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City Council Columns - July 2017
I know. No one enjoys construction delays, but if we never saw construction, it would mean our city was falling apart. It can be a big inconvenience for some, but it’s necessary for a healthy city and region. Ward 1 is seeing a fair bit of construction now and will be in the near future.
The city owned streets slated for reconstruction or resurfacing this year include: Carson Drive, Confederation Drive, Matthew Street, Montcalm Drive, Marketa Crescent, Smetana Drive, Springdale Drive and Woolwich St. If they haven’t begun working by the time you’re reading this, they will soon.
The project with the greatest impact at the moment is the Ottawa Street reconstruction, which is undertaken by the Regional level of government. (Tip: unsure whether it’s a regional or city road? Check the street sign. If it’s green, it’s the region; if it’s blue, it’s the city.) The work is well underway on Ottawa and is expected to continue until late in the year, but the short-term pain will result in a much improved transit link no matter your method of travel. Expect a similar result to what’s been done to the other side of Ottawa from River Road to Lackner Boulevard.
Being the north-east ward of the city, and the one closest to Guelph, means we’ll see the biggest impacts of the Province’s Highway 7 project. We’ll be most-impacted by that development in 2018 as the Victoria Street bridge over the expressway will be closed for at least a year. For questions on any of these items or others, please don’t hesitate to contact me any time. My contact info is listed above.
Neighbours Day on June 10 was amazing! Thanks to the Centreville-Chicopee and Stanley Park Community Associations for the great celebrations at their Community Centres. The Grand Opening of Eden Oak Park saw over 1,000 neighbours show up to a great party provided by Hallman Construction and planned by Ace Events. Get on the Eden Oak Neighbourhood email list at email@example.com
Our Kitchener Events team is putting these free events on:
Every Tuesday from 5 – 8pm, it’s Discovery Square in Carl Zehr Square. Free hands-on science, technology and art activities for kids aged 5-12.
Cruising on King Friday July 7 and 8. Enjoy classic cars on King Street and live music at Carl Zehr Square.
The Kultrun World Music Festival July 8-9 in Victoria Park: Local and international artists, storytellers, food, crafts and interactive activities for children.
The Downtown Kitchener Ribfest and Craft Beer Show: July 14 to 16 in Victoria Park.
Rock & Rumble: July 22 from 5-11pm. Hundreds of motorcycles line King St. Platinum Blonde will perform in front of City Hall, with epic food truck fare and craft beer. Get more details on these events at KitchenerEvents.ca.
Cool off at Centreville Chicopee Community Centre’s Splash Pad. It’s free to enjoy daily from 9 till 9. Just bring your towel.
I welcome hearing your ideas and concerns. Contact me if I can help in any way.
You can report an issue or get questions from any city department answered by calling our 24 Hour Contact Line at 519-741-2345.
Sidewalks and the Pedestrian Charter Several times every year residents in the older areas of the city become actively engaged with respect to new sidewalks. These are usually small streets or cul de sacs which have either had no sidewalks or only on one side. After many meetings in their neighbourhood the issues move on to Council for further lengthy discussions; often deferrals; and again considerable public engagement. In the majority of cases residents have not asked for and usually are not in favour of disrupting their neighbourhood for something they really don’t want or feel they need. Rarely are there occasions cited where after many years of no sidewalk there are now real safety reasons for imposing them; no occurrences ever shown where the lack of sidewalks have resulted in accidents. Costs for these unwanted and unwarranted projects normally are in the range of $100,000.
Council is currently in the midst of debating two particular cases. By the time this article reaches readers a decision will have been made and I expect the results will be in favour of spending substantial amounts on something that “isn’t broken” as opposed to directing that money to the many areas of our infrastructure that badly need funding.
I have normally not supported this type of “nice to have” expenditure as opposed to “required infrastructure” spending. I will always support the neighbourhood needs and wishes unless I can be shown reasonable grounds not to do so.
In 2004 Council adopted a Pedestrian Charter - a very reasonable and common sense approach to enable easy access to all pedestrians. There have been no problems in implementing every aspect of this Charter in new subdivisions. But in older areas of the city problems are encountered when trying to apply each and every word of the Charter. The Charter is a goal that can be implemented in the fullness of time. The Charter sets no time lines and nowhere in the Charter is the word “sidewalk” mentioned. Why then are so many on Council quick to deal with the words of the Pedestrian Charter instead of its intent? I fully support the Pedestrian Charter. I would encourage all (including Council) to read and review it.
Sidewalk infill policy has brought many residents into Council Chambers to express their concerns over the addition of a sidewalk on their streets.
The sidewalk infill policy approved by council in 2015, set out a variety of criteria to direct how, where and when sidewalks would be added to residential areas. The policy considers improving walkability and accessibility in new and existing development, as well as how to encourage pedestrian activity. Staff created a point system so that decisions around sidewalk infill could be made with sensible strategy. Unfortunately, sensible strategy doesn’t take into account the emotional impact this change may have on residents.
Sidewalk infill, whether completed as a stand-alone project or during road reconstruction to realize cost benefits, can be upsetting to our residents, as many are disturbed to find out that trees and landscaping that have been a part of their street for decades may need to be removed. And, in some cases there is an existing sidewalk on one side of the roadway. On other streets, there may be no sidewalk at all, so residents find the addition of sidewalks to be a dramatic change to their neighbourhood.
Although we want to make our city as walkable as possible, I think it’s important to make these infill decisions carefully and understand the impact on the affected residents. If there is a sidewalk on one side, or if infill can be done with less impact on one side, I believe this should be part of how we decide to put in a sidewalk.
Friday, July 14 grab some friends and family, a blanket, a few chairs and head down to the park located off of Seabrook/Ludolph. Pets are allowed and a rain date is planned for July 15. This family friendly movie title is still to be announced.
NOMINATE A GARDEN
Kitchener in Bloom is an annual recognition program designed to show appreciation for the efforts of our citizens who help to make our city look beautiful. There are four categories to nominate in: front yard, environmental, businesses, and stormwater management. Nominating is so easy, you just have to search, “Kitchener in Bloom” at Kitchener.ca to find the online nomination form and details for each category. Just make sure you have the address and name of business where applicable.
I thought I would mention the bylaw pertaining to grass and weeds, as we have had a lot of rain, requiring our grass to be mowed a few times already this year. As well, many of you may be away on vacation for a week or two over the summer. Grass and weeds on private property must be kept below 8 inches. If bylaw receives a complaint, they will investigate and leave a notice at the property asking for the grass to be cut within 72hrs. If the grass is not cut in this timeframe, bylaw sends a request to operations for the property to be mowed, and the owner is billed for the service.
On June 27 of last year, I introduced the following motion that was approved by City Council and directed staff to investigate the feasibility of enacting requirements for vacant buildings to be maintained at a level in keeping with neighbouring properties:
WHEREAS, a review of the City of Kitchener Property Standards By-law is currently listed in the 2016 Business Plan as Item CS20 Neighbourhood Property Standards Compliance Review and Proactive By-Law Enforcement; and,
WHEREAS, through initiatives, such as the Neighbourhood Strategy, the City is striving to promote its vibrant communities; and,
WHEREAS, vacant boarded-up buildings can project an unwarranted negative image of a neighbourhood;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that as part of the current review of the City of Kitchener Property Standards By-law, staff be directed to investigate the feasibility of incorporating requirements for vacant buildings to be maintained at a level that is in keeping with neighbouring properties beyond the existing minimum standard for securing the site; and, BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that staff be directed to review the best practices implemented by other municipalities to regulate the keeping of vacant buildings.
After an extensive two year period of reviewing our property standard By-laws, staff presented their final report on June 12 of this year. This report included the motion I made in 2016 in staff’s proposed recommendations and changes to our current Property Standards By-law Chapter 665. This incorporated processes currently in place, related to how by-law enforcement concerns are addressed in residential neighbourhoods.
Allowing for greater efficiency and expediency in dealing with problematic properties, these changes, along with my motion, will help to both safe-guard and instill greater pride in our neighbourhoods.
CANADA DAY CELEBRATIONS
This Canada Day, July 1, celebrate our great country in downtown Kitchener! Starting at 6pm and ending at 10:30pm, enjoy a night packed with live music, beer gardens, and food. There is a great lineup of artists, including Dragonette as this year’s headliner, and appearances by Teen Violence, the Stanfields, Wayfarer and The Bosswich. And of course, we can’t properly celebrate the uniting of our country without some great fireworks.
EVENTS IN JULY
There are so many events and activities for all ages in Kitchener each summer that it would be impossible to list them all here. Check out www.kitchenerevents.ca to see what’s coming up so you don’t miss out. I’m just highlighting a few favourites here.
Join us downtown for Cruising on King Street July 7, one of Canada’s largest classic car parades. The celebration continues on July 8 with live music by tribute bands.
July 7-9 in Victoria Park music lovers will gather at the Kultrun World Music Festival featuring local, national and international world music bands, all ages interactive activities, workshops, food, craft and art market and beer garden.
Starting at noon July 14-16, join other hungry barbeque rib, chicken and craft beer lovers in Victoria Park for Kitchener’s Ribfest & Craft Beer Show.
July 22 motorcycle enthusiasts and concert goers will come together to take in the 6th Annual Rock & Rumble event. You’ll enjoy live music, food trucks, craft brews and of course, motorcycles. This year’s headliner is Platinum Blonde.
Discovery Square is a free program series for kids aged 5-12 focusing on science, technology, engineering, art and math each Tuesday rain or shine on Carl Zehr Square from 5:00-8:30pm. Stage shows by Erick Traplin or Ultimutts each night from 6:30-7:15pm.
A couple of months ago at a Council meeting I requested that staff take action on having the owner clean up the property of the former Mayfair Hotel across the street from City Hall as, in my opinion, it was a mess and did not meet property standards in the eyes of the public.
Staff responded back and indicated that the property does meet property standards as it’s fenced off from the public and building debris has been cleaned up since its demolition in compliance with Property Standards By-law. Staff indicated there’s nothing further they can do. Since it is downtown and looks ugly in the public’s eyes, nothing further can be done.
If the same scenario was located on a residential street in my ward, the nearby residents would have a bird and would be demanding a clean-up immediately.
There is another scenario on Glasgow St. with the residents demanding the city fix the ‘dead grass’ along the boulevard after reconstruction took place a couple of years ago. The infrastructure replacement went well but the grass along the boulevard has died and is full of weeds. These residents have lovely front lawns except for the curb area which they tried to maintain as best as possible with watering. They’re demanding the city replace the boulevard sod even though staff has acknowledged that the landscaping subcontractor’s job was acceptable. $100,000 was saved by not building a sidewalk on Glasgow St. say the residents. Put that money into replacing the sod.
Compare Glasgow St. to the boulevard work of another contractor which did Vista Pl/Lakeside Dr. last year. These two streets look immaculate. Job well done. A big difference between Glasgow St and Vista Pl/Lakeside Dr. Like black and white.
With good reason, residents rarely stay calm about traffic calming.
Which is why I was glad to see Kitchener council recently approve an excellent “Love My Hood” program designed to encourage residents to take the lead in community improvement projects that include traffic calming — one of the largest neighbourhood concerns identified in Ward 9 and other parts of the city.
Kitchener currently has a list of 170 streets where residents complain about speeding traffic. Based on traffic volume, about 50 would probably qualify for city action but, because of cost, we can afford to pay for traffic calming on only three streets a year.
Included in traffic-calming methods now available to neighbourhood groups are painted crosswalks, intersection road murals, planter boxes, lawn signs and alternate uses of street parking spaces. Matching city grants up to $15,000 will help pay project costs and, if a neighbourhood can’t raise enough cash, they can contribute goods or volunteer work.
On the lighter side of a serious issue, yours truly lives on a one-way lane where speed bumps were introduced many years ago and report that they do not work to slow trucks, cars and even school buses that speed down our narrow street.
What does work to slow traffic near our Victoria Park home is the Canada geese patrol that slowly criss-crosses Jubilee Drive, often pausing while traffic backs up to participate in hissy-fit honking matches with impatient drivers.
Unfortunately, to date, staff have refused to grab gaggles of geese and export them to areas in need of traffic calming.
Summertime is here! That means we have lots going on in downtown Kitchener. For a full list of events and festivals, pick up your copy of our #dtklove summer music and events calendar, or view it online at downtownkitchener.ca. Some highlights include: Kultrun World Music Festival, July 7-9th, KultrunWMF.com; Kitchener Blues Festival, August 10-13, kitchenerbluesfestival.com; and, free lunchtime music Tues/Thurs at Goudie’s Lane Patio and Wed/Fri at Carl Zehr Square.
Dog parks: As our urban core becomes more densely populated, an interesting trend we’ve seen is that urban dwellers love to own dogs. It’s no surprise that in the last few years we’ve seen an increase in requests for leash-free dog parks. So when city staff members receive these requests, they’ve recently started to put the question back to the residents: what is your preferred location for a leash-free dog park? Is there support within that neighbourhood to have one there? So if you are a dog owner, and you are interested to explore where to put a new dog park, start talking to other residents about it and see what interest is out there. Reach out to our neighbourhood development office for support.
The recommended size of a dog park is about 4 acres, but smaller dog parks have been seen to work in other communities. Right here in our own ward 10, we are piloting a micro dog park in George Lippert Park at 200 Weber St W. Once we see how well it’s working, we can use that learning when considering other locations. I’m curious what you think about the dog park in George Lippert Park. Please contact me with your thoughts.
HAPPY 150th BIRTHDAY, CANADA!
On July 1st, this great country we call home will be celebrating its 150th birthday! This is an achievement that all of us as Canadians should be extremely proud of!
Our indigenous communities, the original people who walked on this land we call Canada, have generously shared this land with Canada’s first settlers, and for generations since then, new people have arrived to Canada from all corners of the planet. People of different races, of different faiths and different languages have all arrived in this fantastic country – a country where all of us or our ancestors have been welcomed with open arms and where we have added to the Canadian mosaic.
As many of you know, my own family arrived to Canada from what is now Croatia, in 1969, when I was 2.5 years old, with hopes and dreams of a better life. This is the story of so many of us. We lived in Winnipeg a short period of time, then Hamilton and for the last 40 years, since 1977, Kitchener has been the community where I was raised and where my family has lived an incredible life. When we arrived, little did we know about what the future would hold for my family, and nobody imagined that one day, I would have the privilege to serve as Mayor of one of Canada’s biggest and most dynamic cities.
Canada is a country upon where through hard work and perseverance, great things can be achieved. Whether your dreams had you developing the world’s first smartphone, or being the Mayor of a City, or whether your dreams had you playing professional basketball or serving as a doctor – the opportunities in this great land are plentiful and are available to most of us. But as we all know, as great as this country is, as much as we have achieved together in demonstrating that our diversity is our strength, we still have some work to do.
As we enter July, and the next 50 years of Canada’s history and ultimately Canada’s bicentennial in 2067, let’s ask ourselves, what are the 3 Things We Can do For Canada. How can we get involved to make a difference in our neighbourhood? How can we create the next invention? How can we help someone who isn’t as fortunate as we are. How can we ensure we are an inclusive nation where we ensure that everyone has a high sense of belonging? That’s my challenge to all of you. Let’s use this historical moment and ensure we see great things come out of it.