When Mike Pearsall, president of the St. Davids Ratepayers Association, met virtually with Lord Mayor Betty Disero last week, there were a couple of “hot topics” to discuss, with the fate of a community swimming pool at the top of his list.
“The pool is exceptionally important to us. It’s at the top of the list for the people of St. Davids,” said Pearsall. “A lot of people count on it,” he told Disero.
He said he and other villagers made the decision not to put a pool in their backyard, choosing to use the community pool instead.
But there wasn’t one this year, and there is a question of what will happen in the future.
The Lions Park pool didn’t open for the season, due to cost, and the plan was to remove it this fall and have a new, $5 million pool ready for use next summer.
But the federal grant the Town was hoping to fund it was rejected, and staff have said they will try to open the existing pool next season, as long as there are no major mechanical issues with it.
Disero told Pearsall a fundraising committee will meet for the first time later this month — it’s on the Town calendar for Oct. 28.
She spoke of the public meetings held to gather input and the design they agreed upon, that may have to be pared back.
Interim CAO Sheldon Randall, who also took part in the meeting, said the Town will look for other grants, but may also have to look at reducing costs, including the possibility of making it smaller.
Residents “are ready to help out any way we can,” said Pearsall, telling Disero and Randall, “we don’t want to go to a smaller option.” They are hoping instead for an infrastructure grant to get shovels in the ground. Even without meetings of the fundraising committee, the community has already raised $40,000, he reminded them.
As long as there are no further restrictions from the Province, or any major failures with the current pool, it will be operational for 2021, Randall said.
When Disero asked why it can’t be fixed, rather than replaced, Randall said “we’ve been doing that for 25 years. There are a lot of issues you don’t see.”
Pipes underneath the pool are brittle and crumbling, and if the building is renovated, it has be brought up to current standards, including meeting accessibility requirements, he said.
“We want to make sure the pool stays as a feature in the community,” said Pearsall.
Following the meeting, he told The Local the pool is his main concern, and he was disappointed with the response he heard. “They haven’t come up with a good solution” he said.
The pool is the “one solid piece of infrastructure to benefit the residents of St. Davids,” and his biggest fear is that it will be demolished, with the expectation of a new pool, and if time goes by without funding, “that might never happen. I worry about that,” he said.
“The pool is very important to the community, and I’m not so sure the Town sees it that way.”
He’s still grateful to have had the chance to talk about it, and is hoping to see a fundraising committee meeting that could move the project forward, but it was the one issue that “didn’t give me any answers that satisfy me,” he said.
Representing 200 members of the St. Davids Ratepayers Association and the Friends of St. Davids, as well as residents who are not members but have the same issues, Pearsall had a list of questions for the lord mayor, hoping to make some progress with answers.
Another ongoing issue affects the quality of life for about 18 residents living in on Hickory Avenue, and Pearsall was hoping to hear a resolution.
The issue of dust control on the private Dyck Lane, behind Hickory Avenue homes, has been one that has remained unresolved for more than a decade. Residents have been looking for a resolution to the extreme dust kicked up by traffic from the private laneway, especially on the dry, hot days of summer, since 2006, and have been talking to council and staff this summer, desperate for a solution that has eluded them for years.
This is the third council, and hopefully, after last week’s discussion, the last they will have to plead for a solution.
After meeting with council in closed session earlier this month, Disero told Pearsall staff have looked at “different solutions,” including finding an alternate traffic pattern that would minimize the use of Dyck Lane, a gravel road that provides access to three homes.
“This one has been a thorn in everybody’s side since 2015, for me anyway, and I’m sure even before that for residents,” said Disero.
This summer, with frustration levels rising, “a calcium fairy” dropped some calcium for a neighbour to spread on the lane to reduce the dust problem, she said.
After the recent closed session of council, Disero said, staff were directed to “finalize and complete negotiations with all interested parties,” and achieve an amenable agreement on the use of Dyck Lane. If a solution cannot be achieved by Dec. 1, the Town will impose “an alternate traffic pattern” to resolve the matter.
Pearsall said it was good news to hear the Town is taking a stand, and that the solution has to be fair to both sides, those on Hickory Avenue suffering from the dust problems, and the homeowners who use Dyck Lane to get to and from their properties.
Hickory Avenue resident Bill Krahn, who spoke to council about the issue this summer and has been bombarding councillors, along with his neighbours, with emails asking for a resolution, says he believes the Town has come up with a “100 per cent simple solution,” at little cost.
If the three residents of Dyck Lane agree, the chain between their gravel road and Hickory Avenue will be removed, and will become the main access for them and for delivery trucks who now speed down the laneway, leaving clouds of dust behind them, he told The Local. Dyck Lane then becomes only for emergency access. “I hope that is what will happen.”
The pool and dust issues were two of many Disero and Pearsall discussed in their hour and a half meeting, which came about, the lord mayor explained, after a conversation at one of her monthly coffee meetings, when a St. Davids resident asked, “what about us?”
“We need to start focusing on St. Davids,” she said. “It’s an important part of the community.”
Glendale has a “stunning” new park, Virgil has the skate park, and the Old Town has an expansion of tennis courts, she added. “Now it’s time to take a look in St. Davids and see what we can do there.”
Pearsall had a wish list of what the village would like to see, compiled from a survey of residents, that included dealing with the light and odour pollution from Tweed Farms, further investigation of a heritage conservation district, on-demand transit extending to St. Davids, a long-awaited trail to connect the Cannery Park subdivision to Lions Park, and the future of the firehall location.
The other “controversial issue” he wanted to discuss was the pollution from Canopy Growth’s Tweed Farms’ “ridiculously large” cannabis production family.
Some nights, he said, the sky over St. Davids is lit up as if there are search lights pointing into it. The strong skunk odour also continues to be a problem, he added.
Disero said she experienced the smell herself when walking in St. Davids. “I know now the stench you have to live with.”
The best way to deal with it is to notify town staff when the light and odour occur, through the service requests and complaints section on the Town’s website home page.
The Town is also looking at a nuisance bylaw addressing odour and light, she said, “and hopefully we’ll be able to deal with it better.”
On the issue of the path connecting Lions Park with the Cannery Park subdivision, which was supposed to be completed two years ago, Randall said the “siting” of its location is finished, and the next step is thinning some brush and identifying what trees need to be removed, “if any.” Then it’s a matter of seeing what’s in the budget to fund it, he said.
On the “rumours” of the St. Davids firehall being relocated, Randall and Disero explained nothing has been decided, and it won’t happen without public consultation. There have been discussions of consolidating the Queenston and St. Davids firehalls, and if that happens, the Town will be looking for an appropriate site, including possibly Lions Park.
“There have already been discussions with the St. Davids Lions Club,” Randall said, but Disero made it clear that wouldn’t be her choice. “I love Lions Park,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to see that happen.”
The tennis courts in the park will be improved, she told Pearsall.
Disero also promised to look into the status of hiring a consultant to report on heritage attributes in the village and the possibility of a heritage conservation district; she agreed to talk to the Region about a community safety zone on Four Mile Creek Road, similar to the one by the school, which has been so successful the Region has instituted 16 more this year, including Crossroads Public School on Niagara Stone Road; and that once on-demand transit is operating, the Town will look at extending it to St. Davids. She also said she would look into the possibility of a recreational trail to connect St. Davids to the Niagara River Recreational Trail, and suggested secondary plan discussions for the village could begin in January.
Both Pearsall and Disero agreed their meeting was productive, and should happen on a regular basis.
“Hopefully someday soon we’ll be able to do it in person and see everybody face to face,” said Disero, closing with a request for everyone to follow provincial guidelines regarding the pandemic, and be safe. “Please look after yourselves and stay healthy,” she said.
Less than a week after the meeting, he told The Local, Disero had emailed him confirming some of the details on issues they had discussed, and he was grateful for the opportunity to get them on the table and hopefully move them forward.
The virtual meeting was Disero’s idea, he said, “and I was very impressed that she approached me about it. I was glad for the opportunity to get the dialogue going. At least we know our concerns are being heard.”