A Stance Can Sometimes Leave You Out On Your Own On Regional Council
“Why lobby the Province to add benefits to new areas when it will cost an extra $1,121 per household per year for the next decade just to fix the Region’s existing infrastructure?” – Pelham Mayor and Niagara regional councilor Dave Augustyn
A Column from Town of Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn
Posted March 21st, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – It doesn’t happen too often, but occasionally I am the only one to vote for or against something at Regional Council. A couple of weeks ago, for example, I was the only one who opposed promoting development outside existing urban boundaries.
Pelham Town Council remains committed to development inside the existing urban boundaries so that we can protect the environment and agricultural lands outside those areas. We also do this to ensure that existing urban services (like water, sewer, and storm water infrastructure) get used to capacity – instead of continuously adding additional and costly services outside urban areas.
This commitment led Pelham Council to encourage greater protection for the Fonthill Kame. Similarly, we have refused to endorse additional lot creation in the Greenbelt. Further, we continue to protect rural “lots of record” and impose agricultural-only stipulations on remnant parcels so that houses cannot be built on new severed farm lots.
And, while some might be upset with new development inside Pelham’s urban boundaries, Council remains committed to development only on lands in the boundaries that were approved in 2000 (for Fonthill) and 1990 (for Fenwick). We oppose expansions or extensions of the urban areas.
Yet, this belief by Pelham Council is not held universally across Niagara.
A perfect example was the March 2nd vote over whether to endorse a Regional Staff submission to seek “special policy opportunities” in the rural and agricultural, non-serviced lands along the QEW between Niagara Falls and Fort Erie.
You see, after the Province designated a Gateway Zone from Niagara Falls to Fort Erie and a Gateway Centre in Welland / Port Colborne / Thorold, Regional Council developed special incentives to encourage industrial growth.
It was these “Gateway Incentives” that helped convince GE Canada to build their new plant in Welland. Further, the incentives helped encourage the Federal Government to designate Niagara as a Foreign Trade Zone to support export related growth.
But, some large, rural property owners informally lobbied Regional Councillors and Staff so that those incentives and servicing might be broadened outside urban areas.
Ironically, those property owners bought cheaper, rural land but now want the benefits of more expensive lands inside urban boundaries.
Eventually, they will demand new water, waste water and transportation infrastructure at a time when the Region has an accumulated infrastructure backlog of $545 million just to replace poor and very poor existing pipes and roads!
Why lobby the Province to add benefits to new areas when it will cost an extra $1,121 per household per year for the next decade just to fix the Region’s existing infrastructure?
Sadly, I was the only one (at the March 2nd meeting) to vote against trying to expand urban boundary development rights in that QEW / Niagara River rural area.
A Brief Afterword from Niagara At Large publisher Doug Draper – I am including immediately below, the video of the March 2nd Niagara Region Council meeting Mayor Augustyn refers to in his column above.
I encourage you to click on it, then glide the red bar at the bottom of the screen to the 3:45 mark near the end of the meeting where Niagara Falls regional councilor and regional planning minutes introduces the minutes of a recent planning committee meeting. Then Mayor Augustyn rises to discuss concerns identical to those me writes about in his column.
Pay particular attention to the way Niagara Regional Chair Al Caslin responds to him throughout his statement, at one point saying; “I certainly don’t want to hear that,” after the Pelham mayor raises concerns about the cost of contructing more pipes into the countryside, outside urban boundary areas.
Watching this is another not so delightful slice of what Niagara regional council and committee meetings are like under the administration of Al Caslin.
If the screen below does not open to the council meeting on your computer, simply click on the following link and move the red bar to 3:45 to watch it – https://www.youtube.com/embed/5NjzMoYzmoM?rel=0&autoplay=1 .
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