COUNCIL RESPONSES TO WINTERBERRY HOMECOMING FIASCO

There were varying reactions to the Winterberry fiasco of last weekend, which mostly came during the Other Business Portion. The reason for this is that Councillors are only supposed to ask questions when the presenter is up. Often these questions start quickly start to sound like speeches rather quickly, but those are the rules, and they are usually eventually enforced. This gives me a natural breaking point for their windier speeches, since coverage of the presentation took up enough space.

According to Councillor Handley, “We’ve done nothing.” He demanded more fines for every kind of infraction and commented that decisions are only made at election time. He pushed for Brock U. to implement a code of conduct, with expulsions. He demanded $1,000 fines for first offence and $5,000 for the landlord. Using his previous expulsion from Council as an example, he pointed to lack of police response, and promised to single-handedly look into alternative law enforcement for Thorold. Councillor Handley went on, advocating a “walk of shame” for students. Finally tongue in cheek, he suggested: “Maybe we should urinate on their lawns.”

Councillor Ugulini requested that Planning provide timelines for landlord licencing and room limits at time of construction and was told that the first was targeted for the second meeting in October, if possible. He also suggested that the rule against parking on lawns be moved from being a Clean Yards violation to a parking infraction and to close loopholes in parking by-laws.

Councillor Neale lit into the Niagara Regional Police who, “didn’t show up until 11:30 or 12:00 at night.” He pointed out that they should have been in the trouble area before that, and before the trouble started. “Brock has let us down,” he said in connection with the lack of a firm code of conduct. Finally, Councillor Neale expressed anger with staff because there still was no licencing by-law, even though the move was started before the upheaval in the Planning Department began. Staff was having a rough night Tuesday.

Councillor Longo requested on-street parking on one side only of the side streets off Winterberry, despite a request from residents for both sides, because Fire Services had said that both sides would be problematic. He also brought up something that has been a thorn in the side of Thorold Council for years: the Provincial “Head and Bed” Levy, which is a substitute for property taxes on government properties. Only the municipality in which the institution actually resides gets this levy and that municipality, in the case of Brock U., is St. Catharines, while Thorold shoulders an unproportional burden of policing the kids. Longo hastened to point out that this isn’t Brock’s fault: they’re told where the cheque is to be sent. He recommended everyone call their MPP, who is on our side but needs the documented demand. He finished by saying that he doesn’t believe that expulsion will ever be in the cards for these students because people will say that it will destroy those young people’s lives. God forbid that we make students accountable for ruining the lives, dreams and property values of their neighbours.

Mayor Luciani was the last to speak on this. He started out in exasperation with the problem, but ended up with a call to get the licencing by-law in place. The landlords won’t like it, he pointed out, but it has to be done.

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