Update: The OMB issued a decision on May 7, 2015 dismissing the resident’s appeal against designating a Cookstown Heritage Conservation District. After this unfortunate delay, I hope Cookstown residents can come together to collectively and creatively redefine a fresh new future for Cookstown.
Some of you may remember the uproar over the town’s vote in early April 2014 to create a Cookstown Heritage Conservation District (CHCD). The intention was to help preserve the village character of Cookstown. Designation would have provided some incentive for preservation over demolition of historic heritage buildings. The second part of the plan was to provide public funding for voluntary property improvements through a Cookstown Community Improvement Plan (CIP).
Some local residents vocally opposed the plan as an infringement of property rights, and as a potential financial burden. They initiated a costly appeal of the bylaw at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). This effectively put Cookstown’s Heritage Conservation District on hold and the Town also suspended any further work on creating a Cookstown Community Improvement Plan. An OMB hearing was conducted on August 7, 2014. At the time, the Board Member conducting the hearing suggested that decisions are usually rendered in about 12 weeks. This could have put a finding somewhere in the midst of last year’s municipal election. Meanwhile an opponent of the plan ran for Council but failed on October 27 to win a seat. Now, more than 200 days after the hearing, the OMB has failed to act. Apparently the Board can suspend a matter in limbo indefinitely. This is yet another valid argument to abolish the OMB. Some of us shake our heads at the waste of time and money over something that should have been avoided with a little patience and good will.
Regardless, Council moved ahead with a plan to create a town-wide Innisfil Community Improvement Plan to make potential funding for businesses and entrepreneurs available throughout our municipality. Options may include grant and loan programs, rebates and tax assistance. Potential application of funds may be for feasibility studies, building façade and signage improvements, space conversions, energy retrofits, or structural improvements and other uses. In May 2014 Meridian Planning and TCI Management Consultants were retained to help develop a CIP for Innisfil. In September 2014, a “stakeholder consultation” and community survey was conducted based on the phase one draft report. We are now at phase 3 of this project, which will bring forward a final draft CIP for review and public consultation. Council is expected to consider approving a Community Improvement Plan sometime this year.