Comments made at the May 14, 2013 Policy Review meeting:
In the press release following the meeting of two weeks ago, the word ‘exciting’ was used to describe the plans presented to us by the syndicate. I think it was a very appropriate word because a project such as this could bring about significant changes to our downtown – new buildings, more residential units, and rejuvenation of older buildings with a realistic result being the revitalization of the downtown core. Everyone sitting around the Council table, politicians and staff, along with residents of the community and our BIA partners, have been seeking projects that will bring these changes about, but I don’t think there were any of us who could envision a project of such scope.
You could even call this project a dream of a project. And that is where the project has flaws that cause me concern.. Bringing dreams to reality is not easy – it takes planning, time, money, negotiation, commitment, and much more – and I see these lacking in the proposals in front of us.
We were initially presented with a grand plan – a dream – that involved over the course of a number of years, twelve properties. Contingent on these developments or redevelopments occurring was the town granting considerable concessions including selling town lands at greatly reduced prices and the waiving of development charges and sewer and water charges to the tune of several million dollars.
One of the main selling points of this dream was the payback to the Town in the form of taxes from these properties, along with the increased number of residents living in the downtown core. Yet, over the course of the past few weeks, the number of properties included in the plan has significantly decreased as has the number of units. However, the concessions requested of Council and the taxpayers of the Town have not decreased.
From the initial presentation of the project, I have been concerned that the foundations of the plan are weak – with the viability of projects being contingent on another project being carried out. The fact that the plan continues to be downsized makes me very uncomfortable and wondering at not only the financial solidarity of the syndicate, but also the commitment of its various members.
I have 8 points I would like to cover at this time:
1. Why was/is one part of the plan contingent on another? All of the projects could be dealt with on an individual, stand-alone basis. Why was an all-or-nothing deal initially presented to Council?
2. The plan to waive development charges in the Downtown Core to encourage redevelopment was a good one, but one that was not well-understood by Council. I can speak for a number of us who thought that the area covered was larger than what it in fact is. My suggestion is that we review and amend the schedule of the Official Plan to include either the entire BIA district (or Mississippi District) as this is a more logical boundary of the area.
3. As a Council, we previously discussed accepting lower land prices in the downtown core, but I am not in favour of bargain basement prices when we have a developer willing to pay full price. Some concessions can be justified on the basis of such items as the inclusion of other properties to enlarge the area or the fact that the Town has decided that the developer will be involved in a test case for the revamped Development Permit System that may cost him time and money. I would extend the same principle to other interested buyers.
4. No one has yet pointed out the fact that two members of Council who were opposed to the 3 storey Seniors’ building – addition – located on Laura Street because of the impact on the neighbourhood are now supporting 3 3-storey buildings in another residential area. What is the difference?
5. I am not impressed by the figures that state we will have a payback period of 12 years for the waiving of development charges and the decreased land prices, especially for the Allan Street property.
6. Any new buildings in the downtown core must be of such quality that they will stand the test of time both in materials and architecture. The concept plan for Beckwith Street includes the use of siding which is not reflective of the vision that Council has created for this property. We need to recall that Council commented very favourably on the completely bricked apartment building on Franktown Road.
7. In a similar vein, I must ask if the developer will also be the builder. If that is the case, what experience does he have in quality residential construction?
8. The April 21 offer made by DDG included many conditions but did not clearly define commitments. Yesterday staff met with Mr. Thorbjornsson and suggested that he submit a simpler, more concrete offer for Beckwith Street but he wants a decision on the April 21 offer. This offer is found to be lacking in detail and therefore it is not responsible for Council to deal with this until it is firm.
We have the opportunity as a Council to ensure that our legacy from any project is quality new building with quality residential units, an increased tax base, and, ultimately, a revitalized downtown. I am willing to stand behind any project that will meet these goals, but not at any cost.
LAUNCH OF BUSINESS VISITS AND LEAD PROGRAM
February 7, 2013
Check Against Delivery
Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It has been said that a thriving local economy is one of the greatest benefits that a Council can offer to its community – both its citizens and its businesses. And, even though the municipality per se does not create a great number of jobs, the focus of council, its vision, its decisions, its supporting staff, its investments in infrastructure – to name just a few - have a significant impact on the present, and more importantly, the future economic strength of the community.
During the 2010 election, Economic Development was one of the issues that most candidates touched on, and certainly, for those of us who were successful, to a person we all promised to encourage planned economic development and growth, to hire an economic development officer, and to revitalize the downtown core.
When it came time to move forward on our economic development promises, reality set in. We knew that while we had the budget to cover the salary, we did not have our ducks in a row in order to be able to encourage new industrial growth or even, for that matter, expansion of what we already had. We just were not ready for the town to be successful in a highly competitive market.
So, we acquired more land in Industrial Park North annexing 30 acres from Mississippi Mills, created a plan for infrastructure in the area – at first tentative, and now, working with a developer in the area, modified – and we had studies conducted to ascertain the capabilities of the sewer and water system for areas of future growth.
We hired the company, Doyletech to develop an Industrial Strategy and a Downtown Corridor Enhancement Plan. We also created a Community Development Committee, comprised of business owners, Chamber and BIA staff, residents, town staff, and council members to work to put a new community economic development plan and strategy in place. This is an umbrella committee with a number of subcommittees each charged with making decisions about various aspects of economic development including industrial initiatives, downtown initiatives, tourism, community programming initiatives and so on.
We also annexed properties from Beckwith Township that included hundreds of acres for residential growth – we all know that increased residential growth is the driver for increased commercial growth. We annexed Roy Brown Park as well and you can see how the Mississippi Valley Conservation headquarters are nearing completion.
The extension to McNeely Avenue joining Highways 7 and 15 is a very large project with long term implications for the town. Initially 200 acres of residential and highway commercial properties will be opened for development, and we have also acquired an additional 35 acres of employment land west of the Highway 15 and McNeely Avenue extension, which will be named the Captain A. Roy Brown Boulevard junction.
Critical to both the physical and fiscal health of the community is our hospital. Council, in partnership with the redevelopment committee of CPDMH, have worked very hard, especially political lobbying, for the redevelopment to move forward.
How well have we done?
Firstly, it is important to note that our town, its businesses, its residents, and indeed, its Council are so well served with an exceptionally talented and dedicated management team, our senior staff – they are truly second to none, with the result that Carleton Place is second to none in terms of stability, and its consistently very high standards of financial management; I am not exaggerating- these statements are made annually by our municipal auditor, Howard Allan, and for the past eight years, I have heard similar comments from Mr. Allan, who, by the way, is the auditor for the majority of Eastern Ontario communities.
Let’s take a look at a checklist of development:
- Numerous small businesses in Industrial park North,
- Growth in South Business Park and Hooper Street
- Eastway Tank and Sam Bat chose to locate here
- Growth at Norcan Hydraulic Turbines, Dica, Rose integration and DRS to name a few
- Currently 15 sites for new residential development
- The redevelopment of the Market Square has been a boost to downtown
- There have been 9 new businesses open in the downtown in the last 6 months, 5 more planning to open in the near future, and a recently announced expansion of The Mews.
- Overall Assessment Growth for the past two years has been at $20M or 2%, and over the past 5 years, commercial/industrial assessment growth has amounted to 4.7%
And of course – after getting our ducks in a row, we have hired Jasmin Ralph, our Economic Development Coordinator. In the 6 months she has been on the job, Jasmin has worked hard to get to know the movers and shakers in economic development in the region, has worked specifically on having new signs created for each of the Industrial/Business Parks, and is currently working towards a new Town website dedicated to Economic Development. Today, Jasmin is going to tell you about two programs that are important aspects of our Economic Development strategies.
Ladies and gentlemen, your Council and Staff have worked hard with our business partners in the community to position Carleton Place to take advantage of and build upon the assets we have; we to leverage the most we can from these assets. I am very pleased that so many of you chose to take the time to come today – it is truly a testimony to your support of the efforts of Staff and Council to ensure that progress benefits us all.
SPEECH TO 2013 BIA ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
By MAYOR WENDY LE BLANC
JANUARY 24, 2013
Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It’s always good to be able to speak with you at the BIA Annual meeting and this is the third time I have been here wearing my Mayor’s hat. We on Council have just passed the halfway mark in this term in office and recently I delivered the Annual Review of 2012 to Council noting the accomplishments of the past year and looking forward into 2013 and beyond.
One accomplishment that we are proud of was the hiring of Jasmin Ralph and I congratulate her on fitting in well to the Carleton Place Economic Development scene and being able to work with Council and Staff and our BIA and Chamber partners as we move the community forward.
Now, I’d like to also welcome the new members of the BIA who are here this evening. Those of us who have been on Council or are long-time members of the BIA are aware of Council’s continuing investment in our downtown and support of the BIA, and I believe it is important for those of you here this evening who may not be aware of this investment just what it entails. The Town provides the actual office space and staff support for book-keeping for the BIA free of charge; there is priority snow-removal for downtown and priority garbage and blue box pick-up, daily street-cleaning and emptying of litter containers,
watering and maintenance of floral arrangements, paying for and maintaining floral areas including the Canadian Tire Gas Bar bed, those flanking the parking lots on Bridge Street, at the Town Hall, and others, financing two-thirds the façade improvement program, and providing free off-street parking. As well, the BIA benefits from Community Enrichment grants to assist with parades and events.
Additionally, in the past year alone, the Town revitalized the Beckwith and Lake Avenue corner with the Market Square and reconstructed Beckwith Street, funded the spectacular Captain A. Roy Brown mural, established a Downtown Initiatives Sub-committee and engaged the consulting firm Doyletech to produce the Downtown Corridor Study presented to the Community Development Committee last January.
We acquired the Carambeck Community Centre from the Upper Canada District school Board.
And, as well as building, we demolished several prominent eyesores.
This year we hope to complete the roof of the pavilion at Market Square; this will give even more impetus to it as a community gathering spot. Additionally, at the opposite end of Beckwith Street, the former youth centre building has been torn down to provide access to the dam; this summer we will be creating another community gathering spot bordering the river and featuring benches, planters, games tables, and public restrooms, all under colourful sails which will provide shade on hot summer days. We are optimistic that the property at the north end of Market Square will be sold to a developer who will create a commercial complex topped with apartments as we know that residents in the downtown core make it viable and vibrant. The expanding programs of Carambeck Community Centre will bring increased traffic – literally – to the downtown, and I expect that there will be increased traffic in the shops and restaurants as a result. The primary goal of Council in creating and funding these projects reflects the goals of the BIA in attracting people to this wonderful area of town.
While this support comes generally with no strings attached, it comes as a tangible recognition of the BIA’s investment in our heritage commercial downtown. The BIA promotes the entire town in its advertising campaigns, it draws residents and tourists alike to the area through its outstanding festivals such as Lambsdowne, Bridge Street Bazaar, Maskeraide Parade, and Santa Claus parade, and its beautification activities including pitch-In week, the floral displays and winterlights program. The BIA supports many community organizations through its partnerships with such groups as Carleton Place in Bloom, the Sister City Committee, the Food Bank, the Farmers’ Market, and Arts Carleton Place to name just a few, and is now the go-to site for up-to-date information about community-wide events.
In other words, the two organizations, the Town and the BIA, have worked together in partnership for long time and I know that it will continue to grow.
On a serious note, I would like to set the stage to open a dialogue between the BIA and members of Council on a matter that I feel has the potential for unintended consequences for the viability of our downtown. Some time ago, the Town purchased property on Hooper Street and designated it as Employment Lands; in order to make it attractive to industry, the price was set at $110 000 per acre. Now, the goal in hiring an Economic Development Co-ordinator was to encourage more employment-generating businesses in the community; this move was strongly supported by the BIA, Chamber of Commerce, and the general public. Several months ago a developer approached Council members with a plan to build residential units and a combination of commercial below and residential above units on this property; part of the development also included a form of seniors’ building and a large retail store. Most members of Council, Staff and consultants from MacIntosh/Perry view this type of development as being detrimental to the downtown, and also note that it would leave the Town with no publicly-owned Employment lands available; it was also clearly pointed out that $110 000 per acre for residential land would be underselling private property owners.
Ladies and gentlemen, there are several parcels of land in the downtown core that could well accommodate this type of development – for example, the Market Square, The old Findlay foundry property, the corner of Lansdowne and Arthur, and the old Lolly’s property as it is known at the north-west end of the Bridge. Development of this type on these locations would bring desirable residential units in the downtown core and contribute to more commercial enterprises. Indeed there are many other parcels of land throughout the town that I have identified as being capable of supporting this type of development with the result that the Town retains its much-needed Employment lands; however, that said, I am still concerned about the effect on the downtown core and the Downtown Revitalization Plan with this type of development outside of the downtown area. This evening is not an appropriate time for detailed or lengthy discussion on this matter; however, I feel strongly that members of the BIA need to be aware of the potential issues involved in such a development both inside the downtown core, outside of it, and more particularly on designated employment lands.
Now, I would like to switch gears for a moment and speak with you about the possibility of the BIA being involved with a Pilot Project from Valley Heartland. A couple of months ago, I had just finished lunch with my brother at the Eating Place, and popped in next door to chat with Erika Zwicker of the Floral Boutique; as I still had plenty of time before I was due back at the Town Hall, I went next door to Michelle’s Surrounding Memories, then crossed the street to Janice and Gail at Wisteria, continued my walk then over to Chantal Gervais’ Sunshine Then and Now, and finished up at Krista Lee’s Applecheeks. Later in the afternoon I was reflecting on my visits and it suddenly struck me like the proverbial ton of bricks – that these businesses were all run by women entrepreneurs! It didn’t take much time for me to realize that a very large percentage of our BIA’s businesses are owned and run by women – and many of them young women. I followed up with Cathie who became equally excited and she printed off a list of stores and services and their owners – considerably more than half of the businesses are owned and operated by female entrepreneurs. I felt strongly that somehow this fact needed to be made public, needed to be recognized and needed to be built upon. So Cathie and I spent some time discussing some possible ways to acknowledge these women.
Early in the New Year, I called Susan Fournier Executive Director of Valley Heartland to speak with her about existing Valley Heartland programs that could support them. Within 48 hours of my call, Susan, Jasmin Ralph, Cathie McOrmond and I were sitting down talking over how we can assist these entrepreneurs, draw attention to their presence in our downtown, and make it work for the benefit of both the BIA and the women. Interestingly, the timing could not have been better as Susan had determined her three areas of focus in the next fiscal year starting in April, and one of them just happened to be creating a program to support female entrepreneurs. In speaking with her yesterday, Susan said that at a Community Economic Development meeting held this week, it was decided that the program will feature access to capital and workshops tailored to the needs of women and more. Stay tuned!
And finally, I would like to share a few of the many worthwhile insights into the rejuvenation of downtowns that can be found in the Portas Review. This British report on that county’s High Streets was drawn to our attention at this meeting last year by Alex Beveridge. It is an exceptional read that accomplished two things for me – it showed me that we are on the right track in many instances and it pointed to the direction we still need to go. Let me end with a few quotations – I have substituted the words Downtown for High Streets.:
Downtown … must be a hub of the community that local people are proud of and want to protect … and must offer irresistible opportunities and experiences that do not exist elsewhere.
Markets are a fantastic way to bring a town to life. … people coming together to buy, to sell, to meet, to share, to discover and enjoy each other’s company. It is the oldest type of commerce.
All landlords should be long-term investors in communities, never just extractors of value.
Dog-eared and down-at-heels buildings …blight the character of our downtown cores.
Where [shopkeepers] can compete [with box stores] and need to focus their efforts is in three core areas: Experience, Service, and Specializing.
For a downtown to survive and grow it must have a very clear vision of where it wants to get to. And it needs co-ordinated planning and management to get there.
Thank you to all of you who have a vision that is part of the common vision of our community to have a vibrant, thriving downtown core, to those of you who are working towards making the dream a reality by making the right moves both individually and collectively, and most important to the members of the public and the business community who continue to support the concept of a downtown core by actually going to shop and eat there regularly. As Mark Sutcliffe, author of an article on the Sparks Street Mall stated in The Ottawa Citizen a week ago, ‘it’s worth [a] shot at bringing more life to downtown. There are already encouraging signs of progress.’
Please click the following links to read Wendy’s speeches: