Monday, April 29, 2013

Amending We Will Go -- Assessing the Cost of Changing the Municipal Plan



Clarenville's latest Municipal Plan was proclaimed just over a year ago after a fairly comprehensive consultation and development process.  Essentially the Municipal Plan process maps out how the town will grow for the next decade by establishing a vision and regulations for that growth.  According to the legislation: 

the council responsible for that area shall proceed with the development of a municipal plan and development regulations.`...The plan shall:(a) include a statement of the objectives of the plan;(b) indicate the policies to be implemented under the plan;(c) divide land into land use classes and the use that may be made in each class and shall include prohibited uses of land;(d) include proposals for land use zoning regulations;(e) include proposals for the implementation of the plan;(f) provide provisions with respect to non-conforming uses; and(g) provide for the development of the planning area for a 10 year period.

Since the latest edition of Clarenville`s Municipal Plan was proclaimed in 2011, there have been a number of amendments proposed & passed (See ad above).  Together these amendments have resulted in significant changes to the land use designation for key areas of our Town.

Of particular concern to me is the theme of changing previously protected areas into unprotected areas. Just in this latest series of proposed amendments, key defined areas of our town are being proposed to change from `tourism` to `industrial` (White Hills Road) ;  `protected` to `residential` (Balbo Drive & Summerville Heights) and `water supply’ to `residential`(Huntley Drive).  These proposed amendments  point to a worrisome trend of sacrificing what we originally agreed upon to protect in favour of development.  We need development but developers seem bent to changing the rules to suit their needs.  If the rules are so flexible and unimportant that they can be changed so easily and so frequently it begs the question – why exactly do we have development regulations in the first placeƉ

I don’t want to stand in the way of development, but I do want to make sure that any development is well thought out and that a solid case is made for any change in regulations.  I`m worried about this ease of change and you should worry about this too.

There is a social and financial cost to bad planning

Our track record on sound development has not been pretty and allowing further rough shot development to continue will do little to enhance the quality of life for the people in this community.  Further, taxpayers have been on the hook for mistakes of the past and they will be on the hook for future mistakes as well.   

You only have until May 2 to understand the issue and write your comments.  Don`t let the opportunity pass by. 

MY LETTER




May 1, 2013

The Town of Clarenville
99 Pleasant Street
Clarenville, NL

Dear Town and Councillors:

I would like to express my concern over the package of proposed amendments to the Town of Clarenville` s Municipal Plan and Development Regulations.

It is my understanding that the purpose of the Municipal plan is to establish the areas that the Town agrees are suitable for development and more importantly, it specifies the areas that the Town wants to protect.

The proposal of converting so many areas that were deemed `protected` to areas for that are deemed `unprotected` and suitable for development is wrong and defeats the spirit and intent of the planning process – especially in light of the fact that we are only a short time into the planning period.  In fact, I would argue that the dozen amendments that have been proposed or made have made the planning process and the plan irrelevant.

I am especially concerned about the proposal to change a previously deemed Water Supply and Public Use are of Huntley Drive to Residential.  Essentially this change tells me that our water supply will be encroached on and this could lead to contamination of our Town`s drinking water.  Further development at the end of Huntley Drive will further increase the traffic load on a high traffic, single exit subdivision.    (I do appreciate that this is a good area for development but it needs to be planned.  At current growth levels I could envisage pressure over the next 20 years for development to push towards Joes Pond.  Developers proposing such a plan must be taxed now in order to create a pool of money for the purpose of moving the water supply intake further up the river.)

I am also concerned with the proposal to make the White Hills Tourism area an Industrial site.  This begs the question:  Are we really serious about developing winter tourism in Clarenville.  As a community we have invested a lot of time and energy into winter tourism and I am not prepared to see yet another part of our town turned into an industrial park. (My point may be moot seeing that industrial quarrying is going full tilt on White Hills Road already.)      

The fact that we have, or have proposed, a dozen changes to a planning document that is less than 2 years old, indicates to me that we have a very serious planning problem in Clarenville.   It`s time to address the issue, not make it worse.

Thank you
Paul Tilley





Thursday, April 25, 2013

Economic Development Officer? If we don't know what, will we get it?



Have you ever tried to measure something without any form of measuring scale?  It’s hard, and if you are the person who's being measured it’s even harder.  That is the challenge that the Clarenville Town Council is facing as it contemplates hiring yet another Economic Development (ED) Officer.    (Clarenville has now had three ED officers in as many years)

This issue was contemplated at this past Tuesday evening’s Council meeting.  The question came up – What exactly have these Economic Development Officers done?    Rightfully, this provocative question prompted considerable debate around the Council table – unfortunately that question was never really answered (the fact that the was no articulate answer to this question with three years of experience for the position indicates that there is almost certainly a management issue at play here).  That said, I would argue that Council is looking for the answer to the wrong question. (You can listen to the April 23 meeting on the Packet's website www.thepacket.ca - follow the links)

The better question would/should have been:  What does Council want an Economic Development Officer to do? Specifically; what key goals need to be reached?, when should these goals to been met?,  and ultimately how would success/progress be measured and by whom?  Based on the discussion at the meeting, I’m left with the impression that Council, as a whole, is sure of what they want - and without knowing that, they certainly will not get it. 

For the sake of the Town and for the sake of the person in the position of Economic Development Officer, I would like to see a clearer and more specific set of measurable and attainable goals for the ED position agreed upon – by Council.  This then needs to be clearly communicated and progress regularly measured.   Without a clearer mandate we will inevitably get the same result with a different person – no matter how good he or she is.
I believe that the position is an important role and could make a valuable contribution to our town.   I would prefer however that the position to be called a "Community Development" officer and have its focus on attracting and retaining people to the town .  Face it, we are not going to "attract" large industrial businesses to this town - they will come if there is an economic case for doing so and they are normally the ones that have the capacity to determine that.   What we do need to do however is to make this town as attractive a place to live as possible for the people who live here and for the people who will consider living here.  This is done with better planning, better communication and better facilities.  People will drive the growth and prosperity of this service based community and making this community more attractive (what I refer to as "stickiness") will retain and attract good people.  

Regardless of the name on the position, without a clearly articulated role for the position and more clearly articulated and measurable goals for the person filling it, the person in that position will be crippled. That won’t benefit anyone.
The fact that position has become a revolving door is a strong indicator that the person in the role of ED officer is not necessarily the problem.  Most likely the problem lies in the definition and measurement of the job and that is set by Council – it is an issue Council needs to address before they hire #4.   

Clarenville Celebrates Volunteer Week 2013 - April 21st to 27th.

Every day, volunteers in our Town are busy working to make our community a better place to live. Every single one of them - are there are lots - do this without expectation of anything in return.

 

Volunteer service awards were handed out in recognition of contribution to the Community. The recipienets were: 1. Marjorie Alexander 2. John Baker 3. Harry Maidment 4. Caroline Bungay 5. William Day 6. Myrtle Elliot 7. Lydia Fewer 8. Yvonne Godfrey 9. Herb Goldsworthy 10. Garry Gosse 11. Ed Hiscock 12. Pat Humby 13. Cassie Ivany 14. Judy Northcott 15. Viola Peddle 16. Joliffe Quinton 17. Jessie Reid 18. Bert Roberts 19. Robin Rodway 20. Edith Ryan 21. Pearce Ryan 22. Amelia Stanley 23. Major Annette Vardy.

This year's theme of Volunteer Week is "Let's Make Some Noise!" and it was evidenced at the celebration of volunteers that the Town and the Clarenville Area Recreation Association hosted. See for yourself...


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gas Prices - How can you explain a 40 cent a gallon difference?

The Esso on Memorial Drive in Clarenville @ 137.9
The Esso on Newfoundland Drive in St. John's @ 129.4/ltr

Reports are coming out this morning that the price of gas will be going down by up to 4 cents a liter tomorrow in the weekly Thursday gas price setting shell game.  So WAIT AND  BUY YOUR GAS TOMORROW!!

But my concern about gas goes beyond un-explainable yo-yoing of gas prices.

My concern lies in that fact that there is almost a 10 cent a liter difference between the price of gas in Clarenville and the price of gas in east end St. John’s.  No doubt we have the Costco Corporation to thank for driving their immediate competitors’ prices down, but when the difference is sustained for such a long period of time it gets me thinking that there is something wildly wrong and sinister about gas pricing in this province and more particularly, in our town.  If gas companies can afford to keep their prices significantly lower in St. John’s for such an extended period of time without going out of business, it tells me that they have lots of profit room to work with.

This issue is costing our economy greatly.  As rational consumers we cannot be faulted for buying gas at the lower price and seeing so many people travel to St. John’s on a regular basis, locally owned gas suppliers are paying the price for this.  Every liter of gas pumped in St. John’s by people from Clarenville means money is taken out of local gas suppliers pocket’s and money is taken out of our local economy.    This is bad for all of us.

Local gas suppliers should be feeling the pain of this and should be making the big gas companies aware of their collective problem.  The differential is just too great and must be brought into line in the form of lower gas prices in Clarenville. The long term cost of this is damaging to our local companies and our economy – it needs to be addressed