Here’s what you need to know about the Sept. 11 council meeting
DENNIS ACCUSES COUNCIL OF BEING UNSUPPORTIVE OF INDUSTRY
Coun. Bill Dennis came out swinging Monday when the rest of city council referred his request to support scrapping the fed’s carbon tax to Sarnia’s environmental advisory committee.
Not only did Dennis criticize the committee for being full of Green Party members and somehow unable to assess the issue properly, but he tore a strip off the rest of council too.
Sending the issue of a carbon tax to the environmental advisory committee is like “sending a BBQ meal to P.E.T.A. (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals),” said Dennis.
“People in this community can’t believe this council in the sense that they feel like they’ve been thrown under the bus,” he said, adding that the last council was “just as bad.”
Without the petrochemical industry Sarnia wouldn’t exist as we know it, Dennis said.
“If it wasn’t for industry, none of us would have quality of life…They feel like we don’t have their backs,” he said.
Coun. Anne Marie Gillis interrupted to say she has family who work in the Chemical Valley and they support the carbon tax but don’t feel it is being spent in an accountable way.
Local industry wants to contribute to Canada’s goal to get to net zero carbon emissions, Mayor Mike Bradley said. “They are very much engaged in what’s happening, not just nationally but across the world.”
SAD SIGN OF THE TIMES: NEW SHARPS BIN OUTSIDE DOWNTOWN LIBRARY
Council approved a new community sharps disposal bin to be installed on the back exterior wall of the downtown library, close to Veteran’s Park.
The bin was requested by Andrew Meyer, Lambton County’s GM of cultural services, to protect staff who regularly pick up needles outside the library.
Coun. David Boushy commented that he “didn’t realize so much was going on at the library.”
The sharps containers are highly visible, freestanding and clearly labelled as Needle Drop Boxes. There are a couple inside the branch as well.
Watch the full discussion here.
CITY MAKING “FRIENDLY APPEAL” REGARDING POINT EDWARD DEVELOPMENT
Concerns that a 156-townhome proposal at the west end of Exmouth Street in Point Edward, may be too close to Cargill’s elevators and the developing Cestar Dock and wide-load corridor, have prompted Sarnia city council to formally appeal a zoning amendment approved by Point Edward council.
Coun. Anne Marie Gillis said during discussion at Monday’s meeting that anyone buying a home in a new residential area should be alerted to the close proximity of a working port.
She also said she believes there is a solution and that the appeal is a “friendly” one.
Coun. Bill Dennis objected to an appeal, saying the city shouldn’t be fighting with Point Edward.
Dennis was the only one opposed to pursuing the appeal. Coun. Chrissy McRoberts and Coun. George Vandenberg were absent from the meeting.
Meanwhile, Mayor Mike Bradley said a letter arrived just prior to council’s meeting from developer John Stathis’ lawyer. It addresses some of council’s concerns, Bradley said, but there wasn’t time before the meeting to review it thoroughly.
Watch the full discussion here.
SMALL 2023 BUDGET DEFICIT PREDICTED
For the first time in three years, city staff is predicting a deficit for this budget year.
On an operating budget of $171.7 million, it’s anticipated that the City of Sarnia will be $92,000 in the red by the end of 2023.
That’s primarily due to unforeseeables such as a $320,000 water main break on Vidal Street South in February, overtime being paid out to deal with a lot of rain impacting the city’s storm sewers, inflation, fuel surcharges and increases in labour costs.
PUSH ON TO ALLOW ACCESSORY OR SECONDARY HOUSING
Former city councillor and Journal owner Nathan Colquhoun says he’s trying to get more rental units on the open market quickly.
A week after convincing Lambton County Council to consider a grant program for property owners looking to build secondary rental units, Colquhoun asked city council to cut the red tape and expedite construction for those who want to build.
He said he knows of at least 50 local people who would build secondary units on their property now, especially if they can get a grant towards the cost. A program that will streamline the process and allow faster construction will quickly ease Sarnia’s housing crisis, he said.
“We don’t have time to spare. The streets are getting filled up…there are a lot of people (who need housing).”
More secondary units on residential properties will help families house their elderly parents or children with disabilities as well as help get people “off the streets,” agreed Coun. Anne Marie Gillis. “It will create a whole new dynamic. This is an excellent idea,” she said.
Colquhoun told council that other municipalities such as Peterborough and Simcoe, have successfully initiated grant programs and cut red tape to allow for what he called “de- centralized” housing.
When secondary units are encouraged, they provide more housing on the open market, create passive income for residents, and more people are housed throughout the city without constructing buildings that create a concentration of affordable housing.
Other cultures commonly live with several generations under one roof, Colquhoun said. “This is re-imagining what a traditional home (in Canada) looks like…”
A staff report is expected in November to discuss the issue of secondary or accessory units on one property, sometimes called granny flats. Council agreed to discuss Colquhoun’s request at the November council meeting.
Coun. Bill Dennis warned that there will be “an awful lot of backlash” from Sarnians who don’t want second units in their neighbourhoods.
“I understand the kumbaya nature of the whole thing,” he said. “(But) this will destroy property values and neighbourhoods. No one wants to say this out loud, but this is a crisis created by the federal government… and now we are left holding the bag.”
Many local residents aren’t going to like increased housing density, he predicted.
Colquhoun disagreed. Secondary units can increase property values, he said. He accused Dennis of fear mongering “to suggest this will cause a revolution of people being upset that there’s a grandma living in the backyard.”
Watch the full discussion here:
RELIEF FOR APARTMENT DEVELOPER ON SGH LANDS
City council unanimously agreed Monday to extend the time period that Skyline Real Estate can use about $1 million in demolition credits at the former Sarnia General Hospital site.
Skyline’s development of two four-storey apartment builds on land skirted by Mitton, George, Essex and MacKenzie streets was delayed during the planning process because of an appeal.
So Skyline sent a rep to council asking that those demolition credits that are about to expire, can be extended for another 18 months.
Mayor Mike Bradley remarked that the 118 residential units about to be built on the old hospital property is very good news for the city.
Demolition credits show up on paper only and don’t mean the city is handing over any money, said Stacey Forfar, Sarnia’s general manager of Community Services.
Skyline purchased the property in 2018 and is building on a piece of property that has presented many difficulties for city council in the past. In order to get the vacant Sarnia General demolished, the city sold the property to a purchaser known as GFive Inc. for $1,000 and gave the GFive $5.4 million to help with demolition costs.
Watch the full discussion here.
CITY FIRE TRUCK DONATED TO COLLEGE
The Lambton College Fire School will receive a 1999 surplus pumper that’s exceeded its 20-year service limit.
The city’s fire department is making the donation to the fire school in exchange for some training, said Fire Chief Bryan Van Gaver.