Invest your money in your future
Wow, that’s quite the deal. After spending a year brainstorming, attending meetings, completing surveys, compiling inventories, and reviewing plans and designs, North Glengarry residents would be remiss if they didn’t act on the township’s offer to help them fix up their businesses, homes and heritage buildings.
The township’s new Community Improvement Plan seems to have something for everyone.
The grant program will give property owners and tenants cash to help them improve the appearance of their properties and make a lasting improvement to the community. The township is willing to pay up to 50 per cent of the cost for facade and landscape upgrade projects, including funding business signage, lighting and awnings, and public art.
The township is also agreeing to pay the initial costs of a property assessment increase on people’s taxes as a result of their property improvements, as an “tax increment grant.”
The township is really covering all bases and is clearly thinking ahead, anticipating any excuses people may have for not improving their establishments. It will pay 100 per cent of the cost of a building permit up to $750, and 75 per cent of the cost to install civic address signage that helps direct emergency services responders. If business owners and residents need to borrow money from the township to complete their projects, they can also take out an interest-free loan they can pay back within five years. CAO Daniel Gagnon says the grant and loan program is a good use of tax dollars. The township wants to focus on supporting mainly business improvements to start the program.
When one thinks about it, since the money the township is waving in front of people’s eyes is taxpayer money, they would be doing themselves a disservice by not tak- ing advantage of the offer. The township showed at this past week’s public meetings in Alexandria and Maxville it will be doing its part to make the downtown cores more attractive, starting with improving Alexandria’s Mill Square.
The Friends of King George Park will be looking for ways to fundraise to spruce up King George Park in downtown Maxville also.
An architect and urban design specialist’s renderings of redesigns for Mill Square and King George Park incorporating resident feedback from the Re-Imagining Main Street workshops last June were especially impressive, and provided the community a chance to imagine how beautiful and inviting their community “hubs” could be with a little work.
And to the naysayers, really? At the Alexandria public consultation meeting last week, one resident grumbled quietly about the municipality asking that people planning building facade improvements maintain a
degree of uniformity and a “sober” appearance. Granted, it would be fun to see what kind of creative, original designs people may have in mind. Maybe a restaurant owner would install a giant three- dimensional hamburger on top of his or her signage. The township wants to play up the heritage of Alexandria and Maxville as the communities’ selling features. North Glengarry’s Scottish heritage is what lured many people to visit and settle here in the first place.
The municipality also hopes to maintain a common design, to give the downtown cores a dignified look and make the most of the buildings already in existence. Why change a good thing?
After the proposed plans for Mill Square were shown at the Alexandria public consultation, many residents taking in the presentation were clearly bubbling with enthusiasm for what the future may hold. Imagine walking into Mill Square and visiting a few artisans and vendor kiosks, or having lunch at a bistro table and then walking over a newly revamped bridge to view the waterfall, and take a short stroll to the water, traverse the walking bridge to Firemen’s Island on Mill Pond then returning to Mill Square and downtown Alexandria to visit the businesses on Main Street. It may sound like a dream, but one that can be realized.
Whether it does materialize remains to be seen, but to the few people who see only the negatives in such an idea – how this won’t work, can’t work – why must you doubt?
It’s easy to sit back and complain about everything, and do nothing. Residents instead should make an effort to believe in the future growth of the township and appreciate the enormous work economic development officer Kerri- Lynn Strotmann invested into the Community Improvement Plan. The public applauded her work at the recent consultation meetings.
It takes many people willing to share and support a vision to make change happen.
If more individuals don’t make a commitment and take up the township’s challenge to make their properties and commercial establishments more appealing, they may as well pack their suitcases and check out.
People can’t expect the town- ship to promise them a bright future, with a better quality of life, if they are not willing to walk the same road to be part of it.