City Council Preview – What’s on the Agenda for the December 17 Meeting?

The second meeting of this term is also the last of 2018, and also a fascinating mix of governance, trail development, and where we might allow cannabis storefronts to be placed in town.

CLOSED MEETING: CS-2018-70 Potential Expropriation on Speedvale Avenue East; Update GMHI-2018-05 Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. (GMHI) and District Energy Assets;  GMHI-2018-06 Appointment of Guelph Representative to Alectra Board of Directors.

PRESENTATION: City of Guelph United Way Campaign with Sean Finlay, United Way Campaign Manager.

GMHI-2018-07 Proposed New Corporate Governance Structure for Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. – As previously reported, the merger of Alectra Utilities and Guelph Hydro Electric Systems has been approved and is about to begin, which necessitates some changes in the structure of Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc, as it presently oversees Guelph Hydro. As you may know, the structure of GMHI is the Chief Administrative Officer serving as CEO, the Guelph Hydro CEO a as GHESI’s Chief Financial Officer, and the City Solicitor as the Corporate Secretary.

In its new role, GHMI and its staff will serve as the City’s conduit to Alectra, but with the responsibilities of administrating Guelph Hydro moving on to Alectra, the City has other plans for the company. It’s being recommended that there be a rationalizing of corporate services with GHMI to be amalgamated with the Development Corporation, which last year became the repository for Envida and District Energy assets. The new structure of GMHI will remain nearly the same, but with the Deputy CAO of Corporate Services taking over as the Chief Financial Officer.

PS-2018-36 Emergency Operations Control Group and Community Emergency Management Program Committee Updates – The new Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act says that that municipalities have to have a plan to deal with emergencies, establish an Emergency Operations Centre, and appoint a Community Emergency Management Coordinator. The changes also sets forth that the City of Guelph Emergency Operations Control Group can only contain employees of the City of Guelph, which means that the Medical Officer of Health, the Wellington County Social Services rep, and the Chief Operating Officer of Guelph Hydro have to step down from the 11 member group. Instead, the Guelph Wellington Paramedic Service Chief and the Community Emergency Management Coordinator will take their place.

PS-2018-37 Speedvale Underpass TrailOver a year ago, council heard from staff about how a trail under the Speedvale Bridge along the river wasn’t feasible, but residents were insistent that the City try and find a way. In the last year, a consultant explored about 16 different options for a connection between the north and south side of the trail, and from that comes a staff recommendation to council that will hopefully accomplish the desired trail underneath the bridge, while at the same time observing all local and provincial requirements.

The proposed trail segment, approximately 140 metres in length, is anticipated to be 2.5 metres wide with asphalt surfacing, a maximum five per cent running slope, with retaining walls running along both sides of the proposed trail. And yes, it will be compliant with both the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the City of Guelph Facility Accessibility Design Manual (FADM).

There are still some challenges though. The City will need to have an environmental assessment performed for the new retaining wall, and some kind of protocol will have to be developed in order to monitor water levels and flooding risks in this section of the trail. The City will also have to revisit a deal with a private landowner who has a licensing agreement with the City for a small section that the Trans-Canada Trail passes through on the east side of Speedvale, and the Ministry of Natural Resources will have to involved because of the significant woodlands and wetlands along the river.

Also, staff is recommending that the City improve the on-street crossing by moving the signalled crossing closer to the north section of the Trans-Canada Trail on Speedvale, which should improve trail accessibility. This could be done after the Speedvale Avenue East Bridge reconstruction project in 2022.

PS-2018-38 Cannabis Retail Storefronts: Municipal Impacts – As you may know, marijuana was legalized in Canada a few months ago, and the Ontario government pulled any plans for bricks and mortar cannabis stores run by the Province. Come April, new privately-owned cannabis retail locations will finally open, but will they open in Guelph? The Province needs to know what cities are opting in by January 22, or else it will be assumed they’re opting out, and staff is recommending that Guelph opt in.

Council will be asked to consider three recommendations. They will be asked to direct staff to create bylaws to regulate the consumption of cannabis along the same lines as the Smoke Free Ontario Act, they will ask staff to conduct further engagement on smoking regulations, and they’ll be asked to direct staff to inform the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario that Guelph opts in.

So what does it mean to opt in? Well, the Province is splitting $30 million over the next two years between Ontario’s municipalities; Guelph’s share will be $141,661 for the first year. Staff estimate that $40,000 will be spent on upgrading two existing bylaw positions for cannabis enforcement, the rest of the funds will be allocated to relevant agencies and departments once the restrictions and reporting needs of the grant are made clear. Also, as one of the communities that opt in, Guelph will get a share of the provincial excise duty revenues if the sales of recreational cannabis exceeds $100 million, 50 per cent of which will be shared among those municipalities taking part. So there’s a lot of money at stake.

The Cannabis Working Group had a number of comments regarding potential local pot shops. Concerns include an increased chance of harm due to drug use, especially to youth, normalization of cannabis use, increased costs to police and bylaw enforcement, and little to no control over the placement and number of cannabis retailers. On the plus side, the group is looking to the potentiality of undermining the black market, and the economic benefits of a new industry. The group wants to look at restricting clustering, having set hours that avoid the early morning or late night, a limit on the number of storefronts, and a minimum distance from schools, parks, recreation areas, LCBOs, and tobacco stores.

CS-2018-66 2018 Governance Review – Since the council term has just begun, why not start instituting some changes to policy and procedure now. This Governance Review is one of two that will come before council throughout the year, but for this specific one there are some key changes for the Procedural Bylaw and Committee of the While.

The changes to the Procedural Bylaw will primarily effect Committee of the Whole as staff will now be formally recognized at the start of the meeting, and there will be a hard adjourn at 8 pm with an option to go to 9 pm. Another change for Committee is that each service area chair will lead the meeting from the centre chair of the horseshoe. The side effect of that is that the each service area will have to complete its agenda before moving to the next one, with a 10-minute break in-between sections so that the voting system can be reset for the new chair.

There are also changes to the Code of Conduct. The integrity commissioner will now be allowed to investigate conflict of interest complaints, as well as provide feedback to council and boards in regards to the new conflict of interest legislation.

Speaking of which, as per the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, there must also now be a written record, and publicly available list of all conflicts of interest for members of council and local boards. There will be a PDF form for members to fill out, and the complete list of conflicts will be available on the accountability and transparency page of the City’s website.

There are also several administrative changes that better reflect current practice.

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