Niagara-on-the-Lake council is kicking off New Year with a series of coffee meetings as part of its community outreach efforts.
Monthly meetings will be held across all five communities in NOTL: St. Davids, Queenston, Virgil, Old Town and Glendale. The idea is to get out into the community and by talking to residents find out their concerns, said Lord Mayor Betty Disero.
“I go to a lot of events and talk to people but usually it’s a bit of a rush. I’ve brought people with me today that are taking notes on everything, so I can refresh at the end of it,” Disero told The Lake Report. “I just like talking to people, going out and meeting, and finding out what’s going on.”
“I think it’s a better way to be able to represent (residents).”
The meetings are not limited to lord mayor only as other councillors have been invited to attend as well, Disero said. The events don’t cost the town or taxpayers any money, she said.
The first meeting of the year drew about 25 people to Kirk Hall at St. Andrew’s Church on Tuesday. Joined by Couns. Allan Bisback and Erwin Wiens, Disero answered questions from the residents.
The hot topic among residents seemed to be increased licensing fees for short-term rentals.
“It’s a new homeless situation for these young families,” said NOTL resident Jane Andres. “We already see what’s happening here with young people, they have to go to St. Catharines, there’s just no availability of short-term rental. It’s much more deep-rooted than ‘this neighbourhood’s struggling with that.’ This is a whole cultural shift.”
She also said town council will be reviewing four bylaws – in relation to noise, short-term rentals, cannabis and long-term rentals – and the community will be able to engage in discussing these issues.
Another NOTL resident, Julia Buxton-Cox, asked how with the influx of tourism, NOTL can be an example of a green community.
She also suggested installing more water-filling stations across the municipality. Disero said the town will try to put out more recycling containers in the areas of bigger population and also asked residents to bring their own mugs to such coffee events.
One resident shared her concerns about people moving out of the Glendale area, while another resident asked about water testing at Ryerson Park.
Disero also encouraged residents to use the town’s online complaint form, so that the staff can collect data and look at trends of what’s happening around the municipality.
After the meeting, Chautauqua resident Ian Gillespie said having interactions with town councillors over coffee was a “great concept.”
“As a resident, we’re learning what’s bothering other people and what areas (need to be) checked out,” he said.
Upcoming coffee meetings:
Tuesday, Feb. 11, 6 – 7 p.m. in the Unite Room at Holiday Inn Express
Tuesday, March 10, 4 – 5 p.m. at Queenston Library
Tuesday, April 7, 6 -7 p.m. at St. Davids Lions Club, St. Davids
Tuesday, May 12, 6 -7 p.m. at Mary Snider Room
Tuesday, June 16, 10 – 11 a.m. at Rotary Room (Tumble Tots) NOTL Library
Tuesday, July 21, 4 – 5 p.m. Queenston Library
Tuesday, Aug. 11, 10 – 11 a.m. "Curbside Area" at the Outlet Mall
Tuesday, Sept. 22, 6 – 7 p.m. Cornerstone Church
Tuesday, Oct. 20, 10 – 11 a.m. in Barrel Cellar at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery
Tuesday, Nov. 24, 10 – 11 a.m. at Mori Room, Community Centre
Tuesday, Dec. 15, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. Location and time: TBD.