Hello, and all the best to you and friends in the middle of winter.
Next meeting of Council is Monday, February 24 at 6pm in Chambers at Town Hall, 1593 Four Mile Creek Road. At this meeting, Council will discuss and ratify decisions of the February 3 and 10 Committees of the Whole.
View the full 2020 meeting schedule at https://notl.org/calendar
View agenda packages and minutes here
Below are notes and updates on the previous month of my activities as your Councillor and Deputy Lord Mayor.
Highlights from the January 20 meeting of Council:
Presentation and Report from Cindy Grant, Chair of the Community Wellness Committee, including multiple recommendations on how to improve overall health and wellness across nine categories. View the slide deck under Agenda Delegations here
Multiple delegations on increasing Short Term Rental licensing fees. Find more information on this issue here
Decision to defer further consideration of a Municipal Accommodation Tax until a Tourism Strategy can be completed for Niagara-on-the-Lake
Highlights from the February 3 Committee of the Whole - Planning:
Public meeting for proposed amendments to the Niagara-on-the-Lake Zoning By-law for garage setbacks and width restrictions in the urban areas. Read the staff report starting on page 8 here
Motion to hire an external planner to provide evidence relating to Council's decision before the LPAT for proposed development at 1490 York Road in St. Davids
Initial steps to establish a Community Planning Permit System in Niagara-on-the-Lake. View the circulation starting on page 7 here
Highlights from the February 10 Committee of the Whole - General:
Presentation from 2WA, who has been assisting the Town in creation of a new Strategic Plan. The plan has been finalized and will be posted soon to Join the Conversation at https://www.jointheconversationnotl.org/strategic-plan
Presentation on opportunities to commemorate local history in the Glendale area, including street names, parks and statues to honour remarkable women from Niagara's past. View the slide deck under Delegations/Presentations here
Catherine Habermebl, Director of Waste Management for Niagara Region, presented on the 2019 changes to waste collection contract and services. For the collection of diapers and medical waste there will be no change in the current process, which requires participants to preregister through an online form, purchase clear bags, and segregate all items from other household waste.
Motion to create a steering committee to consider and make recommendations for the future of 176 Wellington Street in Old Town, the former site of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Hospital. The Town solicited ideas from the community for this site in 2018. View report CS-20-002 under the Consent Agenda here
Report on a proposed Hiring Policy for the Town, including all internal positions and the process of hiring a CAO
Report on removing the overnight parking exemption, to permit parking on Town streets from 2am - 6am
Financial investment options required to continue the conversion of high-pressure sodium streetlights to LED fixtures
CAO Selection Committee minutes, including a draft job description for the role
Notes on a Proposed Municipal Accommodation Tax
Below is a summary of my current views on a proposed Municipal Accommodation Tax (MAT), shared at the January 20 Council meeting.
Claims that a MAT will be impossible to collect or calculate, too complicated to communicate and explain to visitors, or that a MAT will kill the tourism industry in Niagara-on-the-Lake, are unconvincing without reliable data.
At the same time, a MAT could unfairly target visitors who are investing in overnight stays and spending multiple days in our community, which is something we should encourage for greater economic benefit to local businesses.
Before implementing a MAT it is very important for Council to see independent research on this topic, including a fresh calculation of just how many tourists actually visit Niagara-on-the-Lake each year. Estimates vary wildly from 2.5 to upwards of 6 million people depending on the source. Given how important tourism is to our local economy, we need to settle on a real and factual number to assist in future planning.
We also need a Tourism Strategy as soon as possible, that will address long outstanding questions about the kind of destination Niagara-on-the-Lake wants to be: A luxury boutique? A playground for families? A stop for high-volume day trips? A heritage destination? An Instagram backdrop? A wedding venue? A culinary hotspot? Or do we want to be all of these things, and appeal to as many people as possible? If properly managed, a MAT will actually increase tourism through reinvestment in tourism-related infrastructure and marketing. Is that the right goal?
Tourism Niagara-on-the-Lake has a very important role in crafting a tourism strategy for our community, which is also included as a goal in the Town's new Strategic Plan. I look forward to listening to members of the tourism and accommodation industry, together with residents and business owners on this important issue.
In Our Community
Over two weekends in January, Niagara-on-the-Lake welcomed thousands of visitors to the Icewine Festival.
On January 22 I was a guest on the CKTB Round Table and participated as a guest mentor for the City of St. Catharines' A Seat at the Table program. Learn more about this initiative here
It was an honour to facilitate a second Strategic Planning session for Riverbrink Art Museum's Board of Directors.
I also visited Walker Environmental in February, including an opportunity to meet the organization's falconer. Yes that's right, a falconer, who uses birds of prey to discourage swarms of seagulls from forming at the two landfill sites on Mountain Road. Though not in Niagara-on-the-Lake, this massive and varied facility provides critical waste management services to our residents every day.
On February 7, F45 hosted a Health and Wellness Night for NOTL Mamas and Babies at their location on Niagara Stone Road.
Stay warm, Spring is coming!