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August 2011 - Monthly Column from CAO/Clerk

Wednesday August 3rd, 2011

North Huron Notes – August 2011

I’m pleased to have this opportunity to update you on some key issues and initiatives we’re working on.
With the OMB appeals officially withdrawn, we’re working with the Avon Maitland District School Board so that they can start construction on the Maitland River Elementary School this fall.  This is an exciting development for North Huron and Wingham, but we’re also mindful of the impact that school closures will have on other communities and we need to work together to mitigate this impact.
This school development has generated serious interest from developers and well known retailers. There are separate offers to purchase the residential and commercial portions of the Willis property and North Huron and Morris Turnberry are working together to provide the services to support these developments.

To help finance the cost of growth and development, Council will be proposing development charges. Council and staff recently met with local developers, builders, and real estate agents to discuss these charges, which are essentially levies on new building lots.  There will be a public meeting in early September.

A program and expenditure review is also underway which involves all staff and consultations with users, stakeholders and key opinion leaders.   This exercise is not about “cutting” - it’s about managing our costs, offering programs and services that are affordable,  keeping future tax increases reasonable, and making North Huron attractive for current residents and future  residents and investment. 

We’re also pleased with initiatives taking place in our downtowns.  In Blyth, a Downtown Streetscape Master Plan is being prepared which will outline a vision for the downtown  including possible projects, sidewalk designs, parkette designs, and streetscape amenities including lighting, planters, trees, and benches.   We’re developing a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) to enhance our planning guidelines and a local group is establishing a Business Improvement Association (BIA).   We’re also working on a resident survey to determine shopping patterns and preferences to help us complete a retail gap analysis in Blyth.  In Wingham, the Josephine Street reconstruction project will beautify the main street with new sidewalks, landscaping, streetlights, and refuse cans.   We’re also working closely with the Wingham Business Alliance on marketing and advertising strategies related to the “Dig our Downtown” initiative.  We’re also working on a branding strategy that will develop a consistent message and image to be portrayed to visitors and investors.  

Rest assured, Council and staff are committed to making decisions and investments that are good for residents and businesses now, but also position our communities for future growth and investment.  Please take a few minutes to complete the Strategic Planning survey on www.northhuron.ca under “Residents.”   More information about this initiative will be forthcoming.

On behalf of North Huron Council and staff, please accept my best wishes for a safe and relaxing summer.   Take time to enjoy our parks, trails, and our recreational and leisure activities.

Gary Long, CAO/Clerk
Township of North Huron