The 2022 Municipal Election: Answers from the Mayoral Candidates

ACO Port Hope asked 7 questions to Port Hope’s 22 Municipal Electoral Candidates.The questions were sent to all candidates and the responses are posted with permission. Below are the answers from all the mayoral candidates, listed in alphabetical order.

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Q1: What is your vision for the Centre Pier area?

Laurie Carr: In February 2020, a committee, the Waterfront and RiverWalk Working Group, was struck to research, gather public consultation, and prepare a proposal for our treasured waterfront and riverwalk areas. Their proposal ultimately should be the plan used. I hope the area remains rustic, offering a nod to our industrial heritage and support for our agricultural community. A permanent year-round farmers market along the lines of St Lawrence Market or Jean Talon Market could provide that link between industrial heritage and agriculture.

Angela Grogan: The Municipality has created a body called “Waterfront and Riverwalk Working Group” in February 2020. This is an advisory body mandated to Council to develop a master plan recommendation for the Lake Ontario Waterfront and the Ganaraska River Walk. That includes the Centre Pier. My personal preference would be a public park type of space which could be a location for a historical presentation of the history of the river and its people. I recognize, however that my final decision will have to be after a review of any recommendations of the working group, the “baked in” issues related to PHAI, costs and the assessment of the Conservation Authority. The broader community input should be embedded in the working group Master Plan.

Olena Hankivsky: My vision would be one that includes elements and activities inclusive of all age groups in Port Hope but ultimately, my plan would be that we as a community write, through a variety of engagement processes, the script for the future of the Centre Pier. As part of such engagement, I would like to explore how historic elements of the Pier could be celebrated and integrated into the area. I would also suggest a more current review of promising practices internationally and nationally on Waterfront and Riverwalk developments (which could be undertaken by engaging the education sector at no cost) and could inform community engagement processes. Once the priority elements are identified for Centre Pier, I would propose a student design competition, open to university and college students, that would provide the community with a number of design options for Centre Pier and for the Waterfront and Riverwalk in their entirety.

Jeff Lees: My vision for the centre all depends what the centre pier will exactly look like when the full clean up is done. Walking trails and meeting areas would be great.

Q2: In any planned riverwalk enhancements, how might we reference the stories behind the central role that the Ganaraska River has played in the history of Port Hope?

Laurie Carr: Referencing the stories of the Ganaraska River should be done in consultation with our indigenous partners, Chief Dave Mowat of Alderville First Nations and Chief Laurie Carr of Hiawatha First Nations. Cochingomink, meaning ‘the commencement of the carrying place’, was a settlement by the Mississauga First Nations. Ganaraski, Cayuga, Monkey Mountain, Mastwoods, dams, mills, floods and even Port Hope whiskey… there are many stories to be told. I suspect the most efficient way to disseminate the information would be using an app, using current methods to release historical details.

Angela Grogan: I would like to see the riverwalk kept as natural as possible and as mentioned earlier locate an homage of the River on the Pier property.

Olena Hankivsky: From my perspective, this would require working in collaboration with Indigenous leadership to develop fulsome content based on the oral history and stories of the Ganaraska River. I would propose more signage to document stories, engaging local artists. I would also propose the development of an application (app). The app could be downloaded from iTunes App Store or Google play and would allow a mobile device to be a personal tour guide with a built in GPS navigation functions that guide a person from one stop to another along the River. Audio tours could also be explored. I would like to see school tours and public tours organized to raise awareness of the central role of Ganaraska River and schools in Port Hope engaging their students in projects that feature stories of the River.

Jeff Lees: The river has always had an impact on the municipality, I would like to see a walking bridge installed behind the old file factory, this would connect the top and bottom of the trails system up to the fish ladder.

Q3: How would you ensure that the new Waterfront/Riverwalk landscape will be historically appropriate and carefully integrated with Port Hope’s commercial core?

Laurie Carr: I would encourage all new plans should be executed in cohesion with the Barton Meyers Study of 1978. The Barton Meyers Study proposed ways to connect the waterfront with the downtown. Let’s continue to build on past work. There needs to be increased attention to today’s environmental and climate change mitigation issues, however, the bones of the Barton Meyers Study remain solid.

Angela Grogan: This is an issue that certainly should be included in the pending Master Plan. The consultation element of the working group placed strong emphases on community and stakeholder input, including the ACO! Offhand I would see for example lighting features and structures that would be typical and integrated with the existing historical style already adopted by the Municipality.

Olena Hankivsky: As a starting point, it would be beneficial to ensure that the required HIA be conducted by a multidisciplinary group that allows a process that encourages discussions between assessors of different disciplinary backgrounds and a peer review mechanism to determine the rigour of the Assessment. I would also like to see that the HIA be done in conjunction with an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). It would also be very beneficial to have Council and Staff undertake mandatory MOOCs (massive open online training) training on HIA and EIA. Raising awareness and competencies would increase the success of any plan to be historically appropriate and carefully integrated with Port Hope’s commercial core.

Jeff Lees: We need to make sure any improvements along the river copy the looks and design must copy building and structure character of many buildings and the feel our our community.

Q4: In the face of further new development, how might the historic and cultural ambience of Lakeshore Road best be sustained?

Laurie Carr: We need a soft-landing delineating the old from new developments. I support using natural elements to accomplish this. Tree plantings are an excellent way to soften the impact, and an example could be a reimagining of Kings Field. It is not ideal as a sports field but planted with natural oak and pine trees, intermingled with an ecology garden could create that needed Cochingomink.

Angela Grogan: The issue of housing/shelter is a big one for the Municipality and one that has not be substantially considered. Tools at the disposal of the Municipality include existing by-laws related to structures and features etc. The Municipality should have, as part of its approval process a community compatibility standard at the time of any request for lot severance or building permits. Those controls could be enforced in specific designated areas. Caution must be taken as any restrictions or denial of permits is an appealable decision. Care must be taken as any appeal goes to a Provincial Body who will have the ultimate say in a development proposal and the Municipality would lose control. The placement of any alternative housing such as tiny homes must, like any other new development be consistent with zoning and building guidelines.

Olena Hankivsky: Three important ideas come to mind – developing clear principles and guidelines for any future development that properly integrate heritage priorities, revisiting and strengthening current design book/guidelines of Port Hope, and protecting the tree canopy. I believe there is an important role for the ACO, and citizens in the affected neighbourhood in particular, to play in helping to advise on such matters. There will need to be a strong Council to advocate for the protection of the historic and cultural ambiance and I would like to see more opportunities for collaboration between the ACO, Staff and Council.

Jeff Lees: We must protect the farms and farmland further out Lakeshore Rd. These things will add places and things for the residence places and activities close to their neighbourhoods.

Q5: How might we ensure that these structures [Additional Residential Units] will be in keeping with Port Hope’s historic and distinctive neighbourhoods?

Laurie Carr: I would like to see ACO’s recommendations added to the planning application. Thought starters, if you will, to encourage sensitive development. A step-by-step process, that if your project meets these specifications, your planning application could be fast-tracked.

Angela Grogan: Issues about protecting significant historical buildings, have been dealt with in the past. We all know the greater problem is not with properties that have been designated. The concern is with properties not designated but potentially are of significance. In response to that, a property inventory list that has been created of properties of interest. This list or inventory is linked into the building permit process and the application is sent to the ACO for assessment and comments. Also if a property is not on the list and the building department flags that it has some significance they can still consult with ACO.

Olena Hankivsky: The Municipality can control what kind of structures area allowed by putting into place zoning by-laws that clearly outline requirements around licensing, parking, exits and entrances, servicing, and minimum/maximum unit size. As part of a licensing of secondary suites, Port Hope should require a short form HIA and EIA of proposed sites in historic and distinctive neighbourhoods to ensure that any secondary suite respects and reinforces the existing character of the neighbourhood. It would also be important to provide clear information on a dedicated Municipality website and specifically to develop a downloadable Secondary Suite package for Port Hope with such zoning by-law requirements.

Jeff Lees: I think we need to make sure the additions or new structure are in keeping with the looks and design of the current environment in that particular part of the community.

Q6: What strategies would you suggest to further encourage the conservation, restoration, and adaptive re-use of existing historic structures in Port Hope?

Laurie Carr: EDUCATION! The common misconception is that a property owner is handcuffed if their property is designated. In reality, it can open many doors, including some grants and subsidies. With ACO’s expertise, I want the municipality to create a document outlining the extraordinary possibilities of conservation, restoration and, most significantly, adaptive reuse included in a package for prospective property purchasers. This step will encourage new owners to think beyond traditional solutions. It may also prevent situations like Southbridge, who conceivably would not have purchased the property at 65 Ward Street had they understood the conditions surrounding that purchase.

Angela Grogan: There is an established process by which a property becomes designated. The fact that there are so many properties not so designated suggest there is something in the designation process that causes property owners not to seek designation. Perhaps that should be examined by the ACO. Generally, the Municipality could be more active in promoting heritage conservation. This could be rolled into any future “branding “of the town. The Municipality could also offer more aggressive public recognition of declaration and more funding to property owners. 

Olena Hankivsky: The adaptation of heritage properties for contemporary uses is one of the major issues in sustainable development of the built environment. Conservation, restoration and adaptive re-use require resources. One valuable resource in this regard is the National Trust’s Find Funding which contains information about and links to foundations, corporations, and government departments that support heritage conservation and events, and programming for historic places. Ontario grant watch is another terrific resource. In addition, the National Trust has run an innovative crowdfunding competition that brings community members together to raise funds and awareness to save and renew beloved historic places, while generating community pride. We could explore a similar crowdfunding project for Port Hope.

Jeff Lees: The municipality needs to offer more incentives to residents to reuse and make buildings more historically correct with the other building in the area.

Q7: What is your position on the Penryn/Victoria Street woodlot?

Laurie Carr: I have been fighting to keep that woodlot for the last four years. Sadly, we could not come to an agreement with the developer to be a good corporate citizen and gift the woodlot to the people of Port Hope. The situation is now in the hands of the Ontario Land Tribunal. I understand the hearing will be in August 2023. Public consultation with the ‘Save the Trees’ community group and the community at large will be paramount. The legal fees could quickly balloon to a quarter million or more. The taxpayer will bear these fees, so the taxpayer must have a voice in this. One way to soften the blow, if we fight and lose at OLT, could be to reimagine Kings Field, as discussed in answer #4.

Angela Grogan: The Penryn Forest debate has been going on for years and it is not my intent delve back into the weeds of the debate. In principle our tree canopy is an element that makes Port Hope, Port Hope. From the earliest days trees played a central role in the life of our community. The Municipality does have a tree committee. As part of their mandate, could be to identify and tag for Council canopy areas worthy of protection. We must bear in mind that any development issue can no longer be tied up endlessly and a reference to the Minister could/may result in a total loss to any effort to protect our green canopy. So if it is negations, be smart about. While the struggle of the Penryn Forest group is admirable, the time to stop the tree cutting was years ago. My understanding there was an agreement with the Municipality and the developer to save a portion of the woodlot, but for some reason that deal, when at the Council level, was not ratified. Given the status of the process, I think it was a tactical mistake. The time to save the woodlot was years ago and that opportunity was lost. This is an example of our need to get ahead of the game, rather than playing catch up.

Olena Hankivsky: To preserve it. One of the first steps I would take as Mayor is to initiate the process of securing legal personhood for our tree canopy in Port Hope and also the Ganaraska River, giving them increased legal standing and protection. We need a policy paradigm shift in the way we think about the degradation of nature and this strategy has been used successfully in Quebec, in US municipalities and in Australia and New Zealand. Such legal personhood would be especially beneficial in any future OLT adjudication.

Jeff Lees: I think the municipality needs to fight to keep the woodlot as much of a natural space as possible. Trails and a natural area would be great.