By Tristan Marks
Despite some lively debate while considering a review some of the Town’s existing Community Improvement Programs (CIP), Lincoln council approved the motion 8-1 on Monday.
Some noted the motion may be redundant with an existing CIP review process but, in the end, all supported it, except for Mayor Sandra Easton.
Coun. Adam Russell, who brought the motion, said it came from what he saw as a need to update obsolete CIPs to better fit current trends and changes.
“Some of our CIPs are nearly a decade old and may no longer reflect our current market conditions or trends, nor the best interests of our tax payers,” Russell said.
He asked Council to consider three main points from his motion.
Firstly, when reviewing Lincoln’s CIP, Town staff ought to compare CIP results from neighbouring municipalities, “namely Grimsby, Hamilton, Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines.”
Secondly, the motion only requires Staff to review the three existing CIPs pertaining to residential and mixed-use development: Beamsville, Vineland, and the Mixed-Use and Residential CIPs.
Lastly, the motion only requests a review to the CIPs, not any overhauls. Council would request such changes after reviewing the staff report.
Easton was quick to point out that Council already directed staff to review the Town’s CIPs during the budget process in December 2020. She said this apparent “reiteration of Council’s direction” was a sticking point for her.
Easton then turned to CAO Mike Kirkopoulos for an update on the original request that was given five months ago.
Kirkopoulos noted that while Staff had not forgotten Council’s original request for a CIP review and that while they have already started gathering information, they would likely not return with anything “in the near future.”
“I think in that time [since December 2020] we’ve been sidetracked somewhat by COVID and a number of the other initiatives that are currently underway,” Kirkopoulos said.
He added that staff has discussed potential timetables for submitting the report and scheduling a workshop session for Council. The CAO said these timetables point “most likely” to the end of July.
With the CAO’s answer in hand, the Mayor asked Russell if he would like to withdraw his motion. Russell refused, and said he never recalled Council specifically giving Staff this direction to start a CIP review.
CAO Kirkopoulos later responded to Coun. Russell’s assertion by pointing out that the direction came from Council during budget time discussions about housing and housing affordability.
Many Councillors also expressed that they saw the motion as redundant.
“The wheels are in motion,” said Coun. JD Pachereva.
“I feel this is a little repetitive.”
Councillors Tony Brunet, Dianne Rintjema, Greg Reimer and Lynne Timmers echoed Pachereva in wondering aloud what the purpose of Russell’s motion was given that a review process was already underway.
“I’m not really understanding the need for this motion,” Timmers said, before calling the question.
To end discussion and force a vote then and there, Timmers would need two-thirds of council to vote with her. However, the move only received five out of the necessary six votes.
However, Coun. Paul MacPherson was supportive of the motion in principle, as he saw a similarity between it and a motion he introduced earlier in the year regarding an urban master plan for Vineland.
“It’s just providing a clear direction of what we as Council want to see on that staff report.”
Coun. Mike Mikolic later concurred.
“This provides a clear direction and accelerates the timeline [of the report],” Mikolic said.
Pachereva also pointed out an issue he had with the fifth clause of Russell’s motion, which read:
“THAT no new applications be accepted or processed for approval as of May 31, 2021 pending a fulsome review of the three aforementioned CIP’s, as it pertains to residential development.”
He said this clause would be problematic for attracting developers and businesses to those areas under review.
Coun. MacPherson introduced a motion to strike the fifth clause, which passed unanimously.
Similarly, Coun. Brunet noted that he was hesitant to vote in favour of the motion since it directed staff to only review “Hamilton, Grimsby, St Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake, and other appropriate Niagara programs.”
“We need to be looking at best practices, we need to be looking at other municipalities that have had successes and failures with the programs,” Brunet said.
“There’s no problem with looking at municipalities in Niagara, but I am a little hesitant to box our CAO into a corner.”
He suggested staff also review Branford, Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo. CAO Kirkopoulos also added Halton region to this list of municipalities with “gold standard” CIPs.
Near the end of the discussion, Coun. Rintjema declared that she had changed her mind regarding the motion saying “it will move things forward.”
She then introduced an amendment directing staff to “include research from other municipalities for best practices” in the report. The amendment was adopted in a unanimous vote.
In the end, all councillors voted in favour of the motion, with Easton opposing.
Easton reiterated her opinion from the beginning of the discussion, that she would not support the motion since a CIP review was already in the works.