The last 2023 open session meeting of North Grenville’s Council took place on December 13 at the Kemptville Fire Hall. The Municipal Centre theatre remains unavailable due to renovations. Mayor Nancy Peckford opened the meeting with remarks on the growth in the community as evidenced by the “hundreds and hundreds of kids” that could be seen at the Kemptville parade.
The opening remarks were a good segue into the first item of business – an update from Benjamin Koczwarski on a population study that was done on behalf of the Municipality. Benjamin reported to Council that there has been a healthy increase in population and housing in the Municipality in recent years. North Grenville is projected to see the “bulk of the growth” within the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville. It was noted that there has been a shift in the type of housing being built in North Grenville, with less single family detached homes and more apartments and other housing types.
Benjamin’s report also addressed the type of employment that is likely to be sought by, and available to residents in the years ahead, with a large emphasis on jobs that require a commute to Ottawa, and a discussion of local jobs as well.
The report to Council claimed that in general, North Grenville is a senior-oriented community. Following the presentation, Mayor Peckford spoke up to voice her disagreement with this claim, pulling figures from the report itself to illustrate that the population figures have been rising locally across all age categories. This includes the fact there are nearly 3,000 children between the ages of 0 and 14 who live in the Municipality.
“As a Council, I think we’ve been trying to pay very careful attention to the fact that we are seeing growth in certain younger populations,” the Mayor told Benjamin. “I’m surprised that some of your recommendations focus so much on seniors when I think to be a thriving community we also have to invest in younger families and allow them to stay here and want to be here.”
Benjamin clarified in response that the actual report is much more balanced, and that his presentation may have given too much focus to the seniors aspect. Deputy Mayor John Barclay weighed in as well to suggest that a balanced view of growth is important.
Councillor Kristin Strackerjan had a question regarding the way that the COVID-19 pandemic years were interpreted in the data. Benjamin confirmed that COVID-19 was a consideration in the interpretation, but that it was not considered a large enough factor to have made a significant impact on the housing and population trends. Benjamin did acknowledge, however, that the shift to remote work following the pandemic has made it more feasible for more people to live outside of the city.
Next, Phil Mosher – the Municipality’s Deputy Director of Building and Planning – gave a presentation regarding zoning by-laws, and some changes and adjustments that Council could consider to help increase the housing supply in North Grenville as well as general convenience and livability. Deputy Director Mosher also discussed other issues such as parking. The theme of the report was “low hanging fruit” – changes that could easily be made and implemented.
A significant amount of back and forth discussion took place between Deputy Director Mosher and members of Council. This discussion focused heavily on different planning matters that help to determine the direction the Municipality is headed in terms of housing, community layout, and general development priorities.
The final item of regular business was a motion to request that the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville create new Community Safety Zones in front of Oxford-on-Rideau Public School, and in front of the Kemptville Campus which two more schools call home. The motion also dealt with a consideration of speed limit reductions in these areas. The motion was passed.
Council had one more meeting earlier this week – a closed session meeting where Council members discussed the community grant applications, followed by an open session discussion of these same grant requests. The decisions made regarding the community grants will be announced in the new year. Council has had a busy year with 60 regularly scheduled Council meetings, plus special meetings, closed session meetings, and committee meetings. A well-deserved holiday break is now on the horizon, with regular business to resume in the new year.