A suggestion for Champlain Township and Action Champlain

To the editor:

In the event that you who was not in attendance at Champlain council chambers, Tuesday last, permit me to briefly summarize it for you.
The time was 18:30, a quiet hush overcame the pro and con audience members anxiously awaiting the meeting to commence.
Mayor Barton opened the proceedings with a statement outlining the sequence that the meeting would be conducted in. He then introduced M. Prevost, Senior Planner for the United Counties of Prescott-Russell and requested him to present his report and recommendations relating to the re-zoning application by Colacem to accommodate the development of the cement plant.
Mrs. Macleod, a member of council, made inquiries seeking clarification on various aspects within the report to which M. Prevost addressed directly referring to the report and within his purview of expertise.
A motion was put forward to have a recorded vote.
On conclusion of the vote the members of the audience rose to their feet in a burst of applause for Council denying the re-zoning application.
Needless to say, the Colacem group and supporters were momentarily stunned.
Action Champlain had won the battle against the major industry. Or did they?
The very next day, Wednesday morning, at the United Counties council chambers, a number of opponents and supporters assembled to hear the results of this meeting. The purpose of which was to vote on the applicants’ request to amend the Official Plan. This is an integral requirement towards the re-zoning process of the said lands, however it is not an automatic go-ahead.
Warden Barton brought the proceedings to order and once again called upon M. Prevost to present the report, his findings and recommendations supporting the Official Plan amendment.
Council members were given the opportunity to present their questions which (Hawkesbury Mayor) Mrs. Charlebois did. Thereafter, a motion to vote was made and the result approved the application to amend the Official Plan.
Oops….do we have a difference of opinion? Where the United Counties of Prescott-Russell currently are engaged in creating a concrete action plan to maintain and encourage local business and industry expansions, it appears Champlain Township is not willing to participate. What now? It would be premature for anyone to forecast future events. I will predict, whatever direction the participants decide, it will get very expensive from now on. Appeals brought before the Ontario Municipal Board have the potential of incurring substantial costs well in the range of one hundred thousand dollars per year. The figure is not uncommon for each of the appellants in the appeal challenge.
The negative posturing toward major industrial development by Champlain council (the third such rejection in recent years) continues to contribute to the decline in attracting young families to the area. Our diminishing school enrollment, church attendance and their subsequent closures, minimum wage employment, our youth seeking their opportunities elsewhere, an aging agricultural community and the certainty of increased municipal tax levies, etc.
So, in the interim, we are at a juncture in the road, I propose a challenge for both Champlain council and Action Champlain members to demonstrate their commitment to the township’s future. To do this means entering into a partnership agreement to aggressively pursue the initiatives previously announced by Action Champlain (ref: Letter to the Editor dated October5,2016) for firms supplying IT and tech solutions to agriculture and/or other diversified industries.
Accomplishing this means Action Champlain and the township would combine their financial and intellectual resources to promote and invest in a positive socio/economic future. Funds could possibly be realized by the absence of an appeal before the OMB.
The concept is currently being practised in Prince Edward County. Their program could be tailored to accommodate criteria applicable to our region.
As private and Township joint investors, the appointment of a committee (Action Champlain representatives and Champlain Councillors) would review applications from potential start-up enterprises to ensure the investment would have a return for both the private and municipal sectors, not only in a financial aspect, but also on the socio/economic level.
The proposal is a basic concept with a multitude of details to be examined. I strongly encourage the aforementioned parties to give serious consideration to this outline as we have failed to invest in ourselves as a community.
Consideration should also be given to entertaining private investors developing L’Orignal Park as a waterpark and/or hotel/convention center given the decline in seasonal campers.
The aim here is to ensure the concerns of the community and their interests are respected for a diverse and technologically balance of development.

Jim Walsh
L’Orignal