This Week at Council: Workshops, Assignments and Planning

Council got back to it’s regularly scheduled workload for this December with four meetings in two days. The councillors filled their minds with the ins and outs of planning and budgeting, and then put some that knowledge to the test with the first official planning meeting of the term. In other news, council appointed some people to local boards and committees and then they appointed themselves. Here’s the recap!

Workshop Meeting of City Council – December 6

The meeting started late because it was also class picture day at City Hall, but council blazed through a 90-minute breakdown of how planning works at a municipal level, and some of the immediate planning concerns that council is going to face for the next four years.

Staff walked council through the hierarchy of planning documents, the Official Plan, housing targets, the zoning by-law, the planning process, heritage and environment planning, affordable housing, building services, and the in-progress comprehensive zoning bylaw review.

Council quandaries? Mayor Cam Guthrie asked how responsive council can be calling planning meets to match quick timelines. Councillor Dan Gibson wanted to know about the how plans change between council approval and construction, and what counts as a minor change in those cases. Councillor Rodrigo Goller asked about precedents set at the OLT, and the effect on the building department in terms of the increased workload for inspectors. Councillors Carly Klassen and Leanne Caron had questions about heritage and Councillor Dominique O’Rourke was concerned about the impacts of Bill 23 on natural heritage.

GM of Planning Krista Walkey warned that a storm is coming, and that council should look for a lighter winter for planning meetings as developers look at the changes approved in the More Homes Built Faster Act. She also added that planning applications may come to council with much less detail than we’re used to because site planning and zoning can’t happen concurrently anymore. Walkey added that staff will be having a summit on Friday to begin a full dissection of Bill 23 and its impacts.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

Special Meeting of City Council – December 6

Council began a special meeting at 5:30 to fill spots on the local boards and advisory committees and went directly into closed session. They did not emerge for nearly 90 minutes.

When council did come back into open session, they held a moment of silent reflection after the names of the women killed a L’Ecole Polytechnique on December 6, 1989 were read aloud. Immediately after, the slate of new public appointees to local boards and advisory committees were swiftly approved with Ward 2 Councillor Carly Klassen removing herself from the vote for the members of Heritage Guelph because her husband applied to a position.

After that council appointed themselves to various positions without much friction:

  • Chair and Vice-chair of Audit: Phil Allt and Linda Busuttil.
  • Chair and Vice-chair of Corporate Services: Leanne Caron and Erin Caton.
  • Chair and Vice-Chair for Infrastructure, Development and Enterprise Services: Dominique O’Rourke and Carly Klassen.
  • Chair and Vice-Chair of Public Services: Cathy Downer and Ken Yee Chew.
  • Rep for Art Gallery of Guelph Board of Trustees: Caron.
  • Rep for Board of Trustees of the Elliott: O’Rourke.
  • Business License Appeals Committee: Dan Gibson, Michele Richardson, Downer, Busuttil and Chew.
  • Rep to Committee of Management for The Elliott: Service area vice-chairs plus O’Rourke.
  • Reps to Downtown Guelph Business Association Board of Directors: Downer and Rodrigo Goller.
  • Grand River Conservation Authority: Christine Billings and Chew.
  • Guelph Police Services Board: Cam Guthrie and Allt.
  • Well Interference Committee: O’Rourke, Goller, and Busuttil.
  • Reps to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Board of Health: Caton, Busuttil and Goller.

Did we miss a committee? Yes, and it’s the Guelph Public Library Board. Councillor Goller brought forward a motion to amend the composition of the GPL Board to include up to three members. Goller said that the logic is simple: With the coming construction of the new main library and its expanded slate of services, there should be more than just one member of council on the library board. This would also bring the City in line with representation on other shared services like the Guelph Police Board or Public Health, which all have two to three council reps. The horseshoe approved the amendment and Goller, Klassen and Caron were approved as the representatives.

In an additional motion, Councillor Downer proposed the appointment of a councillor as a non-voting member of Heritage Guelph explaining that other municipalities with a councillor on the heritage committee have gotten good results, and it could be essential with changes in Bill 23. Council has to suspend the Procedural Bylaw to consider the motion, and after the suspension passed unanimously, the motion to add an appointment was also approved unanimously. Councillor Downer herself was then successfully approved as council’s rep to Heritage Guelph.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

Planning Meeting of City Council – December 6

About an hour later than it was supposed to start, the first planning meeting of the term got underway. A decision report to approve the rezoning of an old religious facility into a medical office and a sign bylaw variance for a south end Tim Hortons drive-thru was quickly passed, and after that, council heard two delegates on the recommendation to approve a redevelopment on Edinburgh Road North. While council did approve it, they did so after asking questions about density, potential trail connections and the amount of purpose-built rental.

Then it was time to discuss the big issue of the night, the re-zoning of a property along Hadati Road between Leacock and Upton that will see the commercial building standing their demolished and then replaced with 24 stacked townhouses. The developers are asking for an increase to the maximum height, an increase to the max density, a reduction in front yard setback, and a reduction in parking to one space per unit along with two visitor spaces.

After the representative of the landowner presented, the parade of a dozen delegates began and almost all of them were against the proposal. A group called Happy Hadati had organized a co-ordinated effort to fight the proposed redevelopment citing concerns about the amount of density on this site, the lack of parking that will force more street parking, and the increased traffic for an area that many of the residents already feel is unsafe, especially for the kids in the area crossing Hadati Road to go to school at St. James.

Another objection area residents had was the loss of some of the only commercial space within walking distance, the convenience store that currently occupies the building onsite. Some of the area residents noted its importance and how it gives them a place they can walk to in order to pick up the basics, but the owner of the site delegated that the store’s owner is looking to retire and that she’s been subsidizing his rent so that he can stay open.

Other than the owner and the agent, the one person who spoke in favour of the development was a local realtor. For the most part, council spent 90 minutes hearing about how this is a bad idea.

In terms of council concerns, Ward 1 rep Dan Gibson asked if there was any consideration about keeping the commercial portion of the property. Trevor Hawkins, who is the rep for the property owner, said that keeping a commercial portion would mean something more akin to an apartment building, which is not a direction they wanted to take with the property. Ward 2 Councillor Rodrigo Goller asked Hawkins about guarantees that one parking space per unit would not result in more on-street parking, and Hawkins explained that buyers will know what they’re buying. Many found that answer unpersuasive.

In their comments, many around the horseshoe agreed that the time had come for a redevelopment of the site, and at least a couple of councillors pitched the idea of a smaller development of 12 to 16 units plus more parking as an acceptable compromise. Mayor Cam Guthrie said that the neighbourhood raised a number of concerns but need to focus on what’s “doable” because some comments also bordered on NIMBYism. He also recommended that all parties get together and try to find some solutions about what’s possible on the site

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

Workshop Meeting of City Council – December 7

In preparation for the review and confirmation of the 2023 budget in January, councillors spent their Wednesday night learning how a municipality creates a budget, what the budget considerations for Guelph look like, and how our own multiyear budgeting process works.

Budget impacts of Bill 23 we’re specifically discussed during the workshop, and DCAO Trevor Lee explained that staff will be bringing more information about that when the real budget process begins in January. Council questions covered the idea of making the City of Guelph a living wage employer, advocating for an increase in the heads-in-beds levy and when the new councillors we get to take part in the revamp of the Strategic Plan.

To wrap up, Mayor Cam Guthrie repeated his message from the inaugural meeting and asked his colleagues to “buckle up”. He said that he’s enjoyed the teamwork on past budgets and he encourages the whole team to work together leading up to the final vote while noting that you if can’t “wrap your head around a number” you sometimes have to support a budget because there’s nothing left to do.

Click here to see the complete recap of the meeting.

The next meeting of city council is on Tuesday December 13 at 6:30 pm. You can see the Politico preview here.

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