Our Creative Side

Lately, I have become a member of the Innisfil Arts, Culture, and Heritage Council (IACHC). Excuse me if I just refer to it here, in the broadest sense, as the ‘Arts Council’. It has allowed me to glimpse Innisfil’s creative side and meet or learn about some talented local artists, designers, authors, film-makers and performers.

The activities of our creative community sometimes pass a little under the radar and don’t always receive the attention they deserve. So, from time to time I’m going to write about a project that I think readers would appreciate knowing about. Here’s an opportunity coming in October in preparation for Cookstown’s annual Light Up Night – a traditional Cookstown celebration that kicks off the Christmas season:

Lanterns

A Light Up Lantern Workshop is being led by artist, Christina Luck, and theatre designer, Bev Cully. This is a “workshop where participants will learn to construct a sturdy lantern frame & techniques for applying paper covering, decorating and finishing.” Participants will make a “glowing stick and paper lantern”. If they bring their creation to this year’s Light Up Night, it should be extra bright and cheerful! [Cookstown – November 25, tree lighting at 6:00 pm & parade at 6:30].

This workshop consists of two Sunday sessions on October 15 and 29 (10 am to 12:30 pm) in Cookstown. The workshop is open to all ages – teens, adults and children accompanied by a parent. The two sessions and required materials are provided for a fee of $25 per person. Space is limited.

Cookstown’s Light Up Night seems like a good opportunity to throw a little light into the darkness of winter and the world. To register for the Lantern Workshop contact: christinajluck@icloud.com

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Complete Streets and Villages

A silo is all that remains of Stroud’s “last operating farm”. The farmhouse and agricultural buildings were demolished several years ago by a developer. The 5.2 hectare site is now the subject of a development proposal (Centreville by Daycore Venture Group Inc.) which consists of residential homes, commercial buildings and a gas station.

Residents were presented with a draft plan in December 2016. The first phase proposed 107 townhomes with communal septic. A second phase, contingent on provision of municipal services, would have added 86 more townhouses and a six story apartment/retail complex fronting on Yonge Street.

This proposal was heavily criticized, at the time, by local residents as inappropriate for their “quiet and peaceful” village. “We moved here for a rural urban feel”, said one. “You’re putting a city in a village. It’s just dumb. That’s the very reason a lot of people are getting out of Barrie and Alcona and into Stroud”, said another. Stroud consists mostly of single-family homes and has little growth because of the absence of municipal sewers. The developer’s proposal relies on sophisticated modular septic systems from BioNest based in Quebec.  Continue reading

Info Put On ICE

The Innisfil Community Events Corporation, popularly known as ICE Corp, was created in 1994 to promote events and raise funds for community organizations. It’s founder and president is our current Mayor, Gord Wauchope. Two sitting councillors are currently members of ICE Corp. Four other members of ICE Corp have previously served on Council or run for municipal office.

As a non-profit corporation, ICE Corp is not obliged to make any information available to the public. It would seem appropriate though, that it’s operations should be more transparent considering that it is so closely associated with the Town, elected Council and aspiring politicians.

It would be useful to know more about the sources and uses of funds. What proportion of revenues comes from sponsors? What proportion of revenue is raised at events? How much is retained to finance future events? What proportion is donated to community groups each year?

What organizations have been the beneficiaries over the years? Surprisingly, not even that historical information is available on the ICE Corp web site. We do know that ICE Corp was a major fund-raiser for the Recreational Complex.

ICE Corp solicits sponsors in three categories without further description: Signature, Community and Event Sponsors plus five Media Sponsors. In the past, sponsors included some local developers: Bradley Homes; Pratt Developments (Signature); Friday Harbour; Lormel Homes (Community) and San Diego Homes (Event). Information about sponsors in these categories has been removed from the ICE Corp web site, or perhaps they no longer have any. Five additional corporate “Friendship” Sponsors are listed and ICE Corp also acknowledges the support of Royal Bank, TD Bank, the former “People’s” Credit Union and Rotary Club of Innisfil.

While ICE Corp is most often identified with the annual SummerFest and Santa Claus Parade, it has also hosted a fishing derby, golf tournament, WinterFest, Polar Bear Dip and New Year’s Skate. Improving communication and providing more transparency might help ICE Corp develop some fresh event concepts, encourage wider community participation and stimulate economic impact. Numerous opportunities compiled from the public during Inspiring Innisfil consultations are being missed.

CHCD + OMB = MIA

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).

Continue reading

It’s Up to Us on October 27

Our municipal election for Mayor and Council gives us another opportunity to help shape Innisfil’s future. The fact that most positions are being contested is a good indication of a healthy democratic process. I only hope that all candidates want to campaign “for”, not “against”. That is, I expect them to articulate a vision for improving the quality of life in Innisfil and their plan to achieve it. Their challenge will be to look beyond everyday problems and tackle some larger issues:

Population Growth & Sprawl

By 2031, the population is expected to grow by 70% (56,000 residents)” – Town of Innisfil web site. Innisfil has a provincially-mandated obligation to plan for population growth and at the same time an obligation to work within the Smart Growth limitations of the province’s Places to Grow framework. How committed are candidates to the objectives of the Places to Grow strategy? How well do candidates understand the principles of Smart Growth? How can we best manage growth and urban intensification?

Does Agriculture Have a Future Here?

Large parts of Innisfil were rezoned long ago for future development, so on paper, there appears to be no loss of agricultural land. But in reality, new development will continue to eat up existing open space and remaining agricultural spaces will be increasingly fragmented. Do we want to preserve agricultural uses close to our urbanized areas, and if so, how? Simcoe County is promoting the concept of a Food Charter but what measures are needed to give it real impact? Where will the next generation of food producers come from?

More Greenbelt or Not?

A group of Ontario Mayors is actively promoting the idea of substantially expanding Ontario’s greenbelt to include designated “Food Lands” ahead of a provincial review of the Greenbelt legislation required next year. Where do our candidates stand? Will they commit to preserving more regional green space?

Local Employment

The aim of smart growth is to create ‘complete’ neighbourhoods where we “live, work, and play”. In a national economy focused on resource extraction, most local jobs being created lately are part-time. How can Innisfil cope with chronic youth unemployment and an aging population? What employment opportunities can we create for ourselves, by ourselves?

Income Inequality

Real wages have been stagnant for decades. All across Canada, the divide between ‘haves’ and ‘have not’s is wider than ever. At the municipal level, the province’s ‘Sunshine List’ of those receiving $100,000 or more in compensation rankles many people every year. In Innisfil, there were 14 senior administrative employees receiving a total of $1.6 million in 2010 – excluding taxable benefits. In 2013, this had grown to 22 people receiving just under $2.7 million, or an average of $122,276 each. The Town reports average “total per capita income” here at $36,311 and average household income at $75,799. Half of all Innifil households earn less than $66,132. What’s fair? How do we get off the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ payroll treadmill?

Property Tax Base

Related to the previous issue is the antiquated property tax system. Conservatives like to point out that there is only one taxpayer. Combining all the taxes we pay (income, sales, gasoline, etc.) the federal government scoops up more than half while municipalities are left with just 8% to provide most of the essential services we rely on. Municipal Development Charges are a key revenue source in this environment. How do we build a modern, dynamic, livable community on a shoe-string? What alternative can we find to property-based taxation?

Innovation

According to one writer, the key to municipal success is to think big – innovate, don’t follow. What big ideas can our candidates bring to the table? What original, ground-breaking ideas can improve the quality of life in Innisfil and inspire others to look up and take notice?

Cookstown Heritage District OMB Hearing August 7

I really thought this issue would drift into fall before a hearing date was set. Instead the challenge to the town’s Cookstown Heritage Conservation District bylaw will be heard by the OMB in the Town’s Council Chamber on August 7 beginning at 10:30 a.m. OMB hearings are public and residents can attend. Continue reading