PUBLIC OUTDOOR POOL IS PART OF THE PLAN AGAIN
Chalk one up for family recreation and municipal pool fans.
Sarnia city council has endorsed a revised redevelopment plan for Germain Park that now includes a new outdoor public pool and promises to retain all existing ball diamonds.
The initial consultant’s plan did not have a pool and was rejected last month amid an outcry from local residents who want to replace Jackson Pool, which was closed down several years ago.
The concept approved Monday includes: an outdoor pool, new washrooms and change rooms, a playground, splash pad, new pathways, a pavilion, outdoor multi sports courts, and an upgraded and permanent dog park.
At Monday’s meeting, Coun. Terry Burrell said he has concerns about flooding in Germain Park and the surrounding neighbourhood. He asked if it is possible to use “porous concrete” in the parking lots and that staff consider the potential for flooding in the final park redevelopment drawings.
Drainage will be a key component of the park plan, said Stacey Forfar, general manager of Sarnia’s Community Services.
Both Coun. Bill Dennis and Coun. George Vandenberg said they’d heard from local residents who think paying $5 million – $6 million for a new pool sounds too high.
But staff assured them the estimate is realistic for an outdoor public pool that meets all standards and regulations.
By approving a preliminary concept plan, work on redeveloping Germain Park moves on to the next stage. Cost estimates will be part of the city’s 2024 budget deliberations.
Mayor Mike Bradley noted that the latest Germain Park proposal does not include a Multi-Use Recreational Facility (MURF), which the city is interested in building. Germain Park has been removed from the list of potential MURF locations to make room for other amenities. Bradley said council needs to consider a MURF location and asked that be discussed at council’s next meeting on May 15.
FOOD TRUCK APPROVED AT PADDY’S
Council unanimously approved a request from owner Scott Dargie to locate a new food truck on the front lawn of Paddy Flaherty’s Irish Pub on Seaway Road.
The food truck will offer a limited version of Paddy’s regular menu and serve patrons seated in the grassy area beside the patio during busy periods.
Coun. Anne Marie Gillis told Dargie his request was “extremely timely” as some people still feel more comfortable eating outdoors after pandemic restrictions.
ONUS IS ON COUNCIL TO CREATE A SAFER ROAD SYSTEM: COUN. BRIAN WHITE
Blackwell Road near Telfer is the first non-school area to be designated a Community Safety Zone where speed limits are reduced and speeding fines may be increased. Exactly what the limits will be and where the signs will go won’t be determined until council’s next meeting in May. The city currently has 10 Community Safety Zones that limit speeds to 40 km/hr near schools.
Council voted in favour of several safety-minded measures for Blackwell Road after homeowners complained of unsafe road conditions and an 11-year-old cyclist was hit earlier this month.
“There’s a responsibility to provide infrastructure (for everyone), and we have a lot more cars on the road and many extremely large cars…” said Coun. Brian White.
“We all want to have our kids safe out there on their bikes,” said Coun. Chrissy McRoberts.
“Those are dangerous roads,” added Coun. Anne Marie Gillis who pushed hard for the Community Safety Zone designation on Blackwell. The road was designed when that part of Sarnia was rural. It’s now a sought-after residential area with many cyclists and children, she said.
City staff said there isn’t the budget to make extreme alterations like adding sidewalks or additional lighting now. However, council approved low-cost “Share the Road” signs and said further measures may be considered in future.
Later during Monday’s meeting, Coun. George Vandenberg said he wants council to discuss designating Colborne Road between Cathcart and Lakeshore a Community Safety Zone. City council has previously taken the position that safety zones should be restricted to school areas to stop motorists from becoming complacent about them.
WHAT EXACTLY IS AFFORDABLE HOUSING?
The province might say that renters who pay 80% of market value are getting affordable housing, but many people don’t agree, says Coun. Brian White.
During an interesting discussion about Sarnia’s shortage of affordable housing and how council can entice private developers to build more, the very definition of what makes it affordable came up.
“I echo a loud voice when I say 80% of the market rate is not affordable,” said White. “That puts it out of reach for many people.”
Agreed, said consultant Tim Welch who is working on a Community Improvement Plan and exploring how Sarnia could offer incentives to private developers and increase affordable housing stock.
The cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Sarnia is $1,600 – $2,000, Welch said. Some, like those who earn minimum wage, should be able to afford 80% of that market value rent.
But there are others such as those collecting Ontario Works or long term disability that could not afford to pay 80%, he said.
For them, the gap would need to be closed with rent supplements, for instance, paid by Social Services.
Both Coun. Terry Burrell and Mayor Mike Bradley emphasized that Sarnia does not provide social services or housing to its residents. Lambton County government is responsible for that. It’s the county that receives all provincial funding for affordable housing and social services, they said.
“It seems to be that Lambton County and the province should be sharing some of those funds so we can do more,” said Bradley.
Numerous faith groups and non-profits form partnerships to build affordable housing and, once built, “it’s really the county that decides who gets what,” said Burrell.
Housing and homelessness is a critical problem in Sarnia, made worse by absentee landlords, so called “reno-victions” and bidding wars for the few rentals available, said Coun. Anne Marie Gillis and Coun. Bill Dennis.
“Reno-victions” occur when landlords lawfully evict tenants in order to undertake major renovations, then jack up the price of their units.
“There should be some serious penalties for that, in my opinion,’ said Dennis.
GREAT NEWS FOR SENIOR AND YOUTH CYCLISTS
Council agreed to provide storage space for two new cycling programs initiated by the Bluewater Cycling Organization.
“Our programs are in demand,” said the organization’s spokesperson Kendal Ross in making her pitch to council.
Cycling gets people active, improves mental health, decreases disease and slows the aging process, she said.
The storage space will allow equipment to be stored for the Youth Spokes program for 11 -15 year olds. It’s a free program that runs 10 weeks starting May 28 and focuses on bike safety, exercise and enjoying the outdoors. It will also provide space for Trishaws, innovative bicycles for the Cycling Without Age program for seniors and differently abled individuals. It’s free as well.
Kendal told council the two programs can operate at no cost to the city, apart from the storage space. However, Coun. Terry Burrell wanted more details.
“It sounds wonderful,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s fair.” He suggested that the city’s 300 or so other non-profits operate without city support and the Bluewater Cycling Organization shouldn’t get special treatment.
But he was the only councillor with concerns.
“It’s a no brainer,” said Coun. Bill Dennis. “It’s one of the most exciting proposals I’ve heard in my time here.”
It dovetails with plans to redevelop Germain Park and the city’s active transportation proposal, said Coun. Adam Kilner.
Coun. George Vandenberg was obviously frustrated by any hesitation on council’s part.
“We’ve been talking about active transportation forever,” he said. “I really don’t care what it’s going to cost. I think we give them a chance and move on.”
Council approved the storage space for the Bluewater Cycling Organization in an 8-1 vote, with Burrell voting against.
AND FINALLY, INNER CITY PLAYGROUND COMING
Council approved a $300,000 tender to Park N Play for a new playground at Harry Turnbull Park near Maxwell Street. The federal government is kicking in $100,000 and the city is paying the rest.