Oakville builder John Matas is proposing a development of 15 three-storey luxury townhomes on Elizabeth St, between Caroline and Maria. The project, which backs onto the Stonecroft townhouses on Pearl, would require several minor variances. I met with the builder last week to learn more, and suggested a neighbourhood meeting. Stay tuned for dates.
Posts by Marianne Meed Ward:
Next update: April 20, Community Services Com., 6:30pm, City Hall
You could have heard a pin drop in council chambers when senior staff revealed in March that the retender package for the pier likely won’t go to market till mid-July, with tenders not expected back till Sept. 26. That means this process will cost the city a year. Remember the previous council voted to retender last September!
I didn’t vote to retender the pier because of these kinds of delays. I’m also concerned about continuing our legal battle, which may end up being a Pyrrhic victory: we could win, but at what cost to delays, transparency and legal fees?
My take: I’m glad council and the public will now get regularly scheduled updates on the pier. I still hold out hope that the parties to this dispute will come back to the negotiating table before the tender goes out, and offer a reasonable solution to finish the pier, either with the current contractor or a consortium of other contractors. I’ve always preferred a negotiated settlement to a litigated one – so long as it protects taxpayers and delivers a quality, cost-effective project.
Our downtown is suffering, with a number of businesses leaving the core in recent months. One of the key issues that downtown businesses have identified is parking – availability, cost, enforcement. Businesses say their clients are going elsewhere because of parking concerns.
My Take: Taxpayers, and local businesses who are already struggling to survive downtown, should not be subsidizing municipal employee parking. We need a consistent level playing field – either everyone pay for parking or it’s free for all, which would certainly address some of the parking challenges our businesses are facing. I voluntarily pay $104/month into the city’s parking fund for my parking spot.
When I met with city staff about this project, I shared residents concerns that this was too intense. Though there have been some improvements to the project since originally proposed – including a reduction in units, more greenspace, and increased setbacks – the project is still more development than what is allowed.
Worse, while this project was working through the system, the Official Plan was changed last summer to allow back-to-back townhomes which increases permitted densities. Most residents had no idea the change had occurred.
My Take: During the election campaign, many of you told me you wanted the city to rein in spending, focus on priorities, and more closely align spending to economic realities. City taxes have increased by a whopping 75% since 2000 – about 5.6% per year, while our population has only grown by 18%, and inflation by 23%. This budget signals a new focus on fiscal restraint while maintaining or enhancing core priorities for our hospital and seniors.
The ad hoc citizen’s committee struck to save the historic Freeman Station has achieved a significant milestone. The group has been formally incorporated through the Ontario Historical Society as the Friends of Freeman Station with a board, bylaws and constitution.
It was an emotional council meeting Feb. 28 as council honoured Ward 2 resident John Boich with a Civic Recognition Award for his contribution to our community over the years. though he is in poor health, John was able to attend the meeting. His wife Arlene spoke on his behalf.
I had the honour of nominating my friend for this award, and am pleased he could be with us to accept it.
The proposed capital and current (or operations) budget for 2011 will address some, but not all of these challenges. Staff are proposing a tax increase of 2.5%. That includes a dedicated .5% infrastructure levy. Council has also recently learned there is a sizable surplus from the 2010 budget, which we’ll learn more about next week, when staff bring forward a report on the amount, source and proposed disposition of the surplus.
During the campaign I pledged to rein in tax increases, and focus on infrastructure and core services. I’m very concerned about our infrastructure renewal gap and will suggest that some of the surplus be directed toward that, in addition to looking at redirecting funds from other capital and operating to infrastructure.
At a public meeting last June on this development, residents expressed a number of concerns about height, density, lack of greenspace and setbacks. Residents were also concerned that the building would be registered as a condo but the units rented only. Condo developments pay less property tax than rental units.
Not much has changed with the revised plans. The unit count has reduced slightly from 118 to 115, but given the size of the lot the actual density is 352 units per net hectare, almost double the 185 unit density allowed by the Official Plan.
The height remains at 14 stories, double the seven allowed by the Official Plan.
In exchange for the extra height and density, staff (who are supportive of this project) are negotiating payment of “community benefits.” The argument is that the Official Plan envisions going beyond height and density limits in exchange for these community benefits.
My take: The re-tender process and the litigation pose significant risks in cost and time delays to taxpayers, so I could not support it. I also believe a deal could have been reached with the contractor. Your feedback also influenced my decision. Since I wrote about this in January, dozens of you, including residents with significant experience in construction, engineering and law, have told me your prefer a negotiated settlement and abandonment of the legal action.