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Residents working together to make Arthur a better place to be

by Mike Robinson

ARTHUR -  It may take a village to help raise a child, but in Arthur it may take the efforts of a whole group of concerned citizens to help a village grow.

The issue here is not if this is something that has been tried before, but that residents are working to make it happen here.

Wellington North’s business and economic manager Dale Small welcomed roughly three dozen residents to a community information plan session held in the upper hall of the Arthur community centre.

In introducing Mayor Ray Tout, Small quipped that “part of the job when the mayor is around is to give him an opportunity to say a few words.”

Tout appreciated those who came out that night to support these efforts towards economic development by Dale Small and the work that Sean Kelly, of Stempski Kelly Associates Inc., has put into the project.

“I think you’re going to see some great ideas - something to mull around and think about.”

He said Small had worked extremely hard creating partnerships with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs.

Small noted the meeting was a result of work being undertaken by Wellington North’s economic development committee. He said a similar process will be happening for the Mount Forest community later this year.

“We felt it was important to do two community improvement plans, one for the community in Arthur, and one for the community in Mount Forest.”

He anticipated the Mount Forest meeting would happen sometime in June.

Small said one of the reasons the Arthur meeting was first was due to the good work of the Arthur Betterment Committee.

Kelly said that Stempski Kelly Associates are rural planners and landscape architects. “We do a lot of work like this in many communities.

“Wellington North has really come alive in understanding how to embrace community groups and economic development to the broader community so that projects like this can actually be achieved.”

He said it is hard to believe the number of communities looking to undertake projects like this one yet they do not have economic development officers, betterment committees, or business improvement associations.

“They’re all looking for the same thing - how to differentiate themselves.”

He said all communities want to do great things, but have limited resources.

Kelly said part of getting those resources is to have a game plan ready.

He then did a play by play of what community improvement plans are, what they do, and similar plans in nearby areas.

He stressed a community improvement plan “is not a physical design of your community.”

Kelly said it “is a framework to rehabilitate commercial buildings and their facades, improvement of commercial signage, and the redevelopment of vacant and under utilized properties and  buildings.

“First and foremost, this is a resource.”

He explained when projects arise, communities will have had to have done their homework.

“This enables a lot of the work to be done for the private community.”

He understood that council is always being told of the public projects that need to be done - such as parks and street scapes.

This however, allows for work on a single building facade. “It’s not just the town doing everything, the people who’ve bought into this still need to keep their own buildings up.”

He also considers the plan as a motivator and incentive for private investment.

Kelly added, “No one is going to have everything paid for. All [the municipality is] going to do, is help out - which, in its own sense, is a motivator.”

He suggested a facade grant may be only $2,200 to $2,400.

While it may take a while to get things going, “Once people start to see good things going in their neighbours’ buildings, it motivates them to do more.”

He said it is also a stimulator for business.

He cited the success of the facade improvement to Harriston Bakery in Minto.

The owners applied for a facade grant to improve the front of the building. “They took an entrance that was pretty nondescript, which contributed very little to the street.”

Since then, the owners have seen a marked increase to business.

“They said their business doubled in a matter of months, because people knew they were there.”

His presentation was followed by a session in which participants considered strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats to the community and the downtown area.

Since it is a Wellington North project, Kelly said the plan would encompass Arthur and Mount Forest.

He is also hoping to have the work completed by September.

 

 

June 10, 2011

 
 

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