Richmond Hill Council News

1.  2019 Socio-Economic Study Results

Council received the findings of Richmond Hill’s 2019 Socio-Economic Study report. The report provides an updated picture of Richmond Hill, which allows for a better understanding of our community. It uses data from the 2016 Census as a primary source of information and provides details about the people, communities, businesses and context of Richmond Hill. The data is grouped into five themes: demographics, economics, transportation, housing and affordability. Some highlights of the study include:
 
  •          Richmond Hill has a diverse economy with the highest proportion of jobs in health care and social assistance industry.
  •          Richmond Hill is a multicultural community, with immigrants comprising 57.4 per cent of the population and residents representing 174 different ethnicities.
  •          Richmond Hill remains the most educated community in York Region, with more than half of its residents between the ages of 25 and 64 having earned a university certificate or higher.

This is the third Socio-Economic Study for Richmond Hill. Previous studies were conducted in 2008 and 2015. Many of the findings of the 2019 Study are consistent with those in the previous 2015 Socio-Economic Study. The report findings will help inform and guide future City plans and policy decisions. For the complete findings, visit RichmondHill.ca/SocioEconomicStudy.

 
2. Provincial Regional Government Review 
Council received an update about the Province of Ontario’s Regional Governance Review. At the beginning of this year, Ontario appointed two special advisors to review Halton, York, Durham, Waterloo, Niagara and Peel Regions, Muskoka District, Oxford County, the County of Simcoe and their lower tier municipalities. The advisors will provide recommendations to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing based on their expertise and assessment of the feedback received through a consultation process (the special advisors have already met with the Regional Chairs, Mayors and the public). Richmond Hill Council passed a resolution in support of the current two-tier Regional government structure, while also supporting a review of options to optimize service delivery and to achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness for residents within that structure. The Regional Government Review is expected to be complete this fall. The Region of York was founded in 1971 and includes nine local member municipalities, including Richmond Hill. 
 
3. York Region Rapid Transit Update

Council received a presentation from York Region Rapid Transit about the Yonge Subway Extension (more on the subway plans are below in this e newsletter) and the Yonge Street Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects taking place in Richmond Hill. Work progressed well this winter on many aspects of these projects, including more than 80 per cent of the new four-kilometer watermain being installed as part of the BRT project. As road, boulevard and curb work continues in off-peak hours (southbound 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and northbound 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.), daily road closures will be required. Additional traffic calming measures will be installed, including dedicated left-turn traffic signals for motorists, access to mid-block entrances with U-turns at intersections and two-stage crossings for pedestrians at Vivastations. York Region Rapid Transit/vivaNext will continue to inform stakeholders about these construction projects through their project newsletter, construction notices, and on-street signs, as well as on their website and social media accounts. 

 

4.  Eliminate/Reduce Single Use Plastics

It is becoming increasingly apparent that our collective use of Single Use Plastics, and the inappropriate disposal of this material, is causing a problem for us and our natural environment. A number of Ontario municipalities (as well as the Provincial and Federal Governments) have begun to take action, and a number more are in the process of showing leadership to be a part of a solution to this rather complex problem. Richmond Hill has taken a positive first step in the efforts to eliminate/reduce Single Use Plastics in our municipality. A motion that I introduced directed staff to produce a staff report outlining things that we can do, as a City, and as a corporation, to reduce and/or eliminate Single Use Plastics. In order to be successful we will need to work in concert with other jurisdictions including York Region, stakeholders, and the public, to reduce the amount of plastic that we consume, with the ultimate goal being the reduction of plastic that makes its way into our environment. Thanks to the many residents and my council colleagues who supported my motion. I am proud that we are taking this step and showing leadership on this issue! I look forward to hearing back from staff and the public about how we can work collectively to this end. 
 
Passed 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;
 
Now 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.
 
5.  Real Estate Open House Signs
Over the past few years I have received a number of calls from people about the proliferation of Real Estate Open House Signs that seem to appear on our street corners each weekend. The abundance of these signs are not visually pleasing and many of them do not, in actual fact, advertise actual open houses. The complaints have come equally from the public and Real Estate Agents themselves who point out that with so many of these signs on any given street corner, the value of the legitimate signs are lost.
 
I have worked in the past with the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) and our bylaw staff to correct this situation but the problem has not been adequately addressed for a number of reasons. In an effort to propose a solution to the problem I put forth a motion (see below) that was passed by Council. This motion directs staff to report back to Council with a set of criteria that will make enforcement easier in the future so this problem can be controlled effectively and efficiently. I wanted to thank TREB for their involvement and support in this effort.  I look forward to the staff report before the summer recess outlining the new rules.
 
Passed Motion
Whereas, the City of Richmond Hill’s current sign bylaws prohibits the installation of Real Estate Open House Signs and does not provide any provision for permitting this type of sign;
 
Whereas, a number of Real Estate Agents have expressed a concern they can’t erect Open House signs to advertise these events and these signs are an important part of their market strategies; and
 
Whereas, a number of Real Estate agents have also complained about the practice of having too many signs erected; and
 
Whereas, citizens have also expressed concerns about the unreasonable level of sign pollution that too many of these signs create.
 
Now Therefore be it resolved that staff utilize Vaughan’s Real Estate Open House Sign permissions for the formulation of changes to Richmond Hill’s permissions for this type of sign with the change to the Vaughan Model to allow for a maximum of 5 signs, and a requirement that the date and time of the Open House be clearly outlined on the sign. This template would make reasonable allowances for a limited and restricted number of open house signs to be installed under a set of restrictions.  (See Vaughan’s By-Law – Appendix 1)
 
Now Therefore Be It Further Resolved: that a staff produce a report outlining a proposed amendment to Richmond Hill’s sign bylaw and that these changes will be brought back to council for consideration before summer recess.
 
Appendix 1
 
17.2 REAL ESTATE OPEN HOUSE SIGNS
Real Estate Open House Signs are permitted for a dwelling that is presently for sale, rent or lease shall be
permitted in accordance with the following:
a. Signs shall be displayed for a maximum 72 hours;
b. A maximum of three (3) Signs per Open House;
c. Signs shall have a maximum size of 0.60 metres by 0.60 metres and a maximum Sign height of 0.60 metres;
d. Signs shall be setback a minimum of 1.0 metres from the street curb and sidewalk or 3.0 metres from the edge of the pavement where there is no curb; and
e. Signs are required to list the address of the property being advertised.
 
 
6.  Richmond Hill’s 2019-2023 Corporate Energy Plan
Council received an update on Richmond Hill’s 2019-2023 Corporate Energy Plan. The Plan guides energy management activities for 61 City facilities and more than 16,000 street, park and parking lot lights. The goal of the Corporate Energy Plan is to reduce energy consumption, costs and the associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Over the last five years Richmond Hill has implemented 89 projects with energy conservation components, which resulted in approximately 4,300,000 ekWh/year in energy savings, equivalent to roughly $660,000/year in cost avoidance and a reduction of 370 tonnes/year of GHG emissions.
 

7. Bill 108 More Homes More Choices Act 2019

Creating more affordable housing options is a significant and complex challenge but it is very important that this goal be achieved. The general direction, proposed in Bill 108 speaks to this objective and I am in full support of this goal. However, as I reported in the last edition of my e newsletter (click here to read item #3 in this article), the recently passed provincial Bill 108 also contains a number of negative consequences for municipalities like Richmond Hill.
 
I am particularly concerned about the sections of this bill that roll back the positive and hard fought changes that have been made to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). Under the previous provincial government the old OMB was replaced with Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT). The new LPAT was designed to give power back to municipalities when a council decision on a planning application is appealed. Bill 108 will effectively scrap all of these changes and revert the current LPAT back to the OMB in all significant aspects except the name.
 
There has been a great deal of concern from many municipalities and elected officials about these potential changes. Over 400 municipalities in Ontario belong to the Association of Ontario Muncipalities (AMO) and this provincial umbrella organization has made the following comments to the provincial government on our behalf, but it would appear that most have been ignored.
 
AMO’s comments include:
  • A return to de novo hearings at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) is a big step backwards and is not supported. Local councils take their democratic responsibilities seriously.
  • There is great municipal concern that legislation could result in lowering the development charge revenue that is needed so growth can pay for growth. Municipalities need to be able to support growth in our communities.
  • There is concern that changes will increase the municipal administrative burden.
  • The shortening of timelines means greater emphasis on the need for complete applications.
  • The objectives of Bill 108 are worthy – to increase the mix and speed of housing development, especially affordable housing.
  • Municipal governments agree with the objectives. The municipal sector will monitor whether its implementation achieves the expected outcomes.
A number of other municipalities in Ontario, including the Region of York, have taken the opportunity to echo AMO’s concerns and sent their own specific comments directly to the provincial government. In Richmond Hill a member motion was put forward to submit our comments and suggestions related to Bill 108 (To read this motion click here). While I fully supported this motion at Richmond Hill Council, it was unfortunately defeated.
 
While there are positive aspects of Bill 108 related to increasing housing affordability, it is crucially important that municipalities like Richmond Hill have the power to shape the communities that we know best. Reverting back to the old OMB rules will see this unelected appeal body overturning local council decisions as we have clearly seen in the past. 
 
8. Recognizing the Need for Urgent Action on Climate Change in Richmond Hill
Earlier this month I introduced a motion to recognize the importance and urgency of Climate Change for Richmond Hill. The motion is outlined below. Unfortunately, Council decided to refer this motion for six months in order to receive more information from our staff. I pointed out that this motion would have provided immediate leadership in supporting the Climate Change actions that Richmond Hill is currently undertaking and is planning to undertake in the near future, and the motion would reinforce Richmond Hill’s commitment to find practical solutions to a problem that is impacting all of us. The motion would also support the work of a number of citizens’ groups that have recently formed to address Climate Change at a grass roots level. These groups provide leadership for our citizens in order to help promote local individual action which is important in addressing this global problem. 
 
Finally the motion would have also provided support for the almost 400 other municipalities in Canada that have passed similar motions. I would have preferred that this motion passed for the above reasons. Given Council’s decision to refer the motion, we can instead expect a report to come back to Council early next year outlining more information about Climate Change, its impacts on municipalities like ours, and the actions that we are taking, and expecting to take as a municipality, to prevent and respond to future impacts of Climate Change.
 
 
Motion as proposed
WHEREAS the October 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) demonstrates that climate change will continue to have severe and worsening economic, social, and environmental impacts around the world, and that significant and structural reductions in carbon emissions in the next 10-12 years are needed to avoid the worst effects; and
 
WHEREAS the federal government’s April 2019 “Canada’s Changing Climate Report” indicates that Canada is experiencing warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, and the provincial government’s November 2018 “Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan” states that “climate change threatens… our homes, communities and businesses, infrastructure, our locally grown food and crops… as well as the health of ecosystems”; and
 
WHEREAS many jurisdictions have jointly and independently committed to taking action on climate change (e.g. 2015 Paris Agreement, Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan, TransformTO, etc.); and
 
WHEREAS southern Ontario, including York Region, has experienced several recent extreme weather events with substantial impacts to the natural environment, community safety, and municipal finances; and
 
WHEREAS climate models predict more extreme weather conditions in York Region, including intense rainfall, heat waves, ice storms, increased freeze/thaw cycles, and high wind speeds; and
 
WHEREAS citizens with diverse backgrounds and ages continue to raise the issue of climate change in their communities, including in Richmond Hill, and to urge greater and faster government action; and
 
WHEREAS a growing list of municipal councils across the world, including 331 in Canada, have passed climate emergency declarations; and
 
WHEREAS the City of Richmond Hill has demonstrated its commitment to environmental protection and climate change adaptation and mitigation through ongoing and upcoming actions related to energy efficiency and conservation, active and public transportation, stormwater and natural area management, and sustainable development; and
 
WHEREAS the City of Richmond Hill recognizes both the financial costs of inaction and the opportunities for economic development and job growth tied to climate action and participation in the low-carbon economy;
 
Now Therefore Be It Resolved: that the City of Richmond Hill joins citizens and jurisdictions across Canada and the world by declaring a climate emergency, in recognition of the urgent need for climate action, and as a commitment to protect our community and the current and future generations who call Richmond Hill home.