Protecting Our Heritage–new beginnings

We say that we value our heritage but to date there has not been a lot of real substance to support that claim.  Small steps are now being made.  I am hopeful that it is the beginning of a new trend!

In the 2011 budget there was funding to hire a contract heritage planner; unfortunately filling that role did not happen quickly but finally there is a qualified person in place.  January 16, 2012, Council approved a report by the Heritage Planner which recommended a process for addressing the long list of properties on “the inventory” list.  You can read the report here.

Execution of that process has started; and, as defined in that recommended process there will be a report before Committee of Whole on February 27th as to which properties, if any, from the first group assessed should be added to the Registrar as undesignated properties.

Why do I care about protecting Heritage?

Protecting Heritage is not just about protecting buildings or structures; it is also about protecting archaeological sites, streetscapes and landscapes.

Protecting Heritage is important as it enhances a sense of identity/place; it helps to understand a community’s cultural heritage and history.  It facilitates creation and maintenance of a diverse built environment.

Re-purposed protected Heritage is a good indicator of a sustainable community.

Here are some definitions or concepts which are important to understand when talking about “built heritage, specifically its preservation/protection.

The “inventory list” is just that:  list of properties which have been identified by the Heritage Committee as possibly having value in terms of its architecture, its location and/or siting.   Being on the list has no significance other than indicating that the property may have cultural value.

The “Register” includes properties and buildings which are both designated and undesignated.  It is Council, on the advice of the Heritage Committee, who determines what is on the Register.

A property which is not designated but is on the Register is often referred to as a “Listed” property or as an undesignated building.  An owner of Listed property shall not demolish or remove the building unless the owner give the Township Council at least 60 days written notice of intent to do so.  During the 60 days the Township can explore possible options and alternatives with the owner.

Designated properties on the Register are protected by a bylaw.

 

designated property at 12974 Keele St., King City (the Crawford and Maud Wells House circa 1900)

You can see here other properties which have been designated in King Township.

I look forward to showing that we really do value our Heritage:  putting appropriate properties onto the Register is a good beginning.

Long overdue….tree bylaw in King

I have heard concerns from a number of people about a project at ClubLink’s King Valley golf course to cut down a number of trees.  As the  project surpassed the limit allowed by York Region (YR) for tree removal without a permit King Valley did make an application.  The report from YR Environmental Service was tabled last week; you can read it here.

In addition to the actual application specifics the report serves as another reminder that King Township does not have its own tree cutting bylaw.  (King is one of the few, if not the only lower tier municipality without one!) This deficiency is certainly not due to lack of effort on the part of citizens, citizen groups and the King Environmental Advisory Committee during last several years.

At Council 02/13 under New Business, Councillor Mortelliti tabled a request for Staff to bring forward a recommendation for a  tree bylaw for King Township.   I know that there are some who doubt the wisdom/value of such a bylaw because of the real challenges associated with enforcement.  Notwithstanding this reality I think we need a bylaw as that is what will then drive appropriate stewardship training and education; also there is the possibility of including remediation requirements.

I think the timing for creating and implementing a tree bylaw in King Township is very appropriate as we are soon to be launching our Sustainability Plan.

 

2012 Budget and Business Plan Approved

Monday the budget and business plan was passed.  As adopted, the 2012 Budget & Business Plan, when considered with the Regional and Education components, results in a 3.63% property tax increase.  For a home assessed at $607,709 (the average assessment in King Township), this will add $223.77 to the total annual property tax bill.

The Township portion is an increase of 8.9% .  With this increase we will begin to address the very serious backlog in capital works (e.g.  top course asphalt on King City roads, culverts and more); we will fill some serious gaps in staffing (e.g. a Policy Planner whose work includes updating the zoning bylaw, completing the intensification study and more); we will replace some heavy vehicles which are well past their “expiry date.”   We will have the funds to begin implementing actions from our Sustainability Plan.  Finally , we made a modest contribution to our seriously depleted capital reserves.

I believe the 8.9% on the Township portion is well justified.  York Region’s increase is only 1.8% and Education was neutral; consequently the impact on King residents is 3.63%.  We need to make the investments identified in the business plan; this is a good year to do it!

For a full review of the business plan and budget you can read here the press release from our Treasurer.   For those who want more detail on the business plan I would refer you to the Staff Report tabled for the January 30 Council meeting.  As you will see in this report the opportunity to reduce the increase by $137,000, .75points of the % increase was identified by modifying some of the programme changes originally proposed; we did decide to accept the modifications but opted to put the “savings” into reserve.

The budget was not passed unanimously; it passed 4/3 with the 4 being Councillor Mortelliti, Grandilli, Eek and myself.   I have heard from some people a lament that it was not a unanimous decision.  I do not feel that way as both the Mayor and Councillor Cober argued clearly against it i.e. they did not see the urgency or the same need to address the gaps.  To my mind the split vote is a good indicator that democracy is alive & well and that the elected representatives are thinking and making well thought decisions.

 

The Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation Needs Funding

If you are like me you almost disconnected when the robo call came through this weekend before hearing the invitation to join a Virtual Town hall on Monday, January 30 to discuss the upcoming provincial budget.   It is being hosted by Oakridges-Markham MPP Helene Jaczek; special guest is the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Minister Dwight Duncan.

No matter what your political stripe, if your schedule allows you may want to participate.  Apparently, at 8 PM on Monday your phone will ring again;  if you pick it up you can participate.  Unfortunately I can’t participate as I will be at our Council meeting.

But if I could and if I got a chance to comment on the upcoming Ontario budget I would express the expectation that the Province will  commit to protecting the Oak Ridges Moraine (ORM) by making an investment in the Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation. 

Without a new investment in the Foundation we will not have the data to protect the ORM in the 2015 review.  It is the Foundation which is monitoring what is happening on the ORM.    How healthy are the aquifers which are the source of drinking water to >200,000 people and the source of water for numerous rivers and streams providing water to important agricultural areas.  Is the health of the streams flowing from and through the Moraine better or worse?  Are we winning or losing on biodiversity?  Do we have more or less wetlands and what is their health?

We know that in 2015 there will be many people arguing that the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (ORMCP) is too restrictive. They will claim that more land is required for houses; as Councillor in a municipality  with 60% of its land protected by the ORMCP  I know that our rural area is coveted by those wanting to build on it.  They will cite the need for more gravel quarries to build Toronto’s condos and to build new roads.  I know that our “empty spaces” are viewed as an excellent venue for more roads.

There is ample evidence that the Foundation uses its funding very wisely.  In 2002 the Province invested $15 million in the Foundation; it has been leveraged with other sources to realize $50 million.  The Foundation’s accomplishments include restoration of more than 1,000 acres of land; creation of 5,582 acres of conservation lands; completion of a 75km continuous east/west recreation trail known as the Oak Ridges Trail; education of over 7,500 school children; and scientific research on the Moraine.

The Foundation is almost out of funds and will close its doors.  If you can’t participate I urge you to contact your MPP to ask for an investment in the Foundation.  If you live in Oakridges-Markham riding your MPP is Dr. Helene Jaczek; phone her  at  905 294 4931 or email her at [email protected] and tell her that funding the Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation is a priority.

You can read the Foundation’s published research “Measuring Success” here.

 

Virtual Walk for Wellness

Virtual Walk for Wellness

I would like to thank King residents for their generous support for the Virtual Walk for Wellness, the fund-raiser by CHATS (Community and Home Assistance to Seniors).

And I want to thank the many people who encouraged me throughout the week to fulfill my commitment to walk the 50,000 steps.

I participated as a representative of King Township council; and I am very proud to report that I raised $2,595, about 10 per cent of the total fund-raising goal! Total funds raised are not confirmed yet, but it appears that CHATS is very close to meeting its goal of $25,000.

Personally, I gained two things: a good habit of walking regularly was renewed and I appreciated hearing the stories from various donors as to how CHATS has helped them to help the seniors in their extended families to continue living independently.

Photos and story courtesy The King Weekly

 

Support For New Ways to Finance Energy Retrofits at Home

I am very pleased that Council unanimously approved a resolution supporting a request for the review of existing policies, legislation, regulation and/or technical guidance relating to the uses of Local Improvement Charges (LIC) to enable their use for energy improvements on private properties and in particular for single family dwellings.  You can read the resolution here.

The request for the review of existing policies is an outcome of research which showed that financing challenges are a critical constraint to home owners undertaking energy improvement on their homes.  Specifically, there is the concern about not reaping the financial benefits of such improvements because length of tenure in the house is too short; and there is the real issue of securing the necessary capital at a “good” rate.  You can read the research here.

As municipalities across Canada are or will be setting green house gas emission reduction targets, adapting LIC financing framework to energy retrofits would be an important enabler.  And as King Township is embarking on its Integrated Community Sustainability Plan it is particularly appropriate that we show leadership by supporting the request for the review of legislation.

Another incentive for municipalities to support this policy review is the concept that over time housing stock value will be influenced by the degree of energy conservation features within the house.  Hence, a municipality with progressive housing stock in terms of energy conservation will have a more valuable housing inventory.

You can read here the request forwarded to the Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing, Minister of Finance, Minister of Energy and Minister of Environment.

Given our resolution, letters of support will be sent to the same Ministers. We will also be encouraging York Region and the lower tier municipalities to do likewise. Finally, we are requesting the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) to encourage other municipalities to do so.