Augusta Council adopts In View Community Improvement Plan

Augusta Council adopts In View Community Improvement Plan

Augusta Matters by Mayor Doug Malanka

(As published in the South Grenville Journal – Thursday, September 3, 2020)

On June 29, 2020, Augusta Council passed a motion directing staff to develop a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) and undertake a planning and economic development-focused community survey in connection with its development.  This followed advice from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario that Augusta Township required a CIP to be able to disburse Main Street Revitalization Initiative funds to commercial businesses in its rural destination nodes (settlement areas) with congregating commercial uses, such as Maitland and North Augusta.

CIPs can have many additional benefits for the Township beyond the Council-supported Main Street Revitalization program. For instance, a CIP can assist with the costs of improving historic properties; promoting the remediation and redevelopment of brownfield sites; and revitalizing commercial, industrial, institutional, and rural areas. Augusta Township’s proximity to the St. Lawrence River and its strategic location along Highway 401 (North America’s busiest highway) represents a significant opportunity to draw in the travelling public into the Township and its distinctive rural settlement areas.  The Township may consider public-private partnership (P3) projects to promote redevelopment at strategic, highly visible or otherwise prominent locations within the Township and may also demonstrate municipal leadership through the acquisition of land for such purposes.

CIP initiatives on vacant municipal lands may include the development of community gardens to encourage urban agriculture, local food production, and environmentally sustainable practices with health, social, and economic benefits.  When local streets are being considered and prioritized for road works, the Township can consider implementing streetscape improvements in conjunction with other construction, such as planting of street trees, rehabilitation of sidewalks, development of trails and cycling lanes, installation of street furniture, and other decorative elements such as planters, banners, and hanging flower baskets.

At its Augusta Council meeting held on Monday, August 24th, 2020, Council approved a motion that established all lands within Augusta’s municipal boundaries as a Community Improvement Project Area and adopted the municipality’s first Community Improvement Plan (CIP) called In View.  The In View CIP is informed by the planning- and economic development-focused community survey that polled residents on what community improvements are desired by residents and where for an ideal future. This survey ran online for 15 days in July 2020 and was advertised and featured in multiple local and area newspapers, promoted on the Township Facebook page and shared on the Augusta is Awesome Facebook page, and was advertised with post office posters and outdoor digital sign messaging. Augusta Public Library staff printed survey “bookmarks” and shared them with individuals signing out materials. Targeted emails were also shared directly with Augusta’s business networking group, Committee members, and local associations.

Results from the 168 respondents, including 166 residents, to the Great Augusta Community Survey captured double-digit responses (i.e., 10 or more) from all age categories.  In terms of economic development efforts, three times as many respondents said they would support the use of tax incentives to retain existing businesses and attract new businesses to Augusta, compared to those that would not. The entrepreneurial spirit is also alive and well in Augusta, as nearly as 1 in 3 (31.7%) of respondents say they would consider starting a business in the Township.

Residents reported in the survey that they want to receive good value for their taxes, and favour expanded recycling and environmentally friendly initiatives, and sustainable development. Residents are interested in seeing improvements to buildings, structures, and properties; stores and industry; heritage and environmental preservation, and initiatives to support local food production. Interestingly, requests for technological improvements in cellular and broadband service were made by less than 1 in 5 respondents (18%), even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists; which is rather comparable to the 19% of businesses that identified internet service as a barrier to business in the 2018 Business Retention & Expansion (BR&E) Survey.

The motion that was passed further appointed the Township’s Planning & Economic Development Specialist and Community Development & Recreation Coordinator CIP Administrators to work with the Treasurer and confirmed the newly minted Community Development Committee (CDC) as the Review Panel for this purpose of promoting and supporting the implementation of the CIP.  The CDC will also help review CIP grant applications and disburse CIP grant funds.

The Plan will remain in effect for up to 1 year and will be periodically reviewed by Council to evaluate its effectiveness and degree of uptake and success.  It is designed to be adaptable, with flexibility built into the policies and programs to account for changes in the Township’s financial resources and priorities and may be adjusted or amended, as necessary, to improve its programs and better respond to revitalization needs within the Township.