As part of Chatham-Kent Council’s planning for their term and realizing their vision for the next 25 years, a special open public strategic planning session regarding growth was recently held the evening of January 14, 2020 at the John D. Bradley Centre.
Municipal staff say the evening looked at the realities of growth projections, metrics to evaluate growth and strategies to meet and exceed projections.
No formal decisions were made in the session but rather it was an opportunity for Council and the Executive Management Team to work together to envision the best and worst case scenarios of Chatham-Kent in the short and long-term, Municipal staff say.
Don Shropshire, CAO, spoke to the realities facing the community over the next 25 years.
“It is to no one’s surprise that costs are rising as factors such as inflation, expense downloading, and shifting demographics change the landscape of the services that we provide,” Shropshire said, in a press release.
“Ultimately, we have three options available to us to address these rising costs. We can do nothing and just raise taxes on our existing business, agriculture, and residential base; we can drastically cut the services our residents and businesses rely on; or we can meet the challenge head on and grow our community which will increase our tax base without increasing taxes.”
Shropshire added: “In my mind, there is clearly only one option that meets the needs of the community and that is the one of growing our community.”
As part of the session, Council worked through several case studies and examples that looked at where there have been barriers to growth and ideas that could fuel growth.
Council also looked at some out-of-the-box ideas, possible opportunities to fund growth initiatives and ways of fueling new development across all of Chatham-Kent.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we must be a community that is investment ready,” stated John Norton, General Manager of Chatham-Kent Community Development, in a press release.
“This means having infrastructure in the ground to make lands ready for private investment. It also means making sure our policies are in line with other communities so we can remain competitive.”
Norton added: “I think the message came through loud and clear to everyone in the room that if we want to continue to have a prosperous and vibrant community for families today and in the coming years, that now is the time to invest in ourselves.”
A growth strategy for Chatham-Kent is in development and the metrics used to measure growth will include population (Census Population Count), Jobs (Employment rate as a proxy), and Tax Assessment (tax levy).
“I’ve been asked by a lot of people recently what the right growth means to me,” stated Mayor Darrin Canniff.
“Growth in Chatham-Kent is seeing more homes for residents, more good paying jobs at a wide diversity of businesses, and more people in all of our communities taking advantage of the amazing services that we have to offer. Growth is full schools, full arenas, full employment, and people filled with community pride.”
As part of the next steps, Municipal staff are preparing an information report to be brought to Council at the upcoming meeting on February 10, 2020.