SAUGEEN SHORES ELECTION 2018

election 2018

cheryl grace 560x373

Saugeen Shores Hub reached out to readers and came up with the following questions for your municipal candidates.

Cheryl Grace is running for Southampton Ward Councillor in Saugeen Shores. Here are her answers.

1) All municipalities have borrowing limits for debt. Given the many projects either underway or proposed what is the maximum percentage of borrowing capacity you are willing to commit to?

In general, the province says a municipality can annually borrow up to 25% of its revenues annually for long-term debt. Today, Saugeen Shores’ long-term debt stands at approximately 5%, so I believe we are in a solid economic position to borrow more if needed.

For capital projects like a new recreation facility it may make sense to assume a reasonable amount of long-term debt so costs are paid by current and future users. Also, if we can borrow at low fixed interest rates as inflation rises, the cost to pay for an asset does not rise, even if its value goes up. That said, we should stay below the best practice limit of 10% and expect that our management will continue to explore grant and partnership opportunities to lessen our need to assume long-term debt.

2) What are your views or proposals for the future of the Port Elgin and North Shore Railway?

The North Shore Railway is an asset for our Town which supports the family-friendly vision of our Waterfont Master Plan. Families, mine included, have warm and nostalgic memories about their rides on the train. The train and the Station are currently for sale; I hope the train will be a part of any future business on this site and that our municipality does what it can to achieve that goal.

3) What, if any, assurances can you give business owners and their staff that local businesses will not be targeted for closure should the Town choose to repurpose their property in the future?

It is the Town’s duty to ensure that any lease of public property by a private business acts in the best public interest whether that is by maintaining a reasonable standard of maintenance of the facility, ensuring equal public access or determining whether the operation of that business is consistent with the public’s vision for our town, ex. our Waterfont Master Plan. We must also ensure that we treat tenants equally. Through the years our Town has maintained productive and positive leases with private owners of public facilities, and I am confident that these relationships will continue in many situations which are mutually beneficial to both parties.

4) What calming measures can be implemented to reduce excessive vehicle speeds in busy Saugeen Shores neighbourhoods?

One of our priorities in the Transportation Master Plan study should be the development of a traffic-calming policy for our neighbourhoods. The construction of streets to the 8.5 m urban standard encourages higher speeds, even with posted speed limits. The municipality must ensure that there is adequate access room for emergency and essential services vehicles. However, traffic studies show that speed increases on streets with lanes wider than 10 feet, so I will continue to ask that this information is considered in our street design. Affected residents should be surveyed for their suggestions of appropriate traffic-calming measures for their neighbourhoods.

5) What is your position on a YMCA coming to Saugeen Shores?

We need a new indoor pool which will provide health, safety, recreational and economic benefits for our residents. I support the May 2018 Memorandum of Understanding with the Owen Sound YMCA to see if a partnership to build and operate a pool and recreation centre is feasible for both parties. There are many factors to be considered: Can we sustain a full recreation facility? Can we explore other partnerships? Can we organize a fundraising “impact legacy investing” strategy to help defray the $20 million price tag on a recreation facility? Would just an aquatic facility with a walking track suffice? Do we need a community hub for family recreation? How would such a facility impact our existing recreation providers? I look forward to discussion of the results of the feasibility study.

6) What specific actions would you take to meet the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Report, especially as they relate to Saugeen Ojibway Nation? (http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Exec_Summary_2015_05_31_web_o.pdf)

Our municipality has a special responsibility to acknowledge and advance the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as we are neighbours and friends of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) and our municipality is located within their ancestral territory. We must respect the duty to consult on all decisions that affect SON. Important steps of friendship and respect have been taken in the past few years with the Zgaa-biig-ni-gan Bridge project, and delegations to Saugeen Shores Council by members of SON’s community and Council. Our municipal leaders should continue participation in community reconciliation events like dinners and cultural events. The Saugeen Shores 2017 Corporate Strategic Plan resulted in the formation of a joint First Nations/Town Partnership Group. In addition, we should also follow the TRC recommendation which calls for all levels of government to provide annual data requested by the National Council for Reconciliation.

Grace answered Questions 7, 8 and 9 with one answer:

7) With businesses closing their doors or reducing their hours because they can't find enough staff, what can be done to create affordable accommodations for service workers or lower income residents in Saugeen Shores?

8) What can be done to create affordable housing for younger, first time home buyers as well as retirees in Saugeen Shores?

9) What can be done to create affordable housing for retired seniors in Saugeen Shores?

We need to provide more affordable housing in Saugeen Shores. Our housing is expensive, in demand and rent is relatively high. Recent growth projections show that we can expect nearly 5,000 more people to arrive in our town by 2031, 80% higher than anticipated even a few years ago.

At the end of May, Council approved a Community Improvement Plan which includes funding and incentives for developers who build affordable housing; 20% of this funding is dedicated to affordable housing. We are working with the County to develop a partnership on affordable housing. We should also explore options like the Tiny House concept being examined across North America, or retrofitting older motels, something which is already being done in Saugeen Shores.

We need to support incentives for senior and young family housing, options like re-development of unused brownfield properties close to downtowns, senior co-op housing, and garden and secondary suite housing. Also, multi-family and suburban housing developments could include a percentage of affordable units, which can be encouraged by offering development charges incentives.

Current labour shortages, particularly in service industries, is not unique to our Town. While we need affordable housing, our staff should investigate how our municipality compares to regional, and national labour trends, and advance strategies to support our businesses who need this assistance.

10) With fewer low to middle income families coming to Saugeen Shores, what can be done to help local businesses stay afloat?

Small local businesses increase our diversity and make it attractive to live in and visit Saugeen Shores. Some ideas would be: incentives for incubator businesses in vacant storefronts, setting aside development space for local retail, and a partnership with the County for low-interest loan programs that help local businesses buy their buildings or improve facades. Our Chamber of Commerce and BIAs are already big supporters of our local businesses with advertising and promotion campaigns, and our Town should be supporting these initiatives however we can.

11) As the town grows and new developments happen, how might you protect local farm land from development pressure?

When farmland is paved over, it’s gone forever, along with local foods and the workers who produce them. In the planning process, farming needs to be recognized and valued as an economic activity. It makes sense to direct residential growth to already existing, urbanized areas where it is less expensive to use existing infrastructure. Our development plans should recognize the importance of agriculture and work for growth that balances residential and employment lands with agricultural needs.

12) With all the new development and the ever growing population in Saugeen Shores would you agree there is a need for an expansion to our water treatment facility and would you support action being taken toward this?

Staff plans to place an expansion project for our Water Treatment plant in the 2019 budget to help mitigate the summer peak demand flows, and if re-elected, I will support this recommendation. Our staff informs us that during the drought this summer we saw peak daily usage around 5,000 cu. m/day more than the average demand. After 2032 we will need to expand further (which is included in the plant’s design). This would bring the plant close to the maximum rated production of 18,000 cu.m/day which will meet the Town’s needs for many years to come.

Saugeen Shores Hub gave each of the candidates equal opportunity to respond but has not heard back from Southampton Ward candidates Stanley Kollontay and John Rich. If we do prior to voting opening October 12 we will update accordingly as time allows.