This Month at Council Part 1: Trees, Signs, and More Transitional Housing

Guelph City Council tackled a very busy agenda before the summer break. The Committee of the Whole meeting was a marathon affair with topics about trees, the new sign bylaw, and speed limits. Then, at the planning meeting, a decision was reached about a new supportive housing project while there were a lot of questions about the latest Metalworks addition. Here’s the first part of this month’s recap.

Committee of the Whole Meeting – July 5

Even though the committee meeting started about half-an-hour earlier than usual, it still ran till nearly 10 o’clock after several difficult debates on a wide variety of topics.

It started with a discussion about changes to the advisory committee policies, where most of the concern was about the definition of working groups, and whether members of those committees will still have the flexibility to put their heads together outside of normal meeting times. Councillor Leanne Caron proposed an amendment to remove the phrase “working group”, and that barely passed, and then another motion to direct the clerk’s office to develop a formal definition and bring it back to council at the next governance review in 2023, which passed with a majority.

After a quick nip/tuck to the council and committee calendar for 2022, committee tackled the question about the refusal to grant a permit to remove several trees at 649 Scottsdale Drive. The inclination of the staff and committee was to save the trees, but the property owner wanted to negotiate with the City noting that the removal of the trees was a condition of renting out space to a new restaurant in the plaza. Staff said that they have very limited options when it comes to tree removal, either approve the removal of trees for cause, or refuse the application.

Councillors tried a couple of different options, could the property owner pay cash-in-lieu? Could the trees be replaced with new trees under the usual three-to-one ratio as outlined in the bylaw? Could the older trees be replaced with different, younger trees? Some on council made the point that there have been incidents in the recent past where trees were removed from properties for reasons other than ill-health, but the majority of committee insisted that they follow the bylaw and direct the applicant to resubmit a new application. Council endorsed the staff recommendation to refuse the permit 12-1.

Next, council talked about the future of the Farmers’ Market, which was significantly less controversial. All of council agreed that proceeding with a new arrangement where 10C Shared Space manages the market, plus the building, and look for new ways to remake the Farmers’ Market from an underutilized asset.

After the dinner break, committee began again with the update to the sign bylaw, and 25 years without an update came down to a question of what to do about mobile signs. Three out of four of the delegates were owners of mobile sign companies, and there were concerned that more restrictions were going to have a negative effect on their bottom line just as things are looking up with the economic re-opening.

Mayor Cam Guthrie proposed that committee refer the final decision on the new bylaw until December 2022, but staff noted that there are several companies in Guelph that have been waiting for the formal update to proceed with their plans for new signs. In other words, waiting a year-and-a-half to enact the new bylaw just wasn’t practical.

Guthrie withdrew that motion, and instead offered to work on a motion that was more focused, to wait and enact the new provisions for mobile signs and maintain the status quo. A couple of different iterations of that motion were tried on by committee, but eventually they just passed the staff recommendation with the promise to have more concrete direction by the July 19 council meeting.

Next, committee tackled speed limit reductions, and the horseshoe was almost too eager to reduce speed limits. The amendments started simply with a proposal to double the number of cameras in the initial phase of the Automated Speed Enforcement program. It passed 7-5.

Next, there was an amendment to reduce the speed limit downtown to 30 kilometres per hour, but there were too many unanswered questions for committee since the original staff recommendation was for 40. That motion failed, and so did an additional motion for a more blanketed restriction of 30 kilometres per hour in several identified neighbourhoods. Guthrie made the point that people across Guelph are in favour of lower speed limits, but Guelph Transit is among the City agencies that note there are traffic flow issues when the speed limit gets that low.

In the final item, committee unanimously accepted the staff recommendation to annex the Dolime Quarry property and make it a part of the City of Guelph.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

Planning Meeting of City Council – July 12

After the consent agenda was swiftly approved, council got into the first planning proposal of the evening, the fourth phase of the Metalworks development.

The proposed 14-storey tower drew not so many concerns about height, but a lot of questions about an off-site parking lot across the street, and some apprehensions about accessibility in terms of both people with mobility issues and public access to the river walkway. Councillor Leanne Caron wondered if maybe Fusion Homes was trying to do too much with this specific project and asked staff to look at what the site needs, and what the developer wants.

For the second proposed project, the development of 20 townhouses accessible via a private road plus two single-detached homes, the primary concern was the traffic impact on Grange. An area resident delegating on the matter has asked staff for a traffic study of the area and thinks that it may be time for a stop light or stop sign at the intersection of Grange and Hagan.

Council received both reports unanimously, but no final decision on either project was made.

In a rare matter of debate around a sign bylaw variance, the co-owner of a new dental practice on Woodlawn wanted to maximize his signage on a new four-storey building where there would be a sign on each storey to describe the type of service on that floor. Council heard his appeal but opted to direct the applicant to try again with a new application and continue to work with staff to find a solution.

Finally, council was ready to talk about the decision report on the 65 Delhi Street supportive housing project. Staff had given their greenlight to the now 28-unit project, but there were a couple of powerful delegations that hoped to persuade council to, at least, postpone the final approval of the re-zoning.

Stephen Kilburn of the newly formed Delhi Eramosa Neighbourhood Advocates said that the changes to the project made by the County of Wellington didn’t answer all of his group’s concerns. Apparently, a letter was sent to council from a lawyer representing the group about a potential appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), and when Mayor Cam Guthrie asked Kilburn if that was a threat, he said it wasn’t and that area residents just wanted more dialogue before a final decision on the rezoning was made.

Robert Eilers, who owns 55 Delhi Street, also asked council to pause before making a final decision saying that he’s tried to reach out to numerous people at the County to have a conversation about the project only to get no answer. According to Eilers, in his estimation, the project only needs a couple of tweaks to make it palpable, but at the same time he warned that most of his tenants are threatening to move out of his building if the plan as it presently exists was approved.

Despite the threat of legal action, Guthrie asked concerned residents to avoid a 10-12 month wait to be heard by the OLT and instead try to work out their concerns through the site plan process. Council unanimously approved the rezoning of 65 Delhi Street.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

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