by Cecilia Naismith
New school in New Amherst proves controversial
The Planning Act governs what use may be made of land, and is silent on who exactly makes that use.
That was the important point Cobourg director of planning Glenn McGlashon made at this week's Cobourg council meeting on the subject of rezoning a 4.6-acre of land in the west-end New Amherst subdivision to permit the building of a small 28,000-sq. ft. school.
This would be at the northwest corner of New Amherst Boulevard and Fred Adams street, providing the zoning can be changed from neighbourhood mixed-use and neighbourhood general to institutional.
The school is planned on behalf of MonAvenir, a publicly funded and publicly accessible Catholic-Francophone school board that operates 59 other schools to provide a French education, explained GSP Group planning consultant Glenn Shields.
As far as such zoning issues as water, sewer and storm-water management and traffic impact are concerned, the spot conforms for this purpose.
Shields reported hearing concerns about the older population of the community, as well as traffic and noise issues, but did not think these presented insurmountable problems. School buses travel through the community now, he said, and the noise would only take place during weekdays.
Councillor Suzanne Seguin declared council should take an evidence-based approach in deciding whether the rezoning was justified, and she is not convinced the school is needed.
For one thing, Seguin said, this is not a Francophone area.
She cited recent determinations of the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Roman Catholic School Board in recommending the closure of St. Michael Elementary School – which still leaves two Catholic schools open, she pointed out, with a total of 755 students to be served between them.
Extrapolating on that, she said that the budget for each of these students is $12,000. If the new school took away 200 of them, what would the consequences be.
“This is a planning decision,” Seguin allowed.
“But we have to make the best decision this council can make, and none of this adds up,” she declared – to the applause of the audience that filled the gallery in the council chamber.
Developer Max Lemarchant, who has been working with the New Amherst development for almost 30 years, was the only member of that audience to speak in support of the school.
“Schools are integral to good neighbourhoods,” Lemarchant declared.
“The idea of being able to have a school in this neighbourhood is fantastic, to actually help that neighbourhood become a complete community.”
McGlashon pointed out that a school had always been contemplated as part of the community. The parcel of land originally set aside was farther east of this particular site, but the Kawartha Pine Ridge School Board had decided it had no wish to build there and planning for the site proceeded in a residential direction.
Paul Pagnuelo considered the whole matter a case of broken trust. He pointed out that the community had evolved into more of a seniors' and retirement community than a family community. He conjectured that, had these older buyers been told that a MonAvenir school was contemplated, they would have bought elsewhere.
The community was not actually promoted or advertised as a retirement community, David Leach admitted. But the reality is, that's how it has worked out.
Leach agreed that there was little demand for this particular kind of school in the area, and estimated that perhaps 99% of its students would have to be bused in from other communities.
And, he wondered, what about the potential for the devaluation of their properties?
“I am not convinced this location makes sense for this school,” Emily Chorney stated.
She wondered if the school might consider taking over St. Michael. But MonAvenir planning agent Vincent Lacoursiere said it was unsuitable. Its acreage is dramatically smaller and, at any rate, it is not for sale just yet.
At the conclusion of the two-hour public meeting, Councillor Aaron Burchat made a motion to refer the question of rezoning to staff for a report.
“That will give council some time to go over the input from the public,” Burchat said.
“I believe that is the best route to take at this point.”
Cobourg tourism theme for 2018 – your story begins here
In the end, Cobourg tourism co-ordinator Bryan Mercer said at council this week, tourism is about stories – the stories you share when you go on a trip and come back.
In that sense, Mercer said, calling the town's 2018 tourism guide Experience Cobourg – Your Story Begins Here makes sense. And it builds on the theme with vignettes that not only spotlight what the town has to offer but also lead users to the new ExperienceCobourg.ca website by continuing the vignettes on-line.
Their focus has been to get people to stay in Cobourg longer than they may have considered by showing not only what the town has to offer but also what is very close at hand (like the Haute Goat farm, Rice Lake and Ste. Anne's Spa). They call this campaign Stay Here, Play There.
Exciting plans are ahead for the big Armistice Centennial celebration that is gaining attention nationwide, and other festivals and heritage assets get their due. The history and architectural distinction of Victoria Hall is noteworthy and, as a former Kingston resident, Mercer was astonished to learn that Marie Dressler's birthplace is on King Street West – the star who made the cover of Time magazine, danced with Charlie Chaplin and stole scenes from Greta Garbo.
As an admirer of the Kennedy family, he was also fascinated to learn that First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy hoped to obtain for the White House a mirror that was in the former home of President Ulysses S. Grant's daughter on Cobourg's lakeshore.
“She didn't get it, and it still hangs in Villa St. Joseph on Monk Street,” he said.
More treasures in the guide include the story of a special Cobourg cocktail, but the guide is not the only tourism booster being undertaken.
Partnerships are being formed, with special packages being offered at the new website – a one-stop approach that makes it easy to plan a great stay in Cobourg.
Mercer has already scouted out the Belleville and Kingston streets with the highest vehicular traffic, and a 12-week billboard campaign on these avenues during June and July will spotlight the beach and town hall, along with the suggestion to visit ExperienceCobourg.ca.
As for the young tourism ambassadors the town hires each summer, Mercer hopes they're all extrovert Type As.
“They will have no qualms about waltzing up to someone they don't know, greeting them, telling them how many great things there are to do and how they have to stay two nights,” he said.
They will be armed with iPads to ask strategic survey questions (names, ages, how many in their party, what brought them to town), with the data coming in handy to target promotions for the 2019 tourism season.
And speaking of the future, he added, why not a large three-dimensional set of letters that spell out Cobourg, based on the one at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square (and a more recent one in Kingston). People love taking selfies with these signs, and they get posted on sites like Facebook and Snapchat. This may be one of the most economical and effective promotional avenue there is today.
“Well, Bryan, you did good,” Councillor Suzanne Seguin commented.
“It's great to see Cobourg mentioned in the same sentence as Toronto and Kingston, because that's where we are.”
“It's a great sandwich,” Mercer said.
Northumberland County boasts on its achievements
Achievements in 2017 and plans for 2018 were the topic of what Northumberland County chief administrative officer Jennifer Moore and director of finance Glenn Dees call their annual road tour – a circuit of appearances they make to each member municipality to share this news.
Speaking at Cobourg council this week, they shared such good news as progress towards completing the cell lining that will contain the leachates at the Brighton landfill and work towards instituting a curbside organics collection schedule.
The presentation on 2017 included achievements in four key areas – economic innovation and prosperity (including a Summer Company trade show for young entrepreneurs and a new tourism website), sustainable infrastructure and services (including the surface treating of 126 km. of road and a new transportation master plan), thriving and inclusive communities (including a new homelessness coordinated response team and the distribution of 1.4-million lb. of food through the Food 4 All warehouse) and organizational excellence (including a wellness committee for the workplace and an occupational health and safety strategic plan).
Priorities for 2018 include shared emergency-services bases in Roseneath and Trent Hills, economic-development initiatives and, of course, work on roads and bridges.
Looking at the budget for 2018, Dees said county council achieved its goal of a levy raise no higher than 2%, and that includes 0.3% as a dedicated infrastructure levy. Property tax accounts for less than half of the cost of the county's services, he added, with the rest coming from such sources as fees, fines, grants, subsidies and similar sources.
Fully one-third of these revenues support roadwork, with the remainder going to health and social services, emergency services, waste management and other categories.
Looking farther ahead, Dees referred to the county's 10-year financial plan. This will involve $236.6-million in major capital projects, more than half of which could be classified as roads projects.
William Academy is set to grow
William Academy is not only growing, Cobourg Mayor Gil Brocanier reported at council this week, it is also becoming more of a part of the community.
The Toronto-based school purchased the former CDCI West building for its largely international student body, and Brocanier reported at this week's council session on a recent meeting with academy representatives (which he attended along with chief administrative officer Stephen Peacock and economic-development officer Wendy Gibson).
“It was a very, very positive meeting,” the mayor said.
“They shared with us that they are going to start off this year with 100 students, and they are also looking at Cobourg as a potential site for hockey. They will be asking for some ice time over the summer months.”
Brocanier expressed hope they can be accommodated at the Cobourg Community Centre's smaller ice surface (called The Pond).
He also got another clue on their interest in hockey at a subsequent game he attended, when he spotted three academy representatives on hand cheering on their team.
“The interest is there to understand that part of our culture,” Brocanier said.
“They want very much to be part of the community, and will offer some scholarships for Cobourg students as well.”
Health inspections will now be the norm for businesses
Cobourg Mayor Gil Brocanier came away from a recent board of health meeting with news that affects many businesses.
They had been discussing provincially mandated programs, Brocanier said at this week's council meeting, and it was learned that health inspections will be required – as of July 1 – for all businesses that serve food and otherwise have the potential for an adverse effect on public health (such as businesses that offer manicures and pedicures).
This even goes for vendors at Cobourg's Farmer's Market, he said, at least for those that serve food.
The health inspectors will perform the assessments, and determine whether the establishment rates a Pass or Fail. These determinations will be reflected on a green Pass card or a red Fail card, and whichever one a business receives must be prominently displayed.
Inspections done prior to July 1 are retroactive, Brocanier said. A Pass will be counted, and conditions that led to a Fail can be corrected in time to be able to display a Pass card by July 1.