LIVE BLOG: City Council Meeting for March 21, 2016

Two major pieces of rezoning are up for discussion at this week’s city council meeting. You can click here for the amended agenda from City Hall, and you can click here to read Politico’s preview of tonight’s meeting. For the complete blow-by-blow of tonight’s council meeting, you can follow me on Twitter, or follow along below via Storify.

Guelph City Council Meeting – March 21, 2016

Live blog from the meeting starting at 7 pm.

  1. Mayor @CamGuthrie says council’s going to take a 5 minute break between closed meet and open one.
  2. Update on closed session:
    Guelph Storm: Staff given direction
    CAO contract: Direction given to subcommittee.
  3. In leading “O Canada: tonight, @thatjamesgordon went with “all thy sons command” rather than “all our sons command.” Interesting.
  4. First up, honour Gryphon football team for Yates Cup win.
  5. City clerk Stephen O’Brien used to play for the Gryphons, continues to coach part time. #factoid
  6. Corporate Services Committee, Outstanding Motions of the Corporate Services Committee consent report will be voted on first.
  7. A second matter on Tax Ratio will be “extracted.”
  8. Governance Committee, Governance Options Regarding the County of Wellington’s Social Services Committee also received as consent report 13-0
  9. All Public Services Committee to be received as consent reports. Passes 13-0
  10. Delegations for OMB Jurisdiction, and Vic Rd. Rec Centre renos.
  11. Susan Radliffe up first to speak to the Petrie Building.
  12. She says she’s a proud Guelphite and this places matters. Wants council to approve Reserve Grant Application.
  13. Radcliffe says the Petrie is “A faded beauty standing green and winked on Wyndham St.”
  14. Radcliffe says arts & culture tourists spend more/stay longer than “average tourist”.
  15. Restored Petrie building will be a major attraction for tourists, Radcliffe says.
  16. Crowd funding and traditional fundraising to play a part in raising funds to restore Petrie.
  17. Cllr Bell asks Radcliffe to describe how the restored building will look. Not clear to the general public.
  18. The windows and frames will be repaired, it will start to look like a building with potential.
  19. The facade being held on with screws, water flowing between the building and facade has rusted them.
  20. Key piece may be “sitting in someone’s basement.” Radcliffe says it was “taken on a drunk spree.”
  21. Cllr. Salisbury asks about the community opportunity in crowd funding.
  22. Bell originated the term: “Local icon, national treasure.” The Petrie is one of Canada’s 10 endangered buildings.
  23. Radcliffe says there’s been interest across the country in the Petrie. Refers to website “This Place Matters”
  24. Perhaps ppl from all across Canada are interested in “buying a piece of the Petrie.”
  25. ACO will be offering tax refundable receipts to buy that piece.
  26. The motion will see that taxes are not raised on the renovated Petrie for 10 years.
  27. Cllr MacKinnon wants to assure that city isn’t left holding the bag if the reassessed value doesn’t add up to $91K over 10 yrs.
  28. Next up, @CathyDowner‘s discussion about OMB jurisdiction. 3 delegates up to talk about it.
  29. Former Ward 1 candidate Maria Pezzano speaking in favour of Downer’s motion.
  30. Need to be free to think about what’s best for Guelph, not the deveopler.
  31. Michele Richardson of McElderry Residents Community Inc. speaking next.
  32. Richardson wants council to adopt Downer’s motion. Developers use OMB as “part of a game” she says. Goes over the head of elected officials
  33. Spelling correction. That’s Susan Ratcliffe. Apologies.
  34. Few groups can martial the resources to take on the OMB, an unfair playing field between developers and community groups.
  35. Councillors lose the ability to determine growth in own city, says Richardson.
  36. No incentive for developers to be reasonable since they can go to OMB, says Richardson.
  37. Richardson’s fourth point, need to think about the future.
  38. Ignoring OMB reform is at our peril, it must be addressed.
  39. Bruce Ryan, Prez of Old Univ. Neighbourhood Assoc. now speaking in support.
  40. Association has found decisions of council has been fair, however…
  41. The OMB is quasi-judicial. “Arcane legal practices” take president of local circumstances/knowledge.
  42. Case #1: person wanted full 2nd floor to garage, took it to the OMB and won overruling comm of adjustment.
  43. Case #2: Assoc. had an expert, the applicant didn’t. Expert opinion wins.
  44. Ryan: Unwanted develop and land uses forced on city and against “long term local interest” at the OMB
  45. Downer working with other GTA councillors at a summit on May 14 about OMB reform.
  46. The review the province is doing on development is coming up later this year. Downer worries there will just be some “tinkering”
  47. “We need real reform on this matter,” says Downer.
  48. Downer: None of that is to say we don’t need oversight. Ontario is only province with this kind of oversight.
  49. “We need to put them on notice that we need significant reform.” Downer says of OMB
  50. Cllr Allt believes the legacy of this council is to see OMB reformed or abolished.
  51. Allt says OMB has authority in 30 different acts. More than Mins of Health and Education, 2 biggest spenders in ON gov.
  52. Cllr Hofland says she resonated with neighbourhood groups presenting tonight b/c of her experience.
  53. Mayor Guthrie says he remembers the Howitt Park NG garage sale. “I got some good deals,” he says.
  54. Deputy CAO sees no concerns with Downer’s motion.
  55. Cllr Piper says it makes no sense that the province gives power with one hand, takes it away with other.
  56. Cllr. Gibson says this isn’t an attack on developers. Speaking about true outliers and bypassing the process. He supports that reform.
  57. Gibson wants to attach Patrick Brown and Andrea Horwath to the motion.
  58. Guthrie asks council to cc LUMCO (Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario) too. Allt moves, Piper seconds.
  59. “We do well here in Guelph usually,” says Downer. “It’s about the process we’re dragged into.”
  60. Impact on budget, planning, engineering… A lot of city resources zapped, says Downer.
  61. Guthrie notes the message is being sent unanimously.
  62. Next Victoria Rd. Recreation renos. Peter Guth of Guelph Minor Hockey to speak first.
  63. Guth praises city for engaging with user groups.
  64. Guelph needs rinks, Guth says. Taking one off line for a year affects 1500 players.
  65. According to construction plan though, the rink will reopen in September.
  66. Registration fees largest revenue generation for Guelph Minor Hockey. 972 hotel rooms rented tournament weekend.
  67. I happen to know from my own knowledge of Guelph hotels, that’s more than 3/4 of all hotel rooms in the city.
  68. Guth wants to find a way to keep the rink open. No Q from council.
  69. Ken Mark to speak for John Gerrard of Guelph Marlins Aquatic Club.
  70. 2 Olympic swimmers, 9 members of the national team too.
  71. 1000s of swimmers come in every year for tournaments. GMAC enthusiastic about more with renos.
  72. 1700 parents happy that there will be no impact on GMAC programs schedule.
  73. Fobert looking to get the fitness room and sauna back into the plan.
  74. The current reno plan sees VRRC lose the fitness room and sauna for bigger change rooms, gender neutral washroom, family change room
  75. “My 86 year old mother is not going to get into spandex and go to GoodLife fitness,” Fobert said.
  76. Asking council to bring back fitness room, and promote it as a place for seniors to work out.
  77. Guthrie turns it back over to council. MacKinnon asks what has council learned in this process to avoid costs overruns.
  78. Timely infrastructure repairs is the less, says staff. Age and backlog are the reasons for the price tag.
  79. Van Hellemond asking about the plan for weight room and sauna room space.
  80. The design limits foot print. Change rooms and washrooms have to be ODEA specific, hence weight room and sauna had to go.
  81. There maybe pieces of fitness equipment throughout the facility, but they won’t be in one place.
  82. Bell says its regretful that things are dropped, but wonders where the extra money is coming from in the reserves.
  83. There should be time to build the preserve back in the next couple of years, says staff.
  84. Piper ask if city’s looked at programming outdoor equipment.
  85. Staff: Absolutely. It could be a phase 2 measure, again trying to keep project budget reasonable. Will be brought back
  86. Gibson asking about existing equipment. Are they at end of life? Status?
  87. Equipment close to end of life, but it will be repurposed. New community space will be programmed with active fitness. Small weights avail
  88. Gibson implores council to let this go forward. Everyone, at some point, intersects with their community centre.
  89. Guthrie likes the praise for staff. Thanks them for due diligence and avoid crisis moment on cost overrun.
  90. “The general observation is that Guelph is sitting in the midrange with its commercial, industrial and multi-residential class tax ratios.”
  91. “The general observation is that Guelph is sitting in the midrange with its commercial, industrial and multi-residential class tax ratios.”
  92. Council needs to make a decision tonight so that tax invoices can be readied.
  93. Billings says she won’t be supporting. We’re in the range, not the highest, not the lowest.
  94. Gibson says we’re in the middle, but the ratio not inline with the province.
  95. We need to work on ratios, but concerned about industrial ratio. Will see investment cycle from U.S. pick up.
  96. Gibson wants to see a way to pass the ratio adjustment for industrial, but not residential.
  97. Staff: By law letters have to be sent out to tenants and landlords in the event of substantive decrease. Must pass on savings.
  98. Bell: it should be evident the way we’re taxing at the moment is not very fair. Trying to make policy fairer year after year.
  99. Taxpayers hope that council reacts to taxation based on fairness, Bell will support.
  100. “It’s not a perfect system […] but it’s more our job to be fare than to cater to our electors.” Bell.
  101. Allt adds that Chamber has been asking for fairness.
  102. The shift equalizes, says Hofland. We’re in the last year of 4-year phase in, council concerns can be addressed next year.
  103. MacKInnon looking for info about why the policy comes after the budget process, not before.
  104. Staff: can provide “guestimates” but final numbers don’t become available until mid-December.
  105. MacKinnon: trying to understand why we need to wait for impact.
  106. Staff: if all classes increased at same rate, no problem. But diff. increases have shits and that translates into diff. analysis.
  107. Wettstein says fairness used to be an ability to pay formula. Commercial/Industrial paid more.
  108. Single-family homes hit hardest as trying to define fairness. Wettstein doesn’t have answer though.
  109. Wettstein: “If you reduce one, you have to raise the other. We don’t know who will get hit in the head this year.”
  110. Gibson asks if Guelph is to move to provincial guidelines and ratios, how would that affect us on the spectrum?
  111. Guthrie says we’ll see that as a takeaway tonight. Need time to come up with answer to Gibson Q
  112. Billings: Who wants to do what the province tells you to do?
  113. Guthrie asks if there’s been any discussion of moving budget process to Feb/March.
  114. Wasn’t brought up in committee, but there are pros and cons, and costs of doing budgets later.
  115. City can get tenders out early and get better pricing by passing budget in December.
  116. Creates uncertainty in moving forward with initiatives approving budget later in the year.
  117. Also, more municipalities moving to December budgeting.
  118. Vote passes 7-6. Guthrie, Billings, Van Hellemond, Gibson, MacKinnon against.
  119. Council meeting going again. The topic: Stormwater funding.
  120. Bell wants to move to a user-fee system as per the report. Good policy, and eliminates trading off stormwater for other things.
  121. Bell: haven’t seen discuss about how to mitigate the imposition of the fee on regular taxation.
  122. Bell: doesn’t want this to be a new tax, or new fee, wants it to be revenue neutral, or as close to is as it can be.
  123. Need to give staff direction as to how this will affect general tax concerns.
  124. Will need to be referred to Corporate Services Committee for further consideration.
  125. The main motion was forwarded and second, plus Bell’s amendment.
  126. Allt is not certain the amendment is in order. Sending something an element to committee.
  127. $716K in operating budget for stormwater. #3.8M for capital.
  128. Gibson says if $4.5M is to be taken off the tax rolls, then the discussion should happen at corporate services not the full council
  129. Hofland wants to hear staff’s opinion on amendment.
  130. Staff has no problem with having that convo at Corporate Services. Money from operating budget for stormwater comes from couple of sources
  131. Billings says he do need the conversation so that council is all on the same page financially.
  132. Billings begins discussion on main motion, multi-res and industrial seem to be getting hit hard.
  133. Current system, single res carrying more of the burden than multi-res and industrial.
  134. At this point in time, there was an estimate based on other municipalities for 5% admin costs for setting up system.
  135. Consultant: assumption that 8% of revenue will be given away as credits.
  136. Billings trying to get out of consultant if residential rates will go up if a significant amount of credits are given out.
  137. There will be a significant community engagement process with implementation of credit program. That’s the next phase.
  138. MacKinnon thinks we need to make a move on stormwater infrastructure, but thinks conclusions in this report are erroneous.
  139. MacKinnon: big problem is 2 different types of fairness. Imbalance btwn res and industrial, creates unfairness btwn residential.
  140. 3000 sq ft detached home different footprint than townhouse, for example.
  141. MacKinnon: we’re now saying that semis, town and condos are going to fund detached.
  142. Guthrie to MacKinnon: “I’m just wanting to know if you’re going to comment forever.”
  143. We have to be addressing backlog, MacKinnon adds.
  144. Scott Stewart: there are 10 options in report, the balancing act has been included in those options.
  145. Guthrie asking if MacKinnon would like to see staff explore specific options offered.
  146. An amendment to refer the matter back to Corporate Services.
  147. Amendment to refer concerns back to committee to see more expansive report from the option, MacKinnon.
  148. MacKinnon motion to refer matter back to IDE for more considerations. Wettstein seconds.
  149. Salisbury: staff has spent 2 years working on this, a thorough investigation. Have they not done all the work?
  150. “It’s almost a rhetorical question,” says Salisbury.
    “That’s a difficult question to answer,” suggests Guthrie.
  151. Stewart says “If this is referred back to IDE I would be scratching my head.” Not sure what else council thinks they can do.
  152. Salisbury says it’s not often his landscape architecture background comes into play on council. This is one of those times it does.
  153. Salisbury says he lives in townhouse complex, almost 100% runs into stormwater.
  154. Salisbury says he lives in townhouse complex, almost 100% runs into stormwater.
  155. A much larger home will have larger absorption, says Salisbury. Will refer to staff’s expert analysis.
  156. Implantation methods will come back to council for a vote anyway.
  157. Bell thinks this is a significant move in the area of fairness. e will never get it perfect but continue to try.
  158. Vote on MacKinnon’s referral. Fails 3-10. Bell, Billings and MacKinnon vote in favour.
  159. Gibson has concerns from citizens. $200k-$300K for administration, which is correct.
  160. Gibson: are we going to see efficiencies “on the other side.”
    Staff: the predictable funs will allow better alignment of programs.
  161. Gibson: Are we going to see credits offered to industrial clients?
  162. Gibson to read from letter about citizen concern about double dipping.
  163. Gibson wants to assure ppl of Guelph that this is kept off their tax bill.
  164. Guthrie wants to call vote on main amendment, seeing if MacKinnon wants to add amendment.
  165. MacKinnon: there’s an appetite for a decision tonight.
  166. Guthrie says that he’d like more info on option #4, been kind of subtly trying to get MacKinnon to move that way.
  167. MacKinnon says the vote closes the book, and choses the direction without further discussion.
  168. Vote passes 11-2. MacKinnon and Billings vote against. That’s for the main motion.
  169. Motion to approve by-law to authorize agreement between Melloul-Blamey for VRRC. Passes 13-0
  170. Allt says next month is Organ Donor Awareness Month. Flag raising on april 8.


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