Mayor eyes 401 op­por­tu­ni­ties

Mark Peter­son thinks town­ship should cap­i­tal­ize on Drumbo in­ter­change

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - FRONT PAGE - GREG COLGAN

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.”

Mark Peter­son

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