PROPOSED TINY TOWNHOUSES APPLAUDED
Habitat for Humanity’s unique proposal to build five small townhouses at 236 Christina St. South was enthusiastically supported by all of council Monday.
The single storey townhouses will each be 36 square metres with one bedroom. They’ll be located on a vacant lot across from Rainbow Park and have front yard parking and rear yards.
Habitat’s CEO Dave Waters says the project is unique and is an attempt at affordable housing, something the community badly needs.
He said land and building costs are skyrocketing and using a single property for multiple units just makes sense.
“We’re trying to maximize a lot to house more families affordably in the City of Sarnia,” said Waters.
City staff said the proposal has been widely circulated to interested parties such as CN Rail, which operates nearby, as well as neighbours. There are no objections.
Applications for home ownership are not yet being accepted for the tiny townhouse project, Waters said. But information sessions will be announced soon.
Habitat for Humanity Sarnia-Lambton has built 70 homes since 1994.
IT’S ALL IN THE DETAILS
Small businessman Kirkland Blake left city hall disheartened Monday even though some councillors seemed to want to give him a break.
Blake is fighting a city bylaw that says he cannot have a large tent on his property where he operates an auto detailing business. Blake’s been ordered to remove the tent or face a $25,000 fine.
Council heard him out and — at Mayor Mike Bradley’s urging – sent the matter to its legal department for a report by Dec. 11. The move was supported by all but Coun. Terry Burrell and appears to buy Blake at least one more month without being fined.
However, it may just be putting off the inevitable.
“It doesn’t help. It only prolongs the deliberations,” said Blake outside council chambers. “I have no clear direction. It’s just up in the air.”
Blake had hoped city council could override the bylaw Monday but Bradley told him he isn’t sure it’s in council’s power to circumvent normal process.
In this case, Blake is required to apply for a variance in the bylaw if he wants to keep his tent up at 637 Lakeshore Road. That will likely mean paying for a survey and other fees that Blake said he’s not able to afford.
Blake collected more than 2,000 signatures from customers, neighbours and supporters petitioning city council to let the tent stay at Blake’s Ultimate Detailing.
“I think a variance could have been allowed, but that’s just my opinion,” Blake said. “I’m not clear on what’s happening.”
He said he needs the tent to secure customer vehicles. He also said he doesn’t have the resources to relocate his business, which employs up to 10 people during the summer season. If he gets fined the $25,000, he said he’ll have to shut down.
A single complaint triggered the enforcement order.
The mayor asked staff several times during the meeting if council has the authority to intervene.
A variance application usually goes to the committee of adjustment, and requires a survey and public appeal period, said community services general manager Stacey Forfar.
Coun. Anne Marie Gillis pointed out that a new Sarnia bylaw is being drafted and could address structures such as Blake’s tent.
Coun. Bill Dennis said previous businesses at the corner of Colborne and Lakeshore Roads haven’t kept the lot as tidy as Blake.
He tried to make a motion for council to approve a minor variance without due process and forgo enforcement at this time. But Forfar said a legal opinion is required to do that.
That’s when Bradley suggested slowing down the process and sending the question to the city’s legal department.
Coun. Chrissy McRoberts is a small business owner herself and said she sympathizes with Blake.
“I feel for you,” she said, noting that many in the community strongly support Blake’s position.
“If I were you, I’d get those people to prepay for car detailing so you have the money to make the (variance) application,” she said.
BIG SHOW OF SUPPORT IN THE GALLERY FOR BRIGHT’S GROVE HUB
The gallery at city hall was packed Monday with many wearing blue in an effort to convince council to back an expansion of the Bright’s Grove library and a new community hub facility.
The project has been discussed for at least five years but proponents were dismayed that it is not included in the 2024 draft budget.
They are hoping city council decides to fund the hub during budget deliberations Dec. 5.
“It’s not something nice to have, it’s something that’s needed,” said spokesman Mark Moran, pointing out that the current library is not accessible.
If council decides against the project, the city still needs to do something to keep the existing building viable, Moran said.
He urged council to fund it in 2024 and said the time is right for public fundraising.
Already, more than $100,000 has been pledged if it goes ahead, Moran said.
PARK IMPROVEMENTS SUPPORTED – NATURALLY
Council threw its support behind continuing to naturalize parts of Mike Weir Park and Berger Road.
Rather than revert to mowed lawns and manicured flower beds as suggested by Coun. Bill Dennis, city staff is going to work with Mike Smalls, a landscape architect who volunteered his expertise.
Dennis says the park areas where naturalization has been attempted, are an “unkempt, unsightly mess of weeds.” But he said if Smalls can make improvements, he can support that.
Further efforts to naturalize the areas could include more suitable trees, perennials and shrubs, observation areas, bird boxes and educational boards that identify native species.
DON CHERRY ISN’T COUNCIL’S BUSINESS
Coun. Bill Dennis’ attempt to get city council to write a letter to the feds asking that hockey commentator Don Cherry receive the Order of Canada, has fallen flat.
“I appreciate the recommendation,” said Coun. Chrissy McRoberts. But she asked to table Dennis’ motion and said city hall wasn’t the place for it. Instead, the idea should come from MP Marilyn Gladu’s office, McRoberts said.
A tabled motion is not debatable and goes no further.
Dennis said he was asked to get council to endorse the 89-year-old Cherry for the national honour by two war vets.
“I said I’d be happy to be the voice of those veterans,” Dennis said. “That’s what I was elected to do.”
DIVERSITY TRAINER SELECTED
Despite an enormous political uproar on council last term connected to diversity training, this council has agreed to hire a new consultant and try again.
EQU8 Strategy Inc. was awarded a $4,339.20 contract to conduct diversity, equity and inclusion training sessions in January for interested members of council.
British Columbia-based EQU9 Strategy Inc. submitted the lowest of four bids for the job and will provide an in-person session lasting about two hours in public at city hall.
Coun. George Vandenberg said he will not be attending because he already receives similar training elsewhere.
Coun. Dave Boushy objected to the contract saying he believes Sarnia council can be respectful and kind without special training.
“I’m sorry, I don’t think we really need this,” Boushy said. “I think we have a good council, a good city, and the best community to raise children in.
“Let’s be respectful of each other, be kind and move on,” he said.
Coun. Chrissy McRoberts said she applauded Boushy’s “common sense” but that she doesn’t always see it displayed at council.
“We need a safeguard for that,” she said.
NEXT STEPS FOR NEW SUBDIVISION
A proposed Drewlo subdivision on London Line took a major step forward Monday with council approving zoning and draft plan of subdivision amendments.
It’s been more than 12 years since Drewlo encountered issues with soil conditions that prohibited housing development on certain areas of the subject lands west of the Blackwell Glen subdivision.
At the time, Drewlo had plans to build 111 houses but returned to council Monday with minor changes that reduce the number of lots to 72. Additional soil testing may result in an increase to 76 lots, staff noted.
It’s possible construction will begin as soon as January.
WHEN IS A WIND CHIME UNWELCOME?
Sarnia resident Rhonda Kjeldsen says she is fed up with the constant sound of wind chimes from her neighbour’s yard. They interfere with her enjoyment of her own yard, she told council.
She asked her neighbours to remove them but all they did was add more wind chimes and bells, Kjeldsen said.
She wants council to amend Sarnia’s noise bylaw to include wind chimes. Kjeldsen said she has complained to city hall numerous times and even called police this month. Police asked that the chimes “cease and desist” but nothing has changed, she said.
“It’s not the intensity of the sound, but the duration and irritation,” she said. “…I find the constant sound of wind chimes to be a nuisance.”
Council referred the issue to staff for a report.