I spent the better part of the last week talking to candidates for mayor and council in South Frontenac. The profiles that resulted from those conversations start on page 6 of this edition. I woud first like to thank all of the people I talked to. They were honest and forthright about where they think the township is going and the role that the township should be playing.
A couple of divisions emerged and depending on how the election pans out the township could be headed in a different direction.
One of the divisions is over spending. All of the candidates are committed to controlling spending on existing operations, while maintaining services, paving roads, and so onw. But a number thought that the township needs to respond to the current and likely future influx of young families seeking to raise families in the countryside. The traditional rural character of the township and its small hamlets might not. Where there are now a number of parks, ball diamonds and soccer fields, and an arena up at the top end of the township, some candidates are talking about splash pads, new recreation centres, even swimming pools.
As one candidate put it, and I’m paraphrazing, South Frontenac needs to decide if it is going to be ,ore suburban.
The is a big change from anything that has been seriously discussed in the past. Until now, the township has been steadily improving its roads, modernizing its parks and beaches, and essentially maintaining the same character as the township had 30 or 50 years ago. Some fancy houses have been built on and even off the water, and subdivisions have gone in here and there. But aside from the Frontenac Arena, which was built in pre-amalgamation days (1976) by 4 Frontenac townships working together, nothing else like it has even been seriously contemplated.
Since South Frontenac was created in 1998, with the exception of the Sydenham library, the only recreational infrastructure projects that have been completed have been enhancements to pre-existing facilities, notably Centennial Park in Harrowsmith and the Point Park in Sydenham.
The idea of building a recreation centre as an add-on to a potential new office complex, which is being floated by one mayoralty candidate and hinted at by another and also promoted by several council candidates, would be a big change. South Frontenac Council spent its first ten years figuring out how to amalgamate fully and its next ten implementing amalgamation and consolidating its public works infrastructure.
When this idea is combined with the realisation that tackling Road 38 is now a real priority for the township, budgeting is likely to become a more contentious, and costly, enterprise over the next four years.
The second issue of note during this election is the vigorous assertion, by a number of candidates, that the only way to solve the townships planning woes is to wrest responsibility for subdivision and plan of condominium approvals from Frontenac County. A change of that order may or may not solve some of the problems the township has been having, but it also seems to miss the point.
What everyone says they want is a transparent, rules based process. If there were an up to date Official Plan and Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw in place, good complete information from the planning department for developers large and small, and a chance for affected parties to air their concerns, presumably good decisions would follow that allow the township to grow while protecting community and environmental concerns. It would not matter who makes the final decision as long as all of these safeguards are in place.
The possible pitfall of setting up a made in South Frontenac process that inserts council into the mix in a big way via enhanced public meetings, is that politics could run roughshod over the rules.
Sometimes a fair and reasonable planning decision will run counter to the interests, perceived or real, of the neighbour down the road.
South Frontenac needs a planning process that is overseen by professionals under a set of rules that are debated and approved by Council.
Any other outcome will lead to a continuation of the tendency towards decisions being made by provincially appointed appeals tribunals overseen by people who have no connection to either South Frontenac or Frontenac County as a whole.
(Next week, we will focus on the elections in Addington Highlands and Central Frontenac. Candidate profiles of the 10 candidates for council in Central Frontenac, and the 6 candidates for council and 2 candidates for reeve in Addington Highlands, will be published. These profiles will be posted at Frontenacnews.ca as soon as they are completed, hopefully on Sunday the 14th or Monday the 15th.)