The St. Thomas and Elgin Housing and Homelessness Plan: Beyond the Numbers


city_scope_logo-cmykOn 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

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No big spenders in the 2018 St. Thomas municipal vote


city_scope_logo-cmykMayoral candidate Steve Wookey was proof the individual spending the most was not guaranteed success in last fall’s municipal vote.
In a breakdown of the audited financial statements from all candidates seeking a seat on St. Thomas city council, then councillor Wookey spent $9,490 in his attempt to upgrade to a mayoral seat. All but $400 of that amount was paid for by Wookey or his wife.
All of the mayoral hopefuls had a spending limit of $31,205.
Incumbent Heather Jackson spent $6,842 in her failed bid at another term as head of council.
Financial contributors of note to her campaign were Harold Kewley and Michelle Thomson who each chipped in $500.
The successful candidate, Joe Preston, ponied up $8,361 in his municipal politics debut. All of that, by the way, came out of his own pocket. Continue reading

Positioned for Growth: St. Thomas prepares for residential expansion in the coming decades


city_scope_logo-cmykIf you think St. Thomas has experienced a growth spurt over the past 20 years, hold on. By the year 2041, the city’s population is projected to exceed 50,000.
To accommodate this influx, the city will need to adjust its urban area boundary as part of a review of its official plan.
Last June, the city completed a population and housing study which determined the municipality will require an additional 76 gross hectares of residential land to accommodate this growth.
As such, the city is undertaking – with input from residents – a project it identifies as Positioned for Growth.
The study will assemble the required planning and engineering reports to support the preferred expansion lands and bring them into the urban area boundary to designate for development.
In addition, the city will identify recreational and cultural infrastructure and the fire protection services required to support this growth in the coming decades. Continue reading

An August start on Alma property? ‘Technically it’s possible.’


city_scope_logo-cmykMichael Loewith of Loewith-Greenberg Communities made an impressive presentation to city council Tuesday, outlining his proposal for developing the Alma College property.
There have been proposals in the past for the site of the former school for girls, so is this latest presentation the real deal?
“He (Loewith) is the right guy,” insisted London Developer Gino Reale, current manager of the Moore Street property.
“It took a little while to find him. But, I think we found the right guy . . . I’m not a builder, but if I find the right guy then that’s who is going to buy it. And this guy, in my books, is the right guy.”
Loewith has a conditional offer to purchase the property, as Reale explained earlier this week.
“There are conditions on the offer until April. As far as he (Loewith) is concerned, it’s a done deal. Until he sends me the paperwork and says he waives the conditions – which was primarily this meeting with council and a couple of other minor things – it will solidify or fall apart by April.” Continue reading

Talbot Street West renaissance to ramp up this year


city_scope_logo-cmykUp 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.
230 Talbot StreetjpgThe 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.
230 Talbot Street conceptualjpg“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.

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Three Queen Street residences are slated for demolition, according to city manager Wendell Graves.

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.

Related posts:

West end of Talbot street to be site of social services and housing campus

Answers needed on dealing with Ascent long-term debt

GIMME SHELTER

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.

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Coun. Joan Rymal, left, and Lois Jackson at a tour of the London Animal Care Centre

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.

Related posts:

A clearer vision for Alma College property or another dashed dream

Answers needed on dealing with Ascent long-term debt

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.

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Dutton Dunwich residents at an open house rally in October of 2017.

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.

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Invenergy’s James Murphy, centre, and Dutton Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam, right, at an open house held in March of 2017.

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.

Related posts:

Dutton Dunwich wind turbines, we’re not past the point of no return

Wind turbine noise complaints proof province is kowtowing to their corporate buddies

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.

COMING UP

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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So, this guy comes up to me and asks, ‘When is the next bus to St. Thomas?’


city_scope_logo-cmykWhile this country’s passenger train network has been picked clean to the bone like so much road kill, Toronto transportation writer and policy adviser Greg Gormick notes it is no coincidence the topic of rail travel ebbs and flows with the election tide.
His clients have included CP, CN, VIA and numerous elected officials and government transportation agencies.
One of his latest undertakings has him consulting for Oxford County to document concerns about the province’s high-speed rail (HSR) proposal linking Toronto with London and eventually Windsor.
Gormick warns HSR will further contribute to the decline of VIA passenger rail service to Woodstock, Ingersoll, Brantford, Stratford, St. Marys and other communities in the region. Continue reading

Mergers are all about creating efficiencies, so who will be left at the alter in health unit marriage?


city_scope_logo-cmykFriday’s announcement of the proposed merger of Elgin St. Thomas Public Health and Oxford County Public Health – which aligns with the province’s call for fewer health units with autonomous boards – is, no doubt, intended to create efficiencies.
Such is the desired effect of any merger, no matter the business sector.
To quote the media release, the two health units “began exploring a potential merger as a way of working towards a strong, unified rural voice for public health in Ontario.”
To further quote from the release, “The intent to merge was formalized through a letter of intent signed by Oxford County Warden David Mayberry on November 8 and Elgin St. Thomas Board of Health Chair Bernie Wiehle on November 9. The letter of intent commits both organizations to a review of each other’s finances, operations and assets; to equally sharing any costs associated with the merger; and to pursuing the necessary statutory and regulatory change at the provincial level before the merger becomes official.” Continue reading