By Mayor Nancy Peckford
Given the wholesale change in Council this past fall, and an animated election where diverse community interests spoke unequivocally about their priorities, your new Council concluded, early in our mandate, that the development of a two year Work Plan was imperative to ensuring that we tackled issues and concerns in a coherent and holistic matter.
To that end, over the last several months, Council began meeting with a seasoned strategic planner to discuss the development of an approach to some of the priority themes which dominated the election period, and which Council believes it must deliver on given its mandate of transparency, collaboration and responsiveness.
For a number of years now, the municipal Council of Caledon, Ontario has used a Council Work Plan as an effective tool to engage with the community and guide its activities. Based upon their success, we opted for a similar approach.
Consequently, this week, your Council is very pleased to share its draft Work Plan for full discussion at Committee of the Whole and consideration at our Council meeting later in June. We have identified three strategic focus areas which we believe reflect the priorities of our community: 1/ Sustainable and Strategic Growth; 2/ A Safe, Healthy and Cohesive Community; and 3/ Collaborative Leadership. Council members have identified some potential key activities under each theme.
Once adopted, this Council Work Plan will also feed into the upcoming 2020 Community Strategic Planning process whereby North Grenville will embark upon the process of renewing its long-term strategic plan. While we will have ample discussion on this proposed Work Plan at Council in the weeks ahead, here’s a sneak peak.
We consider this upcoming Work Plan a living document that will evolve as we receive new information, and reflect on successes and challenges.
Sustainable and Strategic Growth
From Council’s perspective, promoting sustainable and Strategic Growth will include options such as: 1/ creating the conditions for development in North Grenville that builds long term community connections through physical, recreational and social infrastructure, 2/ expanding opportunities to work where we live through diversifying the commercial and industrial base, and building the foundation for North Grenville to become a tourism destination, 3/ modelling sound environmental stewardship through initiatives like increasing backyard composting practices; 4/ making ongoing investments in safer roads and sidewalks, and 5/leveraging the incredible potential of North Grenville’s 626 acre Kemptville Campus.
Safe Healthy and Cohesive Community
Opportunities to sustain and enrich North Grenville as a safe, healthy and cohesive community reflect ideas that many in North Grenville have already identified.
These include periodically bringing our whole community together, through signature events and festivals, as well as paying more time and attention to our rural heritage (including historic/heritage buildings) so that we never lose sight of our roots.
Improving infrastructure for active transportation, including better connectivity between trails, roads, parks and neighborhoods is key if we want residents get out of their car, and navigate more places on foot or by bike. Ensuring sufficient parks, recreational amenities and green space throughout North Grenville is another obvious way to promote social cohesion and keep people moving.
At the same time, affordable housing is something many residents in our community have told us that they desperately need, or would like to access as they downsize. The upcoming recommendations from the ongoing work of the Mayor Taskforce on Affordable Housing (expected later this fall) which has been meeting regularly since January 2019 will provide some of the way forward.
Council has also renewed the Terms of References for eight Municipal Committees.
Invitations to apply to join one of eight Municipal Advisory Committees are now open until June 14th. Applications for all eight are on the website.
Finally, collaborative leadership. As a newly elected Mayor working alongside four brand new Councillors, it is fundamental that our working relationships are respectful, productive and build on our strengths. But as a Council, it is equally important that we create ongoing opportunities for regular dialogue with community members, and not just through the typical fora of municipal committees and Council which can be intimidating for some.
To that end, the draft Council Work Plan clearly identifies continuous dialogue as a primary objective. This has already begun through Council’s regular Discussion Forums on Cannabis Retail Shops, the municipal budget process, and the future of Kemptville Campus.
With the mailing of June’s property tax bill, North Grenville residents and business leaders will also be invited, for the first time ever, to complete a short online survey to tell us how our community is doing, and what could be improved.
“It starts with us.” It may seem simple, but as elected officials, your new Council is deeply committed to its role as representatives of our community. Consequently, the Council Work Plan proposes to put residents and business leaders at the Centre. Sometimes, it means tackling some tough issues head on, which has already begun as we seek resolution to protected drainage issues in Stonehaven, strengthen the municipality’s relationship with the Homebuilders Association, and confront choices from the past that have had unanticipated consequences.
Given that the Municipality of the North Grenville is one of our community’s largest employers, as part of its proposed Work Plan, Council seeks to foster the conditions for workplace excellence. Organizational tools that monitors employee satisfaction, promote innovation and support continuous improvement to service levels so that, ultimately, residents and businesses feel well-served are crucial.
Clearly, Council’s upcoming adoption of a two year Work Plan won’t be everything to everyone, but it is an important starting point for your new Council in setting priorities and measuring success. We look forward to working alongside many of you in the months and years ahead to get it right.