The Rotary Club of Picton welcomed County of Prince Edward Mayor Steve Ferguson to its meeting Tuesday to discuss some of the current issues facing the municipality and how they are or will be addressed in the near future.
Mayor Ferguson began with Short Term Accommodations (STA) and how at the Committee of the Whole meeting on July 7th, County staff were directed to investigate a number of specific issues brought forth by council members.
“Higher fines and penalties is one of them, stronger restrictions on unlicensed operators is another one,” Mayor Ferguson stated to Rotary. “County staff were asked to investigate the use of reduced densities for STA’s. A report from staff is coming forward later this week that will be considered on Monday evening and that meeting is going to be streamed.”
Specifically, staff generated a report at the July 7th Committee of the whole meeting in which recommendations of increased fines for clandestine STAs be doubled from $1,000 to $2,000 for a first offence-A rate far too low for the Mayor.
“I found that unacceptable and put out there that the first offence should be a fine of $5,000 followed by a $7,500-$10,000 for the second and third instance of not having a license. So this sort of thing will be what staff will be bringing back to council next week. The matter of grandfathering will also come forward next week and will likely lead to a very fulsome discussion about that and what we can and cannot do,” Ferguson said.
Mayor Ferguson also said there are other issues to deal with as a community such as noise, garbage and septic concerns.
But above all and perhaps in the minds of most residents-or would-be residents- is housing.
“Another issue that is particularly topical, that is a key concern to many people is development in PEC and Housing,” said Mayor Ferguson. “One of the affects of the pandemic has been the migration of people from urban centres to rural locals. It can’t come as a surprise that with about 12 million people within a three drive of Prince Edward County we would attract our share. The county has certainly witnessed those affects and the number of development applications we have received, most of which would fall within the secondary plans for Wellington, Picton and some other ones in Consecon and Rossmore… It’s not that were seeing new buys and new development- these things have been pending development. But the mix and the pricing of these residential properties has been and will remain topic of conversation as will the aesthetics.”
Mayor Ferguson also touched on affordable housing, infrastructure, the preservation of agricultural land and our natural habitat, the recruitment of doctors in PEC and a few other topics of interest.
“We are facing the same crisis every other municipality in Ontario is facing, which is grappling with retirement of medical professionals who are very difficult to replace,” Mayor Ferguson said. “We have put some steps in place to make a very concerted effort with the Prince Edward Family Health Team to recruit doctors and one of those involves the allocations of $100,000 in this year’s budget which will be directed to new MD’s who take over a practice in the county.
The Mayor added council will likely need to continue to add to this fund over the coming years to ensure family doctors can be enticed to start or take over practices year.
“The intent is to provide an incoming physician with an allocation of $20,000 per year for five years, to practice here in the county, and we have also hired a new doctor recruiter who is going to be out beating the bushes trying to attract physicians to Prince Edward County,” the mayor said.