You can amend the St. Thomas official plan but will that attract hotel guests?


city_scope_logo-cmykEarlier this month, council unanimously approved recommendations from the planning department concerning amendments to the city’s official plan to support hotel and apartment use at Elgin Centre (formerly Elgin Mall).
The report from Jim McCoomb, manager of planning services for the city, followed a public meeting held July 15 where some residents expressed concerns about noise emanating from the hotel, snow removal and storage, fire safety for the upper levels of the hotel and parking and traffic.
A traffic assessment study submitted to the city concluded, “the proposed redevelopment of a portion of the existing Elgin Centre shopping mall will not significantly change the existing roadway traffic volumes and on-site parking accommodation.”
It was noted a petition had been received signed by 40 individuals opposed to the proposal.

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The city’s ‘shiny, new nickel’ continues to generate questions on who should build affordable housing


city_scope_logo-cmykThe question was posed recently by Peter Ostojic of Walter Ostojic & Sons Ltd.
“Just do not understand why the city is involved in building affordable housing units themselves.”
The former mayor of St. Thomas was referencing the community and social services hub now under construction at 230 Talbot St.
The subject was broached again this past Tuesday (Sept. 3) at the reference committee meeting in which city manager Wendell Graves updated council on Phase 2 of the project, which will front onto Queen Street.
With Phase 1 nearing completion this fall – “something Graves described as a shiny, new nickel for us” – he presented a conceptual business case to council members.
The structure would contain a minimum of 48 housing units on two floors with the possibility of more units should the structure be expanded to a third or fourth floor.
The estimated cost of constructing each unit is $225,000 with 24 of them renting out at $500 or so per month and another 24 geared to income at approximately $300 per month.

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MPP Jeff Yurek’s winding down decree has conservation authorities winding up pushback efforts


city_scope_logo-cmykIs another provincial backtrack in the offing?
On Aug. 16 MPP Jeff Yurek, minister of the environment, conservation and parks, noted in a statement, he is working “to improve public transparency and consistency” in dealings between municipalities and the conservation authorities.
Yurek continued, “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.”
Last week in this corner, we questioned the impact this legislation would have on events such as the maple syrup festival hosted by the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority (CCCA)at Springwater Conservation Area.
Well, what should appear in the agenda package for Tuesday’s (Sept. 3) city council meeting but a letter from Rick Cerna, CCCA board chairman and Ward 3 councillor in Malahide Township.

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From ‘beyond broken’ to a transit system St. Thomas can be proud of


city_scope_logo-cmykTransit was a prominent talking point leading up to last year’s municipal vote and now, thanks to provincial funding, city residents may soon be standing at a bus stop of “a transit system we can all be proud of.”
At an announcement Thursday (Aug. 8) in front of city hall, Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek indicated the provincial government is committing $1.8 million for transit projects in St. Thomas.
The money will be used for fleet upgrades – including the purchase of 10 new buses with an additional four vehicles for future expansion – and transit technology, including priority signalling for buses at designated intersections.
In addition, the transit projects are being nominated for federal funding under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP), a $30 billion, 10-year infrastructure initiative cost-shared between federal, provincial and municipal governments.

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From community hub to municipal parking lot: Trading spaces on new St. Thomas childcare facility



city_scope_logo-cmykAs we noted last month, the city’s social services and housing hub springing up at 230 Talbot Street has run into what city manager Wendell Graves calls a “soft” business case concerning Phase 2.
Phase 1, well underway, includes office space for the social services department and 28 residential units.
Phase 2 was to include a childcare facility and 24 additional housing units on the second and third floors of the building.
In a report to council in June, Graves warned “preliminary cost estimates for the construction of the proposed Phase 2 project are high.”
He added, “At this point, the actual business case for the Phase 2 project is soft and the cost per residential unit is projected to be fairly high ($290,515 per unit).

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Awaiting the green light on an Elgin-Middlesex-London Liberal nominee


city_scope_logo-cmykWith just 99 days until the federal election, you might very well be wondering who the Liberal party has tasked with attempting to unseat incumbent Karen Vecchio in Elgin-Middlesex-London (EML) riding.
Well, the short answer is no one.
The nomination meeting was originally scheduled for January and here we are midway through July with no designated candidate although we know Lori Baldwin-Sands has filed papers.
Will she be acclaimed at some point in the very near future?
A phone call to David Goodwin of the federal Liberal riding association should result in some answers.
“They haven’t called the nomination yet,” advised Goodwin.

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Is sensitivity training sufficient deterrent to deal with workplace harassment at city hall?


city_scope_logo-cmykExactly four years ago, we wrote at length about workplace harassment at city hall, referring to it as a “toxic environment.”
At that time, we postulated the City of St. Thomas, as a corporation, should be held to a high standard of excellence with regard to a workplace environment.
The issue in 2015 involved a city employee we identified as ‘Dave’ and his allegations of verbal and physical abuse involving fellow employees and managers.
In a conversation in June of that year with human resources manager Graham Dart, he conceded “As an employer, we don’t have to guarantee a harassment-free workplace, because we can’t do that.
“There is no expectation or requirement of that. But there is an obligation on our part — especially under the Occupational Health & Safety Act — that we address harassment in the workplace.”

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