We have read in the last two editions of your paper about opposition to two development proposals in Meaford — the PeopleCare Campus of Care and Back Forty Glamping.
Mr. MacDougall highlights in his thoughtful letter to you published in the July 9 edition, the slow erosion of Meaford’s business base, the growing number of empty stores on main street, and the large number of abandoned houses, businesses, and empty overgrown lots within a short walk of downtown and along prime bay-side areas. As he states, this situation does not encourage new business and home building and places a negative strain on the local economy and tax base. Whether Meaford likes it or not, if we are to survive and thrive, we must embrace change.
As Meaford considers the pros and cons of these proposals (and any future proposals) we suggest that it would be wise to keep in mind the challenge you posed to us in the Fall of 2019 to think of what Meaford could be like in fifty years. As well, we need to consider the pressing challenges Ontario and Canada are facing right now — Climate Change, COVID-19, and, most recently, the financial impact of the pandemic — and how we can convert these challenges into opportunities for Meaford.
In our view, the Climate Emergency should take absolute precedence over all other considerations. If we, globally, do not find a way to significantly and speedily reduce to zero the amount of carbon we are putting into the atmosphere, any other issues will become moot. Meaford in fifty years will be facing existential challenges. But, let’s assume that we are able to move swiftly enough and in fifty years our vision sees Meaford with a very high rate of permanent (year-round) occupancy in our homes, a diverse citizenry in all aspects, including age and socio-economic circumstances, and there is a thriving downtown supported not only by those living throughout the municipality but also by the high number of residents who live within a ten-minute or less walk/bike/e-vehicle drive away. Public transit is extensive and supported by the concentration of citizens living in downtown cores of Meaford and our neighbouring towns along the bay. We are surrounded, not by sprawling single-family housing developments, but by prosperous farms, owned by the next generations of our current farmers, that provide us with healthy, locally-grown food. And the natural beauty that we currently love has flourished and is cherished because of our deep understanding that we are just one part of it and cannot live and thrive outside of nature.
We live on Collingwood Street close to the proposed PeopleCare site and would see the six-story building from our backyard. To us, the Campus of Care proposal moves us in a very positive direction towards our vision for Meaford. The mixed-use Campus would add 267 new units, which could mean around 400 residents. Let’s not spend our time arguing about the number of floors in one building, let’s focus on the benefits that these 400-odd residents will bring to Meaford. They will be a source of excellent job opportunities, not only for professional medical and personal care workers but also for those in the service and retail industries.
The campus is well situated for walkability; residents could walk downtown and to the new Library in less than five minutes and to Beautiful Joe Park and the Harbour in less than ten minutes. This development would be on a site currently occupied by an empty school, and has the potential to encourage more development opportunities for the long-abandoned lots along Cook Street and elsewhere in the town. Thus, hopefully adding to the population densification of our town rather than adding to the vehicular congestion that would result from sprawling housing developments.
While we are less informed about the Back Forty Glamping proposal, our answer to Mr. McIntosh’s question posed in the July 2nd edition of your paper is, yes, “a small scale, family run, luxury glamping business” would fit into our vision as a tourist option for Meaford. And we welcome the meaningful business opportunity it will provide for the McIntoshes and to other local businesses (e.g. wineries, organic farms, yoga studios, and kayak tours). We need to attract more young people to our area and to find ways to support their vision for the future.
The preferences of current residents are important to consider, but we must strive to ensure that they do not unduly influence our decisions regarding the long-term vision for Meaford and the seven generations that will come after us. The common good must have precedence when making such important decisions with long-term impacts for our town.
P.S.: We applaud the Town and restaurateurs on Sykes Street for the new patios. It has been fabulous to see how many customers they have attracted already. It is this kind of nimbleness and creativity that makes our Meaford a good town. Bravo!
Lesley Lewis and Jean-loup Dalle, Meaford