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.

Lazy Parenting Creates a Win-Win for Everyone

(Published Fergus-Elora News Express May 2011)

So, I walked into the kitchen last week, and in there was my seven year old running a survey as to what sort of salad everyone wanted for dinner. I am liking my new baby spinach salad with oranges and chicken and he prefers a Caesar.

I was out voted, but not out-smarted. We had spinach but no lettuce, so technically I should win the option, due to the choices in the house at the moment. My response was we need to have spinach because that is what we have and I am not going out to get lettuce.

So my kid, suited up, raincoat in hand said ‘I’ll get the lettuce’. Some of you know I live downtown so the lettuce store isn’t that far away.
Thus my column on lazy parenting begins at the fridge.

Fast forward one hour and I walk into the kitchen, and literally a Caesar salad (cut/washed lettuce with bacon bits, croutons and even he shredded the parmesan!) has transformed itself into a large pottery bowl, on a set table, ready to feed the four of us. Plates, cutlery, filled milk glasses, and the works all courtesy of my youngest.Wow. As I was sitting at the table for our family dinner, I started making a list of how my lazy parenting has actually helped form two incredibly independent children.

My kids started walking home alone by grade two. To be fair ‘alone’ is with 200 other kids walking the same street, and I would meet them where the traffic became an obstacle. This was partly because of my work schedule, but also my mother telling me that my brother walked home other kids when he was in grade two back in the day.

Back to the fridge, er, now the bedroom.

At age four my son was asking for sleepovers at friends houses, who am I to say no to that? Free night avec husband, hello. No need to Ferberize my kid, I was again, lazy parent and said from the get go: no we are not having a snuggle fest to get you to sleep, no we are not doing a meet and greet in the night cause you are bored or your blanky moved. We snuggled ALL Day for crying out loud, no pun there, and sleeping is serious business. If you get yours, I will get mine, and we will be happy family.

I was recently slammed on FB when a desperate friend/ mom posted ‘how did you get your kid to sleep’ and I said ‘fill the child up with liquid, and a bit of cereal for filler. No! she basically screamed via the net, and I quote: “No offense Staci, but you’re not supposed to mix cereal in the bottle – can mess with their eating skills.” Really? I am looking at my 12 and 7 year old and they are eating their Harvest Crunch with no issue…. And making and eating Caesar salad and crepes on the weekend to boot!

My kids have been doing chores since they were able to communicate, because well, I hate chores too. The boys here want certain clothes clean and ready for school. Ya? Well then, you best go sort out the clothes into colours and when you are done, I will put a load on. Then, my eldest, you can fold and put the clothes away. Laundry is the big chore for Big J that occurs once every 1.5 weeks or so, leaving daily chores of walking the dog or perhaps helping clean the kitchen. The youngest is able to clean the bathrooms or unload the dishwasher.
My laziness stories could go on and on, but I have a point. My lack of anxiety surrounding food and bed and chaperoning has served us all very well, and perhaps their future spouses I would say. Anxiety is an issue hitting kids hard these days (many of them self-medicating in order to cope), and baffled as to how this could be happening leaves me wondering what is going on in households today. I have reared independent children, who are comfortable with other people, who love to sleep (chenille, lambies and big thread count sheets when they were young made them love their beds helped too)….all dying to go to school as soon as possible, leaving boring mom at home.

(I have a confession: I totally bailed on what I wanted to comment on: the young student caught posing in a bikini in front of a car she helped BUILD for the University of Waterloo Engineering team. Due to a conflict in my own house, I can’t comment… feel free to ask me my thoughts if you see me in the street.)

As an aside KIPPelora is gearing up to install our shed and clean up the pad down at Bissell Park so that the oven build can begin. Holy mommas this project makes my head want to explode.

In a good way of course… curious timing: I receive a daily cartoon from a guy named Hugh McCleod. He wrote a best selling book called Ignore Everybody, and more recently Evil Plans. His cartoon of today reads: “Success has that weird quality which makes it seem like child’s play after the fact and totally impossible before. His thoughts on this: Success is so captivating. It’s also very elusive. What makes someone successful? 
IQ, EQ, social standing, hard work, good timing, organizational skills, dogged determination, thoughtful delegation, or plain, old, luck?

There are a thousand possible answers and certainly no single one.
 But whatever they are, there is something that truly visionary entrepreneurs have: The ability to make it look easy. And it’s never easy. Ever.
 Until it is. Until it’s in the past tense.
 Funny how that works…” That perfectly sums up our community kitchen. Mind blowing tough to sort out how it’ll roll, but once its up and going, childs play. Easy peezy. For fun on Hugh goto