St. Thomas/Central Elgin boundary adjustment: ‘Trust is a big part of working together. And in the last six months or so it has been eroded to some degree.’


city_scope_logo-cmykThe Mayor’s Luncheon on Wednesday at St. Anne’s Centre could have been more appropriately billed as A Mayor’s Grilling.
Featuring Southwold Mayor Grant Jones, Central Elgin Mayor Andrew Sloan and St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston, all attention was focused on the latter in what proved to be one of the most lively such functions in recent memory.
All because of recently adopted Bill 63, the St. Thomas-Central Elgin Boundary Adjustment Act, 2023.
The bill allows for the annexation of a portion of Central Elgin to the City of St. Thomas so that the latter can assemble a 1,500-acre parcel of land to attract a mega-industrial project to the city.
It has resulted in a bad taste in the mouths of the city’s neighbours and many unanswered questions.
And so when the floor was opened to questions from the audience on Wednesday, you had to know what direction the conversation would take.
First to the microphone was former Central Elgin Mayor Sally Martyn who needed no warm-up.

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Preventing the community from ever getting into this homelessness bottleneck again


city_scope_logo-cmykIn November of last year, Danielle Neilson reminded city council that the solution to homelessness is housing and housing with supports.
Neilson is the city’s Homelessness Prevention and Housing Programs Coordinator and at that meeting of council, she presented a thorough overview of the homeless situation in St. Thomas, including an analysis of unsheltered homelessness.
She observed, “. . . this is not only the result of increased demands on our emergency shelter beds, some of my firsthand experiences with people living unsheltered in St. Thomas revealed other factors as well.
“Such as needing lower barrier supports that are matched more appropriately to someone’s mental health or addiction challenges that may result in unpredictable behaviours.
“Having personal belongings or accumulating personal belongings at a rate that exceeds the shelter’s ability to store them.
“Having a complete desire to live unsheltered, even when housing options are available.

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‘The fiasco of Alma College should not be repeated’


city_scope_logo-cmykSo, what do you do with a vacant downtown church that is described as “an exemplary building representing the economic, cultural and architectural values of the City of St. Thomas?”
And, how does the city protect this architectural gem now that it is on the selling block?
City council on Monday (July 13) is being asked to to allow administration to begin the notice of intent process to declaring the vacant Trinity Anglican Church at 55 Southwick Street a heritage property under the Ontario Heritage Act.
The current owner (the Anglican Diocese) is not considering designation at this time, and why would they? That move would certainly impact the sale of the property.
The church was officially opened on May 27, 1877, built to replace Old St. Thomas Pioneer Church on Walnut Street.

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Security cameras will ensure a vibrant downtown as ‘a canvas for economic development’


city_scope_logo-cmykVideo surveillance will soon be keeping a watchful eye over the city’s downtown core. At Tuesday’s (May 19) meeting, members of council will be asked to endorse Phase 1 of a project that will see the installation of eight CCTV cameras along a two-kilometre stretch of Talbot Street, from CASO Crossing to Queen Street.
The locations were selected based on 2018/19 crime mapping data and motor vehicle collision reporting information.
In a report to council from city police, it is noted the CCTV program “is a proactive, local solution modelled on successful networks in other municipalities to enhance community well-being and assist the St. Thomas Police Service with solving crime.”
Right now when a crime is committed downtown, police need to canvass businesses to see if they have surveillance footage as evidence.

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Market study recommends more retail in downtown core; revitalization of Elgin Mall


city_scope_logo-cmykIn the period 2000 to 2015, St. Thomas experienced an almost three-fold increase in vacant commercial retail space. That’s one of the key findings in a 2015 retail market study to be presented to council Monday.
The study, undertaken by Dillon Consulting and W. Scott Morgan & Associates, sought to “analyse the ability of the city’s commercial policy framework to support the health of its retail market, while identifying the evolving retail market trends that may affect St. Thomas.”
The city has 2.46 million square feet of retail commercial space – an increase of 15 per cent since 2007 – but in that total, 313,000 square feet is vacant, up from 114,000 in the year 2000.

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Talbot Street redevelopment moves east in 2018


Pending council approval, the city will proceed with design work for Phase 2 of Talbot Street redevelopment.
With successful completion of the initial phase last summer – at a cost of $3.2 million – the plan is to move east and begin work on that stretch of the roadway between Pearl and Mary streets.
talbot-street-redevelopmentjpgSurvey work will begin in the near future and include locates of existing utilities, a process that should entail little in the way of disruption to pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
This second phase will continue the success of the streetscape theme undertaken last year, advised David Jackson, the city’s manager of public works.
“The aesthetics of the street will be enhanced, a pedestrian friendly zone will be prioritized, and the majority of existing parking spaces will be maintained,” wrote Jackson in a release.
The project will include replacement of the sanitary sewer, watermain, utilities, road, sidewalk,  and streetlights.
As was the case last spring and summer, Talbot Street will be closed to vehicular traffic in a phased fashion.
Talbot Street plantersjpgThe construction will “include tight schedule deadlines and  financial penalties to ensure it is completed as quickly as possible,” stressed Jackson.
Pedestrian access will  more or less be maintained, with minor disruptions.
While no date has yet been established, Jackson advised a public meeting will be held in late 2017 where residents and business owners will have an opportunity to review the plans  and learn more about construction timing and impacts. 
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope

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From the steam engine to the STEAM Centre, it’s a logical extension


city_scope_logo-cmykAttracting interested and involved participants was not an issue Monday evening (March 27) at an information night to introduce a partnership between the STEAM Centre, housed in the former Wellington Public School, and the Thames Valley District School Board.  The pilot project will see participating Grade 10 students from the city’s three TVDSB high schools work collaboratively for one semester before returning to their home schools. 
One of the biggest proponents of the STEAM Centre is board member Andrew Gunn, trustee of the Dorothy Palmer Estate which contributed $638,000 to help launch the alternative education project.
Gunn sees the St. Thomas centre as a template for what can be undertaken in communities across the province threatened with losing their schools.

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Talbot Street Heritage Conservation District: Attracting new business by preserving old commercial core


The rich history of the city’s Talbot Street commercial core should be protected through the creation of a heritage conservation district.
That was the recommendation put forth in a presentation to city council Monday by Stantec Consulting, hired to identify and evaluate heritage buildings and landscapes along the downtown corridor.
Preserving examples of Italianate and Edwardian architecture from the halcyon days of commercial growth in the late 1800s and early 1900s warrants designation of a heritage conservation districts stretching from Stanley Street in the west to Alma Street in the east and including the railway lands encompassing the Elgin County Railway Museum, advised Lashia Jones of Stantec Consulting.

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Food for thought: Can the Talbot St. corridor support another grocery store?


Can St. Thomas – specifically the downtown corridor – support another retail grocery store?
That will be the focus of a public meeting to be held 5:45 p.m. May 8 in the council chamber at city hall as Gyulveszi Holdings Inc., have applied to the city for permission to locate a grocery store at 780 Talbot Street, the home of Giant Tiger since 2000.

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