Rotary Walk & Run June 3 Supports Innisfil Trails

Rotary Club of Innisfil has been instrumental in fostering the development of a public trail through a 55 acre woodlot behind the Town Hall and Recreation Complex extending to the 7th Line. The Rotary Trail project consists of “a series of walking and biking trails that will be open to the community and visitors, as well as create a Living Classroom of our local ecosystem our students can come to explore.”  An initial portion of the trail was officially opened last fall and Rotary members are eager to further develop the project.

According to press reports, the County of Simcoe will link the trail to Alcona through a walking/cycling path planned along Innisfil Beach Road when it is widened. “There will also be a link to other County trail systems such as Simcoe and Huronia Trails and the Trans Canada Trail.”

Rotary is organizing this year’s Walk and Run at Innisfil Recreation Complex on Saturday June 3 to help raise funds for this ambitious trail project. (The total funding target is $2,000,000). In the past 2 years the Fun Run has contributed $8,000 toward the trails project. Additional funding has come from the the Trillium Foundation and the Inspiring Innisfil grant program.

This year, participants meet at the Innisfil Recreation Complex, registration starting at 7:30 a.m.; warm-up at 9 a.m. for a 5 km Fun Walk and Run. Entry is $5 for adults and seniors or $20 for families. (See below to register in advance online) The Walk & Run is followed by more Family Fun Day events at the Recreation Complex.

Fun Run 2017

 

All Hail The Car!

Town Council received a report recommending that a significant portion of the Alcona streetscape (four medians) be demolished at a cost of $160,000 only 5 years after being installed (Precinct 2, 2010). This comes after one public meeting was held in the dead of winter to solicit public comment.

The principal issue is that some medians are not well aligned with the driveways at Home Hardware. The owner complained about two years ago that it presented a hazard. Time has proven him wrong though. The current configuration has not impeded anyone from patronizing his store. The parking lot is frequently full. I have witnessed as many as five vehicles in a row turning into the parking lot without incident. If there is a problem, it seems to be with some Innisfil drivers who apparently don’t know how to apply brakes, don’t know how to negotiate a centre lane, or don’t know how to exercise caution when turning.

So why is there such a rush to impose so severe (and costly) a “remedy” for a problem that doesn’t really exist? Continue reading

Stay Calm & Park Your Protest

It’s no surprise that GTA residents head for the nearest beach when we have those sweltering hot weekends. Innisfil Beach Park has been a hit with visitors, even with higher parking fees this year. As the parking lots fill up, cars have taken to parking on adjoining side streets to such an extent that police have had to periodically close local roads and divert traffic away from the park. A large digital sign-board near the Town Hall warns when the park is closed. These occasions are entirely weather driven. The phenomenon is seasonal and very transient. It’s normal for the park to be heavily populated on summer weekends.

The use of a school lot for overflow parking hasn’t solved the problem. Council, led by the Mayor, decided that it was too late in the season to devise any short-term remedies, opting instead to propose a plan for next year. I can understand nearby residents being upset about suddenly being hemmed in by a swarm of vehicles illegally parked on nearby narrow streets.

Innisfil did choose to focus on tourism as an economic driver. We do need a new approach now to deal with this local success story. But the proposed protest that some residents are planning just makes me ashamed. Their reported plan is to occupy as many parking spaces in the park as they can, early on Labour Day weekend, forcing visitors out and away. This does not in any way address the parking issue but it does cast some light on the darker, ugly side of this controversy.

By that I mean that some Innisfil residents just aren’t ready to welcome the wider world to our community. I’ve been aware of a certain undercurrent for several years but hoped it would fade with time. It hasn’t. There are a few clues to the real issue.  Continue reading

The Comparator Trap

Council gave approval to what might have been considered a routine housekeeping matter – updating a list of municipalities to which Innisfil is compared. These “municipal comparators are used for a variety of research and analysis purposes including best practice reviews, recruitment practices, and compensation” according to the staff report. Comparative municipalities are chosen “based on their size, geographic proximity, similarity in the scope of services delivered. It is also recognized that the Town competes with them for talent in the employment market.”

The ‘outdated’ list consisted of 9 other municipalities ranging in size from 19,241(Collingwood) to the City of Barrie (136,000). The new comparator list approved by Council consists of 14 other municipalities ranging from Collingwood to the City of Vaughan (288,301) plus the County of Simcoe (446,000). This list, prepared by a consulting firm at the request of staff, purportedly “maintains the Town’s “mid-market” positioning” but increases the average population size from 72,011 to 147,750 – an increase of 105%. The staff report claims this is “to capture the current and anticipated growth of the Town, as well as highlighting an expanded attracting and retention focus.”

The over-riding assumption is that we must compete with, i.e. out-bid, other municipalities, and the County, for the best administrative candidates. Let’s face it – this is a mug’s game. Continue reading

Focusing on Place – Innisfil Heights

I left off discussing Our Place, the official plan process, by quoting the Project for Pubic Spaces: “When you focus on place, you do everything differently”. That doesn’t mean that previous plans aren’t rolling right along. One of them is the long-standing plan to extend water and sewer utilities to Innisfil Heights, the area east and west of Highway 400, which is designated as ‘employment lands’. The rationale has always been that businesses attracted to this area will reduce the need for many residents to commute to jobs beyond Innisfil.

HeightsMap

Water & Wastewater – Presentation to Town of Innisfil Council

Continue reading

Our Place – Making It Official

The Town of Innisfil is embarking on a lengthy consultation process to develop a new Official Plan (OP) to be known as “Our Place”. The Planning Act requires a review at least every 5 years. The last one completed in 2006 received partial approvals from the OMB between 2009 and 2011.

The goal is to define planning principles and policies that will guide the physical growth of Innisfil over the next 20 years. Initial discussions and public input will be used to develop “policy directions”, followed by draft Official Plan amendments. The consultants at Sorensen Gravely Lowes Planning Associates (SGL) have been retained to conduct the four-stage consultation and Official Plan development, which is expected to take about 18 months.

The project started with interviews with Council members. Similar interviews are also being conducted with “key stakeholders”. These are community associations, environmental groups, farmers, developers, retailers and businesses.

Innisfil residents are encouraged to learn more about how they can participate by visiting the Our Place website. Those who may not be able to attend events in person will be able to contribute their views through the interactive website, social media and online surveys. To reach as many residents as possible, consultants plan to stage several “pop-up workshops” at community events and various locations.

The first major event is a one-day workshop, “Community Visioning Day”, being held on Saturday, March 28 at the Town Hall from 9:30 to 3:00 pm. Participation is free but registration is required and a lunch is provided.

This year will also see updated reports of the strategic plan, Inspiring Innisfil, and Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan. Meanwhile Simcoe County’s Official Plan was adopted in 2008 but has yet to receive provincial approval. And at the provincial level, Places to Grow is due for a 10th year review. Over the next two years, our planning principles and goals for Innisfil and the entire region will be under the microscope.

By 2017 we’re supposed to come out the other end with an Official Plan for a “more balanced and complete community that provides greater opportunities to live, work, shop and play.” May it be so! You may not normally give land use planning a lot of thought but residents should keep an eye and ear on this process as it develops.