What needs to happen in Ward 3

A Candidate for Town Councillor of Ward 3's Perspective

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What needs to happen in Ward 3
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About the Author

Bob Ferguson

Bob Ferguson

Bob Ferguson is a long time resident of Oakville and has been a Director, CEO, an/or Chairman since 1987 of major corporations from Royal SunAlliance Financial Canada to Worldsource Financial Services. Bob was responsible for up to 1200 employees around the world, as well as managing corporate assets up to $14 Billion.

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Much of the viability of Southeast Oakville radiates outward from the economic fabric of our Downtown Business District, our Cultural Hub and Sixteen Mile Creek Harbour. The Business District runs alongside Lakeshore Road from Kerr Street to Reynolds Street. Our lifeblood in many ways is our Downtown District. Too many segments of our downtown business sector struggle with financial viability, traffic flow and of course parking. At the present time there are approximately 27 vacant shops in our Downtown Business District. To borrow a line from the film Apollo 13, “Houston, we have a problem.” Before we start to discuss the possible solutions Oakville might that a closer look at some of the problems.

“Houston, we have a problem.”

First a Question. Is there some uniqueness to the problems that face our Downtown Business District? You might think so based on the ‘Downtown Transportation and Streetscape Study and Workshops the Town has underway with an outside consulting firm. There may be some uniqueness to our situation but in reality not very much at all. Many towns in Southern Ontario suffer in similar ways with the viability of their own downtown business districts. From Donnas Street in London to Princess Street in Kingston, it is a long list in Southern Ontario. For the most part, the problems from one small city to another are fairly similar and mirror the problems of our own Oakville downtown business district.

There is absolute agreement among Downtown merchants and Southeast Oakville residents that parking is a huge problem. So let’s talk about Parking.

There is a very large underground parking garage under the Oakville Town Square with access off Robinson Street that is rarely used at all – most motorists in our downtown appear to prefer to circle the block a few times in search for a meter parking spot rather than park underground under the Square. Fact: Most residents don’t even know it is available for public parking.

Fact: Most residents don’t even know public parking is available underground.

Both the Parking Garage just East of Trafalgar on Church Street and the underground parking Garage just West of Trafalgar on Church are very underutilized. Again, people would prefer to circle the block a few times to look for a spot which of course adds to the congestion. The Town of Oakville purchased the Old Post Office with plans to build a parking structure on the site. Bronte and Milton have free parking. Free Parking on Saturday and Sunday in Downtown Oakville – definitely a positive.

Tax Rates tied to Property valuation

Downtown merchants and the BIA are all in general agreement on the subject of escalating property taxes and the negative financial impact on their businesses. It could be argued that in Southeast Oakville with rapidly escalating property values the system for linking taxes to property valuations in our Downtown Business District is broken. For resident property owners there seems to be an unofficial consensus for a capping process or maybe more correctly a reallocation process. In Vancouver and some other cities there is a Property Tax Cap system which limits increases in a far more workable property tax model for merchants and for prospective merchants looking to locate in their downtown. To read the Executive Summary of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in Ottawa Report offers a quick study.

Old Post Office Site Parking Garage and Roadbed & Sewer Replacement

The Downtown Roadbed and sewer project has to happen – fact. It would be best to get on with it immediately with as little disruption as possible rather than wait till the Parking Garage on the Old Post Office site is built. However, this doesn’t quite agree with some earlier thinking or with the Oakville Plan. Any prospective merchant, looking at one of the 27 vacant storefronts as a possible location in our Downtown as new business site, would definitely hesitate to sign a lease to open a new business with the disruption that the roadbed and sewer project would cause and without a Tax Capping System in place.

JOB ONE is to revitalize our downtown – short and longer term. Make our Downtown one of the places to visit, to shop and to dine.

Emergency Medical Centre – The closing of our Ward 3 Oakville Trafalgar Hospital raises the issue of ease of access to emergency medical services (EMS) for residents of all ages. Our EMS infrastructure will definitely decline with the closing of the Hospital. As a project, evaluate locating an EMS site in Ward 3. Some possible sites could include a portion of the Chisholm School lands, a portion of the Old Post Office site, or the vacant lands south of the Argus Medical Centre. These are essential services. Hamilton has three EMS centres.

The Hospital Lands – The planned construction of a 30,000 sq ft Community Centre on the current site with a pool, with adequate parking, some park area, playgrounds including Skateboard Park and Basketball court have been completed. The funding plans are reasonable and well thought through.

Sixteen Mile Creek Harbour – At the Mayors debate two weeks ago Mayor Burton identified our Harbour as a top priority. The Cultural Hub and the Erchless Estate Museum need to become the Crown Jewels on the east side of our Harbour. On the West Bank of the Creek at the lake is possibly a site for a boutique Hotel as Burlington has done to enhance their downtown waterfront, a real plus – our Harbour could be so much better.

Revitalize our Downtown Cultural Hub – Retain and revitaling our Cultural Hub in downtown Oakville. The Plan, timing and funding for a new Theatre for the Performing Arts complete with underground parking, a Flagship Library, Art Gallery and more outdoor space for events I feel definitely needs some work. But the bottom line is the Hub is very dated. A project of this magnitude definitely needs be a very close fit with Oakville’s financial capabilities. No more debt.

Midtown Development Plans – Identified by the province as one of the ‘Places to Grow’ in Ontario – the Kerr/Speers intersection district at Sixteen Mile Creek and the South Service Road area to Chartwell are already far too congested. The traffic is already excessive at both Trafalgar intersections, Cornwall and Cross at the Go Train overpass. North/South Trafalgar traffic is already often at a standstill. To plan more development including another Midtown high-rise without the proper infrastructure quite simply is unacceptable.

So there’s A short List – Great Plans – But Now – Show me the money.

The Budget aspect is the critical success factor for Ward 3 homeowners and indeed all of Oakville – first, prioritize.

Then get it done on a planned pace that guarantees Homeowner Property Tax Increases are held at or just below the current rate of inflation.


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Readers Comments (1)

  1. Duncan Prange says:

    Nice summary Bob. I believe that these are our priorities . Duncan

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