Unfinished Council Business

There has been no official tracking of “Unfinished Business” this year but there are a number of items badly overdue:  2023-2025 Strategic Plan; Governance review; Regulation of short term rentals; Taxi and Uber regulation and fares;  update to Zoning by-law. The general excuse provided is that Council has been busy with other matters like the illegal encampments and it hasn’t helped that Brent was short-staffed.  Brent has now filled the vacancy for Deputy Clerk – the new person is Kristina Lepik – but one person will take a while to make a dent in the backlog.  Meanwhile, Council is in reaction mode with no Strategic plan for guidance and no structure since the Governance issue has not been resolved. Let’s look at the impact of these unfinished items.

Strategic Plan

This sets priorities – for example, is repairing the harbour more important than spending money on the homeless (which is a County responsibility)?  And is minimizing a tax increase a high priority?

Governance Review

Should the Town use a Standing Committee model as used by the County, the Province and the Federal Parliament or the previously understandable Coordinator structure?  Meanwhile, there are many fewer advisory committees and citizen input is disorganized.  There was a survey and open house in May and a special committee set up but nothing since.  Although citizens like the advisory committees, currently the following committees are suspended:

  • Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee
  • Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee
  • Planning and Development Advisory Committee
  • Sustainability and Climate Change Emergency Advisory Committee
  • Transportation Advisory Committee
  • Zero Emission Ad Hoc Committee

It’s not clear if the public wants these discontinued. There’s a list of all committees here.

Short Term Rentals

There is concern amongst home owners including Condo owners that many homes are being used exclusively for short term rentals via Airbnb and Vrbo. The 6 month minimum limitation on renting is ignored (they simply lie about the term) so regulation is needed.  One source tells me that there is one local owner with 30 units exclusively used for Short Term Rentals when they are not zoned for that.   So far, Council has received correspondence from one Condo corporation.  I understand there will be more. Short term rental units are also not subject to the same Fire and safety standards as hotels etc.

Taxis and Uber

There are not enough taxis in Town and none are accessible.  The cure is an update to the taxi By-Law.  Currently Uber and Lyft do not operate in Cobourg but maybe one day they will – Cobourg does not have any by-law for them.

Comprehensive Zoning By-Law update.

This has been promised for many months and no doubt requires a lot of work.  One issue is defining exactly where rehabilitation centres are allowed – e.g. would one be allowed in the old Medical building opposite the high school on King Street?

There are other issues but I have listed the hot items.

Summary

Although citizens do expect Council to act on the illegal encampment issue (Act that is, not just talk), and it’s understood that there are routine operational items that must be decided, we also expect Council to move forward on long outstanding items.  What is the problem? 

Resources

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Cobourg taxpayer
9 months ago

Back when I used to attend council meetings thinking I would see municipal politics at work for the Cobourg taxpayers, since we pay high taxes I foolishly assumed great things. I stopped attending because very little ever got accomplished, other then more hiring, hanging more flags, painting more crosswalks etc. The important items just dragged on. No matter how many new staff get hired and a couple new councillors every 4 years nothing changes.

Old Sailor
9 months ago

With two years of overseeing the Town’s management of COVID issues and the 2022/2023 encampment problems, no wonder Council did not get to everything on their outstanding list. Councilors are theoretically part timers. Though some have other gainful employment. Either we elect full time Councilors or Council should delegate much more to staff and clear off the Council agenda for critical matters only. As I recall consultants a couple of years ago recommended Council not deal with financial matters under $50k. Did that happen?

Sandpiper
Reply to  Old Sailor
9 months ago

May be all these People on Council with the respective Department Heads for 3 days
like Trudeau just did in the East Coast
and don’t let these Rocket Scientists out until every item has been addressed and resolved
Guess what it is WORK ! ! and they are paid for it and they Campaigned for the Job .
Just Do it and quit playing Politics

Sandpiper
Reply to  Sandpiper
9 months ago

That was to be —– May be put all these people and Council —-
above

Jones
9 months ago

Move the Heritage staffer into the building dept
So renovators don’t get passed back and forth

Jones
9 months ago

Fix the East pier, I understand the funds are already allocated,,,finish it

Terry Ashcroft
9 months ago

Many municipalities have implemented controls on short term rental accommodation. Cobourg appears to have been studying the issue for several years now without developing a plan to address this issue. The Deputy Mayor has indicated that we can expect some action this fall. I, for one, will believe it when I see it!

Tucker
Reply to  Terry Ashcroft
9 months ago

With what has transpired over the last two years regarding the real estate market, I urge all Condo Corporations to take a look at your present Rules/Bylaws regarding your rental Rules. So many people bought homes/condos when the interest rates were low and now can’t afford them, that instead of losing their property, may have no choice but to rent it, even as a “short term rental”. Even though any occupant must adhere to the Rules as an owner should, it’s very hard to evict a tenant, they seem to have more benefits than the actual owner. Human Rights comes into play and a Corporation could be sued by the tenant. Check your Rules /Bylaws.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Tucker
9 months ago

Unfortunately not all Condo Developers used the same Law Firm when devising Condo Corp Rules as you put it . Many are older and did not anticipate Short Term Rentals .
I do not think anyone will complain if you rent out your unit for 3 to 12 month periods
its jut these nightly deals that cause the problems and compete with the Hotel and
properly run B & Bs But One thing is for Certain they were all
Single Family units in Multi Residential Districts not Commercial Hotel Rooms
that are not inspected regularly by Fire , Health , and various safety a
Assoc. like all other Licenced Short Term Rental Operators .
Which are also attended by our Police to control unruly conduct We have nothing in place for this in our residential buildings These Professional Operators also are paying Commercial Taxes and Income taxes , HST Employee Source deductions as they are Licenced and Tracked Plus they are Forced to provide Adequate Parking at the Time of Construction We can not do this after the fact .
ALSO The Towns By Law and Police do not recognize or inforce Private Condo Corp Rules and ByLaws at this time
PLUS Licenced Operators are Forced to carry adequate Insurance Coverages
to protect all The Residential apartment Builds and Condo unit owners should not have to Schell out for additional costs just so these Short Term Renters can avoid spending and pocket
a few extra $$$$$
These Hotel Operators should all operate on the same Playing Field under the same Rules .

Tucker
Reply to  Sandpiper
9 months ago

Condo Rules can be changed anytime by the Board of the Day. A notice of the updated Rules is sent to all owners, they have 30 days to request an owners meeting to reject any of the changes. If no complaints, the new Rules stand. So, therefore, a “one day/night” rental can absolutely be done.

Sandpiper
9 months ago

Its funny that most if not all Vacation Towns in Ont. recognized this problem years ago and dealt with it ,
by installing an Interim Control By Law first which is dealt with internally by Council until they had the opportunity to educate them selves and bring about the required Control By Laws and Instal the
appropriate 24 x 7 control mechanism . and figure out who was responding to any all disturbances weekend s primarily and late night partying , etc .

This Council once again has simply left it up to each individual family, home owner , Condo Corporation and apartment building owner to deal with it at great legal expense , Disruption to their private lives and residents Yet we get No support from the Town , Police , or By Law Dept
The usual response is Not Our Dept. or Under Review for the last 4 yrs . Again unfinished Business .
Doesn’t this sound just like the residents having to deal with and Endure the Homeless issue that
Cobourg and County Councils can’t figure out Thus leaving all parties home owners and homeless to suffer and fend for them selves ,
Has our Town Management and Council become the Real Issue we all have to Battle ?????

Rob
9 months ago

For a Mayor who ran on establishing accountability, implementing Key Performance Indicators (kpi) and ensure the necessary work with get completed – I see no evidence of any of this. Lack of demonstrated action. Lack of leadership. Lack of accountability throughout the organization.

It’s starts and ends with the Mayor and CAO. This group has not functioned well thus far.

Carol
Reply to  Rob
9 months ago

Perhaps instead of worrying about making international connections our mayor CAO and municipal clerk could concentrate on running our own business. I understand they are planning more international trips. No one ever said it was an easy job and I am not sure everyone at town hall is even back working full time, they are still on covid time. Try phoning, no one answers and it takes days to get a response from anyone. I realize that our homeless and drug issues have taken up time but we have a huge staff at town hall for 21,000 people so I feel that is just a cop out to blame everything on that one issue. If you ran for the position do it, if you were hired and paid do your job. Be like the rest of us

Lucas Cleveland
Reply to  Rob
9 months ago

Rob please send an email to [email protected] to set up a meeting or a phone call with me. I am happy to provide the evidence you seek especially considering we have only been at this 11 months. Not sure what your expereince is with adjusting company culture, inspiring employees, and making structural and substative changed are in a 300+ person organzation, but as someone who has done this before on multiple occasions I am proud of the work and progress that has been made in such a short time in an organzation that is exceptional bound by legal and mandated processes. Perhaps it may be a situation where you arent aware of the changes or progress or that you dont have first hand expereince but that doesnt mean it hasn’t happened. Often structural changes in a large organzation can take awhile to notice and it takes years to introduce and transition into a new company culture.

That said no one is claiming that we can’t improve, and each and everyone on council knows we need to continue to do better, and demand more of ourselves and our team. That especially goes for me and my communications of what has happened, what is being done and what is up next to tackle on our agenda. I will continue to work on what I am hearing is a lack of leadership from me and please stay tuned for even more work and changes comming.

Thank you for your honesty and candour.

Kindly

Lucas Cleveland

Rob
Reply to  Lucas Cleveland
8 months ago

Thank you. I appreciate any response we receive from an elected official although I may have to disagree with you on a point or two. Firstly, my opinion is that we shouldn’t be required to email you to seek evidence of the important work that is being done. In your role you are accountable to the taxpayer, therefore it is you/CAO who should be demonstrating that objectives are being met/exceeded and progress made and measured; That information should be clear and apparent and offered for pubic consumption. You have a cornered audience. You have a newsletter. You have access to the press. You have public meetings. You have staff including the CAO. I would encourage you to trumpet your successes. For example, share the Town’s new KPI’s and management rhythm – these do not take years to implement in a medium-sized business like the Town. When you win, we win. Tell us about your wins. Councils transparency and communication will drive accountability throughout the organization.
 
Which brings me to a related point – I implore you to communicate significantly more, as you stated you would during campaigning. As you know, the lack of communication
during the first quarter of the term has left taxpayers guessing and fuels many
assumptions about progress and actions. Communicate good news regularly and
double down during challenging times and with difficult issues. I’m sure you
understand that if you don’t control the message, the message will control you.
 
To answer your (slightly) condescending question about my experience – I have held leadership roles in both Municipal and Provincial government and I have an intimate knowledge of the glacial pace at which change can take place in those businesses however it was you who ran on a platform of “a good plan implemented today is better than a perfect plan next week”. I suspect it is also you who is coming to realize the nature and pace of change in governmental organizations. The goal and role of the taxpaying community is to hold you to account, sometimes remind you of why you were elected and ensure you deliver on what was promised. Holding public office is a tough job and the learning curve is steep. Looking forward to the next 12 months of progress.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Rob
9 months ago

Well Rob, please take a look at the restoration of the Seven Feather Crosswalk on Albert Street and let it have a calming effect on your soul because this is what reconciliation looks like. And just in time after the tourists left, we can look forward to snowploughs scraping it up once again in deep respect for First Nations culture. Every tire crossing it is a benediction. Dirty tires, truck tires, car tires, suv tires, cop car tires, drug dealer pimpmobile tires, all without discrimination, crossing it 24/7/365, as a display of tribute to reconciliation. Nothing says reconciliation better than dirty tires running over the Seven Virtues of the First Nations people.

How would Cobourg citizens feel about the Canadian flag painted on King Street? Pride? Honoured that so many tires run over it every minute of the day. Trampled by shoppers. How ignoble!

Very interesting that this cultural gesture (costing thousands) was imposed on Cobourg at a time when leadership is needed to address the serious social problems of this Town.

The Seven Virtue Feathers concept embodies the cultural teachings of the First Nations. It deserves a much more respectful place in our society. Perhaps Seven Feather banners from our lamp posts downtown. Perhaps project Seven Feathers from the third floor of Victoria Hall onto the blank wall above CICB in King at 2nd Street. Cobourg chose to crosswalk it because a very few other municipalities did it, and Cobourg is not renown for being imaginative or creative, copied what other communities had done. That is lazy governance.

For the moment, Townspeople need to see actions that address homelessness, mental illness and hard drug uses. This will require actions from all levels of govt. SO GET ON IT!!!!!!

Home Owner
9 months ago

I understood that when Air bnb was first set up, the idea was that people with empty space in the properties where they lived would be able to rent them out on a short term basis. This, of course, meant that the owners would be there and able to control the use. Now, as we read in John’s article, it has spawned a thriving business model of multiple properties. We read elsewhere that some 30% of new properties are owned by ‘investors’ for which read speculators. This multiple ownership in smaller communities like Cobourg means that many smaller properties are snapped up for this usage, thus removing them from the housing stock. Air bnb should return to its original concept.