If you think St. Thomas has experienced a growth spurt over the past 20 years, hold on. By the year 2041, the city’s population is projected to exceed 50,000.
To accommodate this influx, the city will need to adjust its urban area boundary as part of a review of its official plan.
Last June, the city completed a population and housing study which determined the municipality will require an additional 76 gross hectares of residential land to accommodate this growth.
As such, the city is undertaking – with input from residents – a project it identifies as Positioned for Growth.
The study will assemble the required planning and engineering reports to support the preferred expansion lands and bring them into the urban area boundary to designate for development.
In addition, the city will identify recreational and cultural infrastructure and the fire protection services required to support this growth in the coming decades.
To give an example of the scope of this exercise, the parks and recreation master plan will provide “the policy framework to manage, serve and support residents and visitors with the needed parks, open space, trails, recreation and leisure recreation facilities, services and programming in a cost-effective and proactive manner,” according to the Positioned for Growth website.
As city manager Wendell Graves explained yesterday (April 5), “We’re looking to unlock new lands for residential development. And that will take place on the city’s west side, jumping across Kettle Creek, but still within the city boundaries.
Four areas, all hugging the western boundary of the city bordering with the Township of Southwold have been flagged (see map).
Area 1, consisting of 63 hectares, is south of Talbot Line on both sides of Ford Road.
Area 2, 101 hectares, is north of Fingal Line while Area 3, 39 hectares is south of Fingal Line.
Area 4, 88 hectares, includes land on both sides of Bush Line.
“It’s not just about where the land is going to be,” stressed Graves.
“It’s also about how do we strategically set up our emergency services to respond and transit as well. Also, how do we plug in the servicing appropriately to those areas.”
All four areas will require full services and Graves noted, “There will be a bit of business modelling to see the cost benefit of getting servicing into these areas.”
As to the timeframe for the study, Graves advised “We’re hoping to have this in front of council by late spring and have the work completed by late September so everybody has a good idea of where this city is going to grow next. The next stake in the ground.”
A Positioned for Growth website is now up and running at stthomas.ca/positionedforgrowth.
“The website will be an ongoing tool as we go through this process,” explained Graves.
“At points in time, there will be information for residents to respond back to. We are using that as a portal for communication both ways.”
GETTING YOU THERE
Concurrent with the above study, the city is undertaking, in partnership with Stantec Consulting, a public survey to develop a strategic plan that will identify the future route for St. Thomas Transit.
It is painfully obvious the system is not working it its present form with a convoluted route system, limited hours and equipment not necessarily suited to the rigours associated with providing reliable and comfortable service.
With the online survey, city manager Graves explained, “We’re looking at frequency and hours of operation.”
The consultants, he added, are looking to acquire “Basic information such as do they ride the transit? It is to get general input on areas where people think we need to improve transit service.
“We are doing a whole strategic review of transit. We want to make sure we are thorough on this.”
The city has, in the past couple of weeks, received hundreds of thousands of dollars in provincial funding which can be used to support transit, so the survey, which will be open for several weeks, is a timely undertaking for now and well down the road.
“Part of doing this analysis is to think about what does transit look like in 10 years, in 15 years,” observed Graves.
“Is it conventional as we’ve known or what is the latest or what are the trends. What do these things look and feel like.”
In other words, could a service like Uber be incorporated into transit operations?
A big push for Mayor Joe Preston is regional transportation, partnering with neighbour municipalities like Central Elgin and Southwold to extend service beyond the city limits.
And what are the possibilities of providing a much-needed link with London?
Graves reminded, “A couple of years ago we submitted for a pilot project to try to connect our transit hub with the southerly hub in London (at White Oaks Mall). But, at the time it was not funded.”
Well worth revisiting.
If you are a transit user or would love to hop aboard a bus beyond 7 p.m. or on a Sunday, air your thoughts here. The survey takes about 10 minutes.
The consultants undertaking the survey note, “With your feedback, we aim to develop a transit service to better serve you and to get you to where you need to go more quickly, easily, and comfortably.”
And an interesting history of transit in St. Thomas can be found here.
A recommendation from the city’s animal welfare committee was, in essence, impounded for the time being at Monday’s (April 1) council meeting.
In a report from committee chair Lois Jackson, it was recommended the city take the $400,000 set aside for renovations to the existing animal shelter and, instead, put it toward construction of a new, functional facility.
Council put a hold on that even though the existing shelter – an embarrassingly pitiful structure housed on the city works yard – lacks even basic amenities needed to handle cats, dogs and potential pet owners.
Council is seeking more information on what a new facility would entail.
Jackson has been chair of the committee for eight years and, over that time, has seen little to no progress on incorporating better practices at the shelter.
In a conversation with her Friday (April 5) her frustration was clearly evident.
“The report came from the committee and now it is going back to city staff,” advised Jackson.
“I think it is going to be up to city council to navigate and propel the project through and I hope they engage the public and community in doing so.”
She continued, “I think they should set up a visionary committee . . . to look at a full-service animal centre and make it regional (a favourite word of Mayor Preston) and lease out space to partners, engage the community and really shine.”
And, who knows, even generate much-needed revenue.
Jackson offered this suggestion, “Reach out to other communities, snatch up good ideas to do something with vision other than a tired building that lasts for 25 years and costs a lot of money.
“I’m a business person who believes in making money. But Lois Jackson isn’t council and Lois Jackson doesn’t work at city hall.
“I didn’t feel I was properly experienced and knowledgable on city hall policy and procedure to be an effective chair.”
“This is council’s baby and we’ll (the committee) help, recommend and suggest . . . but we can’t do anything. It is up to council to navigate this and it’s up to city hall to execute things.”
And then Jackson dropped a bombshell.
“I sent an email to Maria (city clerk Maria Konefal), the two councillors (Jim Herbert and Joan Rymal on the animal welfare committee) and the committee members . . . that I didn’t feel I was properly experienced and knowledgable on city hall policy and procedure to be an effective chair.”
However, she assured she will remain on the committee to work with the individual appointed to replace her.
After everything is said and done, Jackson just wants to attend to the welfare of the dogs and cats.
She doesn’t want to be the centre of attention and grab the headlines.
It’s all about the animals.
Don’t let such a good resource go to waste.
A FOND FAREWELL
The residents of Shedden said goodbye to a good one last week as Lorne Spicer died March 24 at the age of 92 at London’s Parkwood Institute.
Of the time spent covering events and activities at which Spicer was actively involved, I fondly remember a December afternoon in 2017 at that very same Parkwood where Spicer proclaimed, “You might call it bragging, but I got the job done and it wasn’t easy.”
He might have been recounting his work with minor hockey, the community’s Rosy Rhubarb Festival or his tireless efforts with the St. Thomas Field Naturalists, the Southwold War Memorial Committee, the Elgin Stewardship Council and the Shedden Keystone Complex.
His influence, however, rippled out far beyond the boundaries of Shedden.
He was involved with the Fingal Wildlife Management Area, had a trail named after him at Backus-Page House and guided the Elgin Heritage Tree Committee.
The account of that December afternoon not that long ago is a fascinating read.
You will find it here.
Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope
Visit us on Facebook