Wanted: collective vision for DCE

"Meaningful and proactive discussion between all parties"

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

January 19, 2011

Despite looking back on some discouraging statistical trends during a committee meeting on Monday, Haldimand Mayor Ken Hewitt is optimistic that there are good things in store for Haldimand in 2011.

Hewitt and some local councillors will be deployed at the upcoming Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) Conference next month where they plan to meet with representatives of various provincial ministries to seek meaningful, proactive discussion regarding Douglas Creek Estates and solutions to smoke shops on provincial land, as well as many other pressing matters that are hanging in the balance these days, and have been for some time.

"We're in the process of meeting with the province to be able to look at where the future of Douglas Creek Estates lies, where the future of other parcels of land lie and how Six Nations and Haldimand can once again, as in the past, work towards the future," Hewitt said.

Hewitt recently met with Six Nations Elected Chief Bill Montour, and even though he described their discussions as "relational" without "a whole lot of substance" thus far, they both apparently agreed that development will play a huge role in the future of both communities.

"He agrees that we have to find ways to allow economic opportunities to prosper in both communities and that they sort of support each other," Hewitt said. "So we're both on the same page... They want the same things we want."

Montour gave the impression that the people of Six Nations still seek resolution for outstanding land claims, but realize the process during the past five years hasn't brought about any real results, Hewitt said.

'I believe in his conversation and in his second time running as chief that he's just as motivated to see some changes. They're looking at taking a different approach. What that looks like, I don't know. I don't believe it's protesting on lands and stopping development, or protesting on roads. I think it's looking towards a positive way of moving things forward, and I truly believe that. That's the message I got from him."

Building reports over the past few years prove that Haldimand has fallen well short of household forcasts since the Douglas Creek Estates dispute began.

While the total estimated value of construction rose substantially last year thanks to two new arenas going up in Cayuga and Dunnville, there were only 87 new dwellings built, compared to 136 in 2009.

"That's a pretty significant drop," said Coun. Lorne Boyko.

According to projections, there should be 207.6 dwellings built in Haldimand each and every year. Prior to the DCE land occupation, figures were well above projections, Boyko noted.

"This is a drum we beat time and time again... The province has to take a good look at this," he said, adding that there were many other ramifications aside from a downturn in the number of new homes.

"I don't know what we can do about it... Sending the reports to the province does absolutely nothing. We have to come up with our own plan."

Without a doubt, development has been curtailed, Boyko said.

Economic development staff has recommended filling just one of two vacant building inspector positions and will "assess the work volumes as the year progresses prior to consideration of replacing the second position," according to a report.

At the ROMA conference, councillors plan to appeal to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to highlight county shortfalls in projected and current budgets and the negative impact of provincial planning policies that restrict future expansion. They also hope to address matters in the energy sector, including economic opportunities in renewables, the future of the Nanticoke OPG facility and the need for municipal input into the approvals process under the Green Energy Act.

Other talking points include Highway 6 upgrades and better connection the Lake Erie Industrial Park.