Richmond Hill Council News

1.  Richmond Hill Wins Three Environment Awards
Richmond Hill received three awards for a range of environmental initiatives, including the International Society of Arboriculture Gold Leaf Award and the Tree Canada Public Education Award for Richmond Hill’s Community Stewardship Program and the Ontario Public Works Association (OPWA) Project of the Year Award in the Environment category for Richmond Hill’s Elgin Mills Greenway project. The International Society of Arboriculture Gold Leaf Award recognizes outstanding landscape activities that have made a significant impact within a community over a number of years. The Tree Canada Public Education Award recognizes excellence in public education initiatives that broaden the public’s understanding of the value of the urban forest. The third award was received from the Ontario Public Works Association (OPWA) in the Environment category for a new stormwater management system and trail network within the Elgin Mills Greenway. 
 
2.  Richmond Hill Honoured for its Events 
Richmond Hill received two awards from Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO). The first award, a “Top 100 Festivals and Events Ontario” award recognized the City’s Canada Day celebrations, which attracted over 15,000 people from York Region and the GTA. It is Richmond Hill’s largest, single-day festival. Richmond Hill was also awarded “Municipality of the Year” in the over 150,000 population category. This award acknowledges the finest municipalities in Ontario in terms of leadership and civic partnerships. FEO, which is the leading professional organization for the festival and events industry, helps members to produce unique, quality festivals and events through education, professional development and networking. Its membership includes festivals, events, suppliers, municipalities, schools, students, BIAs (Business Improvement Areas) and more. 
 
3.  Disruption and Uncertainty in Municipal Landuse Planning in Ontario
I have always believed the best equipped people to build a strong vibrant community are the people who know their community best. Those people are us – the ones that live in the community. 
Under the last provincial government, municipal leaders, including myself, worked hard to finally see changes to the old Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). For years, the unelected and undemocratic OMB consistently overturned local planning decisions often in favour of developers’ interests (for more on the OMB visit https://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2019/05/02/what-we-know-and-dont-know-about-ontarios-massive-new-housing-law.html). 

The result of the long fought battle to bring about positive changes to the old OMB was the recent creation of the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). This new appeal body was changed to be respectful of local planning decisions and the needs of the local community (for more on the history behind these changes visit http://davidwest-richmondhill.ca/the-end-or-at-least-the-beginning-of-the-end-of-the-omb/)

The Ontario government has recently announced that the new and improved LPAT will be rolled back and will revert to the old OMB rules. I think Councillor Filion from Toronto said it best as quoted in the Toronto Star, “this is clearly a set of rules designed to give the land speculators and developers everything they could possibly want in the guise of creating more affordable housing. If they did not write (the changes) themselves, they certainly could have”(visit https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/05/01/province-restores-omb-rules-for-development-disputes.html ). 
 
Given these regressive changes to LPAT, our Municipal Leaders Group has been reconstituted and will continue to fight to cancel these changes that essentially take control out of the hands of locally elected officials and puts it into the hands of unelected appointed OMB Board members.
Over a period of several years Richmond Hill’s Planning staff and myself, as a local councillor, have worked with the community to design and eventually see approval of a Secondary Plan for the area around Canyon Hill Avenue/Bernard Avenue and Yonge Street. This Yonge Bernard KDA Secondary Plan provides further detail to that which is included in the Official Plan about how development will proceed in the area. The plan has been well studied by our planning and transportation staff and the community. The plan provides clear opportunities for land owners to develop these lands in a way that will create a vibrant, efficient, and functional community. The plan also imposes limits of density and heights so functionality in areas like traffic flow, and pedestrian access will be achieved. 
 
After passing the KDA plan a number of land owners appealed this plan to the LPAT because they generally objected to some of the height and density limits as well as some transportation improvements that they would need to be completed on their lands. In mid April Councillor Muench moved a motion that was seconded by Local and Regional Councillor DiPaola giving direction to our Planning Staff to negotiate with the appealing land owners to increase the height limit to 37 storeys in parts of the area, and to increase the allowable residential density on their lands. This motion was eventually passed by a majority on Council (In favour: (5): Councillor Muench, Regional and Local Councillor DiPaola, Councillor Liu, Regional and Local Councillor Perrelli, Councillor Beros – Opposed: (4): Mayor Barrow, Councillor West, Councillor Chan, Councillor Cilevitz). The motion was introduced, discussed, and passed with virtually no opportunity for the public to comment.
 
I given very little advance notice and I strongly opposed this motion when it came up. There is very little evidence provided that supports that the changes are justified or functional. Furthermore, given the extensive public input that was involved in the creation of the KDA plan, I beleive the significant changes to this plan and the timeline in which it was passed are unacceptable. I will continue to work towards having this motion rescinded as I do not believe it is acceptable for our community. I also do not believe that ignoring a well researched plan such as the KDA Secondary Plan in favour of this type of unresearched plan is acceptable.
 
Addendum – At the Council Meeting on May 14th, a majority of Council voted to rescind the motion described above . I believe rescinding these newly proposed limits was the best thing to do for the community.  However I am very disappointed that the original motion that would have allowed the increases in density and height was even passed in the first place. I believe that increasing the density of the KDA with little to no study was not at all in the best interests of the community and I also regret that this motion put the community through so much angst. While the motion to rescind makes the best of a bad situation, I do hope that it will give residents and myself a chance to discuss the next steps in this process and a chance to discuss the future of the KDA area and I welcome this opportunity. Please stay tuned for future next steps. 

  

5. Cuts to Richmond Hill Public Library 
After some feedback from residents following a story in the Liberal about the Sunday Library closings, it was announced that this plan would be modified so that the Library would be able to stay open on all Sundays. Instead of closings, savings and cuts in other areas of the budget would happen instead. Below are 3 articles describing the timeline of this issue.

https://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/9342390-richmond-hill-library-to-stay-open-sundays-with-funds-from-new-facility-library-board/

 
 
Addendum – At the Council meeting on May 14th, Council modified the motion to add Councillors to the Library Board with the recently announced resignation of Board Member Councillor Castro Liu. The new members of the Library Board are Councillors Muench, Beros and Regional and Local Councillors Perrelli and DiPaola  
 
6. Sidewalks for Bathurst between Shaftsbury and Gamble

I am pleased to announce that in Richmond Hill’s most recent budget, a project to install sidewalks and lighting between Shaftsbury Avenue and Gamble Road along Bathurst Street was approved. The project is being delivered by York Region and the City is funding 50% of the project cost. The design is being performed in 2019 with anticipated construction in 2020. Upon completion of this missing link, our sidewalk network in this area will be safer and easier for pedestrians to navigate. I am looking forward to the completion of the project. 
 
7. Single Use Plastics Motion

On May 28th I will be introducing a motion to ask our staff to explore ways to reduce and/or eliminate single use plastics in our City. The motion is contained below. If you would like to comment on this motion please feel free to write to [email protected] to become a speaking delegate at the meeting or to write a letter for Council’s consideration regarding this motion.

 
Proposed Motion
Whereas single use plastics such as plastic straws, cutlery and grocery bags have become a significant litter issue in our community and across Canada, and;
 
Whereas most single use plastics cannot be recycled and end up being disposed of as garbage or contribute to blue box contamination at a cost to municipalities, and;
 
Whereas York Region has communicated their intent to explore ways to reduce single use plastics as part of the update to the Regional Waste Master Plan (SM4RT Living Plan), currently underway;
 
Therefore be it resolved that staff report back to Council regarding practical and feasible strategies that Richmond Hill may use to reduce single use plastics within our own corporation and within the municipality as a whole by working in partnership with York Region, and with other interested stakeholders.