Mayor eyes 401 opportunities
Mark Peterson thinks township should capitalize on Drumbo interchange
For incoming Blandford-Blenheim Township mayor Mark Peterson, increasing the tax base will be a priority in the next four years.
Sites near Highway 401 are where he hopes to explore possibilities for the largely agricultural and residential municipality. “The one that’s intrigued me is why the Drumbo 401 interchange doesn’t have the growth others do towards Toronto,” Peterson said. “I’d like to address that since the timing’s right. It wouldn’t be a big industrial base since there’s no services there, but more nonservicing opportunities.” Peterson said the township lacks an industrial base, so it relies on residential growth for its tax base.
“We’re doing well, but if it slows it’s going to be difficult to sustain what we have... I’m not saying you’ll see huge plants there, but I wouldn’t mind seeing an agribusiness or a dry industrial site like a cement place or a trucking company. A place that doesn’t need services, but needs a large piece of property.
“I don’t want to give up prime agricultural land. It’s something I want to explore and see what has to happen to make it happen up there,” Peterson said. “If we can do something to offset the tax base and not rely on just residential, then it’ll help the township and county.”
The township already has the lowest property taxes in Oxford County and Peterson said he hopes to keep it like that as long as services aren’t sacrificed.
“As long as we’re not losing services I’m OK with keeping them low,” he said. “I’m OK with spending, but there’s a difference between want and need.” A two-term councillor, Peterson is replacing Mayor Marion Wearn who is retiring.
In addition to developing the 401 area, Peterson said he’d heard from people on the campaign trail about having more paved roads and adding more housing for seniors to continue to live in the area.
“I’ve talked with people in Plattsville who have lived there their whole life and they’d like to continue. We have (seniors’ housing) in Drumbo and Princeton, which could also see some expansion.”
Speeding drivers are an issue in Blandford-Blenheim and other townships in the county, Peterson said.
“Speeding ’s not just a township or county issue, but it’s everywhere... I’d like to see the county come up with a plan. You can’t stop it completely, but if we can create a plan to curb it or traffic calming measures I’d like the county and townships to work together on a plan.”
While the new provincial government has led many to worry about possible cuts as it looks to rein in spending, Peterson said he was intrigued about the possibility of Doug Ford’s plan to increase the availability of natural gas.
“For a lot of farmers here it’s huge for them. If we can get it (natural gas) to rural areas, financially that’s huge,” Peterson said. “The cost would be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Ernie Hardeman is the agricultural minister (for the provincial government) and he’s here in Oxford. That’s something I’d like to see us pursue and help our farmers.”
The new council will formally meet at the beginning of December. With Peterson moving to mayor from council seat and Randy Balzer and Bruce Banbury returning as councillors, they’ll be joined by new blood in Justin Read and Nancy Demarest.
Peterson said the mixture has strong potential for the next four years.
“I’m very excited. There were a lot of great candidates who ran. It’s nice to have the mix of experience with new people... We’re excited to move forward and keep things going in the right direction for our township.”