Complex Decisions – Part 2

(For Part 1, see the February 2013 EMC Column) Call it the domino effect, the snowball effect or the ripple effect, we all know that making even the simplest of decisions can have long-term, far-reaching outcomes.  In our municipal world, having a clear understanding of the complexities of a decision depends on having a long-term vision for the community and an in-depth appreciation of all sides of an issue.  This is where a Council working hand-in-hand with its Staff can make informed decisions that will be of both present and future benefit to the community as a whole. Recently, Council was faced with a request to sell municipal property and change the designation of Employment Lands on Hooper Street (formerly known as Industrial Lands) to allow a mixed Residential and Commercial complex. The plan, presented by a local developer, was certainly attractive. However, it would result in the Town having no town-owned land available for industry – a rather peculiar situation, given the fact that we hired an Economic Development Co-ordinator for the express purpose of creating more, and expanding current, employment-generating businesses.  Indeed, there is presently a very good supply of privately-owned land available in Carleton Place for residential/commercial complexes without the Town competing with private owners. That said, the Town actually owns property in the downtown core where the proposed mixed residential/commercial development would be welcome.  A complex of this sort certainly supports Council’s Downtown Revitalization Plan, and the Town has encouraged the developer to consider this property. Two members of Council viewed the decision not to change the designation of the Hooper Street lands from Employment Lands to mixed-use Residential as a ‘missed opportunity’.  Five members, while acknowledging the attractiveness of the plan, voted to confirm the current land-use plan for the reasons listed above.   As one of the majority, I pointed out that the decision is reflective of the vision for the community that we have all supported – that is, that we ensure that development has long-term, lasting benefits for the entire community. As with any decision, time will tell if it was right.  One thing for sure, we will all have our own interpretations and opinions on that as well!