Pelham considers ward boundary shift; timeline set to resolve long-standing cannabis odour issues; Niagara to host public meeting on quarry expansion 
Photo Illustration by Joel Wittnebel/The Pointer

Pelham considers ward boundary shift; timeline set to resolve long-standing cannabis odour issues; Niagara to host public meeting on quarry expansion 

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. 


Council Meeting

Date: February 7 - 9:00 a.m. | Delegate | Full agenda | Watch live


Pelham to receive interim report on Ward Boundary Review, Council Composition Update and Selection Process for Deputy Mayor

At its meeting on Wednesday, Pelham councillors will hear a presentation and receive a preliminary report, from University of Western Political Science Professors, Dr. Andrew Sancton and Dr. Timothy Cobban, on possible changes to the Town’s electoral system.  Dr. Sancton is considered one of the foremost authorities on municipal government, with new council members often receiving a copy of one of his books as an orientation primer.

Sancton and Cobban have been tasked with reviewing Pelham Council’s composition, ward boundaries and whether to have a deputy mayor position.

Since the introduction of regional government in 1970, Pelham’s electoral system has remained static.  Council has always been composed of a mayor and six councillors, with two councillors elected to represent each of the Town’s three wards.  Ward boundaries were changed slightly in 1978, with a more significant modification made ahead of the 2014 municipal election.  

One of the issues facing Pelham is the increasing disparity in population between the Rural/Fenwick ward (also known as Ward 1) compared to the two, more urban Fonthill wards.  Currently, Ward 1 is 11 percent smaller than the Town’s average ward size (a population of 5,650 people compared to 6,335 in other wards), with the disparity projected to increase to 25.1 percent below the average by 2034.  

Although there is nothing in legislation stating that wards have to be relatively equal in size, the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), which adjudicates municipal electoral appeals, has adopted “effective representation” as its guiding principle in past decisions.  

As a result, the interim report provides six options for potential changes to existing ward boundary, including increasing the number of wards to six.  The most “straightforward” solution suggested is to expand the territory of Ward 1 by extending its eastern boundary from Centre Street to Effingham Street, while maintaining the existing boundary between Wards 2 and 3.

The interim report also contemplates the elimination of the ward system and a shift to at-large representation, noting that the absence of wards is quite common in municipalities of comparable size to Pelham.  The consultants, however, do not specifically recommend any changes offering that “most will at least be open to the continuation of a ward-based system”.

Pelham’s council composition of seven members is the most common make-up for similarly-sized municipalities.  In Niagara, the slightly larger Niagara-on-the-Lake and Port Colborne have nine members, while West Lincoln has the same number of representatives as Pelham.  

The consultants point out that “for obvious reasons, increasing or decreasing the number of wards can leave municipalities with little choice over the size of council.”  While boundary decisions and governance models are appealable to the OLT, the number of Council members is a decision that cannot be appealed and is within a council’s authority to determine.

On the matter of deputy mayor, the practice has been for Pelham Council members to elect from among its members to serve a two-year term after each municipal election and at the mid-point of the four-year term.  The consultants note that the position is not explicitly referred to in the Ontario Municipal Act and, therefore, has no legislative authority.

One area the consultants do not address is the possibility that these recommendations may not ultimately go anywhere should the provincial government make any sweeping changes following its ongoing regional government review.

The Provincial Standing Committee on Heritage, Infrastructure and Cultural Policy has staged a number of hearings throughout the Province “to inform a study on regional governance as overseen by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing”.  

The Committee visited Niagara on January 10th, where Pelham Mayor Marvin Junkin espoused the independence of his community.

“[R]esidents in Pelham do not want to live in a city or be part of a larger community. They chose to live in a small progressive place and want it to stay that way,” he said. “Residents have shared that they fear that a potential amalgamation will mean that their voices will be drowned out by the crowds of larger population centres within the region, and the benefits of our smaller community would be lost.”

The next step in the Pelham governance review, in addition to interviews with Council members and Town staff, are two public open houses scheduled for February 12th at Pelham Fire Station #2 and February 27th at Meridian Community Centre.  Both sessions will run from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Doctors Sancton and Cobban plan to have a final report completed by March or April and promise they “are open to any proposals that we think could be defended at OLT.”

The interim report of the consultants can be read here.


Is the end finally in sight for the long-protracted issue surrounding cannabis operations and their odours in the community?

Pelham residents aggrieved by cannabis odours may have to wait a little bit longer for relief, as outlined in a report on Wednesday’s agenda to Pelham council.

With legalization of recreational cannabis in the fall of 2018 and Pelham’s rich agricultural environment and history, two large scale cannabis cultivation and production operations opened in the Town - Redecan and CannTrust (later known as Phoena).  Not long afterward, residents began to complain to Pelham Council of noxious odours produced by the facilities.  

The Town eventually passed an interim control by-law, which restricted the use of all land in the municipality for any future cannabis-related uses for two years, with the exception of the existing operations.  External planning consultants and the citizen-led Cannabis Control Committee studied possible development requirements, culminating in changes to the Town’s Official Plan and zoning bylaws in 2020.  In addition, the Town passed an Odourous Industries Nuisance Bylaw meant to limit similar issues in the future. 

The cannabis-related amendments to the Town’s Official Plan and zoning bylaws were appealed to the OLT by Redecan, Phoena and a prospective third operation, Woodstock Biomed.  Hearings happened in January and July of 2022, with the OLT dismissing Woodstock Biomed’s appeal.  Phoena withdrew from the hearing and eventually shuttered operations in early 2023.

The OLT approved the Town’s Official Plan Amendment, however, the tribunal held final approval of the zoning bylaw.  A settlement negotiated between the Town’s external legal counsel and Redecan’s representatives, which would see site-specific exceptions to the cannabis operation, was contingent upon Redecan providing a description of their current odour control management systems, a contingency odour management plan and a site plan drawing showing the location of all buildings, building heights and emission sources.  In addition, Redecan is required to facilitate the formation of a community liaison committee, which would deal with future odour complaints.

To date, Redecan has not provided any of the documents required as part of the negotiated settlement and while Town Bylaw staff have never laid any charges against the local cannabis producers, odour complaints continue with delegates before Council most recently in September 2023.

With the considerable amount of time that has elapsed since the interim OLT order, the parties were before the OLT last month with the Town requesting the tribunal impose a firm deadline on Redecan to provide the required information to the Town and if the deadline is not met, that the OLT revoke the site-specific exceptions.

Although the January hearing was not for the purposes of presenting evidence, legal counsel for Redecan did concede that the operation was required to provide the documentation, but outlined that changes in ownership of the cannabis operation had caused delays, with the new owners not being completely versed in what was required of them.  

The outcome of the January hearing was a detailed schedule moving forwarded, as outlined in the staff update report:

“[R]edecan is to submit the required documentation to the Town by April 30, 2024. The Town was given 15 days or until May 15, 2024 to review the submission and determine if it is satisfactory. If the submission is not satisfactory, Redecan has an additional 15 days, or until May 30, 2024 to address any outstanding items. If the Town is not satisfied by June 17, 2024 that Redecan has met the conditions of the interim order, then the Town may request that the OLT remove the site-specific zoning exemptions for Redecan. If the information is satisfactory, then the Town would notify the OLT that it is satisfied, and the OLT can issue their final order with the site-specific approvals for Redecan.”  

The report can be read here


Planning & Economic Development Committee Meeting

Date: February 7 - 1:00 p.m. | Delegate | Full agenda | Watch live


Public meeting on expansion of Law Quarry

On Wednesday, the Niagara Region’s Planning & Economic Development Committee will hold a statutory public meeting for the proposed expansion to the Law Quarry in Wainfleet. The applicant, Waterford Sand and Gravel Ltd., is looking to expand the quarry by 72.3 hectares, with 51.2 hectares proposed to be extracted—an area approximately the size of 123 football fields. 

An Official Plan amendment from the Region is required to permit the expansion of the existing quarry operation.  At a future date, Wainfleet Township Council will consider Official Plan and zoning bylaw amendments to change the land designation to Extractive Industrial and rezone the area accordingly.  

Waterford Sand and Gravel has submitted a variety of reports, including a Planning Justification, a Consultation Plan, Archaeological Assessment, and studies related to agricultural, noise, blasting, air quality, traffic, visual and natural environment impacts.

The Province is the ultimate approval authority.  A licence under the Aggregate Resources Act (ARA) is required, though the Province will not grant a licence until the municipal approvals are in place.

In December, a Value-for-Money-Audit by the Interim Auditor General of Ontario was critical of the management of aggregate resources in Ontario concluding that the Ministry of Natural Resources was  “falling short in balancing its competing roles of facilitating the extraction of aggregate resources and minimizing the impacts of aggregate operations.” 

Findings of the audit included a shortage of inspectors contributing to low and declining inspection rates, the Ministry not pursuing charges against offenders, despite high rates of non-compliance, a lack of process ensuring that sites are rehabilitated after extraction is complete, no incentives in place for using recycled aggregate, instead of virgin materials and a lack of accurate information on the demand for aggregates.   

The purpose of Wednesday’s public meeting is for the committee to consider public comments related to the proposed Regional Official Plan Amendment.  No recommendation is being made by regional staff, and no decision is being requested of the committee, at this time.

A copy of the presentation can be found here.


Past reporting:




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