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Growth, infrastructure discussed at Centre Wellington town hall meeting

by Mike Robinson

ELORA - Roughly 30 to 40 residents attended the Sept. 27 town hall session at Heritage River Retirement Community.

They joined Centre Wellington  staff members, councillors Don Fisher, Mary Lloyd and Stephen Kitras as well as Wellington County councillor Rob Black and Elora and Fergus BIA representative Fred Gordon.

The first half of the meeting provided updates of municipal projects and activities.

Mayor Kelly Linton spoke about the township’s strategic plan, “our road map for everything we do with your tax dollars.”

Linton explained the plan, first established in 2015, was driven by citizen input and helps ensure accountability and establish spending priorities.

He noted the plan’s top five priorities are: reliable infrastructure, healthy growth, economic prosperity, pride of place and good government.

While each priority matters, Linton said what’s important are the actions that follow.

“If we don’t do what we say we’ll do, in 2018, you know what to do,” he told the crowd.

Linton also touched on the size of the township.

“We need to plan now for its inevitable growth and retain a vibrant and accessible community with a high quality of life,” he said.

He noted the province’s Places to Grow Act sets out population density targets, so, “Whether we want to grow or not is besides the point.”

In addition to its own Official Plan, Linton said the township is required to conform with the Wellington County Official Plan, which in turn must conform to provincial policy.

So the township has developed a growth management strategy that targets how much growth happens, and where, within the township.

Within that, Linton said the township is working on five key master plans: transportation, development and urban design guidelines, tree management, recreation and culture, and water supply.

Linton noted work on the township’s Water Supply Master Plan (WSMP) was accelerated “because of the whole thing with Nestlé and the provincial two-year moratorium on the renewal of water taking (permits for bottled water).”

As a result, work began this year rather than in 2019.

The water supply plan aims to document the township’s current and future water needs to accommodate its anticipated growth. The plan also aligns with the GRCA’s Scoped Tier 3 Water Study.

Linton noted the water quantity component of the WSMP is intended to identify additional sources of water to supplement the existing supply in the 24-year planning horizon.

“It is hard to make good decisions without science-based information,” said Linton.

A draft of the township’s growth management strategy is posted on its website for comment. The strategy looks at long-term growth within the municipality, what form and density that growth take, and the appropriate locations for residential, industrial and commercial growth - to the year 2031.

Colborne Street rebuild

Among the township’s 2017-18 projects is the rebuild of Colborne Street in Elora, including the replacement of watermains, sanitary sewers and storm sewers, new concrete curbs and gutters and asphalt paving of the street.

In addition hydro/utility lines are to be buried and traffic-calming measures brought in, along with new sidewalks and decorative heritage style street lighting.

A new municipal parking lot near the corner of Metcalfe Street and Water Street beside the LCBO is to be completed this fall.

In addition to 32 parking spaces (four accessible) there will be potential spots for  future electric vehicle charging stations and bike racks. Landscaping will include the replacement of 10 trees on site with an additional 10 trees to be planted within one block of the project

Elora Mill and Spa

Linton said the Elora Mill hotel includes 30 guest rooms, a restaurant that will accommodate 80 guests and a private dining/bar space will accommodate 40 guests.

Across the street, the Granary will offer two event spaces: a 6,000-square-foot space on the main level will accommodate up to 100 guests; and a 7,000-square-foot second floor space will accommodate up to 180 guests.

The spa will be a three-storey, 7,500-square-foot building with a glass solarium on each level. It will offer state-of-the- art fitness facility, private treatment areas, relaxation areas and an outdoor infinity pool and hot tub on a viewing deck overlooking the river.

The intent is for the hotel to open early next year.

Victoria Street Pedestrian Bridge

Linton said work continues to finalize the design.

The project was on hold because of an Environmental Assessment appeal, but provincial approval was received recently.

The mayor said the bridge is important for downtown Elora as it provides improved access for business and residents and a connection to downtown Elora from the south side of Elora.

West Mill Street revitalization

Linton explained construction is happening in two phases in 2017 and 2018 to avoid work during the summer and Christmas seasons.

He said key features include maintaining two-way traffic, on-street parking with accessible parking spaces, replace aging underground infrastructure, improved pedestrian spaces with new textured/coloured concrete sidewalks, landscaping, benches, additional waste bins and bike racks, buried hydro/utility lines and improved wider stairs and new accessible ramp at the corner of West Mill St. and Metcalfe St.          

Connect CW

The recently launched ConnectCW.ca is designed to give residents a voice on township initiatives 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Centre Wellington is also hosting a Key Project Meeting Open House on Oct. 17 at the sportsplex in Fergus.

Audience questions

As questions began, the mayor had to address concerns regarding summer traffic congestion in downtown Elora.

One concern raised was that the 32 additional parking spaces being constructed by the township will be inadequate once the Elora Mill reopens because traffic in Elora is already chaotic in the summer months.

In contrast, another resident loved the eclectic nature of Elora’s downtown vibe.

Mayor Linton agreed tourism has ramped up in the past few years, which is why it is one of the items being reviewed within the transportation master plan.

Linton noted in many popular places people want to visit, the traffic is chaotic.

“I’d rather see it be busy and vibrant downtown than towns that appear completely dead,” he said.

He noted the Elora Mill has considerably more parking planned as part its development on the south side of the Grand River.

The resident contended the quality of life should be about township residents, not village visitors.

Managing director of infrastructure services Colin Baker said while the Pearle Hospitality development will bring more people, the developer intends to construct about 200 parking spaces to serve developments on both sides of the river.

“As the site matures, plans include extensive underground parking on the property in addition to a parking structure,” said Baker.

Resident Deb Taylor asked if consideration was being given to the quality of water - not just the quantity.

Locals also wanted to know when construction of the Victoria Street pedestrian bridge will begin.

Baker said the township is moving ahead with the detailed design and planning, with construction to begin next spring.

Residents also voiced concern the Jack R. MacDonald trust fund was being used to rebuild services on Mill Street West.

Linton clarified the water and sewer portions of the project are not being paid for with the trust fund.

Councillor Stephen Kitras asked whether the design for the Victoria Street bridge was finalized - or whether it would be the same as the Stantec design developed at a cost of $230,000.

Baker said the designs are still being worked on using the Stantec designs as a starting point.

At the same time, Baker said “there are not unlimited funds, and we need to balance the design versus the available funds.”

Another resident asked for clarification as to how many bridges are anticipated in the Metcalfe Street area to the Elora Mill.

Linton said three bridges are in the works: the replacement of the Badley/Metcalfe bridge, the Victoria Street pedestrian bridge and a privately-built glassed-in bridge connecting the north and south portions of the Pearle development.

Other residents applauded the initiative of CW Connect, but stated there is some fine tuning required on the surveys.

One survey asked specifically how often a person used mass transit without the option of saying “zero times per week.” However, a response was required for the question before the user is allowed to continue the survey.

Linton said the township is using different methods of communication to get the message out to residents - from print and radio to the web.

“We are always interested in new ways to engage people, not just send stuff out,” said Linton.

He agreed, “sometimes we are going to do a great job and other times we’re going to miss the boat. It’s a learning experience to determine what works in Centre Wellington.”

Councillor Mary Lloyd pointed out the fire master plan is also posted online at Connect CW.

“It is very near and dear to my heart. If I am in crisis or my house is on fire ... I want to know they can get to me as fast as possible,” she said.

Lloyd added she wants to ensure firefighters have the equipment they need, the stations they need and the transportation to get around the community, adding, “In three to five years, we may need another station.”

At present, both Centre Wellington fire stations are located on the south side of the Grand River, she said, noting, “We have to think about our safety in the long term.”

Another resident expressed concern about the impact of growth to Wellington Terrace, which is claimed to already be at capacity. She believed expansion was needed now, and not just for future needs.

County councillor Rob Black said his understanding is Wellington Terrace was built in phases and that what exists now is the first phase.

This leaves the opportunity for a mirroring of the facility to double the capacity, Black said.

He recommended bringing those concerns to the chairman of the Wellington County seniors, heritage and information committee - “Then we can start a dialogue.”

Another concern raised by one resident was what he considered to be the low turnout at the night’s meeting.

Linton agreed he too would like to see as many people as possible attending town hall meetings.

“We provide the opportunities and we try to communicate it as much as possible,” said Linton.

Others said they believe it is important that residents attend ... or risk the loss of such a community forum.

The mayor argued that he considers hosting town hall meetings as part of council’s job.

“Sometimes there are lots of people out, and sometimes there are only a few, but we have to keep providing the opportunity,” Linton said.

October 13, 2017

 
 

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