Sit on Your Hands

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Sit on your hands and don’t do anything. That’s in essence the advice in the editorial of the Enterprise-Bulletin, June 3. It’s a strongly anti-business message: telling the business community, the municipality, developers, and everyone around us that Collingwood is, once again, closed for business.

Which coincides with the anti-business attitude of several members of the current council, but is hardly good for the community’s economic health.

The editorial concludes:

By all means, let the waterfront plan and the strategic plan pursue their course and hold off any decision’s (sic) on Assaff’s Block 9 ask until after that time…*

Hold off developing a commercial area on private property until when? Until the fabled “strategic plan” is completed? That will be presented to council in late 2015 if we are lucky and all the planets align. The writer offers no rationale for this bizarre suggestion, but readers understand it’s a tugging of the forelock to the Deputy Mayor who spoke openly against the proposal to sell a piece of vacant town land this week, in order to allow a commercial development to go ahead.

By the time this council gets around to reading the strategic plan report, assuming it even arrives this year, the construction season will be long over, pushing any progress into spring 2016 at the earliest. And what if council doesn’t agree with it and send sit back to be rewritten with conclusions that meet council’s preconceived expectations (or administrative staff’s – as with the flawed report on the shared agreement with Collus)?

Will the magical “plan” even have a waterfront component, given that a separate waterfront plan is being envisioned? What if the two plans don’t agree, don’t share a common vision? No one knows because council abdicated its responsibility for strategic leadership and decision-making by handing over the reins to an un-elected body of friends citizens and an out-of-town consultant. The paper seems satisfied that’s somehow more democratic than having elected representatives do the work.

And the waterfront plan itself? That is in political limbo. It wasn’t even budgeted for this year. The earliest it will get started in after the 2016 budget and by the time a consultant is hired, council has selected another committee of sycophant supporters citizens to oversee the consultant, public meetings are held, stakeholders are met with and interviewed, drafts presented and a final report made… the very earliest it could report to council is late 2016.

Which means it won’t be until the construction season of spring 2017 before anything could move forward. And even then, there’s no indication this will happen that soon. It might be a year or more later. Or never – if some on this council have their way.

That’s not a progressive, forward-thinking approach, but yet the EB is endorsing inaction: sit on your hands while plans are being made, avoid decisions, avoid responsibility. And above all, avoid business. That’s the message this council is sending, loud and clear.

This is really a no-brainer decision: it benefits everyone in the community. Sitting on your hands and procrastinating benefits no one aside from a few ideologues.

This isn’t the only example of the new anti-business attitude in Collingwood. The list is growing:

A massive commercial and industrial development at the airport that could see huge growth there and the creation of many new, high-paying jobs has been held up for the past seven months while the town dithers, wraps everything in red tape and bureaucracy. A local tour boat operator has been unable to get a simple docking space in the harbour for the past three months – his efforts strangled by red tape and the secretive Standing Committee system. He now faces another six weeks of having to do nothing before he can even get on the agenda. The once-positive and productive relationship between the town, Powerstream, and Collus has been soured by administrative pettiness and interference. The downtown BIA was shortchanged by council refusing to put a representative on its board – making ours the only BIA board in Ontario not to have a council rep. Water rates were increased, making the town a less attractive place to do business. Taxes were increased, reducing our ability to attract and retain business and industry.

Collingwood has resumed its old reputation as being closed for business, a reputation we worked hard to change last term. But this council – now with the tacit support of the EB – seems determined to resume it.

~~~~~

Collingwood shipyards* The editorial is, as usual, a shining example of clumsy, pedestrian and error-ridden writing that has characterized the paper since the former editor left. The word decision should not be possessive, and ask is a verb, not a noun (the proper noun here would be request).

In another example: “It’s also important to realize that business and development is the engine of the town’s economic growth.” No, business and development are (verb-subject agreement). I won’t go into more detail here, but the piece is replete with errors; run-on sentences, missing punctuation and more. It’s another cringe-worthy piece of writing.

However, it’s worth pointing out this gaffe (try not to wince at the sentence construction):

Also, more details are needed on what Assaff plans to inhabit his other piece of property at Huron and Heritage. Perhaps a restaurant might be a good choice now that Mountain View Towne Centre has a bank and other clerical services being offered. Perhaps Assaff could be required to lease to a restaurant in return for being sold or given Block 9. Maybe that could even line up with the findings of the strategic advisory committee and waterfront master plan, with a nice parkette thrown in for good measure.

The writer clearly wasn’t listening too closely, because Assaff said he hoped to bring forward a site plan in the fall, which Saunderson objected to as not “achievable” (why not?).

But the point here is that it is not up to the town (or the paper) to decide what business the developer should host. In fact, that supercilious suggestion is also illegal: the town has no authority to force any developer to host a particular business if the property is zoned. Commercial and retail zoning are open to a range of legal businesses as set out in the Official Plan.

How is it that someone hired to report on municipal affairs would not be aware of that basic legality?

Besides, the property isn’t on the waterfront: it’s on Highway 26: bordered by a major, four-lane traffic corridor on one side. On the other sides are a town road on the east, and other pieces of private property between it and the water (which are already zoned for either residential or commercial use). Not to mention that there are already a dozen restaurants a within an easy two-block walk of that location. Did the writer not bother to actually find the property on a map before pontificating about it?

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