Q-and-A: St. Catharines mayor talks city’s strengths throughout 2021
Walter Sendzik discussed housing, redevelopment, and the pandemic
Thu., Dec. 30, 2021
The year 2021 is almost over, so Niagara This Week spoke with St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik to find out what he thinks the city did well over the year, and what he’s looking forward to.
What do you think are some of the best things St. Catharines council did this year? What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of many of our accomplishments in 2021. Recent decisions to support regionalized transit, and the sale of 320 Geneva St. for affordable housing, were historic decisions. The Geneva Street sale, in particular, is the first of its kind for council as we look at ways to address housing affordability. Other highlights include:
•Approving a new Community Improvement Plan (CIP)
•Approval of development charges
Introducing a short-term rental licensing bylaw and program
•Supporting a Climate Change Adaptation Plan
•Working with a developer to see a 30-storey condo building constructed downtown. It will be a catalyst for continued evolution for our downtown to be more livable and pedestrian-oriented, while attracting more jobs.
•Continued support for those living in the rough with investments in outreach
Housing is one of the top issues in the city. What did the city do in 2021 to address the problem specifically? What more can be done?
This is a critical issue for our city. The 320 Geneva St. sale was a chance to take an underutilized property and create a development with one-third affordable, one-third supportive and one-third market rate housing — resulting in over 200 units.
The CIP offers tools to support new development, including affordable housing.
We also voted to remove lands from employment lands to promote redevelopment, including housing, commercial and mixed-use.
We continue to look at other policies and tools, and working with the region and community partners, to stimulate and promote development of housing.
There are a number redevelopment sites in the city, such as the Old GM property, the Welland Jouse, etc. Ideally, what would you hope would become of some of these sites?
These properties are important to our history, but also our future. While cleaning up and redeveloping won’t happen overnight, we look forward to opportunities for these sites to be remediated and redeveloped. The CIP provides tools to help the owners transform them into something that will benefit our city for generations to come — offering a mix of housing opportunities, as well as commercial and mixed use.
The pandemic continued through all of 2021 and there is no end in sight for many restrictions. How has that affected the city? Are there any innovations from the pandemic that you think will stick around?
The pandemic has had an impact on city finances. Our recently approved 2022 budget had nearly $2 million in COVID-related expenses. There was no playbook on pandemic recovery, but we continue to be innovative and resilient as we balance public safety and supporting our city. That meant moving services online, virtual engagement, offering recreation and social programming virtually and more. As we continue to wrestle with a new variant of concern, we hope the provincial and federal governments will step up again to offer supportive funding.
What do you hope to accomplish before the end of this term?
Over the coming months, I want to continue to champion regionalized transit regionally until it is approved and takes its next steps to implementation. I will continue to advocate and look at opportunities for additional affordable housing and investments in things like parks renewal (playgrounds and sports courts) and active transportation (including trails). I will continue to advocate for more support for the social issues we are seeing. We have a lot of work ahead but I’m proud of the progress we’ve made as we continue to keep moving forward to make St. Catharines the most dynamic, innovative and sustainable city in North America.