This Month at Council: Our Energy, Carbon Tax, and Two New Apartment Projects

Council began 2020 slowly, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything of consequence discussed. From a new program to retrofit homes, to a potential concern with an Official Plan Amendment, and two new interesting apartment developments, here’s a look what happened in January around the horseshoe.

Council as Shareholder of GMHI – January 13

Council herd information and gave direction to the staff on District Energy Assets.

Committee of the Whole – January 13

The year at city council kicked off Monday with a Committee of the Whole meeting that almost focused exclusively on a presentation from Our Energy Guelph. The discussion of the PACE Plan, or Property Assessed Clean Energy, which is meant to fund energy retrofits through loans tied to the property and administered by Our Energy Guelph, saw CEO Alex Chapman asked about data management, why the old GEERS proposal didn’t work anymore, and the time line for implementation. Councillor Rodrigo Goller forwarded a motion that directed staff to come back to council with an action plan for implementation, and it passed unanimously.

The request for $1 million more to complete the LED streetlight upgrade from the Wastewater Capital Reserve Fund was approved handily, and Mayor Cam Guthrie pulled his request to speak on the Solid Waste Management Master Plan, since staff is presently pursuing answers to the questions he was looking for.

Regular Council Meeting – January 27

The brief regular meeting saw City Council emerge from a closed session to name two new trustees to the Board of the Elliott Community, and there was direction given to staff on a matter identified only as “Litigation Update.”

Mayor Cam Guthrie then tried to include an additional clause to the motion coming out of the Future-proofing Our Building Through Energy Efficiency Retrofits report at Committee of the Whole. Guthrie wanted it made explicit that the program be revenue neutral with the specific idea that it would not become a cash cow for the City. Councillor Dominique O’Rourke was concerned about making any kind of guarantees about not losing any money because in the first few years it might take some time for the program to catch on. General Manager of Finance Tara Baker the explained that staff will be setting goals based on total volume and not on annual quotas. Guthrie asked the councillors who endorsed his motion to withdraw it.

Councillor Leanne Piper then asked for a Motion of Support to endorse the participation of six British Columbia cities as interveners in the Supreme Court challenge of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. Piper said it’s about sending a message to the upper levels of government to stop wasting tax money on legal challenges (technically we’re funding both sides of the legal challenge) and show municipal leadership as the ones carrying the brunt of climate action. The motion passed 7-4, and then Guthrie asked council to endorse a motion to explore best practices for how motions of support are brought forward during the midterm review of the Procedural Bylaw. Guthrie said he was concerned about the potentiality of spending a lot of time at council meetings on motions like this without having any standards about how they come to council. The motion passed unanimously.

Planning Meeting of Council – January 27

The planning meeting began with City Council taking a moment to honour Guelph Storm goalie Nico Daws for being part of the gold medal winning IIHF World Junior Gold Medal winning team. The consent agenda items of two sign bylaw variances at 10 Woodlawn Road East and 435 Stone Road West, plus a Heritage Permit application for 17 Mary Street, were then passed quickly.

The Statutory Public Meeting Report for a nine-unit apartment building and duplex at 68-76 Wyndham Street South focused on the developer’s proposal that this will be a co-housing development geared to seniors. Some councillors asked questions about what exactly co-housing means in this instance, and the answer wasn’t exactly clear. Simply, it looks like it means that there will be individual leaving spaces for residents that are maybe similar to a private dorm room with a small kitchen space and its own bathroom, but with all the residents sharing large common areas. Area residents expressed concerns about parking and soliciting some guarantees from the developer that this project is indeed intended for seniors 55 years old or more, and that students will not be moving in instead.

The Statutory Public Meeting Report for the proposed redevelopment of 47-75 Willow Road got a mostly welcoming reaction from council although there was some concern about developing more green space for the property. Residents from the Shelldale neighbourhood were glad that the project is preserving a lot of the commercial space, especially for well-used businesses like the laundromat, the Short Stop, and the pharmacy, but one resident noted that the project’s goal of creating mostly one and two bedroom units left out a lot of multi-generational families and new Canadians that settle in the Willow Road area. It was also noted that the City’s affordable housing strategy specifically mentions a dearth of one- and two-bedroom units in the city, and this project addresses that need.

Jennifer Meader, legal counsel of Starlight Investments (who owns Willow West Mall and other properties), expressed concern about Official Plan Amendment No. 69 saying that it makes redevelopment plans for certain areas more difficult if the City is asking them to justify why they might be reducing commercial space with demands for further reports. Meader also suggested that the amount of commercial space could be tied to height as a way of ensuring that there will be enough demand to meet supply in terms of customers for businesses. Melissa Aldunate, the Manager of Policy Planning and Urban Design, responded by saying that the OPA was only meant to protect commercial space with an additional study requirement, but it does not outright ban a reduction of floor space. She also said that the Commercial Policy Review wasn’t meant to look at density and bonusing, but that will be a consideration when the City starts reviewing the Official Plan on a whole later this year.

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