This section presents a brief outline of some key issues that will be, or have been, discussed at Council over the past month. More information can be found by clicking on links to other information sources like news articles, my website, and the Town’s website. Please also feel free to visit the Town website to view videos of past council meetings. These videos can be found by visiting https://calendar.richmondhill.ca/default/Month, then clicking on the relevant meeting date, and then scrolling to the bottom of the page to view the archived video for the meeting.
1. Reducing Parkland Cash in Lieu Fees paid by Builders
In December, a motion was originally put forth by a member of Council to drastically reduce the amount of money the Town collects from developers when high-rise buildings are built. These funds are used specifically to pay for parkland revitalization and parkland purchases (called Parkland Cash in Lieu). These funds are intended to help us maintain the amount, and quality, of our parklands as we grow.
The motion that Council passed will cut the amount builders will pay for parkland. I continue to have serious concerns about this move given that we are scheduled, over the next 10 years, to be collecting in the neighbourhood of $40M in Parkland Cash in Lieu. A shortfall in this funding source will mean that we will need to do without new parkland and revitalizing of older parks, or pay for it from tax revenue and I do not believe this is an acceptable situation.
As more people move to our community we will need more green space and amenities to accommodate this growth. In fact the Town recently passed a Parks Plan that outlines how we will grow our park space as our community grows. The Parkland Cash in Lieu, not the tax rate, would be the primary source of funding identified in the Parks Plan to pay for any parkland acquisition and park revitalization, so it is important that we collect enough money from growth to pay for growth.
Here is an interesting article that appeared in the January 30 edition of Novae Res Urbis Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area (an industry and municipal sector focused publication) click.
“Posted with permission of the publisher of NRU Publishing Inc. Original article first appeared in Novae Res Urbis – GTHA Edition, Vol. 22, No. 5, Wednesday, January 30, 2019.”
2. Motion to Increase Density in Village Core / Repeal the Downtown Secondary Plan
A member of Council put forward a motion for our Official Plan and Downtown Secondary Plan to allow for increased density in the Village Core area of Richmond Hill. This motion also suggested that the connected laneways and mews and courtyards that are embedded in the Downtown Secondary plan also be reconsidered and possibly eliminated.
The connected laneways embedded in this plan are an important part of the overall plan and are necessary to provide sufficient access, parking, walkability, and traffic permeability in the Village Core as the area becomes revitalized under the plan.
I have serious concerns about this member motion. While the Downtown Secondary Plan that was recently passed in 2017 is not perfect I believe that the best approach would have been to work with landowners to find solutions rather than the more broad approach of repealing the Secondary Plan as was ultimately passed by Council in February.
This repeal means that going forward the Official Plan alone will be the policy that will guide development in the area and that a new Secondary Plan will need to be paid for and produced at a later date. During the process of producing a new Secondary Plan, there will be a public consultation to solicit input from residents living in the area. I will report any key dates as they become available so that citizens may participate again in this process.
3. Important Operating Budget Dates
On Monday, February 11th the Capital Budget was approved by Council. This budget outlines spending on major projects in our community over the coming year. A good outline of this budget can be found here and the detailed budget can be found here. (More information about the Capital Budget can be found below in this e newsletter)
The following are the dates for Budget Committee of the Whole meetings for the Operating Budget which begin at 1:00 p.m. in Council Chambers. This budget, in large part dictates the tax rate set by the Town each year. As always, citizen input is welcome and appreciated. Please feel free to contact me with any input to the budget process.
2019 Operating Budget
Tuesday, February 12
Tuesday, February 19
Tuesday, February 26
Click here to visit the Town’s Website at RichmondHill.ca/Budget to learn more about both the Operating Budget and the Capital Budget.
It is important to keep in mind that only approximately 25% of the total property tax collected by Richmond Hill goes to the municipality. The rest of the collected tax goes to the Region of York (approximately 50%) and the School Board (approximately 25%). For a good article from the Liberal Newspaper on the York Region budget deliberations please click here. The article outlines the tax increase from the Region of York and what impact the Region of York increase will have on the total taxes paid by Richmond Hill residents. For a link to the Richmond Hill Operating Budget Staff Report click here.
5. Council to Consider Changing Richmond Hill to a City
Council passed a member motion to discuss changing Richmond Hill from a “town” to a “city”. The discussion will take place at the March 25, 2019 Council meeting. Information about the estimated cost to make this change will be shared at the March 25 Council meeting.
This topic has come up several times during my time on Council but the change in name has always failed to pass. I have spoken over the years about continuing to be called the Town of Richmond Hill but as we continue to grow I have become increasingly aware that the term “Town” likely does not accurately describe the urban environment which we call home. I have also discovered in my research of this topic over the years that the change in name has little or no legal or practical impact to our community. I have heard the argument that Richmond Hill as a City may be viewed more favourably on an international stage, but I have not heard any solid evidence to reinforce this claim. I find myself with mixed feelings on the issue and would appreciate your thoughts on the matter so that I can accurately reflect these views when Council is scheduled to make a final decision in March.
6. Motion to Consider Snow Windrow Clearing in Richmond Hill
Council has asked staff to research options to add snow windrow removal service (a windrow is the snow left from the snow plow at the ends of driveways). The cost and logistical implications of adding this service will be considered at a future Council meeting.
Council did consider adding this service a few years ago. At that time the costs were found to be several millions of dollars per year. Council commissioned a survey to gauge public opinion on the issue considering the possible costs. The opinion reported back was that a majority of residents were not in favour of adding the service.
I continue to hear from residents about the importance of adding to this service and I will look forward to receiving this detailed report from our Operations Staff. As always I am happy to hear your thoughts on this issue.