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.

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