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Councillor - Town of Blue Mountains

Public Participation can make a positive difference in our community

The Blue Mountain Ratepayers’ Association (BMRA) is a not-for profit volunteer group committed to the Town of the Blue Mountains succeeding as a residential, agricultural and four seasons recreational community.

However, our commitment does not come without challenges that can threaten the quality and safety of our neighbourhoods, and the community at large.

The BMRA is not an activist group. We like to consider ourselves an advocate group, one that provides a stronger voice for residents who have legitimate concerns but don’t understand the complexities of politics, find public participation intimidating and generally feel that they have no chance in making positive changes to viewed ‘threats to their community’ – they feel like they will be ignored and treated as NIMBYs.

The concept of NIMBYism may be a ‘headache’ to the decision-making process but we find, more and more, that it’s a ‘heartache’ to the many people who are threatened and are standing up for themselves. The BMRA can offer to assist these residents by investigating potential threats, bringing awareness to their status, exploring the methods necessary, if possible, to bring about positive change, but most importantly, by providing a forum for the residents to be heard through organized committees and ‘Public Participation’.

The Short Term Accommodation (STA) issue is well-documented over the past 6-7 years. What started out as a local nuisance issue or the odd ‘party house’ near the base of Resort Village, turned into a proliferation of income generating STA ‘party palaces’ in low density residential areas. The Town, the OMB and the Division Court have all determined that STAs, if left uncontrolled, would create more serious compatibility issues in residential areas and could be a serious threat to the health and safety of the residents and the travelling public. Fearing that these threats could expand into other neighbourhoods throughout the Town and understanding the impacts on our OPP and Fire services and costs, public participation grew wider and stronger for a STA Licensing By-law and Program. Many residents dedicated lots of time, persevered and eventually made a difference in the Town moving forward with Licensing. In a related article, we thank all those that participated.

The proposed Telfer ‘Adult Lifestyle Village’ consisting of 86-units on land leases and located at the south east corner of Napier Street and Victoria Street in the village of Thornbury, is another example of public participation making a difference. The original development concept was modified at least 3 times as a result of a group of almost 100 residents collectively meeting regularly and voicing their concerns/constructive suggestions on densities, designs and planning compatibility issues. Many believe that the positive changes, that resulted from their strong
voice over a two year period, would have just been ignored by this Council. The BMRA strongly supported the groups’ views and assisted in bringing awareness to the rest of the community regarding the greater planning issues in this Town.

Lastly way back in August, 2010 (before the last election), the whole Town of Thornbury was talking about Thornbury Gate, a proposed 169 unit senior assisted living housing project in two large apartment buildings (a 3 storey and a 5 storey building behind the Thornbury Health Centre). The entire community rose to the occasion and participated in sending out flyers, brochures, designing a website for information and speaking out at a Public Meeting. Once again the BMRA supported the residents of this community and brought awareness to the rest of the community. Now 3 years later, the applicant has now revised their development proposal to permit a more acceptable 45 townhouse units with a maximum height of 3 storeys. Would anyone disagree that strong public participation made a positive difference?

These are just three examples how public participation can and has made a positive difference in our community – imagine how many wrongs would be perpetrated on our community because no one asked questions, no one took action, and no one cared.