a homeowner ignores a potential restriction when building a fence or repainting the garage, for example, any other resident of the subdivision to which the restrictive covenant applies may seek a court order to enforce the restrictive covenant on the offending property.”
Which would likely involve city hall to determine whether the covenant trumps zoning regulations as alluded to last week by the city’s director of planning Pat Keenan
Thanks to a tip from faithful reader Bud Lorch, we learn St. Thomas is not the only municipality wrestling with the nature and scope of restrictive covenants.
In an Ottawa Sun article from Aug. 2 of last year, author Jacques Robert writes, “Restrictive covenants are implemented by the developers of a given subdivision to maintain consistency among various properties in the neighbourhood, and therefore they will affect every lot in a subdivision.”
Robert is an Ottawa area real estate lawyer.
He notes this is to preserve the value of all the land it the subdivision.
Robert continues, “Legally, restrictive covenants are said to ‘run with the land.’ This means that they are binding on any future buyer of the property. Restrictive covenants annexed to land are registered on the title to that property. Removing or modifying a restrictive covenant for a particular lot requires an application to court. However, restrictive covenants only remain in force for a given period of time.”
Lake Margaret residents should note the following.
Roberts advises, “If a homeowner ignores a potential restriction when building a fence or repainting the garage, for example, any other resident of the subdivision to which the restrictive covenant applies may seek a court order to enforce the restrictive covenant on the offending property.”
That advice from a real estate lawyer may be the ammunition required to challenge the operators of home-based businesses in Lake Margaret.
You can read the entire article here.
A BIT OF A STICKY SITUATION
It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the province’s minister of the environment, conservation and parks.
In particular, let’s focus in on a statement issued Aug. 19 by MPP Jeff Yurek dealing with Ontario’s conservation authorities.
Yurek is working “to improve public transparency and consistency” in dealings between municipalities and the conservation authorities.
This is designed to bring conservation authorities “back to their core mandate” and allow municipalities “to better manage conservation authority budgets and programs.”
Yurek continues in the release, “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.”
In a conversation this week with Yurek, he advised “municipalities are quite supportive” of these legislative changes. It gives municipalities more accountability as they had no recourse at budget time when presented with the levy from conservation authorities operating in their area.
For example, in 2018 the levy assessed to St. Thomas by the Kettle Creek Conservation Authority was in the neighbourhood of $250,000.
But what about the impact of this statement in Yurek’s release?
“Over the years, conservation authorities have expanded past their core mandate into activities such as ziplining, maple syrup festivals and photography and wedding permits.
“We are giving municipalities greater control and the ability to enter into agreements with conservation authorities to fund any programs and services outside of the core mandate if they choose.”
One of the highlights each year at Springwater Conservation Area is the maple syrup festival, which draws visitors from well beyond the boundaries of the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority.
“So, there is no accountability and transparency between the conservation authorities and the municipalities.”
Including scores of students from area schools who take advantage of the educational opportunity available each year at the festival.
According to Yurek, that is outside the core mandate.
“If the municipality would like to fund it for them and have a contract with the conservation authority, there is no reason why any event like that wouldn’t come forth,” Yurek noted this week.
“But they would have to make that agreement with the municipality right now.”
The problem, Yurek pointed out, is conservation authorities can increase their budgets “and municipalities have no choice but to pay that extra cost. So, there is no accountability and transparency between the conservation authorities and the municipalities.”
Yurek leaves no doubt when he cuts to the chase.
“We want them to focus on their mandate, which is dealing with flooding, dealing with their conservation land and ensuring they are taking care of our drinking water through source protection.”
As to next year’s maple syrup festival?
It appears that is going to be a bit of a sticky situation.
THE READER’S WRITE
Last week’s item on restrictive covenants prompted several responses from readers including this from Bud Lorch.
“Methinks this doesn’t quite pass ‘the smell test.’ The City of St. Thomas is quoted as saying “We don’t get involved in the covenants, we don’t see them.” That could be, but maybe they should be privy to these covenants. I should think that Doug Tarry Homes will no doubt seek legal opinion on just how much weight their covenants hold.”
And, Pam Brooks-Armstrong checked in with this observation.
“Covenants are not discussed in detail but should be so homeowners understand what they are getting into.”
FOR THE CALENDAR
If the canine in your family loves to romp in the water – bath time is the exception, of course – then make tracks to Jaycees Pool this Sunday afternoon (Aug. 25). The city is hosting the 3rd annual Pooch Plunge at 93 Inkerman Street. It’s a 90-minute splash fest with treats, tennis balls and, of course, the water all provided. Small dogs (30 pounds and under) can make waves from 1 until 2:30 p.m. Large breeds (over 30 pounds) can take to the water like, well like a dog, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 per owner.
Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope
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