by Mayor Nancy Peckford
North Grenville is a remarkable place. A unique constellation of rural hamlets, as well as the town of Kemptville, our community has a storied history defined by geography, settlement patterns, and the rise and fall of various businesses and industries.
Most importantly, however, North Grenville is defined by the people who – for over 230 years – have come to call this place home. Many have chosen to stay, or are drawn to North Grenville because of its rural character.
Regardless of how you got here, an ethic of caring and connectedness is also a strong tenant of how the nearly 18,000 residents see themselves, and what they expect from their community and its leaders.
This week, in addition to the recent opening of the Kemptville Community Skateway, a wonderful collaboration of Municipal parks and recreation staff and energetic volunteers like Herb Cloutier who got it all rolling, Council adopted North Grenville’s Community Strategic Plan.
The plan, which will serve as a ten-year road map, reflects Council’s understanding of the priorities of North Grenville’s residents and local businesses. While the proposed strategic actions largely rest with the Municipality, they will only succeed through continuous, meaningful partnerships with community organizations, robust municipal advisory committees, and a steadfast commitment to finding ‘Made-in-North Grenville solutions’.
In the lead up to this plan, our goal was to ensure robust community input, during a pandemic, no less. We are proud of the 2,000 residents that took the time to respond, and grateful for all of the conversations that our Municipal team held with stakeholders, advisory groups, and individuals.
The Challenges of Growth:
There is no doubt that one of the major challenges that North Grenville faces is its high growth – which has been a constant for nearly two decades and has accelerated during the pandemic. Fundamentally, balancing a high rate of growth with the preservation of a high quality of life is at the heart of this Strategic Plan. Further, maintaining the rural character of our community and protecting natural assets is also vital.
In this respect, it can feel like North Grenville is at a tipping point. The continued expansion of commercial and residential developments on and near County Road 43, in eQuinelle, and other ‘in fills’, obviously provide more options for our community. They may also threaten how we see and experience North Grenville. The loss of trees and dormant fields requires our constant attention.
The establishment of big box stores and large franchises can also be worrisome for small local businesses who have served our community over decades with pride. At the same time, a growing population fuels the sustainability of our local economy.
Three Remarkable Gems:
Thankfully, North Grenville has the great fortune of being flanked geographically by two large forests – Ferguson Forest in the North, which has an incredible 1,100 acres of multi-use green space. A spacious dog park, and snowmobile, cross country, and walking trails, plus a toboggan hill and disc golf course, have been wholly embraced.
To the south, we have the 6,000-hectare Forest Stewardship Certified (FSC®) Limerick Forest, with over 8.8 million trees. Owned by the United Counties, it offers a myriad of recreational options. In 2018, our Municipality acquired 626-acres of the old Kemptville College. The Campus is home to a heritage sugarbush, and hundreds of acres of forested lands, farmlands, wetlands, and several schools and local businesses.
This property is fully within North Grenville’s control, and is separate and apart from the location of the proposed provincial Correctional Facility on a different parcel of provincially owned farm-side lands on the eastside of CR 44 close to the 416.
A Powerful Plan for a Sustainable Future:
Despite the tremendous value of these public assets, we must do more. Better integration of natural features into forthcoming developments, minimizing tree loss, creating more connectivity between neighbourhoods and hamlets, adding more sidewalks and multi-use pathways, and the preservation of our rural character, is crucial.
After this Council’s election, we took a hard look at the detailed legal agreements that the Municipality had entered into with developers. We discovered that little had been done by the Municipality, specifically, to ensure that all developments were compatible with our community’s values, including their size, design, and naturals features.
The new Strategic Plan will significantly raise the bar on how North Grenville develops in the future. For the first time, the Municipality will be imposing design guidelines, affordable housing goals, tree retention and replacement provisions, more greenspace and connectivity imperatives. Investments in our heritage downtown and other hamlets is a priority.
Higher environmental standards, e-charging stations, and innovations in geo-thermal heating, will be embraced. Neighbourhood parks will be a ‘must have’, not a ‘nice-to-have’. Tiny homes and in-law suites will be strongly encouraged.
In tandem with these measures, a crucial section of County Road 43 will finally be upgraded. Despite our efforts to help secure the funding in 2020, this is a Counties led project – and the engineering plans now include a full replacement of the current bridge. By 2025, you will see a new 4-lane, treed boulevard, with multi-use pathways on both sides and better intersection controls. Construction on the bridge begins in the fall of 2022.
In the short term, this new planning framework may not be fully felt, but will fundamentally shape how our community looks in 10, 20, 30 years from now. But, like the best laid plans, the proof will be in the pudding. Consequently, it is up to all of us to be vigilant, engaged, and informed. You can check out the plan for yourself here: www.northgrenville.ca/vision. We hope you see some of your values reflected in it, and find a way to support us in making it a reality.