Richmond Hill Council News

1. Richmond Hill Becomes a City
Richmond Hill will now be known as a “city”. This change was brought about after a Council Member Motion was introduced that asked Council to consider this change, and to allow time to solicit feedback from citizens related to their thoughts on the matter. I appreciated the feedback that Ward 4 residents gave me during this process. The sentiment that I received was that people preferred to continue to be known as a Town so I did not support the motion. As I have said in previous articles about this issue, the change is really a cosmetic one. There are no substantial legal or practical implications to which I have been made aware. Having said that, our growth and population has certainly come to a point where we are an urban and well populated community that is likely better described as a city, and it was likely an appropriate time to change the name to better reflect our status. At the end of the day I continue to be proud of our community regardless of the name. We will always be “Richmond Hill” to me.
 
Staff Issued Press Release – Richmond Hill Council reinforced its position in York Region and the Province as an urbanized and competitive municipality, voting to rename one of the largest towns in Ontario to the “City of Richmond Hill.” 
 
The name change influences how the municipality sees itself and how others perceive it. “Richmond Hill has everything an urban place would have. Recognizing that, we need to look differently at our plans for the future,” said Richmond Hill’s Mayor Dave Barrow.
 
In Ontario, changing a municipality’s status is at the full discretion of the local government; its population is not a factor. Council believes that Richmond Hill needs to keep up with other municipalities and to be more competitive in terms of business attraction and job creation. “This name change will open doors to foreign investment and, at the same time, reflects our sophistication,” said the Mayor.
 
Council passed a motion at its February 4 Council meeting to discuss changing Richmond Hill’s status from a Town to a City. At the same time, they encouraged residents to learn more about the potential name change and to share their opinions with staff. “It was important to get the community involved in the discussion,” added the Mayor. “While we did not undertake a scientific poll, our decision to make the change reflects what we heard and what we think is best for our community.”  
 
“We’ve been thinking about the name for a while,” said Mayor Barrow. “When we designed Richmond Hill’s logo a few years ago, we consciously decided to refer to ourselves as “Richmond Hill,” knowing that someday we might change our name from a Town to a City. We understood that in doing so, we’d keep costs down if and when Council voted in favour of a name change.” Council anticipates little to no cost impact with Richmond Hill’s new City status.
 
Richmond Hill is steeped in history…from its early beginnings where settlers travelled up and down Yonge Street to the bustling home for community and commerce it is today. “People favouring ‘Town’ tend to think of a tight-knit community where neighbours know each other’s names and their kids play together in our parks. Those who think ‘City’, see an urban and competitive municipality. Richmond Hill is both and our new name won’t change that,” Barrow said.
 
Quick Facts
  • A change in status does not change Richmond Hill’s roles, responsibilities or obligations. 
  • A name change does not affect Richmond Hill’s status as a lower-tier municipality. 
  • Becoming a city does not affect the amount of funding available to Richmond Hill from other levels of government or agencies. 
 
2. Land Acknowledgement Motion
Richmond Hill Council failed to pass the motion I introduced to begin Richmond Hill Council meetings with a traditional Land Acknowledgement honouring the First Nations people who have occupied what we call Richmond Hill, and Canada, for many centuries. I was very disappointed that Council did not take what I would consider, a positive leadership role on this initiative. Approving this motion would have provided Richmond Hill with Council’s leadership in working towards the goals of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission and our desire, as a community to move towards reconciliation with First Nations communities. Passing a motion to do a Land Acknowledgement before Council meetings would have also expressed a positive desire to join many governments, organizations and businesses that begin their gatherings by honouring the First Nations who have lived on the land we now call home. There were many citizens who took the time to write and speak to Council in support of this motion and as such it is very clear that our residents are passionate and committed to this action. 
 
While I firmly disagree with the decision that was made I also made a promise, in my comments to Council, that I will personally continue to support activities that help our community and country walk along the path of reconciliation with First Nations People and in doing so support the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation final report. As a proud Canadian, I have no doubt that this work is important in making a stronger and more united country. It would be my hope that Council will eventually change its view on this issue and in doing so, join so many other municipalities, faith groups, community organizations (and even the Winnipeg Jets) in beginning meetings and gatherings with a Land Acknowledgement. Council’s actions were well reported by a number of publications from across the country. To learn more about this issue please see the links below. 
 
To learn more visit 
In December Council considered a motion that would effectively repeal the Downtown Secondary Plan and allow for increased density for redevelopment in this area. This motion evolved over the last few months and was recently approved by Council.
 
The current Downtown Secondary Plan was approved in 2017. It provided a plan for revitalization of the Village Core while respecting the heritage buildings and other constraints to development in this area. The plan outlined added detail to the development permissions that are already available in the Official Plan related to the Village Core while providing a co-ordinated approach to pedestrian accessibility, parking, and transportation requirements. After passing the Secondary Plan, it became clear that there were land owners in the area that were not in favour of the development restrictions embedded in the plan, and several of them launched appeals to the Secondary Plan under the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT). 
 
While I understand the reasons for their objections, I am also cognizant of the extensive public consultation from both land owners and the public that occurred in the lead up to the approval of this plan in 2017. I am also aware of the very real constraints to development that exist in this area. The existing Secondary Plan took these constraints into account, and any new plan must do the same. The constraints include the fact that the Village Core area is significantly confined due to two well established neighbourhoods on each side of Yonge Street. Any overdevelopment of this area could negatively impact the residential areas with increased traffic and congestion. Further, there are historic buildings in the Village Core that must be protected and revitalized within any development permissions. Finally, Yonge Street will always be quite narrow in that area of our community and this must be considered before any new plan is put in place. Due to these constraints, there is a limit to how much density that can be realistically accommodated, and these limits must be respected. 
 
Like many residents I would very much like to see a revitalized Village Core and all the benefits to the community and businesses that meeting this goal will achieve. It is my expectation that Council will approve a new plan after repeating a public process that will ultimately achieve a new plan for the area. 
 
This process will be open to the public and stakeholders and will be designed to solicit opinions and input toward the goal of a new Secondary Plan. I would encourage you to stay tuned to see how you can be involved in these consultations related to this important part of our community.
 
4. New Grass and Weeds By-law
Staff Issued Press Release – Council approved staff’s request to replace the 1996 Long Grass and Weeds By-law, No. 217-96 with a new Grass and Weeds By-law, No. 31-19. The By-law regulates the height of grass and weeds on private property and boulevards in Richmond Hill. The new By-law includes clarified terminology (for example, defining a garden area that does not need to be mowed); exemptions (such as ditches and natural growth areas); year-round application of By-law provisions; and a boulevard maintenance requirement that aligns Richmond Hill with neighbouring municipalities. The up-to-date Grass and Weeds By-law will ensure lawns are well maintained, which is consistent with Richmond Hill’s Strategic Plan goal of “A More Vibrant Richmond Hill.” To read the new By-law, visit https://www.richmondhill.ca/en/our-services/By-laws.aspx.

 

5. Municipality-Wide Snow Windrow Clearing

Over the past six years I have had an increasing number of calls from residents asking that the pile of snow left by the street plow, at the end of the driveway, be removed by the municipality. There are other municipalities that provide this service and many residents have expressed an interest to expand this service to Richmond Hill. Council recently decided that this service will be added in Richmond Hill beginning in 2019. 
 
Council considered a detailed staff report outlining the various costs, logistical challenges, and opportunities available. I moved an amendment to receive further detail on some of these issues, including the funding for the program. I remain concerned that our 2019 Operating budget has been passed without this service added to the budget. My amendment may have delayed the ultimate start of this service by a couple of weeks, but I felt it was important with such a significant decision, that we receive clear answers before proceeding. My amendment did not pass so Council will now proceed with the program and any questions about financing the costs of the program in the 2019 budget year will be brought back to Council at a later time. 
 
While I would have preferred receiving more detail on some areas of this decision I was supportive of the motion and voted in favour of adding windrow removal as I know people have expressed an interest in adding this service. For more information please read the staff issued press release below or the link to the Liberal article included at the end of this section.
 
Staff Issued Press Release – Council endorsed a municipality-wide snow windrow-clearing program. Richmond Hill staff will deliver the new program, which applies to all eligible households in town, beginning next winter. During the 2018 Election, Council heard from residents about the heavy snow windrows resulting from road plowing operations. At the February 4 Council Meeting, Council asked staff to report back with a list of options to clear windrows. Staff presented four snow windrow-clearing program options and the respective benefits, considerations and financial and staff implications for Council’s consideration. The options included status quo; expanding and opening a snow windrow program to a limited number of residents; a municipality-wide windrow-clearing program (contracted service); and a municipality-wide windrow-clearing program with enhanced service delivery (in-house service). Council chose the staff-recommended option for the consistent level of service that will result from the work being performed by full-time staff, increasing program delivery efficiency. The new windrow-clearing program will be funded from appropriate reserve funds of which staff will notify Council of via staff report at an upcoming Council meeting. Future costs will be discussed in the 2020 Budget discussions.
 
 
6. Richmond Hill’s Drinking Water is Safe
In Richmond Hill we expect a robust and safe water system that consistently delivers safe clean drinking water to our homes. I will admit that I often take my tap water for granted but I think it is worth reporting that a great deal of care and time goes into ensuring that we can rely on our water being safe. Water systems in Ontario are well regulated and Richmond Hill, like other municipalities, have their water system operations inspected regularly to ensure compliance with all regulations in order to ensure safety for residents. In my tenure on Council, Richmond Hill has always passed its inspections with flying colours. For more information please see the Staff issued press release below. 
 
Staff Issued Press Release – Richmond Hill is responsible for providing a safe and reliable supply of drinking water. In accordance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002, Council received the 2018 Municipal Drinking Water System Report for Richmond Hill’s water distribution system, which details the compliance with provincial standards for testing and reporting processes. The report includes a 98.4 per cent inspection rating from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) Municipal Drinking Water Inspection Program. Maintaining a high standard of water quality and preventing health hazards involves diligent administration, communication, testing and cooperation. Richmond Hill’s MECP-certified staff perform regular maintenance on the system, including watermain flushing and repairs, valve exercising, fire hydrant maintenance, sampling for disinfectant levels and bacteriological testing. For more information, visit RichmondHill.ca/Water.
 

7. Regulating Airbnb and Short-term Rentals in Town

I was pleased to support a member motion that was brought before Council to ask staff to examine the options available for Richmond Hill to regulate AirBnB and short term rentals in our residential areas. I have received a steadily increasing number of complaints from residents about a few of these rental locations. As short term rentals have increased in popularity, other Ontario municipalities have also started to consider ways to regulate the practice. The staff report will deliver some best practices from other municipalities as well as background and information related to options that Council would have, within its jurisdiction, to appropriately deal with this issue. The staff report with recommendations is expected to be presented to Council by November. 
 
8. Oak Ridges Library Update

Staff Issued Press Release – Richmond Hill and Zurich Insurance have reached an agreement on a completion contract with Buttcon Limited for the last 10% of construction on the Oak Ridges Library.   

Buttcon Limited will take over construction on Monday, March 18 with the work expected to be complete by fall 2019. Following completion of the remaining construction scope, Richmond Hill Public Library has allocated a six week transition period to prepare the new library for opening to the public.