Growing up on College and Gordon I witnessed the impact big-box store development can have on a sensitive local ecosystem. Throughout the years, I’ve watched this industry suffer. Corporations foreclose on the location and new stores come in while increasing economic pressure asks whether or not this method of selling goods is sustainable with increasing online sales?

Whether or not the big box store survives, these one-story structures suck an insurmountable amount of energy, require massive lots of paved asphalt, and provide substantially less on property taxes then mixed-use nodes. Just because a building principle is normalized does not mean it is the most effective.

The Secondary Plan for Clair-Maltby presents much in the same way. Intensification all along the Gordon corridor to shield urban sprawl behind. In effect, building a brand-new community on dated principles that are costly to maintain for infrastructure and public services, drive up property taxes, and the average cost of homes. Yes, building up is far more cost effective, however, intensification along an arterial road comes with its own set of issues, traffic and congestion being a valid concern for most in the area.

However, the rapidly developing landscape in Guelph has also had a significant impact on how we view the city. Some feeling these changes have begun to dominate the landscape and erode the character of the city.  In other cases, new developments have encroached on sensitive ecological territories, filling in wetlands and impacting wildlife. Conscientious, creative, sustainable development to meet the Places to Grow Act is feasible. We can be dynamic, we can densify, we can create an active, livable community that builds from our eyes up and around. This city was built on bold principles. That’s a Guelph Factor we should never have lost. Community is based on interaction not numbers. And we can continue to foster that effect and feeling by building around the principles that exist here. It’s never been about red tape, it’s always been about our relationship with space.

Groundwater, the Paris Galt Moraine, and Clair Maltby

We are so fortunate to have access to clean, healthy drinking water straight from the tap. Our incredible zero waste water treatment facility (with some of the highest testing standards) is the unsung hero in our city. Ensuring this resource is preserved must always stay in the purview of every election. To continue to benefit from groundwater, we need to maintain a strong consciousness on how our interaction with the environment impacts aquifer chargers. With much work being put into Natural Heritage sites, development around the Paris Galt moraine needs to be defined by the landscape, over developers’ interests. The rolling hills in the Clair Maltby area are critical features to functioning as a natural filter of silt and gravel to recharge the aquifer. The destruction of such small, but sensitive landscape features could have long term consequences that effect the ability of the aquifer to recharge itself to full potential. The current trend of flattening landscapes for sprawl and intensification along the Gordon corridor is not a conducive plan to developing on a critical water table. The so far undeveloped Clair Maltby area is such a successful recharge area because of its natural rolling landscape.  For the future of this city and the next generations access to water, it is critical to be bold in demanding conscientious development.

Powering Tomorrow: Reaching Renewable Goals

The world’s technological advancements and economy is growing. Estimated to be worth almost $7 trillion, this economy is moving towards local energy solutions. Over the last ten years we have seen this movement enabled best by local government action.

As dependency on non-renewable sources of energy continues, the price only rises. Expenditures on electricity, natural gas, and transportation fuel is not only set to double in the next 20 years but to also become less reliable, thus putting on more pressure for tax-payers. As a result, municipalities have a choice to play a key role in developing policies and attracting investments that drive efficiencies in our community-wide energy-use. The benefit? Keeping energy dollars local and stimulating and increasing resilience in the local economy.

The goal to move operations of the Corporation of the City of Guelph to 100% renewable has been set for 2050 thanks to the tireless advocacy of eMerge and years of community involvement and engagement beginning with the Community Energy Plan. Although this is a fine corporate commitment, it is not a community wide initiative. Moreover, the details on how to proceed are yet to be determined, the conversation needs to move to an understanding of the city’s role in achieving these targets - whether they are community, corporate, or not-for-profit.

In addition, pressure to commitment to programs such as GEERS (Guelph Energy Efficient Retrofit Strategy) needs to be addressed so individuals can begin to engage productively in hitting net zero targets. Moreover, under the auspices of the previous CEI, commitments were made under a planning lens for upcoming developments. With an increase in aggressive intensification and development on the horizon the relationship between sustainability and development needs to come under intense scrutiny. In this final phase of development, there needs to be a plan of action to reach the 2050 goal and not build backwards for 30,000 new citizens.