Map Your Future Growth = Success Ahead

Speech to Chamber of Commerce Small Business Week 2013 By Wendy LeBlanc What a way to kick off small business week – on Thursday and Friday of last week there were four Grand Openings in town, following one the weekend before; there will be a grand re-opening at The Cheddar Stop next Saturday, and I just heard of another one coming up soon. And even better – I heard that the new Timmies on Highway 7 with the Way to Go convenience shop and Esso station opened last Saturday. I like the slogan for this year’s Chamber of Commerce Small Business Week – Success Ahead: Map Your Future Growth. Certainly as a Town, we could easily adopt it for our Economic Development branding as we continue to plan for the progress of our community. Unlike many communities in the area, we are in the fortunate position of managing, rather than creating, growth. Over and over again, as I meet elected officials and staff from other Eastern Ontario communities, I realize what a fortunate situation we are in here in Carleton Place. But I wonder if the slogan might not be more to the point here in Carleton Place if we switched the words around: Map Your Future Growth = Success Ahead. If we look at the route the Town has taken for us to reach this point in our development, we can see that the staff and Council members both today and in the past, planned ahead, mapped out the route, and stayed the course. Could this have been the roadway to the successful growth and development of our community? I firmly believe it is. Guiding principles in determining our future growth are the Official Plan and Development Permit Bylaw. We have worked on the Official Plan update for over a year and it is now at the County Level awaiting approval; Carleton Place is the first official plan to be approved by the County and the process is taking longer than it will in the future – but certainly faster than if it went through Ministry of Municipal affairs and Housing. As you know, the Official plan sets out the municipality’s general planning goals and policies for future land use. It addresses such issues as where new housing, industry, offices and shops will go, what services like roads, water mains, sewers, parks and schools will be needed, and where growth is expected. Next will be the reviewing and updating of the Development Permit Bylaw and Council has set aside three sessions in November to begin that work. The Development Permit system implements the goals of the Official Plan through design of buildings, streetscapes and landscapes and speaks to each designation – residential, commercial and employment lands. Other tools that are used in planning are the Strategic plan, recreation master plan and studies such as the Doyletech report on Ec Dev Strategies and Downtown revitalization strategies. I have stated this before, but it is important to reiterate it, that it is the wisdom, experience, and dedication of a visionary staff that have made the difference in Carleton Place. Over decades, they have mapped the future carefully and we have all benefited from the managed growth. For example, our infrastructure meets today’s and the future’s needs without placing an unbearable financial load on our citizens. The Town continues to provide an exceptional choice of recreational facilities and opportunities to all ages and interests in the community. We can offer a good choice of housing types and prices. Our commercial and industrial businesses present a wide range of goods, services, and jobs; these, in turn, benefit from sound municipal planning principles and access to support through our Economic Development Co-ordinator, the BIA and the Chamber of Commerce. We know, too, where there are gaps – Seniors’ Housing, for instance – and we are working to fill those gaps; this is one area where earlier planning could have given better results. I would like to spend the next few minutes looking at where we are with housing growth and with the plans for the area to be serviced by the McNeely Avenue extension to Highway 15. It is important for me to point out that the boundaries of the properties I will be showing you should not be considered completely accurate – just giving you a good general reference. Condos on Coleman completed – 46 units Mississippi Quays completion – 20 units Brigil’s Carleton Crossing completion – 60 units Highgate – 129 units Dharma project – 66 units Jackson Ridge – 250 units NuGlobe project – 280 units Miller’s Crossing – 2-300 units Olympia Homes Meadow Ridge – 560 units Lanark/Carleton Street area – 50 units Infill – larger projects total about 150 units The average-sized household in Carleton Place is currently 2.4 persons – so do the math and you can see that we are looking at significant growth in the next few years. Let’s have a look at the concept drawings for the area south of highway 7 that is being opened for development as a result of the McNeely Avenue extension. (Slide) When will all this development come on stream? Likely we will see the Miller’s Crossing subdivision start within the next few years, and the rest follow suit. The intersection at McNeely and Hwy 15 is critical and the partners working to fund it need to be assembled. All this takes time. I’d love to say it will happen tomorrow, but it won’t. This development is not unlike where we are with the hospital. Eventually it will happen, but the wheels of government work very slowly and the current financial problems of the provincial government have a huge impact on what projects are funded and when. To put it into perspective – the redevelopment of Smiths Falls and Perth Hospitals took 17 years until completion – we are only 6 or so years into our bid for redevelopment. Now I just want to briefly touch on the impact of provincial decisions on our budget process. JK/SK full time kindergarten has seriously affected the bottom line of our Day Care operations; the cuts in OMPF funding have impacted our ability to pay for policing, and the 8.5% salary increase for the OPP is a huge hit for all OPP-patrolled communities. It looks very hopeful that there will be a new policing formula that will be of significant benefit to Carleton Place, but this has only come through intense lobbying for years on the part of the municipalities. I don’t have time to go in to detail here, but anyone wishing to speak with me on this, please see me later, or give me a call. I think that it is very important to point out that these decisions were made without consulting the municipalities which are, of course, directly affected financially because of them This has been just a quick overview of where the Town is heading in the next few years. Mapping our future growth takes vision, strategy, evaluation and re-evaluation and TIME – and repeat, repeat, repeat. Carleton Place continues to get the formula right by mapping our future so we experience success now and success ahead. 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.