This Month at Council: Budget Deficit Turned Surplus and Clair-Maltby Complete

It was a busy May at city council as the horseshoe handled several complex files. Money matters were big as the completed books for the 2021 fiscal year came back for council’s information. How did staff turn a deficit into surplus? Find out! And speaking of new discoveries, the final version of the Clair-Maltby Secondary Plan came to council for approval, and approve it they did. Let’s recap the fifth month of the year at City Hall!

Committee of the Whole Meeting – May 2

After committee heard this month’s staff appreciation and approved the consent agenda, they dug into a long discussion about the state of the City’s 2021 finances. The reports themselves were not terribly controversial as Finance General Manager Tara Baker laid out how staff were able to turn an approximate $2.5 million deficit into a $2.5 million surplus with Safe Restart Funding, but there were a lot of thoughts about what to do with that surplus.

The first motion came from Mayor Cam Guthrie who asked to take the $1.575 million transfer to the Police Operating Contingency Reserve and put just $1 million in the reserve and that the rest of the money go into the Affordable Housing Reserve. Guthrie’s argument was that spending money on affordable housing now means saving on policing later.

This move prompted many questions, like why? Guthrie said that recent Federal and Provincial budget announcements make it clear that affordable housing is a priority, and the City’s account is nearly empty (as a report to council later this month will demonstrate). Did Guthrie clear this with the Police Board? He did, they asked to hold on to at least $1 million though in case the grant money runs out for any of their programs being funding from upper levels of government.

Councillor Mike Salisbury wanted to flip the sums, and bank $1 million for affordable housing, but he couldn’t find a second to make the motion official. Two other councillors meanwhile expressed concern about setting a precedent by taking a portion of a surplus from an outside board and putting it in a separate account, but the amendment passed 10-3 just the same.

Guthrie then moved to spend $500,000 of the surplus on the implantation of key service rationalization recommendations about expanding digital customer service measures, especially the digitization of development applications. This was more of an uphill climb for committee, but DCAO Trevor Lee explained that the grant from the Provincial government to digitize applications is not enough to get the job done, and staff needs the top up. That amendment passed 11-2.

A motion from Councillor June Hofland recommended a transfer of $1.3 million to cover the City’s half of upgrades to the rail crossing signals in the area of Paisley and Edinburgh. It seems that CN Rail has offered to fund the work 50/50 with the City of Guelph, which will see a system where the train engineer will be able to manually override the lights and gates once the train departs the intersection as opposed to leaving the automated controls activated whenever the train approaches the crossing at a set distance. It’s an imperfect solution, but it’s one that could avoid traffic jams due to busy train schedules in this part of town.

Committee approved the funding unanimously, and the work could potentially begin sometime in 2023.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

Planning Meeting of City Council – May 9

This week’s planning meeting was fairly straightforward with just three different topics on the agenda. The first, approval for 96 new townhouses and a new Beer Stone building at 710 Woolwich Street, was passed swiftly as the one item on the consent agenda.

Next, there was the statutory meeting for a co-op housing project at 205-213 Speedvale Avenue East, a new three-storey apartment complex with 21-units, plus a single-detached dwelling that will be converted into three units. There were only two delegates, representatives of the owner, and council asked them about bike parking and potential net zero build, but for the most part council was enthusiastic about the project, and the report was received unanimously.

Finally, council looked at the York Road and Elizabeth Street Urban Design Concepts Recommendation Report, the final piece of the area’s land use study. The layouts presented are not final designs, but they’re meant to direct how future development in the area can happen. Council was largely pleased with the results, and Mayor Cam Guthrie said that the work completed will take some of the “guessing game” out of future redevelopment in the east end.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

Special Meeting of City Council – May 16

The Clair-Maltby Secondary Plan is official complete. Although it’s likely going to be appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal, council has taken its final vote on the plan seven-years in the works, and the vote showed overwhelming support for the package presented by staff. How did we get there?

After the staff presentation of the plan, there were 10 delegates. Notably absent were any of the major developers that hold land in the area, so it fell to parkland enthusiasts and residents concerned about the potential expense of the plan to offer their notes. Some went as far as proposing that council should reconsider the whole plan, or even just delay the final vote until more work is done on those issues, and at least one delegate was concerned about whether or not there would be any new housing in the area geared to income.

Back at council there were questions to staff around road layout in Clair-Maltby and making sure that “Street A”, which will pass through portions of the moraine ribbon, will be environmentally sound. There were also some questions about the capital costs, the population figures, and whether or not the plan has allowances to get the most amount of parkland if the eventual population of the area goes above 16,000. On that last point, staff said because the development is phased, there’s always ways for the City to reconsider certain assumptions.

Council began recommending their own changes with a motion from Councillor Rodrigo Goller to make portions of “Street A” active transportation only. Staff were not in favour of this idea because emergency services asked for a north/south connection other than Gordon, and because it could create more connectivity issues in the south end. The motion failed 4-8.

Next, Goller proposed a motion to maximize the parkland totals for a potential population in Clair-Maltby of 25,000. Staff said addressing the motion could mean an additional two years of work for the plan and added that 25,000 people in Clair-Maltby is an outside figure because it would mean every single property in the area would be built to maximum density, which seems unlikely. Councillor Bob Bell framed the question as parks versus roads, which some councillors found distasteful. This motion also failed, but by a vote of 3-9.

Also on roads, Councillor Cathy Downer proposed a motion to direct the design of “Street A” to serve as a collector road so that it doesn’t accidentally become an arterial. The motion was passed quickly and unanimously.

From Ward 6 Councillor Dominique O’Rourke came a proposed motion to direct staff to look at ways make sure that when construction begins on the southern most end of the development that people coming into Guelph along Gordon are not hitting a wall of 10-storey buildings. This motion will go down in the annals of council lore for Bell’s screed about how Guelph will eventually annex land south of Maltby, which Councillor Leanne Caron called “fortune telling.” The motion was approved 8-4.

The last motion, also from O’Rourke, was a suggestion to include language about co-ordination and consultation with Puslinch directly in the future, but council decided to that such a motion might be better reserved for the next Official Plan Amendment, and the motion was withdrawn.

The full and amended Clair-Maltby Secondary Plan passed 11-1 with Bell being the notable exception. Stay turned for news about an appeal.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

Regular Meeting of City Council – May 30

The song says the waiting is the hardest part… Well, it certain was at this month’s regular council meeting as the overlong closed session required waiting an hour before the final council meet in May was officially over.

After quickly passing the majority of the consent agenda, and approving the minute from past meetings, council had to make a slight adjustment to the original Committee of the Whole recommendation in regard to the surplus allocation. Council considered it a correction after overstepping their authority by reallocating a portion of the surplus from the Guelph Police operating budget.

At Committee of the Whole, they moved $575,832 allocated to the police contingency reserve to the affordable housing reserve instead, but a notion of council restored the full allocation to the police reserve by taking it from the surplus amount assigned to the infrastructure renewal reserve, thus keeping the funds in the affordable housing reserve. The motion was passed 12-1 with only Councillor Mike Salisbury against.

About 20 minutes after the open session began, council went back in-camera. They had reviewed the public appointments to the local boards and advisory committees, but they had not yet reached a decision about “Southgate Business Park Lands – Proposed Term Sheet”. An hour later, council emerged from the closed meeting room with some decisions.

Along with the new appointments, council unanimously passed an additional motion asking for staff to provide an annual information report about the progress of facilitation work with Heritage Guelph sometime in the fourth quarter of the year. You may recall that there was some friction between the heritage committee, staff, and council around the results of the Cultural Heritage Action Plan.

On the Southgate Business Park lands, council presented a complex motion to go back to the proponent asking that the development plan include compensation for 35,000 trees, a conveyance for the natural heritage system land, a conveyance of 11 acres of developable land, and the appropriate upgrades to road and area infrastructure. Mayor Cam Guthrie said that the decision reflects the City’s commitment to “get to yes” by working proactively with businesses and developers. The motion was passed 10-3.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

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