Questions posed or pending from all-candidates’ forum held in the W.M.C. on Wednesday, 3 October 2018
I will abbreviate my responses here because of the sheer volume of questions.
Q1: Finding affordable and accessible housing is a major challenge facing the senior’s community in Woolwich. Many existing buildings are difficult to access and do not have elevators. Seniors have expressed their concerns that they will be forced to leave this community to find proper housing. Do you see this as a priority for council and what do you see as a solution?
Affordable and accessible housing is an issue that Council must start being more proactive on. I will be advocating to secure the old Riverside PS site with the intention to re-zone property for the purpose of this type of accommodations needs. I look forward to starting that conversation with the community.
Q2: The poorly maintained boulevards and islands on Church Street are a disgrace and embarrassment for our community. When is someone from Woolwich going to ask the Region of Waterloo to clean up the road design mess?
Agreed, boulevards are a mess. It is unfortunate that city-solutions are implemented in rural townships without regard for the needs. These boulevards and pedestrian islands are problematic in Elmira, St. Jacobs and Conestogo -- the Region of Waterloo owns these roads and is responsible for installation and maintenance. As a Council we need to demand more for our residents.
Q3: What are your thoughts on the reconstruction of Church Street, West in Elmira, and the removal of parking on both sides of the street from Arthur Street down to nearly Maple Street? (As it is, large trucks turning right from Church Street, West on to Arthur Street have a difficult time making that corner with cars parked along the side. This problem will be further exacerbated by cars which will be using the new right-hand turn lane on Church as they will be positioned even further toward the corner.)
I am supportive of improving the Church/Arthur St intersection. This is a Regional project and through public consultation members of the public requested that this intersection be improved because of the long-standing congestion and turning issues. This type of opportunity only arises every 40-ish years when reconstruction occurs. Traffic volumes have increased because of growth in the community. In the next 10 years this intersection will be unmanageable. It is unfortunate that any parking spaces must be lost, but there is a greater good for the whole community to improve this intersection.
Q4: Downtown Elmira has seen an erosion of its commercial vitality, especially its retail appeal over the past few years. Much of the retail activity has moved to the south end. Are you in favour of this shift? If not, what can be done to revitalize the downtown core?
Retailing has significantly changed over the past twenty years. The public demands larger stores, more selection and cheaper prices — and are willing to drive as they see the value. This has put a strain on local downtowns across North America. Successful downtown revitalizations happen when you can get downtown property owners with businesses to have a unified vision for how they see them serving the public. While local government needs to support these efforts, I am not concerned that commercial activity is moving to the south end. There are no viable spaces in the downtown core that can accommodate the type of retailing the public wants. Downtown's have an opportunity to reinvent themselves with niche businesses that cater to the local market. With a volume of niche operations, the core would be an attractive shopping experience for locals and visitors. At the moment, open zoning in the Elmira core is problematic — space that was once retail is serving as office space. I'm happy to be part of the conversation.
Q5: There is talk about an infrastructure deficit in our township (along with the rest of the country). How extensive is it and what do each of you propose to remedy it?
Woolwich Township has about a $50 million infrastructure deficit with our roads and facilities and another $7 million on our bridges. That is down from about $68 million in the last 10 years. I have been a strong supporter and will continue to support our special infrastructure levy started by the previous Council. 1.5% increase per year on this levy has been extremely helpful in tackling the deficit. In the coming years this will become more imporatant as our provincial funding significantly decreases.
Q6: Are you in favour of more urban sprawl to grow the tax base or the protection of prime agricultural lands?
Not in favour of urban sprawl. Growth through development negatively impacts the tax base. It costs the municipality more in all areas of services offered and supporting infrastructure then what comes in through taxes. I support the countryside line, higher densities and Woolwich Township's slow growth plan.
Q7: Due to the projected future residual growth of population, do you think stronger regulations and building codes are needed by the Planning and Zoning Department?
The building code is constantly changing and directed by the province. Things that the municipality can control are subdivision infrastructure and traffic. As the township takes a deep dive into the Elmira Greening Plan, changes to topsoil requirements and support for more, hardier and diverse selection of trees is coming.
Q8: What do you feel about taxes? Should they be restricted to as low as possible to sustain essential public services, or raised to a level useful as a vehicle to create a desired social change?
Taxes pay for the services and quality of life in our communities. The public demands versus the ability to pay are something I think about a lot. Discerning between public "wants" and public "needs" depends on who you talk to. Taxes cannot be treated like a never-ending bottomless pit. In the past four years I have pushed back on unnecessary spending and demanded that departments find efficiencies that isn't just cutting services to the public (a typical response by bureaucrats). I am happy to report that Woolwich Township staff has taken that message to heart and are mindful of the public's ability to pay. At a municipal level in a two-tier government our ability to create social change would be extremely limited. However, I would be supportive of raising taxes or creating another special levy (like the infrastructure levy) that would support tree-planting and greening initiatives in the township.
Q9: How can you/ ward/township do more of to support small business development and expansion?
The Township of Woolwich has spent more than $1 million since the inception of having an Economic Development officer. Staff work with local businesses helping with everything from navigating expansion processes and finding grants. As a member of the Waterloo Economic Development Corporation the Township has helped our businesses expand on the international stage and promote local opportunities.
Q10: How much money did the township collect in the last fiscal year in property taxes and in building permits? How much do you have to work with?
Total Operating Expenditures: $16,444,059
Total Capital Expenditures: $12,365,071
Total Levy Requirement: $10,121,347 (Operating $8,644,109, Capital $1,477,238)
Every tax dollar: Municipal 24%, School Board 19%, Region 57%