Community improvement plan seeks public input

A document that would allow council to help private businesses is scheduled to be passed after a public meeting Oct. 3.

This would be Adelaide Metcalfe’s first-ever community improvement plan (CIP). The county is chipping in half the cost of drawing one up.

The idea behind a CIP is to find and implement ways to, well, improve the community. That can range from landscaping, paying half the cost of a new business sign, building more sidewalks, or rethinking how a community or area like Centre Road is planned out. It usually is a 10-year plan.

The public has until Sept. 30 to register to make a written or oral submission to the Oct. 3 public meeting that starts at 6pm. Registration can be done online or by contacting the Township office.

An open house on Sept. 19 drew no comments from the public. Consultant Jesse McPhail from Republic Urbanism hopes to get a lot more feedback than that before the Oct. 3 meeting.

“We don’t live and work in the community so it’s important for us to get grounded. We can do a policy analysis, we can look at maps, we can look at photos, but we really lean on that local knowledge and that lived experience,” McPhail told council at the open house.

And a CIP is not just for the urban areas of the Township. CIPs have grown from traditionally focusing on specific urban areas like a Main Street, to looking at opportunities rurally.

“There’s a lot of opportunity out in the rural area with home-based businesses and agri-tourism, on-farm diversified uses,” said McPhail.

There were some priorities he noticed from the government and stakeholders who did give some input so far.

One was focusing on the Centre Road corridor as a core commercial and gateway anchor. He also thought working more with Strathroy-Caradoc and area landowners to create less of a highway thoroughfare and more of an urban area friendly to pedestrians was something to look at.

“It is a little hairy for pedestrians and cyclists and those looking to cross the road,” said McPhail.

Improving walkability and bikeabilty throughout the Township was an idea suggested for council to look at.

So was encouraging more affordable or attainable housing. and having Kerwood as a key focus area as a residential and recreation centre with the potential for expansion.

Specific financial incentives proposed included a number of targeted grants: A countryside economic development grant that diversifies a farm use outside the regular way of growing crops; money for improving accessibility with more wheelchair ramps or automatic doors; encouraging additional residential units by legalizing existing or helping pay for more added units in a house; helping with business additions, façades and signage; and investing more in things the Township already has like what it has been doing at Kerwood Park.

The idea is up to $5,000 grants given would be to pay for up to half of private improvements, with the business or resident paying their fair share.

The consulting company came up with the grant numbers after working with three other municipalities in the county, according to McPhail.

Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner