Richmond Hill Council News

1.  New Snow Windrow Removal Program and Street Parking during Snow Events
Despite currently being in the midst of summer, Richmond Hill has started preparations for next winter and the launch of the new windrow clearing program. To support the program, a new by-law has been drafted that speaks to the authority for the city to tag and/or tow cars that are parked on City streets during a winter event. Parked cars during snow events inhibits the City’s ability to conduct winter operations. In order to ensure the public is aware of the new windrow program and by-law, staff have developed a communication strategy that will include information being shared in other languages in addition to English. It is the City’s hope that residents will voluntarily comply with the new by-law saving everyone time and money and ensuring effective and efficient winter operations next year. To read the full staff report please visit –  https://pub-richmondhill.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=27480 . There is a Special Council Meeting called for September 16th at 9AM to discuss some of the details and operational challenges associated with the new Windrow Clearing Program.
 
2.  Changing Council and Committee of the Whole Meeting Times 
As mentioned in the opening paragraph of this newsletter Council approved new times for Council and Committee of the Whole meetings beginning this fall. Committee of the Whole meetings will be held at 9:30 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month and Council meetings will follow on the third Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. for six months starting in September. This new pilot project will replace the current pilot project which introduced meetings starting at 1PM. In addition to meeting times changing, the delegation registration time will also change. All delegations must register with the Clerk before 12 p.m. the day before a meeting. I am not in favour of this change as I believe that it will make it significantly more difficult for the public to fully participate in our democratic process. I would be in favour of reverting back to the original system whereby Committee of the Whole meetings were at 4:30PM and Council Meetings were at 7:30PM. Based on experience and comments from the public the original combination of meeting times made it much easier for the public to attend and participate in Council activities. I would hope that after the trial period ends Council will consider going back to the original times.
 
3.  Richmond Hill to Consider Cryptocurrency as Payment Option for Property Taxes 
Council directed staff to enter into negotiations with third-party provider, Coinberry Limited, to introduce cryptocurrency as a property tax payment option for residents and businesses. Staff will report back on future opportunities for the payment of other City fees and charges using cryptocurrency no later than September 30, 2019. It is believed that with the introduction of this, Richmond Hill becomes the first large municipality in Canada to allow for this type of transaction. 
 
4.  Richmond Hill celebrates Culture Days! 
Council proclaimed, September 27-29, 2019 as Culture Days for the City of Richmond Hill. Culture Days is a national celebration that seeks to eliminate barriers to access and participation and encourage appreciation of arts and culture. During this three-day event, the City invites the community to participate in FREE “behind the scenes,” activities to discover the world of artists, creators, historians, architects, curators, and designers at work. Activity locations vary from year-to-year but typically take place at the Richmond Hill Central Library, Richmond Hill Heritage Centre, the Mill Pond Gallery and more. This year’s lineup of activities includes the Public Library Culture Hub, Art Conversations and demonstrations with members of the Richmond Hill Art and Studio Tour, a Heritage Walking Tour and much more! A full listing of free Culture Days activities happening in Richmond Hill will be available at RichmondHill.ca/Culture Days in September. 
 
5.  Real Estate Open House Sign By-Law

In July I introduced a motion to help curb the quantity of illegal Real Estate Open House signs by allowing a limited number of these signs to exist under a number of specific criteria and restricted circumstances while an Open House is taking place. The motion proposed a simple bylaw that would have been consistent with the bylaw regulating these signs in Vaughan. The proposed motion enjoyed support from the Toronto Real Estate Board, local Real Estate Agents and the public. Council passed the motion but made one important amendment that I believe diminishes the simplicity and value of the original motion. 
 
This amendment dictated that the Open House signs must not include the name of the agent, brokerage or contact information for the agent, but only the direction, address, time, and date of the Open House. The problem related to this change is that signs without agent contact info and brokerage information are not consistent with the requirements of Real Estate Council of Ontario regulations. This may mean that if an agent complies with Richmond Hill’s new Open House Sign bylaw by not including their name, contact, and brokerage information, they would be in contravention with their own Real Estate industry rules and regulations and may possibly face penalties from their industry association.
 
I opposed that particular amendment on that ground but nevertheless Council did pass this modified bylaw for a 6 month trial period. When this bylaw comes back to Council in November I would hope that Council will reconsider reverting back to the original motion in order to make our bylaw consistent with all industry regulations. The original motion proposed a reasonable compromise that would have been easily enforced, and could serve both home sellers, real estate agents and the general public as well.
 
Click here  to read an article that appeared July 17, 2019 by YorkRegion.com.
 
6. Direction to staff Re Operating Budget
Producing an Operating and Capital Budget each year in Richmond Hill is a task that takes a great deal of work and effort by staff, Council, and the public, and it is a task that has foundational importance for our community. In simple terms a municipal Operating Budget is the fiscal reflection of the priorities and values of a community and it shapes how a  community  functions to serve its residents. At a recent Budget Committee of the Whole meeting Council passed a general direction to staff to keep any possible increases to our Operating Budget to one percent or less. In January the draft budget will be introduced to Council for consideration. This motion will make for an interesting and challenging discussion in order to maintain current services while keeping our taxes as low as possible. I would encourage citizens to be involved in this process and stay tuned to learn more.
 
7. Climate Emergency Motion 
In June I introduced a motion to declare a  Climate  Emergency in Richmond Hill. Unfortunately this motion did not pass but was instead deferred to a future meeting of Council in order for staff to present a report outlining some actions that Richmond Hill is currently taking, and will take in the future, related to Climate Change. Richmond Hill is already presently taking important action to respond to the impacts of Climate Change and is also taking steps to reduce our overall Greenhouse gas emissions as a municipality in order to help prevent future impacts. 
 
The motion as presented asked that – ” 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”. 
 
The motion was designed to confirm, support, and encourage, the work that our staff are presently doing in the area of Climate Change, and to support the related work that a number of newly formed citizens groups are also beginning to do in our community. While I am disappointed that our Council did not end up taking a decisive stance on this issue, I do look forward to the motion returning to Council so that the rest of Council can be informed of the great work Richmond Hill is currently performing, and hopefully at that time Council will join the hundreds of communities across Canada that have already declared a Climate Emergency so that we can lend our voice and leadership on this issue as well.
 
To learn more about what Richmond Hill is already doing around Climate Change please see the section below titled Resilient Richmond Hill. This section includes a link to the website and introduces this relatively new initiative designed to co ordinate our community’s efforts in this area.
 
8. Age Friendly Community Motion
Councillor Chan recently introduced a motion to explore ways in which we can make Richmond Hill a more senior citizen friendly community. The motion was well supported by a number of organizations and citizens and I was happy to add my support to this motion as well. One of the purposes for this motion was to explore the possibility of convening a Senior’s Advisory Committee. As one of the Council Liaisons on the Youth Action Committee, I believe that there is value to soliciting feedback from senior citizens like we do from our youth citizens, so that we can shape our community to best serve the unique needs of different age groups. Our staff will bring back a report to Council in the near future related to how we can best implement this program. To read the full motion please visit – https://pub-richmondhill.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=26908
 
9. David Dunlap Observatory (DDO) – National Historic Site
The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Catherine McKenna has announced the Richmond Hill David Dunlap Observatory (RHDDO) as one of eight new national historic designations across Canada.    The property is a 76.5-hectare site located in central Richmond Hill, between Bayview Avenue to the east, the CN rail line to the west, 16th Avenue to the south and Hillsview Drive to the north. When construction was complete in 1935, the main telescope was the second largest in the world and the largest in Canada.   Click here to read an article that recently appeared in the Liberal written by Sheila Wang.
“We are thrilled that the Richmond Hill David Dunlap Observatory was recognized as a historical designation,” said Mayor Dave Barrow. “This site is an important part of Canadian history and Richmond Hill’s heritage.”  

A number of significant studies have taken place at the Observatory, including the first direct evidence that Cygnus X-1 was a black hole. 

The City of Richmond Hill became the proud owner of the David Dunlap Observatory lands in 2017, including the park, the Observatory and the Administration Building. The City fought for years to protect the cultural and natural heritage features on the property, through a number of studies and by passing a heritage designation by-law. 

The property continues to be a regional centre for education and public outreach, and serves the local community through programming, such as summer camps for youth, astronomy-themed speaker nights and stargazing, lecture nights and historical tours.  

“This national historic site comes after years of staff efforts to preserve the cultural heritage of the DDO and to have it recognized nationwide,” said Mayor Dave Barrow. 

The City is developing a strategy to move forward with the implementation of the DDO Park Master Plan, completed in 2016, that would see serval elements built within the park for the community. For more information, visit  RichmondHill.ca/DDO.