Each of the three candidates for mayor was given the opportunity to answer these eight questions. Here are their submissions:
- Downtown strengths: The key strengths of downtown Welland are some unique and historic architecture, the market square, the recreational waterway, unique niche businesses, a developing “entertainment” section and easy access.
- Downtown weaknesses: One way traffic, unkept empty buildings, litter, high commercial taxes, low residential occupancy and lack of a commercial/retail anchor.
- One-way traffic: Since I was chair of the downtown BIA back in the early 1980’s I have supported two way traffic in the core. It would slow traffic down which would encourage patronage of businesses in the area. Currently it is like a highway with a few stop lights. Two way traffic would also enable angle parking in both directions which would increase the amount of on street parking. In order to achieve this political will is crucial. The Region needs to understand that where there is a will there is a way. Thus far they take the easy route and put up roadblocks to the concept.
- Bike lanes: Bike lanes are a good thing but they need to be incorporated into the design instead of just painted onto a road. In the core where there is heavy traffic, on street parking and pedestrian traffic there is a need for a separated, designated bike lane. There should be a physical barrier separating the lane where possible. It is late in the game but the possibility of having the lanes isolated on the sidewalk area should be looked at in the future.
- Undeveloped lands & brownfields: Our new CIP provides funds, zoning benefits and other incentives that encourage development of these types of properties. The Atlas site is the most problematic as the other two are essentially in fill developments that require a developer with vision and money. Atlas is a bigger problem. It would be ideal for residential development with retail on the ground floor, for student housing or for a satellite college or university campus. Remediation is needed and, with our CIP and Brownfield programs it could be attractive to the right developer. Council need to promote these properties and the programs attached to them. We also need to ensure that the developers are well funded and serious. Far too often developers are more interested in flipping the land than developing it.
- Empty buildings: These properties need to catalogued, landlords contacted and property standards by laws enforced. Owners should be offered the option to have their storefronts used for display purposes. Local real estate companies should be engaged and fully informed of all programs available so they can package the properties with the incentive programs which would substantially increase the attractiveness to a potential buyer.
- Downtown parking: Yes there is benefit to time limited free parking downtown. Enforcement is still needed. As chair of the BIA on the 80’s I actually convinced the city to allow free parking downtown. However, the city would not enforce a time limit and the free parking was abused by people who worked downtown. The parking was to be for customers only. As mentioned earlier, I also think angle parking would benefit the core.
- Other issues: I would like to see a waterfront component in the downtown, possible behind city hall. A wharf like development, by the private sector on a long term lease arrangement, could provide waterfront shops, cafes etc. This would link to the traditional core area as well.
- Downtown Strengths & Weaknesses
- See the CIP for Qs 1 and 2
- One-way traffic: I don’t think one-way traffic on East Main and Division is the problem. The cross streets (King, Cross, Hellems) are 2-way and allow traffic to circulate well throughout the Historic Downtown. Twenty years of talking about making these arterial roads 2-way is a key reason the Region has delayed resurfacing Division Street. I know that because I twisted arms at Regional Public Works this year and couldn’t get them to put it in this budget. Welland needs to make a final decision and then (hopefully in 2015) get the Region to resurface Division – and then East Main from the tracks to Hellems. And then we need to get West Main resurfaced.
- Bike lanes: Division Street as a one-way east to Burgar (current configuration) is wide enough for bike lanes and on-street parking. That should be part of the resurfacing plan – and the Region has a policy to pay for bike lanes.
- Undeveloped lands & brownfields: The Welland High property is too pricey for the City to get involved. It has tremendous potential and several proposals have been brought to Council for residential development in the past. It will eventually happen. I would encourage Council to consider acquiring the triangular parcel at East Main and Hellems. It has super potential to be a parkette/public art space. The Atlas South Plant brownfield site on East Main interests me. The kids tell me it would be a great site for a new skate park. Alternatively, the City could partner with the owner to market this as serviced industrial land. It can’t be allowed to continue to be the eyesore that it is.
- Empty buildings: Welland has a huge surplus of commercial space. The Downtown CIPs provide serious financial incentives to convert commercial space to residential. Marketing that needs to be a high priority for the next Council and our City Hall staff. We’re already seeing market-driven reno projects like the Welland Galleria, 47 East Main, and Dr. Hegedus’ Office on West Main – renovated residential out of former commercial space. The CIP incentives will help keep that momentum going. The goal of more people living downtown – including in particular, more college students -needs to be pursued. The Welland Club Condominiums is a very cool project and has the potential to be a success.
- Downtown parking: We are fortunate to be able to offer free parking at the Market Square. I support free, time-limited (1-hour and 2-hour)on-street in the Downtown. I have a motion coming to Council for a pilot project to do that until the end of the year.
- Other issues: I continue to work with NRPS to encourage them to use bike officers in Downtown Welland. I’d support the LED lighting project for the Main Street Bridge – if the Region will pay 50%, the BIA will buy in, and if we can get the electrical infrastructure in place at a reasonable cost. We should light it! It’s a heritage structure and a Welland icon. What scope and scale and at what cost is the question.
- Downtown strengths: You can’t talk about Welland’s downtown as having any kind of strength, unless you like a lot of Italian marble, or admire a $12,000 cappuccino machine. Even the laser-etched plaquettes that celebrate those financial charettes, have become just plaque deposits, breaking pieces sticking to eroding stone sub-straights. Wait! Wait! I hear the groan of old stones, very old stones, deep, deep groans. Yes, yes, come to me, underground waters, like the merman you want me to be, you stones of the old downtown swimming pool. You had a lock on adult swimming, with the fifteen foot deep end and six foot shallow end, diving off the boards and one side wall, and all those stairs for people to lay on their towels, with the bigger childrens pool with a three foot deep end, and the big fountain pad, with the picnic parkland, that’s a for sure. Oh! Oh! I like it when I type about the buried downtown swimming pool. The buried Chippawa Park swimming pool joins this river of dis-content and sends a few nice waves from one of my old neighbourhoods.
- Downtown weaknesses:
- One-way traffic: You have to know that Welland’s downtown was an artificial design to create a mid-peninsula address for the federal and provincial court houses and other government services, beside the new canal. They evolved as the city grew. When the Seaway Mall was built, it was decided downtown Welland needed one-way traffic to get more shoppers to stop. Main Street, with the green lights configured as a maximum speed rush through the downtown, immediately became a race track. The new city hall was also supposed to bring in business to the downtown core. One of the oldest and biggest banks in Welland, right beside it, closed last year. Nuff said.
- Bike lanes: Welland was the last city in the peninsula to complete, almost, our section of the recreational path. If you saw the pipes and other obstacles you can’t see in dark shade in the dark, you’d think it was booby-trapped. It is booby-grabbed, and even the police can’t grab that grabber. When about twelve inches of tar that was laid over drainage pipes sticking out over the canal, sagged a little, city hall ordered a repair. It became a $750,000 landscaping leading up to real estate owned by I’m not sure. When I see the bike lanes, and how the parking parkouts make riders move over into traffice, it confirms my theory as to why city hall can be so hot about bike lanes downtown, when the son who does the city’s bike site hasn’t posted for over ten months. The city is using bikers to slow traffic, willing to sacrifice them for the new off-city mega-malls, just as they sacrificed poor people to road traffic going to Walmart, no sidewalks. I have to honour John of John’s Fries, from Port Colborne, a sign-painting customer who had five fries wagons, and lived at the old alligator farm. He died when his motorcycle swerved on dark, graded stone levels left by a grader, at the end of Main Street when construction did not have a sign. I rode my bicycle through that earlier, not seeing dark stone ridges, and got stuck, almost falling over myself.
- Undeveloped lands & brownfields: Atlas Steel. At Main Street, the Atlas Steel is four stories of buried levels of storage and drainage for fluids and liquid pools of smelting and grinding coolants, that have become since before World War One, like underground caves and underwater reefs. Locking someone underground with a small flashlight could be an incredible tourist attraction. Just when the seeker finds a chamber with a bare light bulb, the top opens and a bucket descends, splashing as it scoops up warm coolant, popping the light bulb, and as the small car sized bucket disappears overhead, the lid closes and shuts you in total darkness. That’s always a thrill. Talking about the Atlas Steal still gets me ill. Yeah, the Guardian Express property, a newspaper started by striking Evening Tribune employees, not wanting to publish the crimes they were being told to promote. As you can see, this former upscale bank building, right on the corner across from the bus station and donut shop, with one of the biggest murals, occupying the space it was in completely, was demolished, even if workers had a hard time taking it down. Yeah, the downtown business association knows their real estate. They really know how to stick together and stick it to you. The old lady that never painted a mural before who got to paint the smallest one beside the Guardian Express, got sick from the jet plane paint right away and didn’t even half finish. It was left that way. Welland High School: I went there for grade nine. It’s part of my municipal arson for profit evidence package. There are a few of them floating around the rarified offices of downtown Welland, like floating burnt embers of flamed font. If the canal and river became navigable together, the Welland High property and the one across the river would make good docking and landing sites with parking as a downtown destination. The walkway under the highway bridge is large enough to be a commercial walkway, allowing access to parkland and more riverbanks on the other side of the highway. Residents who see large backyards swamped in the spring might sell for helpful prices, an easy increase in parkland.
- Empty buildings: It must be nice, sitting on property, when you don’t pay taxes. There’s a list of rich people and criminals who don’t have to pay property taxes in Welland, 15% of all taxes. They’re waiting for the unreal estate bubble to burst all over going down going down Welland, so everyone gets a little sticky stuck on their head, that says don’t forget to sell to Americans, or Chinese, or whoever wants to bring their own people in, it doesn’t matter, we’ll get them and their children. But as a mayoral candidate, should I care about absentee landlords when absentee tenants get more absentee votes?
- Downtown parking: Parking needs to be restored to downtown. Special little signs of drab and sad, lonely funeral colours, in three-dimensional laser-etched Chinese luxury polypropolene vinyl plastic, maybe with a corner bent over like it’s hurt, should be semi-adhered to rims of already parking cars, so when they start falling off and blowing around driveways like dead leaves the driver might be reminded to rake them up and park for some more again. I’m picking up clear plastic tubes with blood residue and used needles for free in downtown parking, with a choice of leftover bags of blackened and tarry bowls with spoons, candles, and surly and staring youts as waiters waiting for their next job.
- Other issues: The best thing for downtown Welland: Develop Merritt Island and the canal as the federal, provincial and muncipal waterway parkland it’s supposed to be, not the privatized and no swimming or boating canal it has become. Stop raw sewage releases into the river downtown, Welland having the highest rates in Ontario. Get rid of the false idol in Merritt Park. Use the old Canada Manpower building on King Street, around from the post office, and bring back manpower to Welland. Use the old fire hall to get Welland residents for fire fighters. Unbury that pool, and set my art free. It took a lot of torrential downers to make downtown downs so down, washing away waves of cash as getting washed away forever, not floating past with side current-sees for sinking local business people. “Where Rails and Water Meet” could easily become “Where Trails and Water Meet”. All those deep and wide, rail line stone beds, like spokes from Welland radiating around the peninsula, could become trails for alternative vehicles. Maybe you too could be chased by a light along the lake in Port Colborne, or meet Sir Huff’n’Puff, the slowest rider on and off wheels, or Sandy Feate, a bicyclist who has a hard time keeping his shoes on and his feet out of the sand. WELLAND ELECTION CAUTIONAIRE: Please be aware of this in-the-dark election cautionaire. If you see someone pounding in signs in the dark so the public can’t see criminals working for politicians, don’t approach them expecting political discussion, because they’ll pound their points home in you.
Wednesday 8 October: Regional Council Candidate Responses
Thursday 9 October: Ward 1 Candidate Responses
Friday 10 October: Ward 2 Candidate Responses
Saturday 11 October: Ward 3 Candidate Responses
Sunday 12 October: Ward 4 Candidate Responses
Monday 13 October: Ward 5 Candidate Responses
Tuesday 14 October: Ward 6 Candidate Responses
Wednesday 15 October: Mayoral Candidate Responses