Police Board to consider rejected budget; Welland Council gets another crack at ‘strong mayor’ budget; Lincoln studies affordability of new housing development
Niagara Democracy Watch is The Pointer’s weekly feature aimed at increasing the public’s awareness and political involvement in the Niagara Region by highlighting key agenda items, motions and decisions.
Committee of the Whole Meeting
Date: December 4 - 6:00 p.m. | Delegate | Full agenda | Watch live
Community information and Statutory Public Meeting on potential 201 dwelling unit development
A statutory public meeting is scheduled for the Town of Lincoln’s Committee of the Whole Meeting on Monday regarding a residential development proposed for vacant land south of the Calvary Gospel Church at 4129 Hixon Street in Beamsville.
The proposal for the property owned by the Church and Pine Glen Beamsville Inc. consists of up to 201 dwelling units in a variety of types, including 16 single and 36 semi-detached dwellings, 44 townhouse dwellings and a 5-storey apartment building. The project will include the provision of affordable ownership and purpose-built rentals, for which there has been a dearth of in the community over the last two decades.
The property is currently zoned Institutional, on the 2.1 hectare portion where the Church is located, and Residential Multiple 1 (RM1) on the 3.4 hectare vacant portion of the land. The applicant, Pine Glen Beamsville Inc., is seeking Official Plan Amendment for Medium Density Residential for most of the land, with the area for the apartment to be defined as High Density Residential to allow for two additional storeys from the currently permitted three storeys.
The Zoning By-law amendment would change the residential classification of the property and allow for site specific zoning provisions related to lot size, building setbacks, and lot coverage. For example, low density single and semi-detached dwellings that are usually not permitted in higher density zones are being proposed for the Medium Density lands. Where the apartment will be located is proposed to be defined as High Density lands, with the equivalent of 362 units per hectare. Presently, a maximum of only 120 dwelling units per hectare is permitted on the property.
The related staff report welcomes the development’s provision of “a range of housing tenures and prices that would allow households of varying ages, types, and incomes to live in the neighbourhood.” In addition, the report highlights the design perspective as being “heavily influenced by the New Urbanist philosophy”, which seeks to create walkable, pedestrian oriented neighbourhoods. Houses will be situated close to the street with driveways and garages moved to the rear of the properties.
The 5-storey apartment is currently identified to include 75 units but the developer has requested “flexibility”. Staff is recommending that the maximum number of dwelling units not exceed 105 in the apartment building, though the report notes that in the last 10 years only 42 purpose-built apartment units have been built in Lincoln, with 36 of those units at 5002 King Street, which caters to a clientele 55 years of age and older.
The location of the apartment building will be immediately south of the church, so as to minimize privacy impacts and compatibility concerns with the nearby residential neighbourhood.
Staff characterizes an “important” part of the proposed development is its provision of affordable ownership and rental housing, with the report going into great detail on Provincial and Regional definitions and criteria for affordability. However, the concept of affordability may be in the eye of the beholder.
The developer has indicated that approximately 17 percent of the total apartment units, which would equal between 29 to 34 units depending on the ultimate size of the building, will be affordable. The rents will be set at 30 percent of the Region’s median renter income, which would equal $1,047.00 per month. Based on funding programs, the units will have to remain affordable for a minimum of ten (10) years.
Eight (8) of the proposed 96 ownership units (non-apartment units) will have sale prices that are at or below 90 percent of the average resale price for houses in Niagara Region, which would mean a purchase price of $684,200. The report admits that “none of the proposed ownership houses will have sale prices that meet the income component of the Province or Region’s definition of affordable or attainable housing”, while noting that the price tag would still be “substantially lower than other new dwellings being constructed in the proposed development or in other similar developments within Lincoln.”
Noel Walker, Chair of the Lincoln Housing Select Committee, in a memo included as an appendix to staff’s report, notes that there are many positive aspects of the proposed development but calls for stronger affordability provisions. Walker recommends guarantees that the apartment building will be a purpose-built rental building and not an owner tenure, that at least 20 percent of the proposed units be affordable and that the minimum affordability period be increased to at least 20 years.
The proposed development has already elicited substantial feedback from the community. Thirty-one people participated in a Zoom meeting the applicant had scheduled during the summer and a half a dozen correspondences, mostly negative, are included with Monday’s agenda. In addition, more than a dozen individuals have requested delegations, including a representative from the Benchlands Citizen Group. Issues raised by nearby residents include the compatibility of the higher density project with the existing low-rise neighbourhood, the height of the apartment building, the ability of the Town’s infrastructure to accommodate the development and a lack of open space and parkland, amongst other concerns.
There will not be a decision on Monday evening. Staff will work with the applicant on any issues raised at the Public Meeting and a subsequent recommendation report will go before Lincoln Town Council.
The report can be read here.
Special Public Board Meeting
Date: December 4 - 9:00 a.m. | Delegate | Full agenda | Watch live
Police Services Board to reconsider budget and Transit Commission to reconsider budget…again
At the end of regular business hours on Friday, there was still no posted agenda for Monday’s Special Meeting of the Niagara Regional Police Services (NRPS) Board but the purpose of the meeting is clear: for the Board to come back with some budget mitigation measures after Regional Council showed no appetite to approve the 7.1 percent budget increase proposed by the NRPS Board. The police budget increase would have a 2.8 percent impact on the Region’s general levy.
Of the proposed 2024 police budget increase, 2.3 percent, which equals almost $4 million, was termed as “service enhancements, stabilization, and growth” in the form of 40 additional staff, including 20 frontline constables. Regional Chair Jim Bradley described a number of the proposed staffing additions as “more nice to haves, than essentially needed”.
Later Friday evening, the agenda of the Special Public Board meeting was posted, calling for the NRPS Board to consider reducing the proposed 2024 net expenditure budget from $190,475,582, or 7.1 percent, to $188,392,344.00, or 5.9 percent. The mitigation measures included removing six of the proposed staffing additions and staggering the hiring of the 20 constables.
The NRPS Board may wish to take note of what has happened with the Niagara Transit Commission (NTC) when it comes to budget mitigation.
Regional Council had sent the Transit budget back to the Commission for reconsideration. While Transit Staff had suggested mitigation options that would have reduced the NTC’s budget increase from 7.8 percent to 6.3 percent, the Commission rejected any changes sending a correspondence to the Regional Chair and Council confirming their original budget submission.
With the Budget Committee of the Whole meeting on Thursday, November 30 ostensibly to finalize the approval of the Transit budget, a number of council members were clearly miffed by the lack of movement on the part of the Commission.
St. Catharines Regional Councillor Peter Secord said: “This budget needs to drop a bit. We were told (last year) that (the Regionalized Transit system) was going to find efficiencies. That never happened. We need to hold their feet to the fire.”
St. Catharines Mayor and Transit Commission Chair Mat Siscoe questioned the suggestion by some councillors that the transit department look into purchasing used buses as a possible cost cutting measure. “[W]e are getting 9 cents on the dollar” due to Provincial Gas Tax and other funding programs. He also pointed out that the the argument for increased transit investment is no different than the argument the Region has been making to the Province for increased GO service in NIagara: “[P]rovide us more frequent and convenient service and it will be used.”
Siscoe added: ”It has been said that we do not have a transit culture in Niagara. This is why. We have undercut Transit for decades in Niagara, running it on a shoestring budget. You need to invest in this…I implore my colleagues to vote in favour of the budget. This is the next best step in building this system. If we don’t take it, we will set this project back.”
Despite his impassioned plea, Regional Council rejected the proposed budget in a 16 to 6 vote and sent it back to NTC. Should the Commission again reject coming forward with any reductions, Regional Council would then be able to determine a dollar or percentage reduction in the Transit budget at its December 14 meeting.
The NRPS report can be read here.
Special Council Meeting
Date: December 5 - 5:00 p.m. | Delegate | Full agenda | Watch live
Welland Councillors get second attempt to amend the Mayor’s budget
Welland Councillors will get a second opportunity to consider amendments to Mayor Frank Campion’s proposed operating budget at a Special Council meeting on Tuesday, December 5th.
The Mayor introduced his budget on November 6, the first under the Province’s Strong Mayor Powers, granted to Welland at the end of October, and 18 amendments were brought forward by councillors for consideration at a sometimes fractious Special Council meeting on November 27. Eventually, half of the amendments were given “strictly conditional” approval and will receive final consideration at the December 5 meeting. As a result, the Mayor’s budget went up slightly from the 2.69 percent increase originally proposed to a 3.43 percent increase, largely due to an amendment which would see the hiring of seven additional firefighters.
The December 5 agenda has 22 further amendments for consideration, half of which propose budget cuts, seven that would add expenditures to the operating budget and the balance that have no dollar impact.
The largest proposed cuts are a deferral to the design work for Civic Square revitalization project until 2025, proposed by Councillor Graham Speck, which would eliminate $150,000 from the budget and an amendment from Councillor Tony DiMarco removing the $300,000 Trail Strategy Implementation item. The two biggest possible additions to the budget are proposed by Councillor David McLeod: $400,000 to fund a debt interest reserve account and an additional $300,000 in incremental capital funding to target the City’s infrastructure backlog.
The cumulative impact of all of the amendments would be an increase of 4.44 percent to the tax levy from 2023.
Whichever amendments have been carried will be added to his budget, Mayor Campion will then have ten days to veto any council amendment, by providing a rationale for the veto, in writing, to council and the municipal clerk. Within a 15-day period after the veto, council may override the veto, if two-thirds of all council members vote in favour of the override.
The proposed amendments can be read here.
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