The following are video highlights from January 12, 2021 Town of Aurora General Committee meeting discussions held via Zoom. Refer to all necessary Town documents to obtain more information on the items discussed.
Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZH38ITIGdM (total time of 3 hours 42 min 23 sec)
Agenda and Meeting Minutes: January 12, 2021 Aurora General Committee Meeting Documents can be found at the Town of Aurora website – Your Government > Agendas and Minutes and then scroll down to the section called Past Meetings.
Mayor Tom Mrakas called the meeting to order. The Mayor also announced that due to the recent stay at home orders issued by the province as of January 14, 2021, a Special Meeting of Council will be held January 19, 2021 for the purpose of discussing the new provincial orders and impact on the Town of Aurora.
Refer to the video keywords below to determine if you’re interested in reading this lengthy post.
VIDEO KEYWORDS: Community Energy Plan, Backyard Hens, Closed Session Disclosure, Integrity Commissioner, Hartwell Way, Community Garden, Dog Park, Parking Restrictions on Tyler Street, Anti-Black Racism and Anti-Racism Task Force, Construction Site Noise, Occasional Use on Street Parking
Each delegate has five minutes to present. Questions and comments from members of Council follow.
Alexandra L. Elementary School Student spoke (at 00:02:25) to the Item 8.2 – PDS21-005 – Town of Aurora Community Energy Plan.
Valerie S. and Sumaya C., Elementary School Students spoke (at 00:14:07) to the Item 8.2 – PDS21-005 – Town of Aurora Community Energy Plan.
Darryl Moore, resident (at 00:25:58) – proposal for the Town to initiate backyard hens pilot project.
Re Backyard Hens Delegation: Cllr Gaertner, Cllr Gilliland and Cllr Humfryes asked the delegate for clarifications on a few things and Cllr Kim commented that he would not support the initiative. Cllr Thompson and Mayor Mrakas had no comments. Cllr Gallo was absent for this meeting. The Mayor stated to move forward with this backyard hen pilot project a Notice of Motion would be required.
Item Pulled for Discussion from Consent Agenda
Delegated Development Agreements Quarterly Report (PDS20-072)
Cllr Gaertner (at 00:44:44) inquired more information about modifications done to the dwelling on 70 Collins Crescent and asked to describe what that addition will look like. David Waters (Director of Planning and Development Services) informed that there will be a report in the first cycle in February (2021) on all minor variances issued in Stable Neighbourhoods.
Public Disclosure of Previous Closed Session Items (CS20-024)
Cllr Gaertner (at 00:47:10) asked the Town Clerk to elaborate more on the Public Disclosure of Previous Closed Session Items report. Michael de Rond (Town Clerk) explained that the Procedure By-Law has a very narrow scope and it requires that the full item of a closed session be released, that is the report and the extract of the minutes. He said that the thought is good but in practice it hasn’t turned out good. Mr De Rond said that this report was intended to present Council with options “to rectify this going forward so we don’t have this in the Procedure By-law for the public to expect to see items from closed session to be released yearly.“
Cllr Gaertner stated that another municipality that follows same process currently as Aurora is Ajax and is not sure why we still have it in our Procedure By-law. Furthermore, Cllr asked why this report was for information only. Mr. De Rond elaborated that it is for information because when Procedure By-law is brought for review in the next term of Council the staff would suggest then to remove that Closed Session clause (Section 21 g), being year 2023.
Cllr Geartner replied, “It would seem to me that if we’re one of two municipalities and Ajax is thinking of removing it from their by-law, and we do know that the public often asks about transparency and disclosure, it seems to me we should just take it out of the by-law. I really don’t see the point of keeping it in. I don’t think it’s serving the public and obviously it’s not serving the other municipalities because they don’t have it.” Cllr Gaertner with advice from the Clerk drafted a motion to remove Section 21 g from the Procedure By-law, and that an amending by-law be enacted at a future Council meeting to confirm this change. All agreed.
Items Requiring Discussion (Regular Agenda)
Annual Report from the Integrity Commissioner (CS21-001)
Presentation started at 00:54:18 by Janice Atwood, Integrity Commissioner, Principles Integrity
“The purpose of an integrity commissioner’s annual report is to provide the public with the opportunity to understand the ethical well-being of the Town’s elected and appointed officials through the lens of our activities. Recent amendments to the Municipal Act, 2001 mandated that all municipalities have codes of conduct and integrity commissioners for elected and appointed (local board) officials as of March 1, 2019.”
The report presented was an informational report on duties and services of the Integrity Commissioner and the only specific information to Aurora was: “During the period covered by this report, four (4) complaints were received, which we were able to dispose of, without need for a recommendation report.” Ms. Atwood said that they dealt with four complaints without the need for a public report.
Presentation Council Comments & Questions
Cllr Gaertner (at 1:04:19) expressed concern that there was not enough information or very little disclosure provided with regards to the four complaints. She elaborated that it would be good to know even if it was just a category of the complaint or type of service provided, or advice given without releasing confidential information. Cllr Thompson shared the similar sentiment. Ms. Atwood agreed and in the future reports Council will receive more disclosure. Council should expect next report in about 14-18 months from now. Ms. Atwood in the mean time agreed to release an additional written Memo to Council for the 4 cases mentioned as she didn’t expect that she would be responding to that level of detail in front of Council members. She also said that Principles Integrity has $1000 retainer a year and everything else is simply on an hourly fee-for-service basis. Cllr Thompson asked if each of the four complaints generated a bill. The answer is yes, Ms. Atwood replied, it is an anonymised invoice identifying the nature of whether it was a complaint file or advice file. Cllr Thompson, further asked for the general costs of doing one of these sort of complaint investigations? Loaded question for Ms. Atwood. She said it could be under $600 for small inquiries or up to $3000-$4000 for a full investigation with a rate of $230/hour.
Cllr Humfryes, mentioned that all her questions have been answered and thanked the consultant for the report.
Town of Aurora Community Energy Plan (PDS21-005)
Presentation started at 1:20:29 by Susan Hall, Partner & Project Lead, LURA Consulting
Presentation Council Comments & Questions
Cllr Kim (at 1:37:38) commented after reading the reports that many elements in the report could have been done by the provincial or federal levels of government. “Why is this not being presented to the province and have them legislate this to all the municipalities instead of having 2000 municipalities hire 2000 consultants to give them a unique plan but we know that the solution is the same?” According to the consultants some elements of the energy plan cannot be controlled on the provincial level. The conversation eventually diverted to battery powered cars and reduction of carbon emissions and green funding. Cllr Kim concluded that an energy plan is necessary and municipalities can play a big role in education, marketing and communication.
Cllr Gaertner (at 1:46:00) thanked Cllr Kim for asking questions about the electric vehicles – concerned about the net benefit of the electric vehicles. Cllr is fully in support of the targets and asked why government did not mandate the reporting of the energy plan? Consultants replied that there is no requirement and the reporting is voluntary. The province does some kind of tracking of emissions but not accumulation of all the municipalities.
Cllr Thompson (at 1:54:02) first worried that the historical background of the Town of Aurora and environmental initiatives was not fulsome in the report. “I understand you took 2018 as the baseline and then moved forward, but you know since it is our opportunity to see it and comment on it I do think it’s important to recognize that many of the strategies that you have identified and for those of us that have been on Council for a period of time we’ve seen them before within other documents. With all due respect you made reference to Cllr Gilliland being a champion, but I would be honest with you and say that in my opinion that would go to Cllr Gaertner who has been champion for the environment long before I was on Council. And there certainly are a number of different environmental initiatives you look back at the corporate environmental action plan which was adopted in 2010 prior to my term on Council; as well as the Official Plan and both of those draw on some of the same initiatives that we are talking about today. For example, in 2010 Official Plan it talked about reducing emissions by 2/3rd, we’ve talked about community energy plans before, solar rooftops, a number of different strategies and so when I go through the report and then I compared to other initiative we’ve tried to bring forward and adopt over the years I was wondering if there’s anything that you saw in your course of investigation of strategies or actions that are new for the Town that we haven’t previously already identified or gave consideration to?”
Consultant replied that part of this plan is “about bringing some of those pieces together, so from the transportation lens you have a transportation master plan; you’re looking at an active transportation plan going forward and it brings together the energy and emissions lens to that Official Plan, obviously would be the spot for land use policies that would be in alignment with energy and emissions reductions. I think the district energy may be a piece that the Town, I’m sure if you’ve explored that in the past and the retrofit programs that are being considered today by municipalities are a little bit different than some of the ones that have been offered in the past for certain measures within homes so it’s really about a holistic view to those retrofits. So I think that may be a piece that’s a little bit different and new for the Town.”
Cllr Thompson (at 1:57:56) asked a second question related to fiscal strategies – meaning in order to achieve some of these strategies the Town will have to offer some kind of financial incentives – “what is the likelihood of being achieving those targets if the Town does not somehow put forward those kind of financial incentives and or reduction of development? Do you think that’s absolutely critical in order to achieve those results?” Cllr Thompson stated that it is important to be transparent about the financial implications if the Town moves forward with the Community Energy Plan initiatives including costs associated primarily to further studies by consultants. He further talked about LIC (Local Improvement Charges) program that may not be effective for the Town of Aurora. When asking the Director of Finance to speak to the initiatives; she answered that the Town would direct residents to the incentives available from upper tiers of government.
Cllr Gilliland (at 2:05:24) expressed her appreciation for having the opportunity to work alongside this working group and spending long hours, sometimes up to 3-4 hours per meeting. A lot of hard work and effort has gone into identifying energy efficiency opportunities in Aurora. “I know you guys respect all the work what we’ve done here and I know it might be tough for some other Councillors to give credit to Councillors who’ve actually put some work in and I hope that it is something that other people do appreciate that my passion and my time is valuable and I hope that everybody appreciates that hard work and dedication that I have put in this feedback and on behalf of the community as well. Everybody here in this council table has done something to try and you know help with the environment here, obviously I have put the motion for the Climate Emergency to help deepen our commitment and in protecting our ecosystems and I’ve seen some really great results from this report, everything from identifying the energies where the efficiencies are, compact housing, carbon sequestering, all these really major points and I know that we’ve talked at great lengths about different components of what was realistic or not realistic, whether within solar you know who’s going to buy-in and where is it being funded from. These are all things we’ve all talked about but reality is we need to identify how we’re actually going to be reducing energy and we have to start somewhere and we have to do it by educating ourselves educating the public, getting the buy-in.”
Lastly, Cllr Gilliland asked (at 2:09:47) the Town staff to elaborate more on the electric vehicle initiative. Currently Town staff is working in the background to install more charging stations around the Town. Furthermore, Cllr Gilliland (at 2:13:35) explained that she was asked to write a comment/forward to this Community Energy Plan; however, such practice was not allowed by the Town. Obviously consultants recognized Cllr Gillilland’s environmental initiatives this term, involvement in developing of the plan and also being on the forefront of the environmental issues. It would seem appropriate from a practical standpoint to have Cllr Gilliland write the forward and the acknowledgement. If you read the plan, the forward was written by Mayor Tom Mrakas. Cllr Gilliland also asked if there is a way to insert an acknowledgement to the document of those involved. CAO said it was possible.
Cllr Gaertner (at 2:16:12) again touched on more of the technical elements of the report.
Cllr Thomposon (at 2:27:26) now concerned about adding acknowledgements on the document of all those involved to the Community Energy Plan. He asked Doug Nadorozny (Chief Administrative Officer) if there were any Town policies or past practices to deal with such situations. Mr. Nadorozny said he will investigate and will get back to Council with more information.
Cllr Humfryes (at 2:30:20) thanked everyone, mentioned LED conversion project and also inquired more information on policy or best practices for acknowledging people who participated in the plan for the fear of not including someone.
Mayor Mrakas (at 2:34:21), after Cllr Thompson and Cllr Humfryes expressed concerns about acknowledgements in the reports, him having the same concern, decided to acknowledge a few past Councillors who also contributed to Town’s environmental strategies. He also commented that this plan will need collaboration with upper levels of government in order to be successful.
Hartwell Way Non-Programmed Park – Public Consultation, No Dog Park (OPS21-001)
Council discussion starts at 2:52:22.
Cllr Thompson (at 2:53:05) appreciated the dog park survey (public was not in favour); however, asked for community garden survey numerical results as they were not included in the report. Allan Downey (Director of Operations) will email Council the numbers from the garden survey.
Cllr Gilliland (at 2:54:22) stated that she wouldn’t want to “eliminate all options or opportunities to have dog parks located in alternative areas, will staff make an effort to identify some potential other areas where it might be appropriate?” Mr. Downey replied that in the past staff provided Council with “a list of criteria for dog parks and identified different areas throughout the Town to place dog parks. We did that through a previous Council.” He said that he will be more than happy to re-introduce that information to Council.
Cllr Gilliland asked to bring the existing information back to Council. Mr. Downey added, “Dog parks have to be looked at separately; it is an issue, people would like to see them, they don’t necessarily want to see them in their neighbourhood, but they would like to see them closer to the neighbourhood.” Some of the areas considered in the past were hydro corridors but they are problematic because they are not the Town’s lands. Negotiations would be required.
Cllr Gaertner (at 2:58:36) asked about the community garden parameters in terms of being accessible to the community via public transportation, “My understanding with the community gardens is that they are to provide a gardening space for people who don’t have backyards or who have a very small backyards so it give them an opportunity to do some gardening and in this area in particular is not on major transit route.” Cllr Gaertner was not in support of the location for this garden and questioned if there were any parameters set for community gardens with one of them being accessible via public transit. Mr. Downey replied that the Town had not developed parameters with regards to placement of community gardens. He added that the Town will not move forward with the community garden unless the Town has a community group coming forward to manage the garden and saying this is ideal location for them to operate. Cllr Gaertner concluded that this is a rather strange place for the community garden versus neighbourhood garden and was going to vote against this location but said if “a group wants to come in and thinks that it’s appropriate then, you know, who am I to say no to that.”
Request for Parking By-law Amendment on Tyler Street (PDS21-004) – to prohibit parking at any time on the north side of Tyler Street between George Street and Harriman Road.
Cllr Gilliland (at 3:03:31) asked what were the specific reasons why the 32% of residents that opposed the prohibition of parking on the section of Tyler Street? Mr. Waters responded that he didn’t have specific reasons why people opposed the parking restrictions idea. Cllr Gilliland said it would be helpful to understand the opposing views.
She also asked, even though it is quite far from downtown, “if losing these 19 parking spots contributes to the parking inventory that was taken into consideration to our downtown core when we did that study with Library Square; was that something that was included within that study?” Mr. Waters responded that this change is not “a direct contributor in terms of prime area for parking, but it may be a secondary contributor to providing that parking supply for the downtown.” Cllr Gilliland responded that at this point she will not support this. She said she will wait for the additional information from the planning department to find out opposition reasons to object to no parking on Tyler Street.
Cllr Gaertner (at 3:06:25) stated she is fully in support of no parking restrictions on Tyler Street.
Anti-Black Racism and Anti-Racism Task Force Terms of Reference (CS21-002)
Cllr Gaertner (at 3:08:03) agreed that this is an important committee and the terms of reference are appropriate. Cllr Thompson echoed Cllr Gaertner comments and that “they would come forward with some initiatives that would bring about some actionable change. I like what they’ve done with the terms of reference.”
Cllr Kim (at 3:08:49) said that “it is a unique advisory committee and they’ve gone through certain shared experiences and … it’s about them putting out a recommendation in terms of the action plan and us choosing between the options they’re going to bring forward. So I thank the Clerk for guiding us through this process and ensuring that this group has a voice.” Cllr Humfryes added she is very supportive of terms of reference for this committee and is looking forward to some of the amazing initiatives. Cllr Gilliland commented that it is “a fantastic group that will bring some great initiatives, set some core values, educational awareness, give us some guidance that’s going to spawn from that, and I look forward to these reports that will come forward.”
Lastly Mayor (at 3:11:09) also acknowledged, “they want to put forward and take action and I think a lot of times through some of the committees, to no fault of their own, things kind of just get in front of them and they’re just received for information and I think that it was great to hear that conversation, to hear that they want to take action and I think that moving forward they’re going to be looking at bringing some actionable items in front of this Council table.”
Application for Draft Plan of Condominium (PDS21-001) – Cedartrail Developments Inc. – 14288 Yonge Street – to establish a condominium road within Block 1 of the Draft Plan of Subdivision.
Cllr Thompson (at 3:13:24) in reference to the Community Energy Plan asked if there were any opportunities to adopt some of these actions presented earlier to this development. Mr. Waters responded that the draft plan condition requires that the Green Development Standards report is submitted by the developer; but it would not be as robust as discussed earlier and cannot be implemented in this development. Cllr Gaertner asked questions along the same lines. Mr. Waters responded “there is no planning argument to be made to withhold approval of the condo application before; and second of all we are going to release the terms of reference for public tender by end of the month and then the study has to be done, so the timing just doesn’t work.”
Cllr Gilliland (at 3:16:52) inquired about possibility of conducting a virtual bike event. Staff agreed to follow up.
Cllr Gaertner (at 3:18:24) said that Council received an email from concerned residents living in the area of Geranium developments regarding construction activities 7 days a week. Town’s by-law does not permit construction on the weekends. The noise by-laws under the current State of Emergency issued in March 2020 were put on hold mainly for delivery to grocery stores and were not limited by the noise restrictions. Mr. Nadorozny replied that “noise by-law implications for with regard to pandemic were to enable deliveries because the supply chains were interrupted by Covid and also has an impact on construction projects because material arrive at different times; when it’s ready they want to get at it so to keep projects on time; and it extended not just to deliveries but to also to constructions projects that were allowed to proceed during Covid … I believe that this one would also still be permitted under the new restrictions that the Premier talked about today.”
Cllr Gaertner (at 3:23:19) inquired about the Occasional Use on Street Parking program roll-out relative to the current pandemic provincial orders to limit in home visits. Asked if the on street parking permits roll out could be delayed or a strong message be sent out to our community “even though this is in place it is not intended to be used at this particular time” and added that “optically it’s terrible for us as a Town to do this right now“. Techa van Leeuwen (Director of Corporate Services) replied that it’s an online permitting system, therefore, no reason is required for the permit to be validated. Said if Council chooses to suspend this just-in-time parking permit system, then Town will suspend it. Mayor Tom Mrakas then requested to suspend this system for 28 days and “once the province makes changes maybe we could have that conversation again.” Cllr Gaertner agreed by stating “it would help send a strong message to what we expect from our residents from the community.”
ABOUT Occasional Use on Street Parking Permits (OUPP): “The Town is introducing Occasional Use on Street Parking Permits (OUPP) where residents or visitors can apply online for up to 12 free parking passes per vehicle each year through GTECHNA’s web portal. The OUPP would assist residents who require an extra parking space for overnight visitors or require an extra space. This will allow residents and visitors of the Town to apply for, and receive, a parking exemption for the prohibitions of parking longer than 24 hours and parking between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.” Visit Town of Aurora website for more information.
Cllr Thompson (at 3:27:02) inquired on an update on the outdoor ice rinks. Details of use regulations under the new stay at home orders will be provided at the Special Meeting of Council next Tuesday.
Cllr Gilliland (at 3:29:04) asked Ms. Van Leeuwen to shed some light on the potential pilot project permitting urban hens and whether it was feasible based on the work she had done so far in the background. Ms. Van Leeuwen said that it can be considered as a pilot program but there is some work to be done “with planning department and building division as these chickens do require shelter, they require care, they require exercise runs, so from a land use perspective we may need to make some amendment to the zoning by-law. There are many things to consider.” Mayor Tom Mrakas stated that due to the amount of work required for this project asked that a Notice of Motion be constructed to direct staff to do further work.
Public Service Announcements
Watch at 3:31:19.