Design Guidelines Way Overdue for Centre Wellington

(This post was originally printed in the August 2011 edition of the Fergus Elora News Express)

Years ago when No Frills injected itself into our community via OMB, our community had a bit of a discussion in the press about how obtuse design guidelines are in our province. (there are new ones, but we have to designate what those guidelines are in our official plan first, which we haven’t).

Before I arrived here there was a huge kafuffle about the Tim Hortons that went in on Elora Rd 7 and how promises were made by various sides that Tims would build something that was indicative of Elora’s Historical heritage. It didn’t happen. People were upset, but as usual, no one held an honest grudge and the Tims on the highway continues to thrive. People still talk about it though, and compare it to the Tims architecture in St. Jacobs.

That owner made the effort in their design. The owner in Elora did not make an effort. The question begs to be asked: how would you like to be remembered?
No Frills promised the OMB meeting attendees an ‘upgraded’ façade, which still included the giant banana sign but they offered to plant some trees as a gesture to… I don’t know… mildly appease the masses? This was actually a giant leap for Loblaws: to plant trees.

This issue of trees, design guidelines and historical preservation is in the front of my mind right now as I am experiencing a fairly monstrous renovation within spitting distance to our home. It is reminding me that our local planning guidelines in Ontario are still a shambles. 4000 sq ft homes are allowed to add on more square footage in a neighborhood that is clearly far more modest, and it doesn’t matter if your design destroys another homeowners value, enjoyment, sun and sky.

In addition, that a perfectly healthy tree can be removed without penalty in order to further renovation and destruction. In Toronto, perfectly healthy trees cannot be removed and if they are, the unlucky homeowners will be stuck with a $10,000 fine. It was explained to me that Toronto’s laws regarding tree removal have a backlog of two years and that even a tree that has been heavily damaged in a storm will get stuck on the waiting list. It is also expensive to run a department that deals with trees making it nonsensical to have one here.

I hear that.

None the less, a beautiful healthy Maple was removed to create a giant renovation in a modest neighborhood which is sad at the very least.

Its also odd that what is apparently Elora’s first home on this side of the river is allowed to have its entire top half removed. We are experiencing a backlog of heritage designations, which allowed for this renovation to be rubber stamped in the first place.

Tired of trying to figure out how the firetruck we have all this craziness in the community both in town and on the highway, I had a chat with the building department. It is clear to me that Elora and Fergus need to have some heritage guidelines in place. From there we can control the design of future developments. If the rules aren’t written, we all lose and we can expect more junky large big box stores, giant homes in modest neighborhoods, trees ripped down darkening our community with all the aluminum siding builders want.

I have heard grumblings that there are too many Township staff, but I believe that hiring a consultant whose only mandate is to create a heritage driven – unified plan that suits each of our communities is the only answer.

The Building Department as it stands, is maxed out and needs the support from Council to hire someone to put the guidelines in place.

If this is interesting to you at all please send a letter to each councilor, or bend their ear the next time you see them. I would love for that conversation to start here.
(The following tidbit is very out of date: stay tuned for my “staci eats crow” edition)

According to industry insiders, I am polarizing the community with my views on the hospital foundation.

Sorry about that. Didn’t mean to make everyone think twice about how all the monies donated thus far are in fact, still doing nothing. I appreciated their prompt response though, as did everyone else who is following this drama. They did only respond to one of my points, which was to agree the money is still sitting (in their accounts, not the Governments).

While we can point fingers as to how this started, lets remember one thing: a lot of donors are disenfranchised with how their Foundation donation money is NOT being spent, making it difficult for other very worthy groups, not just my own – to raise funds. That is a reality we all have to sit in.

I checked out the website for the Groves Foundation and had a look at the Bill of Rights for donors. That is an interesting, fair read, professional and encouraging. Until I stumbled onto Right # 4. Its says “To be assured their gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given.” The potential that the build may not happen in your lifetime or your grandchildren’s, should be the caveat.

Look, as long as our community continues to vote for MPP’s that are not running the province, this project will be hamstrung. This is political. Like the Wind Turbine Projects.. like… well enough said. (There is an election around the corner, maybe someone needs to make this build part of their platform of promises?)

KIPPnews we are going to serve chili and pizza on Saturday September 17th, during Riverfest featuring Danny Michel at Bissell Park.

The KIPP ovens are still in the infant stage but we are pretty excited about the success of our last few bakes. I am hoping that most of the last few details will be completed by then.

Stay Tuned or subscribe to or join our Facebook group to keep in the loop.

Teens n’ Drugs + How to Take a Bath (so you won’t stink)

The first half of this post was regarding the election, boring old news and just re-reading it stresses me out. Folks, 6 in 10 Canadians didn’t vote for the Conservatives. The system needs to change… but that is another column.

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On another note, a group I have recently become in involved with is COPS (Community Police Board – if you will). Recognizing that the majority of crimes committed are from kids aged 16-25, a lot of crime has drug related roots.

Centre Wellington Youth are more than just dabbling in drug use nowadays. They will tell you that ‘it’ is everywhere. “IT” creates a cycle of crime, which, with two boys under age 12, I will tell you I didn’t really ever give much thought to; this particular cycle. But if you become hooked on a drug, then you need to pay for it, and perhaps stealing might be the way to fund your addiction? Who knows what people will do for a hit, but stealing is definitely something that certain merchants will tell you affects their business.

So what to do? Some advice from someone close to me going through this with their child is this: know your kids friends and if you have a bad feeling about someone you are probably right. Do not be afraid to punish your child, they think and know they have all the power in this day and age.

If they threaten to call the C.A.S on you – hand them the phone. OPP reminds me that you still have the right to physically punish or discipline your child, but don’t use excessive force. Things get a little fuzzy around the term excessive force, which can lead to a sense of hopelessness for parents how to manage their drug addicted child. Further, parents calling the OPP for assistance in managing the nightmare has put the state in the business of raising our children.

What I can tell you is the moms (and some grand-moms) of youth affected by drugs are running out of ideas on how to deal with the problem. Finally convincing your child to visit their physician is a hurdle most covet, however you quickly learn as concerned mom that what is said in the privacy of the doctors office, stays in the doctors office if your child is over the age of 13 and thus, we are cut out of the cycle to helping our kids. This is the same for social workers, counselors of any kind – ‘nope, can’t tell you the problem, but keep at it, you’re on the right track.’

Young girls don’t have to steal because once a dealer/boyfriend gets them hooked they will use their bodies to get their fix. Does this response want to make your head explode? It does mine. When I asked when on earth privacy laws changed, I was informed about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms founded in 1982.

The OPP have something to offer in their various frustrations on the same subject. For instance, if youth (or anyone for that matter) run away, a simple phone call attempting to locate the person at a hostel or even a hospital will render zero results. OPP asking a school if a child is there is also a challenge for them. Yes the school will call police to review police tapes of a kid writing graffiti all over the bathroom, but a similar request to see tapes to sort out a drug deal in same bathroom will also render zero results. Literally, the only time privacy laws can be broken down, is if the OPP are needed, and this is a sad one-way street that has been created by government.

This situation all round is not working for anyone so in the meantime, looking at what is causing the cycle and trying to do something about it, is what COPS is working on now. Educating our grade seven and eights in drug awareness is our plan and we are working on pitching the schools/ service clubs (to help finance) now to have teachers attend training for a program called High on Life which takes a holistic view combining the current curriculm on drug awareness with assertive training and goal setting. So far St. Mary’s School and Elora Public are on board (thank you Elora Lions, you rock boys n’ gals) (looking for all schools in CW).

As Maude Barlow says: Fighting for justice everyday is like taking a bath. If you don’t do it, you’ll stink.