NEWS RELEASE: Interim Solution Allows South End Rink to Continue

News Release from CAO Ann Pappert:

An update from the CAO on the skating rink in Pine Ridge

Guelph, ON, January 30, 2015 – We said yesterday that we’re interested in working with the residents of Pine Ridge on a mutually satisfactory solution with respect to what has become a well-used neighbourhood rink.

Our challenge is to work with residents to balance a number of competing interests. In this case we need to balance the desire for community recreation with the right to peaceful enjoyment of private property; liability issues and the safeguarding of the environment.

While the City works through these matters we will allow Pine Ridge residents to continue to use the rink they’ve built until a significant thaw. They can use the rink from sun-up to sun-down, without music, lights or electrical hook ups and at their own risk, thereby limiting the impact on some residents’ enjoyment of their adjoining property.

This interim solution doesn’t reflect a final decision, but it gives the City some short-term assurance while allowing residents of Pine Ridge to continue to enjoy their rink.

Next week, senior City staff will work with Pine Ridge residents to discuss this interim solution and longer-term options.

Outdoor rinks are wonderful neighbourhood assets. The City believes wholeheartedly in their benefits which is why we support neighbourhood groups working with the City, through a number of in-kind supports, in building their own rinks.

But rinks need to be safe. And they need to respect the rights of every resident in the neighbourhood. And, finally, they can’t compromise natural areas or the infrastructure built to protect those natural areas. That infrastructure, after all, is funded by every resident through their property taxes and the City is obliged to look after that investment.

The City looks forward to next week’s conversations. We’ll keep you apprised of how they go.

For more information

Ann Pappert
Chief Administrative Officer
City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 2221
ann.pappert@guelph.ca

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Dam Thoughts

Recently, an article in the Guelph Mercury highlighted the conflicting community opinion on the future of the Wellington Street dam. While the debate may be years away — as there is no immediate need for a large capital investment in repairs — it is still a subject that is of high interest to those who care deeply about our river systems.

On one hand, the health of cold water fish habitat would be improved by removing the dam and letting the river run its natural course throughout the year. On the other hand, the stretch of river between the Boathouse and the dam is a highly-valued and well-used recreational ammenity for canoeists and enhances the aesthetic for park users. All sorts of other complicating factors also add to the mix — the proliferation of geese, removal of channelization walls, etc.

It will be a lively debate. Historically, the river has not been the same since 1828 when the first mill pond and dam were created to power the Canada Company mill (later the Allans Mill, and most recently the Woods site at Arthur Street). Clearcutting, industry and five more mills (Speedvale, Goldie, Victoria, Gows and Fergusson) later polluted and damaged the river health.

The naturalization efforts along the riverbanks in the last 20 years has significantly improved water quality and wildlife habitat. These efforts must continue.

The best solutions are often compromises. Is there a way to retain the dam and the human enjoyment of the river corridor, and still achieve a by-pass for cold water fish habitat to thrive? I was recently assured by experts that a by-pass channel can achieve a win-win for all.

LP

River Rant

There’s been quite a flash flood of emails over the last few days about Official Plan Amendment 48 (OPA 48) and a claim that the document ignores how much we value our river systems.

Nothing could be further from the truth! From my perch, there is no Council in recent history that values the rivers as much as the current one!

Let’s have a look at the facts:

An Official Plan is comprised of many parts, all working together to  form one integrated plan.

Everytime something changes in an official plan, it is called an Offical Plan Amendment (OPA).

OPA 48 is just one of a series of amendments made in the past few years. Yes, it is true that OPA 48 removes many previous references to our river systems. But that’s because an earlier amendment (OPA 42, passed by Council in July 2010) is a far stronger and more comprehensive document — called the Natural Heritag Strategy — and it’s ALL in there and more.

OPA 42 not only contains significant protection for river systems, but it also treats whole environmental systems in context — ie. valley lands, grades, moraines, vegetation — which is a much more progressive approach to environmental protection, including rivers.

I’ll be honest, I am not sure where the campaign to reinstate the Rivers System language back into OPA 48 is coming from, but to do so would be redundant. If it is deeply embedded and enhanced in OPA 42, why repeat the same material in OPA 48? Yes, OPA 42 is under appeal to the OMB right now, but it seems to me that the if we include the same language in OPA 48, we run the risk of having OPA 48 being appealed to the OMB as well. This would stagnate the whole Official Plan and we need to move forward. The major points of contention at the OMB are not related to the river systems language, and all protections in the current OP remain in force until OPA 42 is settled.

For more info on what is included in both OPA 42 and OPA 48, here is the link:
http://guelph.ca/living.cfm?smocid=1777

Consultation on OPA 42 and OPA 48 was extensive, including the involvement of the Rivers Systems Advisory Committee.

So where do I stand on the primacy of our rivers? Let me tell you a bit about my relationship with the Speed and Eramosa. Most of my formative years were spent on the banks of the Eramosa River in Puslinch Township. We swam, fished and ice-skated (yes, on the Arkell Woolen Mill pond) in the river. I now live one block from the banks of the Speed and walk its bank several times a week. No one values our two rivers more than I…I was recently asked (and accepted) an invitation to speak about the heritage of our rivers at the Two Rivers Festival.

I believe our rivers — and their connected systems — are well proteced in OPA 42.

LP

Property Rights – Yours, Mine and Ours

Several years ago, when I was a Community Editorial Board columnist with the Guelph Mercury, I published a column examining the issue of property rights. The column was in the context of property owners having the right to demolish heritage buildings.   How do we define the line that is crossed when individual rights and the public good are in conflict?

The discussion is relevant again in the context of a proposed tree by-law in the City of Guelph, so I will repost some of the original column here.

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“It’s no accident that private property rights are not part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Such rights were specifically rejected by the Special Joint Committee on the Constitution because the exercise of those rights could interfere with, or be found in opposition to, the public interest.

Section 7 of the Charter, gives us the “right to life, liberty and security of the person”. The Charter protects freedom of religion, free speech, freedom of movement, and many other freedoms that relate to Canadian values. We have the right to own property and the right to enjoyment of that property.  But when it comes to  rights related to property ownership – there is no “right to profit” or “right to do anything I want”.

Let’s be fair, as a property owner, I do want some rights. But so does my neighbour.  He has a right to enjoyment of his property – he can build a fence, create a garden, sit on his deck, build a pool and a whole lot of other things that I may or may not like. The limitations of those rights are set out very clearly in established zoning and property standards by-laws. I have those same rights, as does every property owner in the city.

If my neighbours property rights infringe on my property rights, we have a problem. If my neighbours pursuit of enjoyment of his property is a risk to public safety or health , we also have a problem. That’s where community standards and public interest come in. Public interest must always trump private benefit.

How do we judge what is in the public interest? Thankfully, we have very clear documents and by-laws about what our community values are to help us assess what is in the public interest. We have our Strategic Plan and another nifty little document called the Official Plan. It is very much like the City of Guelph Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It’s filled with really strong statements about what our community values. According to the Official Plan, we value environmental stewardship, heritage protection, high-quality architecture, cultural and social diversity and strong neighbourhood character.

Protection of private property rights is not mentioned as a community objective in the Official Plan.  Nor should it be.  It’s not in the Strategic Plan either.

Since when is it the role of a municipal councillor to advocate for private property rights? It should be the complete opposite. The purpose of municipal government is to make decisions based on community values and public interest. The Council Code of Ethics specifically states that members of Council must “recognize that the chief function of municipal government at all times is to serve the best interests of all the people.”

Protection of property rights – for individuals or corporations – should therefore not be part of the debating vocabulary of any city councillor.

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The intent of the tree by-law is to preserve the urban canopy for the greater public interest — air quality, soil erosion, energy conservation, decreased urban “heat island” effect, wildlife habitat, quality of life, aesthetics, etc.  If we collectively agree there is good reason to have a healthy urban forest, then we collectively bear responsibility to preserve it.

Proposed Tree By-Law Update

I have received several inquiries about the status of the “Private Tree By-Law” that was presented to the Community Design and Environmental Services committee this past Monday.    I am happy to try to add some clarity….

The Tree By-Law report can be viewed HERE (starts on page 22)….

The recommendation in the Tree By-Law report contained 5 clauses.  Clauses 1, 2 and 4 were moved and seconded and supported unanimously.  These three  clauses were to:  a) receive the report,  b) approve amendments to the existing large lot tree preservation by-law and c) amend the user fee schedule to implement the amended large lot tree by-law.

Clauses 3 and 5 were to:  a) enact a tree by-law for small lots (less than 0.2 hectares) and b) to bring forward a plan to fund implementation of the by-law in the 2011 budget.

Clauses 3 and 5 were not moved or seconded by any member of the committee (as Chair, I cannot move or second motions).

Therefore, the committee (including myself)  did not vote “against” or to “remove” anything.  A Guelph Mercury article is quoted as saying that the committee “voted to remove the provisions of the private tree bylaw dealing with regulated trees on small lot sizes”.  This is not accurate – because the small lot tree by-law never made it to the floor to be voted on.

So where does this leave the small lot Tree By-law? Only the motions ratified at committee (Clause 1,2 and 4) will go forward to Council on July 27.  However, at that meeting, any member of Council could choose to add Clauses 3 and 5 back in, or add them in as separate motions.

In the past, I have publicly stated that I support the protection and preservation of our urban canopy. I still do.

But there are many ways to do this – the small lot private tree by-law is not the be-all-and-end-all — it is one potential tool of many.

The city must “walk the talk”  too – planting more trees on public land, better maintenance practices, increased naturalized areas, etc.  I also believe the majority of residential property owners understand the benefits of planting and maintaining trees and are excellent stewards of the urban forest.

The goal behind the tree by-law has merit — to increase the city’s canopy to 40%.    A healthy urban forest has immense public benefit – air quality, temperature regulation, energy use reduction, etc.

So the question remains — does the proposed small lot tree by-law do anything to help the city reach its  stated outcome of 40% canopy?    Is it too much “stick” and not enough “carrot”?  Are there better ways to achieve the 40% goal,  such as education, tree planting incentives,  free trees, etc.?      Should we focus more effort on those areas with 10% coverage like industrial and commercial lands (ie. parking lots, my personal pet peeve) ?  Residential neighbourhoods are not the problem.  I suspect the canopy in R1 (small lots) residential neighbourhoods is well over 50%.    (I am working on getting additional info on this. )

It’s still a year away, but the Strategic Urban Forest Master Plan will answer many of these questions.  Many municipalities have stronger tree preservation by-laws than the proposed Guelph one.  Many municipalities have no tree preservation by-laws.  Are we not doing enough or going too far?

I welcome your thoughts, as always…..

LP

Guelph Commemorative Naming Policy

From the Community Design and Development Services department….

The City will be looking for suggestions from the public for naming new and unnamed parks, trails, bridges, squares, gardens, buildings, structures and rooms within buildings.

Early in 2010, the City will post a complete list and map of City-owned assets to be named. First consideration by the Naming Committee will be given to those names that have geographic, civic or historic significance of the neighbourhood/community where it shall be located.   Second consideration by the Naming Committee will be given to those names that fall under at least one of the following criteria:

The individual will have demonstrated excellence, courage or exceptional service to the citizens of the City of Guelph, the Province of Ontario or Canada
The individual will have worked to foster equality and reduce discrimination
The individual will have risked or given his/her life to save or protect others
Where the individual is a current City employee, the individual will have made an outstanding contribution to the City of Guelph outside of his/her capacity and duties as a City employee or he/she maybe recognized for exceptional service once he/she is no longer a City employee.
For further information or questions please contact Rory Barr Templeton at 519-822-1260 ext. 2436.

Brooklyn Ice Rink Now Open

Announcement from OUR 3 Bridges Neighbourhood Group:

Hi Everyone,

This announcement is a little tardy but for those who haven’t been down to Water Street in awhile, the rinks are open! There are 2 rinks this year, an enlarged main rink and a small toddler rink. People were actually skating on them as early as Dec 22. Enjoy!

Volunteers required

1) Flooders – We would like to build 6 – 8 flooding teams. Flooding orientation will be Monday night @ 7:30 starting at 80 Water St across from the rink. We would like it if all Rink Rats were to come out so we could share our collective knowledge and all be on the same page. If you are interested in flooding but can’t make it Monday, please email us at info@our3bridges.ca to get on our list and we will train you at a later date.

2) Shovellers – Anyone is welcome to help with shoveling. Snow needs to be shoveled but we also need to clear the rink each time we flood. To get on a volunteer list for this duty please email us at info@our3bridges.ca

The more volunteers the better so we can spread the work around fairly.

We would like to again thank everyone who has contributed in making these rinks possible this year. We are nearing our financial goal. This is truly a community effort and shows that with everyone kicking in, we can accomplish big things!

See you at the rink(s)!

Trevor