This Month at Council Part 2: Three Workshops and a Park Name

In part two of our monthly recap of city council, we’re going to cover a laundry list of issues discussed at three council workshops, from parking to systemic racism to growth. And to finish things off, we will review the regular council meeting where some naming controversy was settled with a celebration of Guelph history.

Workshop Meeting of City Council – April 14

The official title of tonight’s workshop was “Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw Review: Proposed Parking Regulation Workshop,” and it was surprisingly contentious at times.

This meeting was a chance for council to “add their parking aspirations” and give feedback about the development of this specific part of the review, the first time that the City of Guelph has comprehensively re-evaluated the complete zoning bylaw in over 25 years. The consultants talked about the feedback they have gathered so far, the research they’ve done into comparator municipalities, and the directions they’re considering.

After the initial presentation on the research, the consultants looked to council for further direction, and what questions they still had that weren’t answered. Someone on council wanted to know the impact on parking if improved transit is an option, others wondered if the consultants were thinking about how parking’s changed with more inter-generational homes.

Conversation also came around to the idea that perhaps the City needed a multifaceted approach to parking bylaws. Councillors noted that the issues being faced in some older wards around parking are fairly different from other, newer wards.

Councillor Mark MacKinnon would stir this up further by saying that the parking bylaw should make it possible to get as many cars off the street and into driveways as possible. The new driveway widths would need to be big enough for two cars to park side-by-side, he insisted, it was a matter of affordability. That comment exacerbated the dividing line on council between councillors in older areas of town, and councillors from new.

There were some interesting points in between though. MacKinnon’s wardmate Dominique O’Rourke said that there are accessibility issues that have to be considered because having a bigger driveway makes it easier for people with walkers and strollers to get in and out of cars. Ward 4 Councillor Mike Salisbury made the point that there isn’t much a streetscape in some newly developed subdivisions worth protecting anyway.

The parking regulations will now be further developed for the first draft of the zoning bylaw, which will come forward this fall. At that point, the draft bylaw will be available for further public review and commentary.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

Workshop Meeting of City Council – April 19

Guelph city council held another workshop to talk about the best ways to end systemic racism, but the lesson coming out of the workshop might have been that council doesn’t need anymore talk, they just need to end it.

First, Denise Francis and Kween Gerber from the Guelph Black Heritage Society took a moment to promote the upcoming #ChangeStartsNow Anti-racism summit at the end of the month. Kween invited everyone on council to come and subtly reminded them that she knows which councillors have already bought their passes.

Next, Leen Al-Habash from the Guelph-Wellington Local Immigration Partnership talked about the make-up of Guelph’s immigrant communities and some of the challenges they face when they get here in terms of finding work and being compensated equally to their Canadian counterparts. Al-Habash told council that there needs to be some more help for immigrants to find work commensurate with their skills, and that the LIP itself has difficulties being able to collect up-to-date demographic information. On that latter point through, LIP hopes to release some new figures about the make-up of Guelph’s newcomer community in May.

In the last part of the workshop, council was joined by Marva Wisdom and a panel of esteemed experts in the area of tearing down old systems built by white supremacy. The panelists promoted the importance of municipalities building partnerships with community groups, keeping the lines of communication open even if there’s no good news to offer, and by doing all their homework in advance because the community is already far ahead of the government on fighting racism.

Perhaps the most important lesson from the night came when council was told that they have to take the time to build trust because People of Colour have been let down so many times by all governments after being asked to trust them. There was also the suggestion to not just work with community groups to end racism but find ways to promote inclusivity in the community at every opportunity.

An information report for council about staff actions to fight systemic racism in the corporation will be released in June.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

Workshop Meeting of City Council – April 21

For the third time in two weeks, Guelph City Council got together for a workshop. This one was another meeting about managing growth in the Royal City over the next 30 years as we’re supposed to be reaching a population of over 200,000 people by 2051. So, how’s it going?

City staff and the consultant team offered three different growth scenarios. The first uses the City’s current plan to intensify, the second increases the mix of medium density housing, and the third puts more pressure on the built-up areas to create more density. All the options had to meet the minimum population growth targets, and they all required Guelph to grow within its borders.

Some on council voiced concern about the City’s water capacity and being able to cover population growth to more than 200,000 people, but staff assured that Guelph has the water to manage the growth, and they’re confident they can prove that as the City continues to develop its Water Supply Master Plan. The effect of absorbing the Dolime Quarry into the city limits and developers squeezing every square metre for maximum density was also discussed.

Next, council considered the growth evaluation framework. Any growth strategy needs to be evaluated on the basis of livability, transportation, heritage protections, economic growth, health and safety, and climate change. In this section, council was concerned about the lofty expectations of home buyers, concentrating too much density in one place, and making sure that density is properly quantified. (Are four-storeys still medium density, for example?)

Finally, council looked at the potential urban structure. Many councillors wanted to make sure that the Rolling Hills area was not tagged high density, which was an issue when the preferred Clair-Maltby guidelines were debated, while others pointed out that creating a transit hub in the south end should be a development priority.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

Regular Meeting of City Council – April 26

In a brief meeting of city council, they quickly passed the consent agenda from Committee of the Whole, and they slightly less quickly passed the council consent agenda. There was also a lengthy in-camera session, where direction was given on a matter before the LPAT and the bargaining process with transit staff.

The only major discussion point was about the recommendations from the Municipal Property and Building Commemorative Naming Report, which was referred back to the Naming Committee with some proposed changes earlier this month. A staff memo sent back to council said that the original recommendations of the Naming Committee should stand, and that the new Poppy Drive Park should be named Courtney, Goines and Mallott Park regardless of previous considerations.

Councillor Leanne Caron, who brought up the proposed changes at this month’s planning meeting, said that she felt that her recommendations still had merit, but said that she wasn’t going to pursue them just the same. The Poppy Drive Park, construction on which will start next week, will be named Courtney, Goines and Mallott Park, which will be properly signed with its historical significance along with the nearby No. 2 Construction Battalion Trail.

In a programming note, Mayor Cam Guthrie announced that staff from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health will be at next week’s council meeting to provide an update about the local response to COVID, which is a month early from the regularly scheduled quarterly update.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

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