Meaford Community sent questions out to all council candidates and has distributed them to their mailing list. Contact Sue Johnston at email@example.com to get on their mailing list.
My responses are available here:
1. What are two of Meaford’s greatest strengths?
Two things I’ve always loved: people and nature
People – Interconnected Community
I love that everyone knows everyone. There’s always a degree of connection with everyone you come across. I’ve lived in places where this isn’t the case, and I never developed a true sense of physical belonging in those places. Further, I love that people care, and are engaged, and involved in the community. There are always volunteers available for any service project, and the community is always able to together to make good ideas happen.
Nature – Beauty and Resources
Very few places in Ontario are as beautiful as Meaford. It makes it so easy to love being here, and so easy to want to be here.
2. What two main concerns do you have about our municipality?
Imbalanced population distribution
A large part of my campaign platform is working on the problem of attracting working adults between the ages of 18 – 35. No matter what happens with development, we need more people in this age group. Our community is suffering from hollowing out; most young people leave for school or work and don’t come back. As the community grows we’ll need more of this working group to continue providing goods and services and solving problems and we will need to figure out how to make it possible for young people to stay here or come back, and still attract more. This is true even if the community doesn’t grow because our businesses are struggling! Across the county more people are retiring than entering the work force. We need an 18-35 attraction and retention plan so that Meaford can stand out from its competitors! This plan will address many problems, including housing, transportation, employment, education and training, internet connectivity, and more.
As development proposals are pitched faster and faster, we need to make sure that our infrastructure can keep up with it and not result in a loss of service. To be sustainable, we must take care our infrastructure. It is much cheaper, both financially and in materials, to keep up well-maintained infrastructure than is it to maintain worn down infrastructure. Our infrastructure will also need to change and adapt as our activities change to become more sustainable.
The problem is that our tax base already struggles to maintain existing infrastructure. I understand that there is a good plan in place to make sure we can fund our needed infrastructure projects, but our whole council will need to keep a careful watch to make sure things are going smoothly. As Murphy’s law states, something that can go wrong will go wrong, it is likely we will have to make tough decisions.
I see non-public essential services as key infrastructure, too. For example, our farmland is a crucial part of our economy and ability to provide for ourselves. Green space is another example. Who wants to live in a concrete jungle? We need to have a variety of greenspaces. Banks, grocery stores, accountants, social houses, etc. are also key infrastructure. We need to make sure all of this is cared for and gets what it needs to ensure we can live good lives here.
3. What will you do to protect the natural infrastructure, such as:
- The ecosystem of our municipally owned waterfront going forward?
Carefully assess all development proposals near the water, especially the sewage treatment plant expansion. I will make sure that the team is responsible and accountable to the fact that if done improperly, it will case a great of mount of harm, to us and the environment.
- Are you in favour of a tree protection plan for public/private property to be developed such as has been adopted in other municipalities, such as in Waterloo, Ontario?
I am in favour of this, especially for private property. Meaford currently has the Tree Trust that protects old trees on public land, and Grey County has an excellent forest management program, but I feel that we need to be looking at all trees no matter who owns them or where they might be. Every tree adds to its surroundings, and I’ve been learning about Waterloo’s program while doing coursework in the field and it seems to be really appreciated by the community. That said, as we deal with and increasing number of development proposals and response timelines, we will have to be careful to make sure that protecting trees doesn’t put us in jeopardy of breaking the rules.
4. How do you envision preparing Meaford for climate change/warming?
An important step is reducing the amount of driving required for people to live their lives. Driving is a huge energy expense that could be greatly reduced with careful community planning. Our best possible solution is to make it possible for people to be living and working downtown without a car by designing mixed-use spaces. Downtown is where this type of development should be, and it can easily fit in to our existing aesthetic and atmosphere.
We can also begin using our rural production capacities to reduce supply chains for basic products. If we can create vertical value streams we will start building wealth in the community so that we can make sustainable investments and work to improve each other’s lives. Doing this, we will be able to ensure that the people of Meaford benefit from our development rather than outside parties.
Lastly, we need to shift aesthetic preferences away from manicured and maintained beauty towards raw natural beauty. This won’t be easy, even for me; I love taking care of the lawn. But lawns are brutal for the environment. Allowing the environment to naturalize does wonders for our wellbeing,
5. Residents and business owners are hoping that the downtown core could become a more vibrant centre for business.
- Do you feel that Council has a role to play in making this happen?
Council definitely has a role to play creating a more vibrant downtown. Ultimately, the success of our community depends on good development. We need businesses to be happy and healthy and able to provide for us so that we can enjoy living here and we need people there to do business with. Council needs to ensure that these businesses and residents have what they need to succeed. This benefits the rural population removed from downtown, too, because a happy, healthy, and busy downtown reduces tax the tax burden for everyone.
- What would you hope to see?
Vibrancy requires interconnection and interdependence and being engaged with where you live. To make this happen, I hope to multi-storey housing downtown with various businesses mixed in underneath. I also hope to see more young people with the opportunity to live successful lives here.
This goes for out of town areas, too. Vibrancy will increase there as the rural and downtown businesses work together and young people get involved.
6. We are aware of the housing crisis in Grey Bruce, particularly for affordable homes for the lowest income bracket.
- What importance do you place on providing housing for the most vulnerable residents of Meaford?
This is extremely important. Anyone can become vulnerable under the wrong conditions and we need to make sure that nobody is struggling to obtain proper shelter. It is very hard for people to get back into their lives and into the community once their housing becomes insecure.
- What do you think Meaford Council could do to influence the provision of such housing in the municipality?
Meaford will need to be diligent in creating clear bylaws and zoning as we continue through the revision process. We will need to work on planning for this housing, and to ensure that we can get enough in so that the market doesn’t make it impossible to find housing. Having a properly structured system will make sure we get the development we need and want.
7. We recognize that it is not up to Council to determine entirely, but we would like to know your vision of potential developments in Meaford, such as:
- The old high school property and track on St.Vincent Street?
Given that I don’t live in, or spend much time in that area, I don’t know what people there would need or want around themselves. Before officially weighing in, I would need to hear from them. Here are a few possibilities, though:
- Public park / outdoor service space; community gardens, sports fields, dog park, etc.
- A small apartment structure, like the Rotary Club’s Godfrey apartments, would be great, given the proximity to Godard’s
- A small plaza
- SkyDev development proposal
SkyDev’s proposal directly contravenes multiple parts of Special Policy Area #1 of our Official Plan, which applies directly to that property and was in place before they bought it. I hope that SkyDev decides to either participate in our community or sells their land to someone who will.
- The proposed TCE Pumped Storage Facility?
Read my article on my website (https://www.ericennis.ca/tce-pumped-storage/). I do not support this project for multiple reasons.
8. What do you think could be a potential plan for our community dog park to replace the off-leash fenced-in facility on Grant Street?
An in-town dog park is a community necessity. We will find a home for a new one when the time comes no matter what, whether that is funded by the municipality or donations; it will happen. I have heard Centre Street proposed, but I feel that location is inconvenient. Replacing the leash-free area within Beautiful Joe or on the Harbour could be great options.
9. As Meaford grows over the coming years, what is your vision for the new Meaford going forward?
I would like to see downtown become more pedestrian oriented. This means that more people would be living and working downtown.
- Green spaces
We need to continue creating great space and keep up our existing green space as well as allowing more of it to become naturalized.
- Municipally owned Waterfront
We need to keep what we have left available and accessible to everyone. Living a great life in Meaford involves having a great waterfront and it is in everyone’s best interest to make the most of it.