A Fragile Start Toward a New Future

The draft of Innisfil’s strategic plan, Inspiring Innisfil 2020, is now available. It is an encouraging and hopeful start toward building a more cohesive and vibrant community. The draft report presents a clear review of the issues and opportunities as well an outline of proposed strategies. I am summarizing some of the report’s content here to encourage as many Innisfil residents as possible to read the report for themselves.

Among the findings and recommendations, the report says:

“Pressure will be exerted by population expansion, changing immigration patterns, continued urban encroachment, (unless better planned) and growing demands on land use and community development. The Town is not ready for all of these significant shifts.” (p 7)

Key Priorities (p 11)

  • Complete a review of the Town’s Official Plan
  • Identify an urban core
  • Complete a strategic infrastructure servicing plan
  • Develop a long-range financial plan

Innisfil needs stronger medium and long term planning (p 25)

  • “Innisfil needs to lead the planning of growth and development, not simply react to one-off development opportunities. The Town must assert itself to shape the kind of community its residents increasingly indicate they want.”

The report recommends the formation of a Community and Economic Development unit, an Innisfil Arts Council and an Innisfil Tourism Network. In conjunction with these, it recommends the appointment of an Economic Development Officer and a Tourism/Culture/Special Events Coordinator.

Some of the strategies proposed include:

  • Make planning a top priority
  • Ensure each neighbourhood remains distinctive
  • Connect residents and neighbourhoods
  • Make community building a priority
  • Increase local employment opportunities
  • Make economic development a top priority
  • Attract entrepreneurs and small businesses
  • Appeal to businesses and professionals to relocate to Innisfil
  • Retain local businesses and help them expand
  • Develop the agricultural economy
  • Develop and promote tourism and culture

There is lots more in this draft report and the consultants want to hear comments from the community before a final report is prepared for Council. So please get a copy, read it over and attend the Open House if you can (Jan 24, 25). I say this is a fragile start because, to be successful, this strategy will need thoughtful and unwavering support of Council and energetic participation from the residents of Innisfil.

I’m not sure yet that we can count on either. Lately, Council has been wringing its hands over the cost of the Innisfil Beach Road urbanization project. I’m as keen to save money as anyone else. By all means use the tendering process and any other tool to get the most value for money. But an earlier Council approved subdivisions that made Alcona the de facto growth centre a l-o-n-g time ago. Let’s finish building the community that was started. The $7.2 million cost of the next urbanization segment will be recovered eventually from development charges. Oddly, we didn’t hear this concern about cost when $30 million was showered on the Recreation Centre and Town Hall, neither of which will ever generate revenue to compensate for the capital cost.

My preference would be for Council to focus on maximizing the return on the investment that is well under way on Innisfil Beach Road. Wouldn’t it be interesting to invite architects and designers to visit Innisfil, possibly students from the U of T School of Architecture, to propose projects and designs to make the most of the emerging commercial strip? This is a golden opportunity for urban design professionals to have a hand in the creation of a classic “small town Ontario” main street updated for 21st century commerce. It might open eyes to the real potential of this corridor for economic activity and the revenue that it would generate.



One thought on “A Fragile Start Toward a New Future

  1. The comment below was received by email and posted on behalf of the sender, Douglas Edwards, after experiencing difficulty with the ‘Post’ function:

    I participated in the” Inspiring Innisfil” process including being interviewed by the tourism consultants and being invited to the discussion stakeholders focus group on tourism. The consultants’ recommendations about tourism are highlighted below from the DRAFT report including

    Establish designated “points of arrival” for visitors with visitor information services and clear signage
    Improve informational and directional signage
    Consider how Innisfil Beach Road at Highway 400 could play a role
    Link to and work with regional tourism partners
    attract large numbers of visitors off of Highway 400
    INNISFIL has inadequate signage and visitor information services for visitors
    Make tourism, culture and economic development integral to all key decisions made by council and staff
    Encourage use of visual identity and branding throughout Innisfil, including a signage program at Innisfil boundaries, within Innisfil, and especially on Highway 400 (“Innisfil, next two exits”)

    I was recently approved by the CRTC for a license for a non commercial radio station in Innisfil to target the heavy tourist car traffic on highway 400 between highway 89 exit and Innisfil Beach Road exit. The FM radio frequency will travel approximately 7 miles along 400 highway and will be heard on 96.9 FM. I expect to be in operation by Spring 2011. My station will air continuous looping audio information for tourists to convince them to visit our towns. We will air the weekly tourism reports from renowned reporter “Jack Lynch” and will promote local festivals, events and tourism activities in the area.

    The consultants highlight the opportunity of tourism promotion. I would like to now draw on the support of the tourism operators along the 400 highway which advertise on the important highway billboards to join in a tourism network with Tourism Radio and other stakeholders. 400 Market/Antique Mall, the Cookstown Outlet Mall, Casino Rama and OLG Slots/Georgian Downs all have current billboard facilities along the 400 highway. When Big Bay Point Resort starts actively marketing they too could contribute to this billboard and FM radio promotion. Our tourism information radio service can now complement those very same billboards with FM radio audio announcements to encourage visitors to our area. This has been part of Tourism Radio’s original marketing proposals and the cost to modify small billboard space from each of these operators would be insignificant to them. In addition it would not cost the taxpayers, residents and council’s budget anything as it would be corporate good citizenship from these major tourism attractions.

    I now recommend town council, residents and local tourism operators to now weigh in to convince these billboard advertisers that they can assist the local economy and local tourism by providing small amount of their billboard space to highlight “Tourism Information Tune In 96.9FM” while still continuing to advertise their own independent tourism venues on the majority of their own billboard space.

    I look forward to working with the tourism network and these billboard tourism operations.

    Douglas Edwards
    96.9 FM / Tourism Radio


    Douglas G. Edwards
    Tourism Radio

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