E&E March meeting; how are other cities dealing with home heating retrofits?

The meeting began with an invited speaker, Chris Higgins, who is Senior Green Building Planner for the City of Vancouver. He discussed Vancouver’s low-rise residential building projects, which makes up 60% of Vancouver’s zoning. The committee was interested in how Vancouver is eliminating fossil fuels from both new builds and existing buildings. There was a lot of interest in Vancouver’s “floor area bonus,” which allows a slightly bigger building footprint for developers who construct fossil free low-rise buildings. The bonuses are 15 – 18%, and they are a persuasive tool, with no cost to the City.

Vancouver also has cash incentive programmes. Mr Higgins gave the example of the Near Zero programme, which offers up to $25,000 per participant, the Heritage Energy Retrofit Grant, with awards between $4,500 – $14,000 on work done on pre-1940’s homes, and a provincial/BC Hydro rebate for moving from fossil fueled heating to an electric heat pump (with a contribution from the City, this rebate can be as much as $11,000).

Although this was not mentioned at the meeting, homeowners may also be eligible for up to $5,000 in additional rebates from the federal government’s Canada Greener Homes Grant. (Registration and a home evaluation required).

City officials are now pressing developers who wish to rezone to build to a higher standard. Their research shows that the increase in costs is modest. Mr. Higgins reported a positive reception from developpers, and he believes they are encouraged by the City setting an example in fire halls, day care centres, and other City buildings.

In May the City of Vancouver will consider a proposal requiring all homes over 3,000 square feet to switch from fossil fuels by January 1, 2024.

The committee showed a lot of interest in the presentation. There was concern over the possibility that incentives may be accompanied by an escalation in price. Members seemed impressed by Higgins’ description of the “Builder’s Breakfast,” a good way to open dialogue with developers and get them on board.

One problem for Stratford is that, unlike Vancouver, we have to deal with appeals to the Ontario Land Tribunal, which all to often rules in favour of the developer. This can derail efforts by Council to encourage developers to be more environmentally conscious. Ontario’s recent decision to rely on the much weaker federal building code may also make matters worse.

Councillor Burbach expressed interest in allowing a zone change as an incentive, rather than fiscal incentives.

 

We receive an embarrassing award


It was bound to happen. A Council who brought us the chaos of the RNG Plant, who worked behind closed doors to annex 175 acres of farmland in pretty dodgy circumstances, and who privately negotiated a polluting deal with a glass factory while publicly signing a declaration of climate emergency has finally received the national attention it deserves.

Our Coucil has been recognized by Ryerson University as the nation’s “most secretive” municipal body. How can they top this?

Stratford’s climate coordinator packs her bags

There has been much delay and indecision in hiring climate coordinators in Stratford. The last coordinator, Rebecca Garlick, was unsure of her position during much of her tenure, and finally left. The contract renewal of our present coordinator, Amara Kartick, was left hanging until a motion was put forward in early January. She has decided to join the private sector. Good luck, Amara.

E&E: Our official plan process begins

 

Thursday’s meeting of the Energy & Environment Committee began with a presentation on the upcoming review of the Official Plan, something Stratford is required to do every five years.

Here is the link to the minutes: 

Here is the video of the meeting:

Alyssa Bridge, Stratford’s Manager of Planning, told the Committee that staff is developing a work plan, to begin sometime this year. The work will take 18-24 months, and will be implemented through an official plan amendment at the end of that time. This is an important task. Some of the things they will be looking at are:

Long-term population and employment growth
Intensification
Natural Heritage
Cultural Heritage
Climate Change
Employment

The City will be consulting the public during that time, and they claim they will use innovative methods to be sure people will be included. Members of the Energy and Environment Committee had questions:

Q: Could the plan require sustainable ways of development and add requirements for developers?
A: It’s tricky to require some things in an Official Plan. We can create an overall framework encouraging consideration of climate and sustainability. This creates a framework for other policies, like a green development standard (GDS) to provide detail.

Q: When will consultation start?
A: We want to wait until we get data from the latest census before we start. Best guess is that consultation will begin in the fall. The formal process will begin with a special meeting of Council, which gives time for people to make presentations. I anticipate that happening in the spring.

Q: Will secondary plans that were created a long time ago, before the climate emergency, be subject to review (especially sprawl).
A: A number of secondary plans are outdated, but the current review is designed to bring our Official Plan into conformity with provincial policy. The secondary plans will come later, because we need to look at servicing capacity, road network, current land use, and this would be a much bigger project.

Q: Will there be indigenous consultation?
A: Yes, it will be part of the community consultation and engagement plan.

Q: Will the annexation of land that took place in 2020, which is no longer required, be reviewed, because annexing outside of settlement areas required a comprehensive review of the OP, and that didn’t take place. Will that land go back to the county? It’s not needed by the City of Stratford.
A: These lands don’t currently have a designation in our OP. They are designated agricultural in the Perth Official Plan. Part of the OP review will be to look at both residential and non-residential land forecasted for Stratford

Q: What requirements will be in the Green Standards Plan, as opposed to the Official Plan?
A: We would create the overall policy framework in the OP, with language to encourage geothermal, net zero, and then use the Green Standards document to specify details, and any incentive that would go along with that.

Q: Who will develop the Green Standards?
A: I don’t know. I will ask Taylor Krinklaw.

Q: Under the utility section of the OP there wasn’t any mention of renewable/sustainable energy. We are not allowed to require this, but could we at lest somehow incorporate that so it opens the door for policies for renewable energy sources, or even just for developing/investing in renewables?
A: I think it’s something we can consider, as part of the engagement plan

Q: The Provincial Policy Statement actually requires that the municipality provide opportunities for the development of energy supply. Including energy generation facilities; district energy, and renewable and alternative energy systems to accommodate current & projected needs Will he portion dealing with energy supply be a part of the discussion going forward on renewing our OP?
A: I don’t understand. Our review must comply with provincial policy.

Q: What I am saying is that the current Provincial Policy Statement has the word “should” in it. How do we change that to “will” in our OP?
A: Ultimately Council will have their say

Q: The intensification targets that were set in the last OP — does anybody know if those targets were met? We need to know the background to know if we’ve been successful with the current target. We need to know whether the target is appropriate, or whether we need to look at a different one.
A: Will look into it.

Q: Could we put a target for affordable housing or low and middle income families? Is there a way that the City of Stratford can put an affordable housing target in the OP?
A: There is a Homelessness Master Plan The PPS does require municipalities to meet that target

Q: There’s a problem with floodlines as they are defined; we are no longer dealing with 100 year events. The There are other standards we could use. Will potential new bloodlines be part of a new review?
A: We rely on UTRCA. That is part of the scope; there isn’t any intention to do a review of new flood plans.

Q: Will waste reduction be incorporated into the Official Plan?
A: We can encourage through language, but we can also put something in Green Development Standards.

Q: Will the OP consider maximizing the use of the bus system, active transportation?
A: We try to encourage the most dense development we can, so that our city is walkable. There is a link between active transportation and land use planning and reducing carbon emissions. There is a Transportation Masterplan, and transit is a component. I will connect this committee with the engineer leading that project.

Q: Are there quotas or standards for mixed development? (Retail/commercial/residential)
A: We use the term “Complete communities” — a mix of uses schools/jobs/shops, the “15-minute community” encouraging active transportation. We can look at building a more robust definition of complete communities.

Q: Will the OP update standards for the amount of green space in City and the coverage of the urban forest?
A: Will look at this to see if there’s things in the OP that we need to reflect.

Q: When it does come up, will E&E be contacted?
A: I anticipate that we will do targeted consultation with this committee. Also broader consultation. Perhaps in-person, maybe through an online platform. A mailing list, or subscriber list will help keep people informed.

Q: Can we include language that encourages the City to look at all projects through a climate lens?
A: At some time Council will need to update their strategic priorities.

January E&E

January E&E

Where is our promised climate change coordinator?

Thursday’s Energy & Environment meeting began with introductions and the election of officers; Jo-Dee Burbach will chair, and Emily Sheldon will be vice-chair. Two new members of the committee are Felicity Sutcliffe, a long-time Stratford resident involved in many local environmental organizations, and Patricia Osaka, a new arrival to Stratford, who is a lawyer, working remotely in corporate law and governance.

There was a discussion of the concentration of road salt (28:00), which will be continued in later meetings, and a call for new members of the carbon reduction group (39:00), They want to do webinars for community engagement, particularly around the Stratford action plan. If you’d like to participate, contact Emily Skelding, through the committee.

Sammie Orr reported on the Industrial, Commercial, Institutional Waste Reduction group (the ICI). The project to reduce waste by using returnable containers by the Friendlier Company is proceeding well, with eight participating restaurants. You can help by asking your favourite restaurant if they are participating. The next target will be produce bags; they would like to encourage compostable or paper bags in grocery stores, but still need to do more research. Also looking at a green star award for local businesses.

There was a flurry of questions around the proposed position of climate coordinator. The position has been discussed at many earlier meetings, with some complaints that the City has been slow to act on this issue. Councillors Burbach and Henderson seemed to be less than optimistic about the new position, citing budget problems. Councillor Henderson was not hopeful: “I don’t know if we’ll wind up getting one this year, or if it will be part time.” (48:20) This provoked quite a lively response from the committee as a whole.

Sammie Orr reminded everyone that the climate goal is for 2030, not that far away: “We can’t take another year saying that environmental action must didn’t make the cut.” Mike Sullivan added “Council has endorsed the climate action plan, which included the request for a position. How can they turn it down now?” Citizens are encouraged to write to council before the next budget meeting on January 17. Here is the link to send one email to all councillors.

Councillor Burbach mentioned a survey that will be put out by Council regarding the budget. She said it usually receives a poor response, and it would be good to have more citizens responding. If you have suggestions on how the City can better publicize surveys like this, let Council know.

Other issues:
**Mike Sullivan: floodline map and information is tabled, will be discussed at next meeting
**Sammie Orr: electric vehicle incentive by the City – needs further investigation. Charging stations: also to be reviewed.
**Stratford tree power programme will take place in early April

Geothermal heating for Rotary Complex?
Councillor Burbach has passed on a suggestion that geothermal heating could be put under the resurfaced parking lot at the Rotary Complex. She’s not sure how that would fit in with the budget and the schedule, but will check to see if anything has been done, and will report back.