Friends of the Future’s Jane Voorheis, shown in the foreground, talks with one of the many people who filled Oro-Medonte Township’s council chambers on Wednesday to watch her present a petition against the City of Barrie’s proposed boundary expansion.Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Whether you agree with her position on the City of Barrie’s proposed boundary expansion or not, Jane Voorheis’s commitment to democracy is something to be admired.

At a time when apathy in municipal politics seems to be at an all-time high, the Oro-Medonte resident has taken her concerns to the streets in an effort to rally awareness, and opposition, to Barrie’s planned expansion into the townships of Oro-Medonte and Springwater.

Despite the fact that decision-makers from the province, the City of Barrie, Oro-Medonte Township, Springwater Township and the County of Simcoe have moved behind closed doors to consider various options, Voorheis continues to beat the drum of public input.

Representing a group called Friends of the Future, Voorheis was in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Oro-Medonte council Wednesday afternoon to present township officials with a petition signed by more than 3,000 Oro-Medonte and City of Barrie Ward 1 residents opposing Barrie’s proposal.

She was joined by Franca Marinelli, a member of the Barrie Ward 1 Residents Association.

“This presentation is dedicated to the engaged residents of both of our communities who have passionately expressed their views by signing petitions against the City of Barrie’s proposed annexation for the development of an industrial park,” Voorheis said as she began her presentation.

“We are here today to represent their voices and their concerns by acting today, shaping tomorrow,” she added. 

Voorheis said Friends of the Future was formed in March due to “escalating concerns from the community” to advocate for residents and co-ordinate opposition efforts with like-minded folks in Barrie’s Ward 1.

In May, the group launched a public awareness campaign and placed red lawn signs with various messages — such as Sign the Petition, No Annexation, No Factories Here! — along the proposed annexation area on Penetanguishene Road.

On May 28, ‘Friends of the Future’ says it organized a one-day petition blitz in Oro-Medonte and Barrie that gathered almost 800 signatures.

That one-day event turned into a week-long exercise.

When the final tally was complete, 1,350 Oro-Medonte residents and 1,703 Barrie residents signed the petition opposing the proposal.

The number continues to grow, they say.

“As I entered (the council chambers) today, I was given another 16 sheets filled with signatures,” Voorheis said.

According to the presentation, some residents of both Oro-Medonte and Barrie expressed multiple concerns with the proposed boundary expansion, including quality of life, preservation of rural character, environmental impact, impact on home values and fragmented municipal planning.

“Residents in Barrie’s Ward 1 are very concerned about the impact of industrial development on their home values,” said Marinelli. “They fear that factories along Penetanguishene Road will lower property values and make it harder to sell their homes in the future.”

Voorheis said the residents of Oro-Medonte and Barrie share similar concerns with the boundary expansion plans. 

“Residents who signed these petitions from both our communities share common concerns, values and a strong resolve to band together to ensure their voices are heard and to stop this annexation,” Voorheis said.

By Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 27, 2024 at 13:35

This item reprinted with permission from   BarrieToday   Barrie, Ontario

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