Northeast Town Council Notes

New four-plex approved

In a public meeting held over Zoom January 12, council reviewed a zoning amendment request from Jordan Stephens and Larissa Alston. The couple was seeking a zoning change that would allow for a multi-residential unit in a residential zone on Vankoughnet Street East in Little Current.

Mr. Stephens addressed council, saying he was hoping to build a four-plex that would help to meet the ever-increasing demand for rental units in the community.

CAO Dave Williamson shared with council that this request would not be inconsistent with the “flavour of this neighbourhood.”

Councillor Bill Koehler commended Mr. Stephens for a job well done and encouraged him to “keep it up.” The councillor said council should be doing what they can to help him in his endeavours.

Councillor Jim Ferguson agreed, saying Mr. Stephens was doing a “fantastic job. Keep going, Jordan.”

Councillor Laurie Cook questioned six parking spots for four units. Mr. Stephens explained that current building practices state that 1.5 spaces should be made available for each unit. Mr. Williamson confirmed that this is a requirement under the zoning bylaw for multi-residential units.

The zoning amendment bylaw passed unanimously.

“Jordan, congratulations, good luck on your project,” said Mayor Al MacNevin.

Mr. Stephens thanked council for its ongoing support.

Taxi bylaw continued

Mr. Williamson said that following council’s December 22 meeting where the suggestion to remove taxi licences was discussed, the municipality “certainly heard from those existing licence holders” and admitted that the municipality was wrong in making an assumption without having talked to those licenced taxi companies first.

Mr. Williamson asked to withdraw the suggestion of getting rid of cab licences and suggested the municipality look for ways of creating value-added features for those two licenced companies, Mother’s Taxi and All-In-One Taxi.

Councillor Michael Erskine said while he was in initially favour of removing the licence requirements, and had also made assumptions, he gave kudos to Councillor Bill Koehler who had the foresight to realize that perhaps the companies wanted the licence to remain in place. Councillor Erskine pointed out, though, that the companies do want the bylaw enforced, “which provides quite the challenge.”

Councillor Ferguson agreed with Councillor Erskine and said he had talked with the licenced companies which had suggested the municipality charge even more for licences, which could in turn help cover the costs of enforcing the bylaw. He also suggested a requirement of a licence would be proof of commercial insurance as well as vulnerable sector and criminal record checks for drivers.

Councillor Al Boyd said he also agreed and had followed up on his own following the December meeting. Councillor Boyd suggested council form a sub-committee to deal specifically with concerns raised in the taxi industry. “It’s imperative we keep this (bylaw) and keep the licences,” he said.

Councillor Bruce Wood also shared his thoughts on licence requirements, suggesting vehicle inspections.

“The bottom line is you’re not going to stop unlicenced cabs, but you can give some signage that (the two current companies licenced with the municipality) are,” Mr. Williamson said, suggesting a cab identifier be given to those licenced companies’ taxis.

Councillor Ferguson suggested that illuminated roof top taxi signs fall under the bylaw. Only those cabs with licences may use them. “If you’re brandishing toppers and operating with no licence, we then take action. If these people are willing to pay more for protection, then we should be protecting them.”

Mr. Williamson suggested the municipality first approach the two licenced companies to see what they would find practical.

Tax bylaws

Council passed its annual borrowing bylaw, 2021-03, to operate a $2 million line of credit with TD Canada Trust until taxes are collected.

The CAO noted that the line of credit has only been tapped into once during his tenure, but serves as a backup.

Council also passed Bylaw 2021-04, “a bylaw to provide for an interim tax levy and to provide for the payment of taxes and to provide for penalty and interest of 1.25 percent per month.”

Mayor’s report

Mayor Al MacNevin provided his weekly update on matters largely pertaining to COVID-19 response. He explained that he has heard concerns regarding the Little Current COVID-19 assessment centre hours. When the concern was posed to Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) CEO Lynn Foster, the mayor said Ms. Foster explained that the Little Current testing site is currently open from Tuesday to Thursday, which has seen its hours change a couple of times since March. He said Ms. Foster explained that the hours are related to staff available to do the testing and that more paramedics will be brought in to perform the testing, similar to what was done during the start of testing.

“It was primarily an issue of balancing MHC staff,” he said.

The mayor said he was told by Ms. Foster that the site’s hours would continue to be reviewed as time goes on.

Mayor MacNevin said he has also had people raise the issue of Public Health Sudbury and Districts not informing the public where, specifically, cases of COVID-19 are. The mayor said he also asked this question of the health unit who responded that just because a case tested positive in a certain community does not necessarily mean they work or live there.

“The assumption should be that it’s all over the place,” he said.

In terms of the new provincial measures, Mr. Williamson said the municipality would be reaching out to all the arena user groups to see what their plans are moving forward as the season would be nearing its end once the emergency measures are over. If groups do not plan to continue, the municipality may pull its ice early rather than bear the expense. He added that “if the field hospital (located in the upstairs hall) is activated, we will remove it regardless.” (The ice was subsequently removed on January 15.)

Councillor Ferguson asked about the safety of the office staff during this time, questioning whether there would be work-from-home rotation as has been done in the past. Mr. Williamson replied that considering the bulk of year-end work currently underway at the municipal office, working from home is difficult.

Councillor Ferguson further asked about public works. Mr. Williamson noted that the Sheguiandah and Little Current crews continue to work in pods, not mixing. The CAO noted that the bigger impact may be the recreation centre crew, which could be dispersed to the information centre or marina.