Fort Erie council notebook: 2023 building numbers are in

Following a post COVID-19 spike, it appears building activity in Fort Erie is returning to pre-pandemic norms.

In a report to the council-in-committee meeting of May 13, staff outlined the fourth quarter and end-of-year building numbers.

The Town issued a total of 604 building permits in 2023, totaling an estimated $175.7 million in construction value, according to the report. The two previous years each saw more than 800 permits issued.

“Notably, 2021 and 2022 saw a significant peak in building permits issued in the Town of Fort Erie and across the province as a whole post the COVID-19 pandemic, however the current 2024 numbers suggest that building permit issuance numbers are levelling back down to their pre-pandemic trajectories,” the report read.

Residential building permits totaled 111, with 133 new residential units coming as a result. These numbers were also down from 2022, where 239 permits resulted in 302 new residential units.

The Town did see an increase in the industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors, where construction in 2023 was valued at $63.8 million, well above the 2022 number of $25 million. Industrial led the way, accounting for $57.5 million of that total; the new Siltech plant largely drove that number.

The report also noted the increase to planning applications received. The Town’s development planning department received 306 applications last year. Staff only began tracking planning application volume in 2022 after noting an ongoing increase in applications.

Finally, last year was also a record breaking year for the bylaw department, which received 2,087 new calls for service, with 774 calls carried over from 2022. According to the report, staff were able to resolve 98 per cent of calls.

Here are some other notes from the May 13 meeting:

MYAC HOSTING JUNE 6 EVENT

The Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee is kicking the summer off with a night of music and the arts.

Chair Mackenzie Arts gave councillors a quick update on the committee and let them know about an event they’re hosting on Thursday, June 6.

“The goal of this event is to highlight the talented youth of our town through music and art,” she said.

There will be live music and artwork for visitors to enjoy, along with information on youth support and local youth organizations through a fair style setup, and games and activities for kids.

It’s a drop-in style event that runs from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Leisureplex Banquet Hall.

Arts also encouraged local youth to follow their Instagram page to see what else the comittee’s up to. Their handle is @forteriemyac.

SHERKSTON ROAD HERITAGE DESIGNATION DEFERRED AGAIN

Hopefully it’ll be third time’s a charm for a decision to be made on a proposed heritage designation on Sherkston Road.

Councillors opted to once again defer a vote on a report recommending the heritage designation of 5187 Sherkston Road. They had previously postponed a decision on this property when three others were approved.

While staff have recommended designation, the property owners have expressed some opposition. Councillor Ann-Marie Noyes also suggested she wasn’t sure the property warranted a full designation.

Councillor Nick Dubanow suggested that in cases like these, it’s best to get all the information they can, so they can defend their position if and when it ultimately gets designated.

More input will be sought from the heritage committee and consultants that worked on the report.

LAKESHORE ROAD PARK GETS A NAME

A park on Lakeshore Road between Albert and Adelaide streets will now be called Snake Hill Parkette.

According to the Fort Erie Museum and Cultural Services, the area has sometimes been called Snake Hill, and has historical connections to Indigenous people, natural history, as well as military, Black, social and transportation history.

WHO IS DONALD PIDGEON?

If one goes on Google Maps and types in Fort Erie, then zooms into the area of Niagara Boulevard and Dufferin Street, the results might make mention of Donald Pidgeon Park.

So far as the mayor can tell, there was no Donald Pidgeon who played a significant role in the town’s history.

“I have no idea who Donald Pidgeon is but I’m sure he’s got no connection to Fort Erie,” Wayne Redekop said while discussing a report regarding a property in Emerick Avenue.

Redekop said he tried to find any info he could on the supposed Donald Pidgeon, even reaching out to the Niagara Parks, but found nothing.

He assumes it was simply something that got overlooked by Google, but has asked staff to look into it.

DEVELOPMENT CHARGE (DC) COLLECTIONS DOWN IN 2023

The Town experienced a drop in development charge collections in 2023.

The just over $1.7 million they received fell short of the $4.4 million they budgeted for, and short of the $3.9 million they received in 2022. The report said this was consistent with the year-end development activity report.

All told, the DC reserve fund contained an uncommitted balance of $17.5 million at the end of 2023.

Recent provincial legislation has changed some of the rules around development charges. Development charges are paid by developers, with the idea that the money paid will offset the increased costs associated with development.

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