Friday, June 14, 2024

Changes to Come as We Grow

The coming wave of development in this municipality has been a hot topic over the past couple of years. In the past we have been teased with the potential for a development boom, but it never seemed to actually happen, but brace yourselves, residents of the Municipality of Meaford, as new development is indeed in our future, and it will bring with it some benefits along with some new frustrations.

Recently the lid for my kettle broke, and so over the weekend I stopped in to our limited number of local retail shops in search of a simple stove-top kettle, something I thought was a basic enough product that I should be able to find easily; after all, my kettle that had just broken was purchased a number of years ago from the trusty Stedman’s shop on Sykes Street.

After visiting both hardware stores, the Bargain Shop, and even the grocery store as a last resort, though I found a number of electric kettles I was only able to find a single stove top kettle, and it was both out of my price range, and not exactly what I was looking for.

A first-world problem, I am well aware, but a minor frustration nevertheless.

When we live in a small rural municipality, we can’t always get what we want in our own backyard, and when we can’t get the things we need, we must venture beyond our borders to larger communities with more options.

In these modern times, we have unlimited options online, but shopping through a computer screen eliminates sometimes important shopping tactics like assessing the look and feel of items, testing the size or weight of an item and so on, and it certainly eliminates the often helpful salesperson.

New residential developments in this municipality will bring more residents, which will also attract new businesses which will decrease the number of times we must leave town, though increased shopping options is just one of the benefits of growing a small town.

More residents will also mean increased numbers of recreational opportunities, and a greater number of services will be available to us. More doctors along with other medical services will be drawn to a more populous and prosperous Meaford.

A higher population will demand vehicle charging stations, a wider range of cuisine at local restaurants, more options for entertainment, along with a host of other frills that a smaller population can’t support.

Over time Meaford will become a different place, yet we might not even notice how significantly the community changes as it is transforming, at least those of us who live here full time. When I return to Barrie, the city I inhabited for some 25 years before calling Meaford home, I am always shocked at how much it has changed, and how little it resembles the small city of 27,000 people that it was when my family moved there in the early 1980s. Growing up in Barrie there were two Tim Horton’s locations in the entire city, while today there seem to be two in every neighbourhood.

By the time I moved away from Barrie the population had grown to nearly 150,000 residents, and today Barrie’s population exceeds 200,000, far too large of a community for my liking, so I moved to Meaford. Though Meaford is unlikely to ever swell the size of Barrie, we will grow, and some will love the growth and all that it brings, while others might move away in search of a smaller community.

Growing our population isn’t all roses however, as an increased population can bring with it higher crime rates, and even homelessness as those on the fringes are priced out of their community. A spike in our population will add pressure to our roads infrastructure, and the cute photos of some geese crossing the street labelled as a ‘Meaford traffic jam’ could become a distant memory replaced by a reality of too many cars clogging our downtown area.

Meaford’s growth challenges will be compounded should the proposed pumped storage facility be allowed to move forward. The influx of hundreds of workers will be a jolt to the system for this community which has never experienced anything close to the mega-project that is the proposed pumped storage facility. Construction of that monstrous project will see untold numbers of large transport trucks and other large equipment moving through town en route to the military base. Such a project could very well change the feel of this community forever.

In the years to come, this community will grapple with the realities of new growth, and while many have suggested that growing our population will lower residential property taxes, I wouldn’t be so certain. It’s more likely that new growth will lessen the required annual rate increases, but I can’t see our tax rates ever shifting backward. While the private sector will be the ones to bring the new businesses to town in order to meet the need of a growing population, the demands on municipal services will also increase, and as we all know, municipal services aren’t cheap.

Current residents of this municipality are bracing themselves for the wave of development that is on the way, and there will be increasing scrutiny on our council whom we elect to represent our best interests around the council table. But as our community grows, it will also change, and the priorities of today will be replaced by the new priorities of a larger, and likely more affluent, community, and so there will definitely be moments of conflict along this journey of growth. I can only hope that we are able to work through those conflicts with civility and respect.

The challenges are real, but so are the potential benefits. Prepare yourselves, Meafordites, change is coming.


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