Cobourg Council Notes

Cobourg Council Chambers.jpg

by Cecilia Naismith


Queen Street development details shared

The parking lot at the corner of McGill and Queen streets in Cobourg, along with the former Lakeshore Auto, is slated to become part of a commercial-residential complex encompassing 22-28-36 Queen St.

Details of the development (known as Queensway Garden Inc.) were shared with council at Monday's committee-of-the-whole session by CIMA representative William McCrae and architect-designer Richard Tseung on behalf of the EIE Corporation and Axon Capital Realty Corporation.

The principals have been visiting Cobourg each summer for about 30 years, McCrae said, and have taken an interest in the community.

“The process has taken about a year now, and I think everybody's interests have been represented throughout that process.”

It also satisfies provincial-policy pressures on municipalities to intensify development, support active transportation and make more efficient use of infrastructure.

They have purchased the Lakeshore Auto property for about $1-million, which had previously been slated for a five-storey development of mixed-use condominiums. The principals propose to purchase the parking lot for $600,000 and, in effect, replace those 65 parking spaces by offering public parking spaces at Queensway Garden. The town will also benefit, he argued, from the development charges, increased property-tax revenue and the company assuming costs and responsibilities for maintenance on the parking spaces.

Tseung offered some design details, pointing out that the parking will be available on the less-desirable north and west sides of the complex (which don't have as good a view of the surrounding area with its Lake Ontario shoreline and Victoria Park). Otherwise, the five storeys approved for the west side of the structure will be built, with only three storeys on the east side (the property that is now a parking lot). Ground-fioor commercial tenants will face Queen Street, and most of the parking will be underground.

The ground floor will have parking and commercial tenants, with some residential units. A buffer zone to the north will screen it from the backs of businesses on King Street West.

The second floor will have parking and residential units.

The third floor will have residential units and a sky garden. This is the topmost storey on the east side.

The fourth floor will only be on the west side of the building, with residential units and more sky gardens.

On the fifth floor, there is a setback to allow bigger terraces for the penthouses.

Tseung said there will be 65 residential units in all.

McCrae explained some further work (including geotechnical investigation) that will safeguard the underground parking from flooding.

“Just to be clear, the total responsibility for maintaining the parking spaces and making sure they aren't flooded belongs to the condominium corporation,” Mayor Gil Brocanier interjected.

“There are benefits to underground parking in the winter,” McCrae noted.

A lot of details remain to be worked out, director of planning Glenn McGlashon said, but he considers the plan a positive, economical and efficient way to use the property in compliance with current policy framework.

“At this point, we are very optimistic,” McGlashon said.

Treasurer Ian Davey said the loss of parking revenue will not be significant. He estimated the annual revenue at $20,000 to $25,000, less maintenance costs of $5,000 to $6,000,

“I think it is the most effective, efficient use of that particular piece of property,” the mayor agreed.

“And it's another $600,000 we can put in the parking reserve to address parking problems in the future.”

Brocanier thought it prudent to address a misconception in the community – that there is a covenant on the parking-lot property that prevents its sale.

Chief administrative officer Stephen Peacock said the covenant had been placed by the old Chateau Hotel that once stood across McGill Street from the parking lot. The Chateau has since closed and been demolished, Peacock said, and the town has acquired the property.


Dressler portrait will return

Marie Dressler Foundation president Rick Miller appeared before Cobourg council's committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday with a question – exactly who decides what photos, artwork or other memorabilia can be displayed at Victoria Hall?

Miller conveyed the foundation's disappointment that a high-quality portrait of the Cobourg-born Oscar-winning actress – which had been installed with great ceremony in December 2016 in the Victoria Hall Citizens' Forum - was recently removed with no notification to the foundation whatsoever.

Though a National Heritage Site, Miller said, Victoria Hall is a public building with municipal offices, council chambers and meeting rooms, historic rooms like the Old Bailey Courthouse, the Art Gallery of Northumerland, and public amenities for rent like the Citizens' Forum and Concert Hall.

In these areas, many different displays can be found – war memorials, framed local landscapes, promotions for events at the Victoria Hall Concert Hall, and portraits of prominent former Cobourg residents. Why was Dressler removed, Miller wondered, when there remain portraits of the prominent business leader Edwin Guillet and Victoria College founder Egerton Ryerson.

He has since learned of a community group's objection to the portrait, based on their conviction that it would be better displayed at the Dressler House museum since she has nothing to do with Victoria Hall per se.

He has also since failed to find any formal policy governing such displays.

“What if I object to the landscape prints? What if I don't like that picture of Lenah Fisher or Edwin Guillet?” Miller protested.

“I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Without any guidelines, there has been some unilateral action taken with respect to that dedicated photograph.

“As a board, we are disappointed, because we think there could have been some discussion to find out what's at the root of the issue,”

The disappointment is especially keen, Miller added, since the board is planning a variety of celebrations this year to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the actress's birth. They already have council's approval to put up banners downtown to celebrate the occasion, starting in August.

“Our position is, Marie Dressler is part of Cobourg's heritage and cultural history, and should be honoured with a photograph in the town's National Historic Site. It is, in our view, a very reasonable and presentable photograph of Marie Dressler at the height of her career.”

Miller conveyed three requests – to direct chief administrative officer Stephen Peacock to develop a policy governing such displays at Victoria Hall, to bring the policy back to council by Sept. 30, and – because there is presently no such policy – replace the Dressler portrait.

Mayor Gil Brocanier said the portrait is currently in his ground-floor office. He noted that the Sept. 30 deadline coincides with a big dinner the foundation is organizing in Dressler's honour.

“Would the foundation be open to the portrait going up in an even more prominent place, in case we don't get the policy in place, because this is a very special year,” Councillor Debra McCarthy enquired.

Though he thought the Citizens' Forum location was an excellent choice, Miller said, another prominent location would be acceptable.

Deputy Mayor John Henderson made the motion incorporating Miller's three requests, and council passed it.


Council unpersuaded by sidewalk arguments

Donna Woods represented a contingent of Northwood Drive residents at Cobourg council's committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday to request council abandon plans to install a sidewalk on their small street this year.

In spite of their arguments, council remained for the most part unpersuaded.

Woods described an idyllic life on the small street, which connects Carlyle with Westwood. Children play hockey in the road, people stroll and bicycle happily, only a handful of cars belonging to non-residents enter the street in a given week. A majority of the residents are seniors, with a fair number of young families.

She contested the point system that made Northwood a prime candidate for sidewalk work in 2018, pointing out assumptions she found erroneous – that should have yielded a lower score in the criteria now in place, she contended. For example, though there are two nearby schools, a third property supposedly set aside for a school does not currently have one in place. The score of 76, Woods argued, should have been 41.

She also pointed out several Northwood addresses where the addition of a sidewalk would leave owners with no viable place to put the snow they clear from their driveways.

“Many other streets needing sidewalks should be considered before Northwood Drive,” she insisted.

“The majority of Northwood residents here today, in addition to the ones who cannot be here that I am representing, are very happy, comfortable, and feel completely safe without the sidewalk.”

Councillor Brian Darling reminded the residents in attendance that the policy for selecting sidewalk work each year was formulated after a similar uproar last year by Abbott Boulevard residents, who also did not want a sidewalk.

“Council agreed it was the best way to go,” Darling said.

Director of public works Laurie Wills agreed. Having criteria is a better method than a subjective evaluation, she said, and it's a fluid, working document.

Councillor Debra McCarthy reminded the audience that one reason for installing sidewalks is accessibility issues, epecially in light of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

“Nobody ever wants sidewalks, but they immediately open up the world to persons who have mobility issues,” McCarthy said.

“The decision we make affects communities 25, 50 years from now. The neighbourhood will be enhanced, ultimately, by having a sidewalk.”

“We are working toward accessibility standards for 2025. If it doesn't happen now, it certainly may happen in the future,” Deputy Mayor John Henderson said.

Still, when the vote was called to accept the presentation for information purposes (without further action), Henderson and Councillor Suzanne Seguin were the only ones voting in opposition,


Waterfront features get attention

Two Cobourg waterfront features received council's attention at Monday's committee-of-the-whole meeting.

The Monk's Cove retaining wall was the smaller one. Director of public works Laurie Wills pointed out that it had sustained quite a bit of damage from the high water levels of 2017.

Though a replacement will become necessary, the department has hired Shoreplan Engineering for an assessment and a temporary-repair plan that will allow the town to request construction bids. The repair plan is estimated at about $50,000, which council voted to reallocate from the Parks Reserve fund.

The work will be done this summer, Wills said.

There has also been concern for the condition of the East Pier, which was recently closed to vehicular traffic due to visible wear-and-tear and concerns over damage from recent high-water levels. Shoreplan was approved to conduct a condition assessment for $48,793.92. This money will come from the Public Works Capital Parks walkway paver-stone replacement budget, as well as the 2017 East Pier sink-hole repair budget and the Waterfront Master Plan surplus funds from the 2018 Parks Capital Budget.

Wills anticipates a 12-week process for this work.

“I think it is something the Town of Cobourg will be very interested in, because they are certainly missing the East Pier this summer,” Councillor Debra McCarthy said.


Cultural Master Plan consultant recommended

Cobourg council voted at Monday's committee-of-the-whole meeting to award a contract of $64,890 plus HST to MDB Insight to facilitate the development of a Cultural Master Plan.

The report council received from director of recreation and culture Dean Hustwick and manager of community services Christopher Elliott outlined the criteria on which MDB was chosen from six submissions.

The report also provided more information on the make-up of the project's steering committeee – four members-at-large from the public and eight designated members representing the Heritage Advisory Committee, theatre and performing arts, visual arts presentation and preservation, vocal music, art education, film and heritage, Tourism and Economic Development, and orchestral music-poetry-photography. Hustwick told council 34 applications have been received for these spots.

Hustwick added that MDB has a good reputation and has done cultural master plans in communities across Canada.

“This will be another extensive engagement process with the community, similar to the Waterfront process,” he said.

Councillor Suzanne Seguin agreed.

“There were some innovative ideas for involving the public, and this is something we will push strongly to have as much input and public engagement from arts in the community as possible as we go forward,” Seguin said.