Friday, August 25, 2017

A Lesson in Consent

The future of the Kiwanis Community Centre, Sue Bonsteel memorial garden, the plaque from St. Bruno-de-Montarville, Lawn Bowling, and Water Street tennis court is uncertain at the moment. In the minds of the majority I have heard from, there is no desire to sacrifice the community space for a new theatre. Stratford has land available for development that could be home to a new theatre in the Cooper Block but their desire is to maintain this community hub at its present location. To the best of my knowledge, the Festival has no interest in developing a new theatre on the Grand Trunk Railway lands, otherwise known as the Cooper Block. And so, it appears, we’re at an impasse. Which, in my world, means a non-starter. In the same way that consent is a basic pre-condition for our interpersonal relationships, a general mandate is necessary for good governance. At this time, I don't think that in this case we have either.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Reflections on Market Square

Thank you to all who have provided input on Market Square.
Here is a link to the proposals put forward to the selection committee.
The online form to submit your input closes at midnight.
Here are two links to Rob Ritz’s plan.
I realize including Rob Ritz’s plan will be disappointing for some. Whether
the selection committee includes it in their review of proposals, it is very much
under consideration by many in our community. My hope is that we can look at the strengths put forward in each proposal
and hear the concerns raised. As I said earlier this week, m hope is that we
remember we are neighbours in a community . The greatest tragedy in this
endeavour would be for us to gain a meeting space but not want to meet.
For what it's worth, a few of my thoughts:
I appreciate the desire for movement on this issue but support the plan for
the core - transit, Cooper Site, parking and Market Square. These need to be
borne in the decision-making of each one.
Skating rink. If we are going to add a skating rink in the core, I would prefer
it be added to the Cooper site in conjunction with a community hub. That being
said, if we need outdoor rinks, I wonder if using sites like Lakeside Drive and/or
other neighbourhood parks might be more effective given their locations.
Sightlines. When I picture events at Market Square, I see visibility for the
audience as a frequent issue. I hope this is kept in mind when designing the
space so that as many people as possible will be able to fully participate by
being able to witness the proceedings.
Operating costs. As plans are made, my hope is that both the operating and
capital costs will be factored in to the final decision. The mention of additional
amenties being required as well as the ongoing discussion around the potential
cinema project at City Hall makes me wonder if the Cooper Site were to become
a community hub, if some offices currently located in City Hall might be better
suited to such a space thereby potentially addressing such a concern.
Transit and parking. I recognize many see transit and parking as non-issues,
I disagree. These help connect many and need to be considered in an overall plan.
My comments are reflective of hundreds of comments and
conversations over the past few years. My hope is that all
who are invested in the decisions to be made on this issue
are able to hear not only the comments raised in the process but appreciate the underlying needs they speak to so that we can come together as a community that strives to create inclusive solutions.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Musings by Howard Famme on Proposed 2016 Budget

2016 Budget Musings

I recently reviewed the audited financial statements for the City of Stratford.

The present council is to be congratulated for the excellent results over the last 4 years wherein the annual surplus for years 2012 - 2014 was  .8 M. , 11.4 M and 3.3 M respectively with an accumulated surplus at December 31, 2014 of 218.6 M.  This has also resulted in reductions of net debt, particularly long-term debenture debt from 86.3M down to 71.1 M being basically 5 M repayment per year.

I am very concerned when I read about budget increases to taxation of 4.1% with some councillors saying that they would be happy with an increase of 3.5%.  Such increases in property taxes are unacceptable.  Inflation in the most recent month has only been at 1.4% annually.

Our present financial situation has arrived at the lofty surpluses because we are at present paying down debenture debt from the past of 5M per annum, purchasing new capital assets of 10 M per annum and building up total reserves for the future of 4 M over the last 4 years.  The present taxpayers are funding 3 generations of costs.

This system is particularly hard on the large number of seniors who are living on fixed incomes.  These people have worked hard all their lives, they have paid taxes all their lives and they should expect to have security to enjoy their homes in their advancing years.  In spite of  what we’re told at times, taxes are high in Stratford.  My annual bill of $7,600 compares to friends with similar properties in Barrie of $6,300 and Toronto of $5,600.

I challenge council to bring in a budget at a 0 tax increase.  Mayor Mathieson (who is now in a record 13th consecutive year as mayor)  brought in a budget with an actual tax reduction in his first year as mayor.

We will hear the argument from management that this is not sustainable.  This is a myth as Stratford has seen a tremendous increase in new assessment which will add an additional $700,000 + to the taxation revenue in 2016.  This growth is in full swing and will sustain future increases in expenditures.  At the same time we need less municipal government, not more.

Please hold the line on taxes in Stratford so all can continue to enjoy the tremendous attributes of this great city.

Howard Famme

Friday, November 27, 2015

Cow Coliseum planned for Fairgrounds

Here is a link to the report on the cow coliseum that was on Monday's addenda and passed that night:

Here's the Beacon article from Monday's meeting:

I'm still working on finding answers to questions raised and will post when I am able to do so. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thought of the Day

A staggering paradox: the cure for scarcity is generosity. 
~ Robin Sharma


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Transit Open House Display Boards

Have ideas for improving transit in Stratford? Visit the link below to access the slides presented at Thursday's Open House. Feel free to share your thoughts here or by email at

Stratford Transit Open House

Friday, August 21, 2015

Thought of the Day

We owe almost all our knowledge not to those who have agreed, but to those who have differed.
~ C. C. Colton

Thought of the Day

A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thought of the Day

The man with imagination is never alone. ~ Unknown

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Thought of the Day

Virtue is never left to stand alone. He who has it will have neighbours. ~ Confucius

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Thought of the Day

There is no failure except in no longer trying. ~ Elbert Hubbard

Monday, August 17, 2015

Thought of the Day

Despair of nothing. Latin Proverb

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Thought of the Day

Our duty is to be useful,
not according to our desires,
but according to our powers.
~ Henri Frederick Amiel

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Thought of the Day

An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. ~ Benjamin Franklin

Friday, August 14, 2015

Thought of the Day

Achieving starts with believing. ~ Unknown

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Thought of the Day

They are able because they think they are able. ~ Virgil

Monday, June 8, 2015

RFP for Adaptive Re-Use of the GTR Shops

This was originally posted on Facebook. What follows may be difficult to read. It may be easier to go to this link:

RFP for Adaptive Re-use of the GTR Shops
7 June 2015 at 12:48

I would appreciate your input on the background on the RFP being considered at tomorrow's Council meeting. If you don't have time or care to comment, feel free to remove the tag. If there's someone else who may have input, please feel free to invite them to comment. I'd appreciate if the comments could stay connected to the note as I'm heading out soon to watch my nephew play hockey and don't want to miss any.
Kerry A few questions:

Any concerns? Errors? Omissions?
Is there value in soliciting RFPs for the site that don't specify adaptive re-use and considering all proposals at the same time?

In particular, I would appreciate input on what I perceive to be conflict with the current Official Plan Amendment being considered by the province. The proposed amendment can be found here, with the portion on the Cooper Site beginning on page 60. For your convenience I've copied the section below.

21 May 2015

To: Committee of the Whole
From: Ronald R. Shaw
Chief Administrative Officer
Re: Cooper Site Requests For Proposal

To consider the recommended provisions for the demolition and adaptive reuse requests for proposal (RFP) for the Cooper site building.


On 28 April, Council accepted a proposal for the Cooper Site building that will:
 Retain 75,000 Square Feet of the building with west wall, steel, and date stone;
 Remove only loose roof material from balance of building for health and safety;
 Demolish the Annex in the future because it has no heritage value;
 Allow a commercial relator to market remaining 75,000 square feet as adaptive re-use to prospective developers until 30 September;
 Remove cladding, loose material from building, and all outside buildings.
These actions will require the City to issue two RFPs, one for the demolition of 45% of the building, and one for marketing the adaptive re-use of the remaining 55% of the building.
Staff has reviewed the conditions that should be attached to these RFPs and recommends the following provisions be included in each RFP:
A) Demolition
1. The following sections of the Cooper Building are to be demolished:
 Approximately 45% of the west end of the structure (excluding the west wall);
 External buildings and structures
2. The following sections of the building are to be retained:
 West wall and date stone to be retained, braced, and made structurally sound
 Approximately 55% of the east end of the building is to be retained
3. For the remainder of the building, the following items are to be removed:
 Loose material from the roof
 Cladding
B) Adaptive Reuse
The City of Stratford invites qualified proponents to submit proposal for the adaptive reuse of the Cooper Building.
1. Goals and Objectives:
 To preserve the building and its heritage features
 To incorporate the existing building and its heritage features into the adaptive re-use of the building
 To complement the City’s downtown core
2. Terms and Conditions:
Public uses are excluded from consideration. Proponents should propose commercial or residential adaptive re-use projects.
 Proponents may propose uses for all or part of the building.
 Parking requirements and plans will have to be identified for any proposed uses.
 If a commercial parking development is proposed for the site, it must be fully financed through user fees.
 Commercial uses must comply with the restrictive covenant registered on title.
 If commercial uses are proposed, an economic impact study will be required to assess the impact on the City’s downtown core.
 Any proposal that is brought forward must include a detailed business plan to be considered by the City.
 The City of Stratford reserves the right to peer review your proposal to assess feasibility.
 By submitting a proposal, you agree that your proposal can be made public.
 There are no municipal guarantees for any proposal or proposed development.
 Applicants involved in litigation with the city are excluded from consideration.
To be determined.
That City Council adopt the proposed goals and objectives and terms and conditions proposed for the development of the Cooper Building as an adaptive re-use project;
That the CAO be directed to include these in any invitations issued for the development of this building.
From the Proposed Official Plan Amendment: 4.11 COOPER SITE - MAJOR INSTITUTIONAL USE FOCUS AREA
The Cooper Site is generally located south of St. Patrick Street, east of Cooper Street, west of Downie Street, north of the railway at the southern periphery of the Downtown Core. The Cooper Site is the original location of the Grand Trunk Railway shops. With April 2014 61 the first building being completed in 1871, the Railway shops (Grand Trunk and later Canadian National) would see numerous expansions over the years and more than 1,500 employees at one time before being sold to the Cooper-Bessemer Corp. in 1963. 1 In 1986 Cooper-Bessemer closed the facility.
4.11.1 Goals and Objectives for Cooper Site – Major Institutional Focus Area
i) To encourage public and institutional uses which will restore a sense of purpose and vibrancy to the Cooper Site making it a focus of activity in the southern part of the Downtown Core.
ii) To ensure that development in the Cooper Site complements and supports the role of the Downtown Core as the primary focus of the City with its own distinct character and identity.
ii) To ensure that the historic use of the Cooper Site is appropriately commemorated with an emphasis on the importance of rail to the development of the City.
4.11.2 Permitted Uses
The permitted uses, buildings and structures include any public, institutional or public service facility use, building or structure such as education, recreation, park, public transportation, or government uses, buildings or structures. In addition, accessory and ancillary uses may be permitted, including limited, small scale, ancillary retail and service commercial uses, as well as parking uses, that primarily serve the permitted uses. Council may, by official plan amendment, permit other uses that support or facilitate economic development.
4.11.3 Commemoration/Preservation
The City is in the process of determining the future of the existing structure on the Cooper Site which may include demolition, partial preservation, rehabilitation or commemoration. 4.11.3 Master Plan Process Development of the lands in the Cooper Site – Major Institutional Focus Area designation shall be in accordance with a Master Plan prepared and adopted by the City which will establish the general land use and transportation structure, and provide direction for other related issues such as servicing and urban design.
 Allan Pero Question 1: Why is the city proposing undertaking the responsibility/cost of partial demolition prior to finding out if a developer might wish to retain at least some portion of the west end of the building? Question 2: What evidence is there (produced by structural engineers or architects) that the proposed substantive demolition will not compromise the integrity of the rest of the building?
 Jason Dietrich Question 2a: what evidence or research findings, from qualified persons, is there to justify this percentage of the building being demolished? Why this amount? Why not another amount? Why not show your work on this? Is there any? Was it fully arbitrary. And if so, why? Why not go with a trained professional's opinion?
 Chantelle Oliver For example:
Downie district framework plan (final)
The former CNR site offers an unparalleled opportunity for the City of Stratford to strengthen and link the downtown, adjacent neighbourhoods and beyond...
 Kel Pero Question--to me, before almost any other question: Why, if I understand this correctly, is there no process in place--involving City Hall staff first, and THEN Council--for structuring the process of re/development of municipal lands? There should be at least a partial boilerplate process that outlines the steps one must take before ANYTHING is done. This is COMPLETELY ASIDE, I must emphasise, from ANY historical/heritage value the site has, from any interest groups, etc. WHY does there seem to be no structure here? Stratford is not some berg in an undemocratic, undeveloped country; it's a modern city, and has been for some time. I am completely at a loss to understand what I gather is the lack of this first, most basic step.
 Chantelle Oliver TRENDS in Canadian RFP process Recommendation #130- Keep politicians out of procurement. Recommendations #146 – Always have competition for contracts. Recommendation #166 – “For major, high-risk controversial or complex tenders, the City should consider retaining a fairness commissioner.”
New Trends in Procurement and the RFP Process: Why can't I just buy what I want from whomever I...
New Trends in Procurement and the RFP Process: Why Can't I Just Buy...
 Chantelle Oliver How to Increase Request For Proposal(RFP) Responses
Municipal Government – How to Increase Request For Proposal(RFP) Responses
Municipalities know that a competitive procurement process is integral to...
 Kathy Vassilakos At the last meeting we took the different parts of the compromise proposal separately and amended the retention part of the proposal to be approximately 75000 sq ft based on engineering determination of where the removal needs to be for structural stability and security . page 27 of the minutes. this was to address questions around structural stability of the remaining structure and ability to secure the building from tresspassing.
 Lesley Walker-Fitzpatrick seems to me a partially demolished building will decrease stability

 Chantelle Oliver What Are the Standard Steps in the RFP Process?
An Overview of the RFP Process for Nonprofits and Libraries | TechSoup Canada
Donated software and technology resources for Canadian charities, nonprofits...
 Jason Dietrich Could someone please post the minutes here? I'm having technical difficulties.
 Kerry McManus Here's a link
 Bruce Whitaker MARKETING!!! We need someone who can write an appealing brief on the opportunity that exists - focusing on the magical history of the place and of the redeeming features of the building. I would also suggest that we sell Stratford as part of the RFP - including its geographical reach of over 10 million people within two hours. How many tourists do we attract to Stratford each year? There are so many positives to it. As is, the RFP is bland and definitely not a marketing piece - rather it seems more focused on cost than potential revenue - was it written by an accountant or admin? Let's think creatively. Let's develop an interesting narrative/story around it that would be an appealing piece for newspapers and online media spots to pick up thus creating the potential for demand - getting the word out there to everyone rather than a chosen few. May want to connect with David R Hicks and others from Stratford's creative set. My next question would be who is the RFP being sent to (local, Canada wide, international)?
 Katharine Bee I agree - I don't have much retail or sales experience but I have found that what is being sold is seldom just the product or service - it is the attached STORY that is being sold!
 Lesley Walker-Fitzpatrick seems like they don't really want any response to this RFP and just want the clock to tick out to the ridiculous Sept. 30th deadline
 Bruce Whitaker As part of the adaptive reuse portion, I would make mention that the City of Stratford is willing to work with a developer to ensure a suitably sized building.
 Lesley Walker-Fitzpatrick instead of any demo before development!
 Jason Dietrich Q: If the scope of the demolition is to be determined based upon a structural engineer's assessment, how is it possible to submit an RFP for either demolition or development? How the hell do you tender an open-ended RFP? What numbers does one use? I don't see it stated clearly in the minutes. (I don't see anything stated clearly in the minutes for that matter.) What is the order of operations here??? How can an RFP be voted on when there is no P in RFP yet?
 Michael Wilson  The demolition proposed destroys the integrity of the object and its future to sustain a new life, it is a desperate move, arbitrary and dubious at best. All elements proposed, in the City's proposal, are in direct opposition of the intention OFFICIAL PLAN. Residential is the least attractive and viable use, public use being an exclusion in the RFP? Haste makes waste, and that is all that all remain, toxic at that...... not to mention the unknown, undetermined environmental clean up costs once the building is destroyed...... please help Council.
Lesley Walker-Fitzpatrick council does not own the site - the citizens past, present and FUTURE own it - council are acting like bullies
 Jason Dietrich Here's the problem with that, Bruce: what if they want more than 75k sf? What if they want less? What are the limits? What if the engineer's report says 85 or 90% is structurally sound and viable? What if they say 49? Or 25? That would be in direction opposition to the vote last meeting. What trumps what? We have ZERO direction here. Yet council is still forging blindly ahead with utterly meaningless, and ultimately toothless motions. It's truly mind-boggling. Talking heads. Blind leading the blind. And the blind willingly following right off the bloody cliff. Well, 89.1% of them.
 Bruce Whitaker Jason, I'm just saying that rather than demolishing it, we first build an appealing narrative/story that gets the opportunity out to the wide world. My second point was a compromise - rather than the city demolishing part of the building, that there be...See More
 Jason Dietrich I completely agree Bruce. This is the crux of the muddle here; it's already been decided! It's too late for that reasoned, sensible collaboration, if we are to go by council's actions. They've put forth a vote to say, "Who wants to build me a house? What's that? How big, you say? I have no idea. But how much will it cost?"
 Lesley Walker-Fitzpatrick let's get a citizen movement going to counter act this foolish 'process'
 Kel Pero Frankly, I think we're up to our neck in appealing narratives. Everyone knows the place is historically significant. That really doesn't mean much of anything if we have no way of going about assessing and costing anything--anything--that is done to the place. Dreaming of what it might be is about five steps ahead of where we actually need to be right now if anything is going to be done.
 Kel Pero  Councilor Vassilakos or Councilor McManus, is the original report/recommendation from the engineer available? Also, more to the point, who's going to pay for this? Where is--again--the PROCESS by which things are assessed and costed? Why would the city (i.e. the citizen of Stratford) pay to demolish part of the building and then, presumably, pay again to have it redeveloped? I've only been in Stratford three-and-a-half years, and even I know that, pardon me, but we've all heard well-intentioned proposals for what the site could and should be till we're blue in the face. If there's no way of assessing and costing any of it, we might as well be talking about relocating our town to Mars. Where is the reasonably transparent, this-is-how-it's done method here? Whose interests are served by the current proposed plan of action (and yes, I mean "interests are served" in both benign and malign ways)? Why is this all so half-assed? I mean that sincerely.
Kerry McManus Kel Pero - you can access the latest RJC report in the additional documents from the May 26th meeting.
 Lesley Walker-Fitzpatrick well said Kel Pero
Lesley Walker-Fitzpatrick yes - whose interests are being served?????
 Jason Dietrich THANK YOU, Michael Wilson.
 Kel Pero PS It's great that Chantelle can find all kinds of how-tos for what we're talking about, but we're not employees of the City of Stratford. Some full-time salaried employees of City Hall, including CAO Ron Shaw, presumably have it within their job descriptions to research and prepare the information that is needed to follow proper process. And that info is presumably NOT to be presented to councillors mere HOURS before a vote.
 Chantelle Oliver arg!
 Jason Dietrich Yes indeed Kel; is there a codified SOP for development? If not, why the hell not?
 Kerry McManus I am just leaving my nephew's hockey game to go celebrate a recent engagement with friends. Reviewing events called "Council Meeting" should help you find all the related documents.
 Kerry McManus Also my website and notes on my FB wall could be helpful too.
 Kel Pero Thanks, Kerry.
Unlike · Reply · 2 · Yesterday at 15:04
 Jason Dietrich Right. With Kerry's permission, I'd like to request that everyone tagged, or anyone that reads this share it. At least once. Let's invite intelligence and rationale to this discussion. I would also suggest by-lining this with something along the lines of making it clear that this is NOT a debate on demo V saving; this is a forum for asking questions on the process. A process that is as yet wholly nonexistent.
 Kerry McManus Thanks for all your efforts to solicit input from a diverse group of stakeholders.
 Allan Pero Question: Who stands to benefit from the arbitrary number of 75,000 sq. ft? How much of this cost is to be borne by the city (i.e. citizens)? It seems as if the possibility that the CNR Shops could be turned more towards commercial development (over public and residential development) could be a significant threat to the downtown business core. I certainly hope Council is concerned about this possibility. Lesley Walker-Fitzpatrick Bringing more diverse and interesting retail could serve to strength the downtown which has been losing more and more to the sprawl areas of the city
 Kel Pero I heartily endorse Jason's suggestion.
 Jason Dietrich Shared.
 Kel Pero Shared.
(I removed the tags for the website post just to help those trying to follow a Facebook thread on a website.) -Hi All. If you have time would appreciate it you would read through this thread and comment. You represent a range of expertise and experiences on policy and development in different parts of Ontario and Canada. If you have time, great, if not, thanks for being someone I thought would help if you could!
 Geoff Williams Kerry - in the Terms and Conditions, "public uses are excluded from consideration", but they are specifically included in 4.11.2, Permitted Uses. Why the discrepancy? Could preference not be given to a commercial development that included public
uses? There is also no mention of the environmental remediation of the site. A couple of long distance notes...
 Kerry McManus Geoff - I find the recommendation to preclude public uses and encourage commercial and residential uses curious. Our Official Plan Amendment was passed last spring. There are often empty stores in the core -what would adding a significant amount of commercial do to help/hinder the core? And finally, the distance from a railway to residential is to be 75m for new development. Anyone able to help bring clarity to what I see as conflicts in the reports?
 Lesley Walker-Fitzpatrick I think a re-adapted GTR / CN site would strengthen downtown by bringing more traffic to the area
 Kel Pero Again, Lesley--that's what pretty much everyone thinks. The problem is that we have no way to get there. Or anywhere. Decisions are being made with no structure, and certainly no idea of how they'll be paid for. We need to pull 'way back.
Jason Dietrich Mixed public and commercial use. Spaces made-to-order, with long-term lease agreements with the city. Ensuring as well that x amount is reserved for public use. Commercial space in amongst a hub of daily public activity would be about as prime as it gets.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cooper Site - Can it All Fit? By Sarah McIntosh & Robert Ritz

Another look at the potential uses for the Cooper Site by Robert Ritz and Sarah MacIntosh. Be sure to look at possible site maps on pages five and six.

I offer this for discussion, not as an endorsement though I do appreciate the concept proposed even if there are a few changes I might suggest.

Thursday, May 21, 2015