The Ward 2 Town Hall. Mar. 20th was a volatile and vociferous meeting managed superbly by the ward’s two rookie councilors, Linda Cook and Mara Nagy. They recognized soon after the meeting started that they were holding a tiger by the tail but they must be commended for keeping the discussion open and ongoing, giving the approximately three dozen attendees full opportunity for expressing their grievances and complaints.
The primary speaker for the meeting was Kyle Bentley, Director of the City of Pickering Planning Dept. Bentley barely got through his opening remarks when the room’s fans got splattered. A particularly assertive attendee expressed strong complaints about the planning department service at the city hall front desk. The complaint expanded into the lack of enough human help at city hall.
The door flew open to other complaints and grievances each handled with aplomb and respect by the two councilors.
The complaints covered many areas: parking availability and payment procedures in the Nautical Village at the waterfront, and the limited number of dog refuse containers along Liverpool Rd.
More grievances : the Bell Service boxes being located at the end of driveways in such ways that driveway egress becomes a serious challenge for the household; irregular enforcement of city bylaws, most notable in regard to new home construction that is outlandish in style compared to the other neighbourhood homes; homes that were very high, or extremely large. Bentley’s response was that the city bylaws were regularly and equitably enforced but that wrinkles occur in them. This just opened a new area of protests, the need for affordable homes smaller in size, thus more likely affordably priced.
The affordable housing opened more areas of grievance besides oversized homes and mismatched styles: ADUs. Additional Dwelling Units is recurring topic at every town hall. Homeowners have no problem with ‘granny flats” as these are family related tenants. However when rentals become open to more tenants, the impact becomes a much greater concern. The impact broadens to parking issues, traffic congestion, and greater use of city services by non-taxpayers.
Another area of concern was the underuse of the Nautical Village as a festivities, events and cultural centre. The attending residents lamented that the waterfront had far greater potential as a city festivities and events center than is being currently done. References to Ajax’s waterfront were repeatedly mentioned. Toronto’s Distillery District comes to mind, an area that not too many years ago was little more than abandoned warehouses of the Gooderham Distillery but which has become a shining jewel as an events center for the city. Attendees lamented that the Nautical Village is missing the boat here.
Cook and Nagy did a very commendable job managing the many complaints, always with positive, meaningful, and constructive responses. If it wasn’t the “city is doing this or that about the issue” then it was a “we’ll look into it and get back to you” reply. These new councilors deserve appreciation for their work and diligence in staying up to date on the issues of their ward.
This town hall was one which could have been extremely disconcerting due to the passion and level of intensity of some of the attendees. However, the councilors were excellent in keeping the discussion ongoing and open. They conducted the meeting with praiseworthy respect and liberalism, giving every questioner full opportunity of expressing concerns.
Town halls can become heated and very volatile but they are important opportunities for hearing the city residents’ anxieties and worries about the city they live in. Cook and Nagy gave the attendees the opportunity to vent their concerns openly, publicly and without criticism or restriction.
The town hall, Ward 2, a resounding success!
The next town hall:
St. Martin’s Anglican Church
1203 St. Martin’s Dr.
Apr. 25, 7 pm