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Peterborough City Hall. Photo by Abbigale Kernya

City Council Approves New Parking Regulations, Construction Project on Trent Symons Campus, Pledges to Fight the Housing Crisis

Written by
Louane Morin
and
and
November 1, 2023
City Council Approves New Parking Regulations, Construction Project on Trent Symons Campus, Pledges to Fight the Housing Crisis
Peterborough City Hall. Photo by Abbigale Kernya

The General Committee meeting of Peterborough’s city council on October 30th focused largely on four key issues: the city’s efforts to recruit new physicians to service its growing population, an update to the city’s parking bylaws, a pledge to solve Peterborough’s housing crisis, and the examination of a proposal to build a new electricity storage facility on Trent’s Symons campus.

Karen Lynch, a physician recruitment and advancement officer charged with the recruitment of new physicians and maintaining those currently working in the city provided an update on her work as well as the budget needs of her outreach project. 

Peterborough currently employs multiple resident students from Queen’s University, and part of the outreach program involves encouraging these students to remain in Peterborough after their residence has ended. 

Lynch maintained the importance of marketing Peterborough, responding to physicians seeking more “versatility” in their practice. She stated that Peterborough is currently in need of 25.5 new physicians to care for its patient population.

Peterborough’s outreach program has involved Lynch going to McMaster University and the University of Ottawa to learn about aspiring physicians, finding out “who they are” and “what their needs are”. 

This project has also involved the creation of an Airbnb-like service named Medshousing.com, which Lynch has used to make more properties available to physicians struggling with Peterborough’s tumultuous housing market with 12 listsings currently avaliable. 

Neighbouring communities are able to offer “up to $150,000”, Lynch stated and shared that Peterborough must bring in physicians through offering “[appetizers] of who we are”, in a sort of touristic approach to ‘selling’ Peterborough as a community to live in.

In response to this presentation, councillor Matt Crowley brought up the recent hiring of Lori Richey, a Physician recruitment for the County of Peterborough, with Mayor Jeff Leal questioning if there was any “confusion” or “competition” between Richeyand Lynch. Lynch clarified that they were working collaboratively and that their relationship was not at all competitive.

Councillor Alex Bierk asked if the city had hired any new physicians in the four months since Lynch’s hiring, to which Lynch replied that it had not. Bierk said of the presentation that “[It felt] very much like deja vu from [the] last presentation”, claiming he “felt like [he] was watching Mad Men”, and calling Lynch’s approach to recruitment “dated”. 

Bierk then cited a post on the Peterborough physician recruitment Instagram page that had garnered no more than three likes. He noted, with exceptional humility, that he himself could post “an image of nothing” and get “10 times that”.

Councillor Gary Baldwin questioned if the availability of employment for physicians’ spouses in the city was still of concern, to which Lynch acquiesced. Baldwin then asked about the possibility for greater outreach to Nurse Practitioners who could cover many responsibilities put onto physicians.Lynch responded that this was indeed a possibility, though Nurse Practitioners are afforded “less flexibility” in their scope of practice by the Ministry of Health.

Bierk commented that it seemed like this outreach program was trying to “market [their] way out of systemic problems''. He then evoked the possibility of more reliance on the possibility a Peterborough Community Health Clinic Lynch approved, noting that CHCs are quite popular as sites of practice for physicians, in part due to the larger scope of pratice that they allow.

The second presentation of the night was a report by Senior Consultant and Public Sector Practice Lead for Paradigm Transportation Solutions (and former City Transportation Manager) Kevin Jones, whom the city had commissioned to revise its parking bylaws, produce a report on his findings and make recommendations to the council. 

Jones stated that these bylaws had not been updated “since the 1950s”, to which Councillor Kevin Duguay later responded that there had been an “exhaustive consultation” and a “framework of rethinking” made in 1995, when he was a city planner.

Jones’ new framework around parking involved providing “enough parking for worst-case scenarios” rather than “worst case scenario parking”. He emphasized the importance of adapting the presence of parking space to moving urban density. Many sparsely frequented areas in town currently have too much parking, and denser areas not enough. This report was largely based on examining “best practices” of similar-sized cities in Ontario, as well as “rightsizing”, a neologism referring to the simultaneous expansion and reduction of parking space along the lines of shifting urban centers.

The Paradigm proposal sought to conform the city’s accessible parking regulation to current AODA requirements, as well as various measures seeking to disincentivize excessive vehicle use. This would happen through lowering residential parking requirements, a shift Jones states is “a new normal coming”. 

Jones also proposed a cash-in-lieu of minimum parking requirements program, which would allow housing developers to pay rates from 8, 000 to 27, 500 for permission to have sub-minimum parking in their developments. 

He also proposed a city-wide parking pass program which would involve citizens paying a fee “the price of a transit pass” for parking in the city’s streets. 

Councillor Bierk responded to this by pointing out the tangible issues with parking downtown that went unaddressed in Paradigm’s report, claiming “there was a big piece of the pie missing in terms of the consultation.” 

Bierk expressed disappointment at the lack of public involvement in the formation of Paradigm’s report, particularly with disabled citizens of Peterborough, who are most affected by issues like parking accessibility. Councillor Keith Riel subsequently moved the motion for deferral, so that public consultations could be executed before any bylaws came into effect.

Councillor Riel backed Bierk’s arguments, decrying that he, as Chair of Transportation of the city, had not been consulted throughout the creation of the report. 

In a passionate tirade to Councillor Lesley Parnell (who initiated Paradigm’s project), Riel asked “Who’s running the ship here? Because the people of the city of Peterborough pay my salary, and they pay yours!” he stated.

“I'm tired of someone not giving me a courtesy call. I'm prepared to hand my resignation (as Chair of Transportation) to the mayor. I don't know if he'll accept my resignation, but I'm tired of what's going on here. This undermining has to stop.” Riel said.

Let it be known that by this point, I was gripping Arthur editor Abbigale Kernya’s arm in shock. This was my first city council meeting, and moments like these are to serious political reporters such as myself what golf holes and foot balls are to whoever actually reads the Arthur sports section. This is to say – and I am pushing aside the veil of my serious and objective journalism to tell you this, dear reader – I was gooped and gagged.

Councillor Riel’s opposition to the idea that the Paradigm report presented had no public consultation prior to its enforcement. He stated that there was “a missing link here”, that this project had “no foundation” and asked where the citizen’s of Peterborough came into consideration., 

Mayor Leal offered an amendment to Bierk and Riel’s deferral, that this project  would force a pilot project in 2024 on three different areas of the city to see the function of these new regulations firsthand and to ensure public consultations would undergo after the enforcement of the regulations. 

Councillor Parnell also noted that “[she had] 14 years of consultation on this [project]”. Though Parnell claims that the Paradigm report addresses complaints she received throughout the entirety of her career, she did not at any point mention any public consultations that specifically referred to the measures put forward by Jones in this report.

With the two amendments made, Riel’s deferral was lost. He once again expressed frustration at Parnell’s perceived overstep, advising her to “stay in [her] lane”, prompting Mayor Leal to remind all councilors to remain respectful. Parnell and Jones’ original proposal was put to a vote, and carried, with Bierk and Riel voting against Leal’s amendment.

Onto the next item of the night, the council debated on a prospective pledge to solve the housing crisis currently undergoing in the city. This pledge, which is part of a deal with the Provincial government for funding and the implementation of Strong Mayor Powers, seeks to address the housing crisis in the city by 2031 through building an additional 4,700 homes – though the city is not currently on target for this. 

This proposal was rather uncontroversial, with the sole exception of councillor Joy Lachica putting forth an amendment to consult Indigenous peoples as well as NGOs on the specific needs of their communities, with only councillor Bierk’s support.

Interim Commissioner for Infrastructure and Planning Services, Michael Papadacos responded to this, explaining how much Federal and Provincial funding for housing development was based on pledges put forth by the city, and claimed that every municipal project in the city goes through Indigenous consultation, and that this pledge needed to be ratified fast to secure funding. 

The pledge carried without Lachica’s proposed amendment.

Finally, council heard a proposal for a new construction project on land from Trent’s Symons campus seeking to build a new electrical storage facility. Tariq Al-idrissi, Trent’s VP of Finance and Administration presented the project, described as a “sponge” absorbing surplus electricity to send it back out into the Peterborough community.

Councillor Parnell opposed this project on the basis of its being in competition with City of Peterborough Holdings Inc.’s (CoPHI) electricity storage project, with CoPHI being 100% owned by the city, and all of its earnings returning to city council projects. 

Parnell noted that she had no opposition to this project in-and-of-itself, only that council should not “undermine [their] own profitable utility”, that “[she wanted] to support it, but [she supported] CoPHI more”.

Councillor Bierk questioned the environmental impact of this project, being told by Al-idrissi that Trent officials were aware of the environmental concerns of their land and had chosen an area that “could not be developed in the next 25 years”, and that upon the project’s approval, a deeper investigative process would be undergone.

The project was carried on a 5-4 vote with Mayor Leal and councillor Andrew Beamer abstaining due to conflicts of interest and Councillors Haacke, Bierk, Duguay, and Parnell voting against.

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