The Glendale Task Force has been disbanded, but will begin again with a new look at old issues once it is established by council.
Steven Hardaker has applied to be part of the group that will be chosen in the coming weeks to represent his neighbourhood. It will be made of several new faces — the two councillors who sat on the task force were not re-elected, and the former resident members are not reapplying. He has been working with outgoing members to establish a list of priorities for residents of Niagara-on-the-Green. Most of the problems that have come up have been ongoing for many years, although progress has been made on some issues, he said.
Following the October election, a Facebook page designed as a forum for the neighbourhood and open only to residents posted a survey, looking for the top five issues of concern. Printed flyers with the same survey were hand-delivered to 465 residents of the NOTG area.
Many of the responses listed concerns that were brought to council in August, along with some recommendations that were accepted to be forwarded to staff, with a report for the new council, Hardaker said. He hopes new councillors will move forward with those recommendations, although he noted not all Glendale residents agree.
The issue that caused the most discussion at council was regarding a bylaw to license long-term rentals, and that turned out to be one of the priorities that topped the survey.
While the majority of residents responding to an earlier Town survey indicated they support the licensing bylaw, it’s not as popular an idea in the Old Town, which doesn’t suffer from the same problems. The Town has indicated it could be a human rights violation to address such a bylaw only for Glendale, where issues arise from student rentals.
Hardaker says other municipalities have dealt with similar problems by referring to it as a bylaw to license rooming houses, which would eliminate any concern outside the Glendale area.
“We could roll it out across the town, but it wouldn’t have any impact anywhere else,” he said.
It’s not something that all agree on, even in Glendale, he said — landlords would be impacted and are opposed, he said.
Other issues that arise from student rentals are absentee landlords who make it hard to get in touch with property owners if there are problems, and infractions of fire and other safety codes, said Hardaker. Licensing would require inspections, ensuring safe premises for students. Many NOTG residents remember a fire a few years ago, with kids in basement bedrooms endangered. “It was a perfect example of why we need a licensing bylaw.”
Parking is also an issue, with a shortage of spaces at rentals leading to on-street parking. One of the recommendations of the previous task force was to have lines painted to control parking, and that came up in the survey as a priority. Also snow removal was mentioned, although it’s not the service but parking on the street that causes problems, said Hardaker.
Increased bylaw presence and enforcement was another of the recommendations the task force made to council in August that popped up on the recent survey, with residents concerned noise and property standards bylaws are not being enforced. With an increased police presence since school resumed in the fall, there haven’t been issues with loud, out-of-control parties, he said.
Speeding continues to be a concern, especially as more families with children move into the area, said Hardaker, but the Niagara Regional Police set up marked and unmarked cars to catch speeders over a recent two-week period and found only two infractions. The police said further action on their part isn’t warranted, but with kids playing in the neighbourhood, “two speeders are two too many. We’re hoping for speed bumps or other calming traffic measures.”
Although the work of the task force has centred on Niagara-on-the-Green, Hardaker hopes to include the Regional Glendale development plan currently in the works as part of its focus. The plan is intended to provide a vision for the future of what is considered one of Niagara’s key growth areas, and past public participation has helped to create the vision, which looks at parks, open spaces, transportation and community services, along with residential and commercial development on 400 acres east of Homer Road.
The plan is to be finished in May, 2019, and the Region intends it to drive growth and economic prosperity by creating a community that will attract investment and jobs. It could also include a new business district and a hotel.
Residents are hoping Niagara College will build more student housing on its property, “and we’d like to put pressure on council to look at that seriously,” he said, to alleviate some of the problems caused by rentals in the neighbourhood.
“There are also plans for higher-rise buildings, and we want to make sure they don’t hinder the view of the escarpment.”
More public participation is anticipated, and Hardaker wants the task force to be part of the discussions. Residents are “generally pleased” by what they have seen of the plan so far, he said, as a result of their input, and hope to see more amenities as the neighbourhood grows, with a population of 4,000 people expected by the mid 2030s.
NOTG is a wonderful neighbourhood, said Hardaker, and residents want it to stay that way. “We like to refer to it as the new young hip area of town. It would be great to have a grocery store, and there’s space for a school. We’re going to see tremendous growth in the area, and we hope it’s done properly.”