It’s a tale of two municipalities and their respective leaders.
St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston is ecstatic.
Central Elgin Mayor Andrew Sloan, on the other hand, is a lot more guarded.
Their differing reactions are in response to an announcement on Wednesday (Feb. 23) the province is introducing legislation to attract new investment to the 800-acre parcel of land east of Highbury Avenue assembled by the city last summer.
Oops, let’s correct that because the release from the province refers to 1,500 acres of land.
We’ll sort that out as we go.
The original 800 acres are located in St. Thomas and Central Elgin and have been identified as one of the most invest-ready mega sites in Ontario.
However, with the land divided between two municipalities with different permitting requirements, potential investors could face red tape and delays from unnecessary duplication.
And so the province has stepped in. We’re unsure if that was at the city’s request but we’ll try to sort that one out as we go as well.
He is remembered as the consummate politician and a mentor to those considering tossing their hat in the political ring.
Former Elgin MP and Southwold resident Ken Monteith died on Feb. 3 at the age of 84.
City councillor Steve Peters recalls Monteith not only was a well-respected politician, but he also continued to give back to the community after he left politics.
“Ken was the consummate public servant. He started in the 1970s on Southwold council. Served as the warden in 1981, and went on to become the MP in 1988.
Monteith served as Elgin MP until 1993.
“But even after his defeat, he continued to give back to the community, whether it was supporting the hospital or the plowing match.”
Most recently he helped fundraise for Hospice of Elgin.
“Ken really had a life-long commitment to helping others in the community. He’s the type of person that is going to be really difficult to replace because a lot of times people will retire, but Ken stayed active until the end.”
In December of 2021, the partners involved in Project Tiny Hope – YWCA St. Thomas-Elgin, Doug Tarry Homes and Sanctuary Homes – requested $3 million in funding from the city for the imaginative project at 21 Kains Street.
What will the affordable housing look like?
“The creation of new YWCA rental units will be inclusive to diverse populations from all walks of life,” advised Lindsay Rice, YWCA executive director in the support case for the undertaking released in December of 2022.
It is to be “A mix of one, two and three-bedroom rental units will accommodate adults, youth and families.
“Each tiny home will be equipped with a full kitchen, bathroom, laundry, private bedrooms and living room providing dignity and comfort.”
Just over a year after the release of the project information, city council will return to the $3 million funding request at Monday’s (Feb. 13) council meeting.
At that time, Heather Sheridan, director of St. Thomas Elgin Social Services, recommends council approve the request in principle, “contingent on a successful outcome from the Rapid Housing Initiative application process and the provincial contribution request.”
In November of last year, Danielle Neilson reminded city council that the solution to homelessness is housing and housing with supports.
Neilson is the city’s Homelessness Prevention and Housing Programs Coordinator and at that meeting of council, she presented a thorough overview of the homeless situation in St. Thomas, including an analysis of unsheltered homelessness.
She observed, “. . . this is not only the result of increased demands on our emergency shelter beds, some of my firsthand experiences with people living unsheltered in St. Thomas revealed other factors as well.
“Such as needing lower barrier supports that are matched more appropriately to someone’s mental health or addiction challenges that may result in unpredictable behaviours.
“Having personal belongings or accumulating personal belongings at a rate that exceeds the shelter’s ability to store them.
“Having a complete desire to live unsheltered, even when housing options are available.