NOTL resident, Claudette Young takes in the drafted strategic plan. She says the enviornment should be one of council’s top priorities. Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

If the environment fails, nothing else will matter – that was a sentiment one Niagara-on-the-Lake resident shared during one of several information sessions held this week regarding the new council’s strategic plan.

Claudette Young stopped by on Tuesday to learn about the drafted strategic plan and told The Lake Report the environment ought to be top of the new council’s to-do list. 

“Number one is environmental issues because if that goes, so does everything else,” she said.

The town introduced its climate change adaptation plan in April 2022 but decided not to hire a co-ordinator to implement the program in this year’s municipal budget.

Despite no team leader, in conservations about the co-ordinator position during this year’s budget proceedings, staff said they plan to approach the strategic plan with environmental stewardship in mind.

“It’s not coming up fast enough for residents like me,” Young said. 

Including Young, The Lake Report counted at least seven people who stopped by the information session at the old Court House on Queen Street when a reporter visited at 4:30 p.m. for a half-hour.

Young isn’t the only one with the environment on her mind: Coun. Wendy Cheropita, who was also there, said she heard several residents speak up about flooding issues at Monday’s information session.

Cheropita said residents who came to session at the community centre wanted to see more “green initiatives,” as the town continues to build new buildings.

She said there were also a few concerns shared about the town’s green spaces.

“We want to make sure, if we’re moving forward, that we’re saving and preserving our parks and our green space,” she said.

At another information session on Monday, at Sparky’s Park in St. Davids, resident Judith Atwood – one of five residents who attended – said she wants to see the town build smarter not faster.

After watching council discuss a new development plan in St. Davids in March, Atwood said she concluded the town needs to build “adequate infrastructure” before people start moving into new developments.

She pointed out there are already existing traffic issues and inadequate social amenities such as parks and community centres.

Rather than thinking ahead, Atwood said she thinks the town is “reacting later” to infrastructural shortcomings caused by rapid development. 

“It’s very frustrating, as a resident,” she said.

Cheropita worries the drafted plan is a little confusing for residents. She said she’s heard people asking questions about the town’s process.

“It’s always more challenging for people when they have big lists,” Cheropita said, referring to the drafted strategic plan displayed on whiteboards inside the courthouse.

Cheropita, with Coun. Sandra O’Connor wanted to “refine” the plan before sending it out for public feedback.

Council decided instead to come back to its plan after residents had their say.

Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa told The Lake Report he was not at any of the public information sessions.

“I think that’s important for the public to have its time to engage,” he said, adding that he was looking forward to seeing the results of that engagement. 

“I really respect the process and that’s the way it should be,” Zalepa said.

The final information session was held virtually Tuesday night at 6:30 and the town closes its online survey June 1 at 4:30.

A town spokesperson said almost 100 residents attended the sessions and that 100 surveys have been filled out online to date.

The feedback collected will be presented to council later in June.

By Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 01, 2023 at 09:25

This item reprinted with permission from   The Lake Report   Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
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