Today marks the first full year of office of the current City Council. The first year of any new council is one of learning, listening and working to find common ground. The controversy-loving media would have you believe that we spend our time divided and plotting against each other. In truth, despite a range of political ideologies (which is a normal part of a healthy democracy by the way), Council found common ground on a number of issues and initiatives during the past year. Here are the top ten accomplishments of 2015 that I am most proud of, in no particular order:
- The Clair-Maltby Secondary Plan is finally underway. This section of the city is the largest undeveloped land area left within the city limits and contains significant wetlands and groundwater recharge moraine. We need to get this right. The CMSP is the first critical step.
2. We collectively celebrated hometown hero Lt. Col. John McCrae and the 100th anniversary of the writing of In Flanders Fields. A new statue of McCrae was unveiled at the Guelph Civic Museum. People around the world celebrated with us to mark this bittersweet anniversary. Here’s a link to the National Film Board video about McCrae’s story.
3. After almost nine years of policy work, research and an OMB challenge, Guelph now has its very first Heritage Conservation District. Other municipalities are miles ahead of us in the use of this effective planning tool to protect urban neighbourhoods and heritage character (Ottawa has 18 HDCs).
4. Guelph gave a thumbs up to the concept of a forward-thinking strategic investment initiative called GEERS (Guelph Energy Efficiency Retrofit Strategy) in 2015, with the intent to enable homeowners to invest in energy efficiency upgrades through community financing. It’s part of our award-winning Community Energy Initiative. It’s new, it’s ambitious, but it just might work. Doing nothing to combat climate change is not an option.
5. The groundbreaking for Metalworks (Fusion Homes), completion of River House and construction of River Mill (TriCar) residential developments have been particularly satisfying this year. I’m not a huge fan of highrises — architecturally speaking — but these three projects represent investment confidence in our downtown, better use of municipal infrastructure, and a positive transformation of three former brownfield sites.
6. Guelph maintained its AA+ credit rating in 2015. That may not sound like much, but it’s been a tough year with unexpected costs (frozen pipes, Urbacon settlement) and a slow economy. Our solid financial policies, administrative practices and economic outlook are a source of pride. New business opened and existing businesses expanded within the city, signaling confidence in Guelph’s economic future.
7. Guelph’s first urban food forest in University Village Park was initiated this past year. This exciting project signals the beginning of a trend towards building local food security, naturalizing parkland, creative places to play and rebuilding our urban forest. Community Gardens expanded in 2015 with a new site at Sunnyacres Park.
8. This year, the City won national awards in environmental conservation, communications, municipal leadership and community energy. Receiving external recognition for excellence and leadership means something – it signals that we are doing great things and employ great people who are highly respected by their peers. We should all be very proud.
9. Upgrades to the Victoria Road Recreation Centre were approved this year. This valuable public facility was constructed in 1975 and the investment in energy upgrades, new lighting, new entrance and other improvements are long overdue.
10. The City of Guelph joined the Blue Dot movement, signing a declaration recognizing the right to clean water, fresh air, safe food and a voice in decision-making that affects our wellbeing. It’s a symbolic statement that will help to guide our decision-making on emerging local climate change issues regarding development, waste diversion, urban spaces and water protection.
I see even greater things ahead for 2016 – stay tuned!