Place Making in – Lefroy / Belle Ewart

My last article introduced the Draft Official Plan for Innisfil and the concept of ‘place making’ in each of the Town’s neighbourhoods. Last week I wrote about concepts proposed for Cookstown. This week, we’ll take a look at proposals for enlivening the core of Lefroy and Belle Ewart:

  • The plan recommends creating a “compact mixed use and retail core along Killarney Beach Road. As one approaches the Church Street intersection, ground floor retail, small restaurants and shops could welcome visitors and strengthen the section of the street leading to the lakefront. The area to the east of Church Street could allow a wide variety of commercial uses with residential above to improve the approach to the water, while west of Church Street, limited commercial uses and offices could be allowed on the ground floor of residential buildings to maintain the residential character. Gaps should be filled with new buildings that recreate the scale, spacing, setbacks, height and character of the existing houses, on both sides of the street.”
  • The recreation centre would be “a vibrant community centre with more programming for residents of all ages, additional opportunities for play, indoors and out, and ice skating in the winter.”
  • “Enhance lake access and the public space at the end of Killarney Beach Road with water related attractions such as boating, boat rental, fishing, beach shops, play areas and restaurants or pop-up food kiosks.”
  • “Maximize opportunities for a mix of uses at the Marina (as the zoning allows for), including restaurants, cafes, information kiosks and small scale shops and a convenience store.”

As the primary settlement area of Innisfil, Alcona has the widest variety of proposed place making sites, focused on Innisfil Beach Road and Innisfil Beach Park. Those will be reviewed in a future article.

The staff report on Our Place is being presented to Council on November 8. It is expected to be received as information with a recommendation that staff report back to Council no later than January 2018 with a Final Draft for consideration.

The staff report says the Our Place Official Plan is “structured around the Connect, Grow, Sustain focus areas of the Inspiring Innisfil community strategic plan … the overall focus of the Our Place Official Plan is to embed place making and to create places and destinations that we can all use and enjoy throughout the year.”

Interested residents can learn more by attending the staff presentation at Town Hall or by accessing documents online at Our Place Innisfil Official Plan.

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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