In­vest your money in your fu­ture

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page -

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.

AN­GELA BROWN

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