Council News and Highlights

1. Council Approves the Civic Precinct Project
Last fall, after extensive public consultation and deliberation, Council voted to build a new civic centre and community amenities in the centre of town. This much-anticipated decision means the town-owned land at the southwest corner of Yonge Street and Major Mackenzie Drive, known as the Civic Precinct, will be transformed into an all-season community space with new municipal offices, an expanded Central Library and public gathering areas for the community.
 
The project includes a public square, a reflecting pool/skating rink, amphitheatre, pedestrian promenade and plaza. Once built, this will be a place where people gather to celebrate and have fun as a community. Through public consultation, the residents of Richmond Hill made it clear that a central gathering space is needed for the community. We took your feedback and used it to help develop the Civic Precinct concept plan.
 
The Civic Precinct will reflect the goals and principles of the town’s Strategic Plan, Official Plan, Downtown Secondary Plan, Economic Development Strategy and Cultural Plan, which were also developed with input from Richmond Hill residents, businesses and stakeholders.

This new Civic Precinct will be a catalyst for downtown revitalization since it provides a destination and a workplace that will draw hundreds of people to the downtown every day. 

A preliminary estimate of the total project cost is $191,497,000. The cost for the Project will be refined as the requirements and design are further developed.  Richmond Hill already has the funds for about three quarters of the total estimated cost, including the Community Enhancement and Economic Vitality Reserve fund. This reserve was established for community-wide projects such as the Civic Precinct. Town staff will present a draft financial plan in 2017 with options to fund the remaining portion as well as a governance structure and timeline for the Civic Precinct at a Special Council Meeting on February 22 at 10 a.m.

 
The Civic Precinct will be a people place – a place where people want to be, a place where they can connect – with fellow citizens, their community, their local government and with their surroundings.
 
2. Lincoln Alexander Day in Richmond Hill 
Senator Don Meredith addressing the gathering
I was proud to attend a celebration at Markham Council Chambers to honour Lincoln Alexander. It was Lincoln Alexander day on January 21st. Mr. Alexander was a truly remarkable Canadian! An immigrant from the Caribbean, he was the first black MP and cabinet minister. Again and again speakers commented on how gracefully and gently he brought people together and how his personality and sense of humour inspired people to work together to find a common purpose. I was also inspired by the comment that was made over and over again – he did not see colour he just saw “people”. What a great legacy to leave for future generations of Canadians!
Thanks to Richmond Hill resident Senator Don Meredith whose Senate motion passed 3 years ago to declare January 21st Lincoln Alexander Day in Canada. He and his wife Michelle organized the celebration!
 
3. Downtown Secondary Plan coming to Council for Approval
At the February 21st Committee of the Whole staff will be presenting to Council the
revised Downtown Secondary Plan and the Downtown Transportation and Parking Strategy. The Transportation Plan is one of the more important foundational documents to the Downtown Secondary Plan. The Secondary Plan has been brought together with a good deal of input from both the local public and area businesses. The plan will guide the development of the historic Village  Core over the years to come. This is another step for Richmond Hill in our efforts to promote revitalization of our Village Core. We have important Heritage buildings in the area. Some of these buildings are already landmarks and some are hiding behind more recently built additions and facades but will be eventually restored and revitalized. The plan also addresses issues of parking supply in the area by creating more parking in behind the buildings in shared lots and spaces. This new parking will be easily accessible using the new pedestrian and vehiciular access points that allow much more permeability onto the areas just off of Yonge Street. I would encourage you to view the plan and let me know if you have any comments. I am excited by the prospect of seeing more progress towards creating a revitalized Village Core. While this plan will not, in itself accomplish this revitalization, it is an important step toward accomplishing this goal. The revised plan and more information can be found here
 
4. Richmond Hill Markham Chinese Business Association Meeting

Council Members were recently invited to discuss business issues with the Richmond Hill Markham Chinese Business Association. A good conversation ensued related to issues facing small to medium sized businesses in our communities. Deputy Mayor Spatafora also had an opportunity to give attendees an overview of Richmond Hill’s Economic Development Strategy. Small business is the backbone of our Richmond Hill economy. Thanks to Daisy Wai and the RHMCBA Board for arranging and hosting the meeting! Also – Kung Hei Fat Choi as we celebrate Chinese New Year!
 
5. Council Adds Much Needed Parkland in Ward 4
I am pleased to announce that Richmond Hill has been able to acquire the close to 2 acre piece of property at 71 Regent St. On January 28th at Council, I was honoured to be able to move my motion in open session to direct staff to purchase the land at 71 Regent, in order to add it to our inventory of parkland. The motion passed unanimously. 

This purchase means that the Heritage Estates/Mill Pond area of town, which has been identified in our Parks Plan as one of the most under serviced park areas in our community, will now have a significant piece of parkland for the community to enjoy. This land will represent an important addition to the park amenity supply in this area, now and for the future.

The funds to purchase this land (a purchase price of just over $9M which was the appraised market value) will come from the parkland cash in lieu fund. This fund is made up of monies collected from each approved development application, where parkland is not donated as a part of the development application, but instead the applicant is directed to give the town funds that can be used to purchase parkland where there is a need.

In the past we have used this fund to purchase parkland in various places. For example, Council purchased the area around Lake Wilcox Park a number of years ago to create the Lake Wilcox Park and Community Centre. As we grow as a community, the Parkland Cash in Lieu fund will help us purchase parkland so our park inventory keeps pace with our growing demand for parks.

This purchase also means that this new land area can work synergistically with the existing Stavert Park to the west, and Upper Mill Pond to the east thus creating the potential to be greater than the sum of its parts. I am sure that this land will represent an important addition to the park amenity supply in this area, now and for the future.

To view a video of the proceeding at Council related to this issue please click here and view video #2. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me. 

 
6.  Richmond Hill Continues to Invest in the Community
In support of the significant contribution of local community and cultural organizations, whose initiatives enhance the quality of life and cultural vibrancy within our community, Council approved $49,870 to fund 21 project applications under the Community and Cultural Grant Program (CCGP). Through an application process, the CCGP provides funding to community and cultural organizations, as well as individual artists, whose programs, services and/or activities enhance Richmond Hill. Within the program’s two funding streams (community organizations and cultural sector), the maximum grant per project is 50 per cent of the project budget up to a maximum of $5,000. This year’s grant recipients were evaluated and awarded based on criteria outlined in the Program’s guidelines. The CCGP replaced the Mayor’s Endowment Fund for the Arts and Community Grants Program as outlined in Richmond Hill’s Cultural Plan. To learn more about the grant application process, criteria and eligibility, visit RichmondHill.ca/CommunityGrants
 
7. Richmond Hill Fire and Emergency Services (RHFES) Committed o Community Safety
Council received the implementation plan for the Fire and Emergency Services Master Plan (FESMP). The FESMP identifies a number of actions that could be carried out over the next 10 years to support RHFES in maintaining, and keeping up with the demands of fire protection services in our community. This includes, hiring additional fire firefighters, fire inspectors, and an Emergency Management Coordinator, as well as a feasibility study for Station 8-1 and a new fire station, to name just a few actions. An FESMP is a strategic long range plan to deliver fire and emergency services based on the needs and circumstances of the community. It includes an objective assessment of the community’s current fire risks and today’s fire service capabilities. The assessment also includes the predicted future growth of the municipality and makes recommendations for fire protection service enhancements to address the current and future fire and emergency service needs. Implementation of the FESMP will move ahead in conjunction with the budget process over the next 10 years. 
 
8.   Richmond Hill Continues to Implement Official Plan – Building a New Kind of Urban
Richmond Hill Council endorsed the Yonge Street and 16th Avenue Key Development Area (KDA) Policy Directions and Recommendations Report which outlines the vision, principles and key directions to guide the physical long-term evolution of the area. The Yonge Street and 16th Avenue KDA is planned to be Richmond Hill’s second highest and most dense new centre, and is envisioned to evolve from a historical retail node to a more connected, mixed-use urban centre that will become a transit and pedestrian-oriented destination. The report provides direction for the overarching elements of the preferred land use and design scenario including recommended land uses, streets and blocks, height and density distribution, built form, and public realm/urban open space system frameworks. The directions and recommendations in the report will guide the preparation of the Yonge Street and 16th Avenue KDA Secondary Plan which is anticipated to be presented to Council in 2017. 
 
9.  Richmond Hill Pet Stores Encouraged to Support Animal Rescue
Council approved an amendment to the business licensing rules in Richmond Hill’s Municipal Code Chapter 826, which requires all dogs, cats and rabbits acquired in Richmond Hill to be sourced from municipal animal shelters, registered humane societies, registered shelters and registered rescue groups. The intent of the change is to encourage residents to adopt rescue animals and discourage the puppy mill industry. Pet stores will have a 12-month grace period to sell any pets already in their care. With this business licensing amendment, pet stores will be encouraged to partner with approved shelters and rescues to help reduce the number of homeless pets and residents will have peace of mind knowing their pet purchase has not indirectly supported the inhumane treatment of animals. In addition, the amendment specifies the care requirements for pets awaiting sale and sets minimum standards for how pets are housed in pet stores, including ventilation, exercise, sanitation and appropriate flooring. 
 
10. Richmond Hill Council Votes to Request Amendment to Highway Traffic Act
Council voted to support a resolution to request that the Government of Ontario amend the Highway Traffic Act to permit municipalities to administer automated speed enforcement and other technology-based enforcement of offences through the Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS). AMPS will come into effect in Richmond Hill for parking offenses on July 1, 2017. A copy of this resolution will be sent to the Attorney General of Ontario, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Minister of Transportation, York Region and Association of Municipalities Ontario.