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Councillor Todd Taylor shares views on municipal governance

July 29, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

What are the duties and obligations that a town council has to its residents, the people who elected those members, to fulfill them? Is a town a business or responsible to people first? These were primary questions Councillor Todd Taylor brought to bear during an interview with the Citizen last week.

We were sitting in a patio, sun overhead, enjoying a coffee at one of the fine coffee houses on Broadway.

Coun. Taylor’s position with the town is part of the overhaul from the last municipal election in 2018, brought to the Orangeville Council. The election introduced new faces with fresh attitudes, as one might hope, to be judicious with the town’s finances and improve the town council’s relationship with the people living here.

Coun. Taylor is director of sales for Dare Foods, a Canadian company of 130 years, a company that has taken responsibility to keep up with changing needs. Dare Foods has worked with food trends as they have developed, primarily with reference to the increase in some allergies, especially nuts, and the growing concern for the way animals are treated as sources for food.

Another new face in Council, as of the last election is Grant Peters, a strong environmentalist and, as Coun. Taylor commented, “Grant is a strategy guy and for me, that’s what I do for a day job.”

He and Coun. Peters have signed on for a steering committee as representatives of the town, along with others from heritage, environment, and the BIA, to provide insight and additional information, as contributions to the writing of the town’s next Official Plan.

“In a lot of ways, this understanding of the Official Plan should dictate everything we do,” he told the Citizen.

Housing is now a major focus, given the current rush to tear down individual homes and make way for intensive housing to replace them. There are some serious concerns with this, major among which, for Coun. Taylor, is the tone of the town, its small town charm that has made it a beautiful place to live and attractive to visitors.

Going against the grain of what constitutes suitable housing in Orangeville, in Coun. Taylor’s opinion, is the planned subdivision to be built behind the Orangeville Mall, the Hansen Development of 541 residents, spread out among apartments, condos and houses. Not surprisingly, local residents are troubled by the probable large increase in traffic.

Coun. Taylor told us, with some irony, “The developer said there would not be a big impact on traffic.”

As well, residents living across Hansen Blvd. from the development site, who have spoken to this writer, have been upset to say, “No one warned us this would happen when we purchased our homes – and we paid a lot of money for these houses.”

Other concerns take into account that there is only one road in and out of the area, where another egress will require building a bridge to connect to Blind Line, opening the way to much more development.

“I will go on record to say I voted against the Hansen development,” Coun. Taylor confirmed. “Is this high density housing what we want for Orangeville?”

He conceded though, “But it’s done and there will be 541 [housing units for] residents built. The developer will work with Council.”

Meanwhile, the Humber Lands belong to the town and to sell or not is the question. There are currently discussions of a proposed 192 bed long-term care and seniors campus, a multi-facetted development, which is receiving some positive reaction within Council and has been referred to staff for consideration.

“Let’s talk about what we want,” he said. “There has been the idea of potentially comparing Orangeville to Niagara-on-the-Lake.”

He looked around him at the pleasant spot where we were sitting and the rest of Broadway itself: “I think this main street is phenomenal. Look at all these great places to sit and have a coffee, the beautiful renovations being made to shop fronts. People with blood, sweat and tears live here. 

“For thirty-some thousand people who live here, people know each other or they know about so many people. People talk to me as a local. Sometimes, they say ‘I just wish you’d done it different.’ And that’s good to know, so, we have something else to consider the next time.”

Orangeville is a town of very high-priced real estate and those numbers have climbed, both as sales and rental. We talked about affordability of housing.

Coun. Taylor’s comment: “The town couldn’t afford to build affordable housing but the town could go to the provincial or federal governments for help with that. Our taxes are too high and the town needs to do things to help keep taxes flat.”

He went on to say, “We need to learn how to spend less,” noting that the town had to pay a major five million dollars severance when the OPS was shut down in favour of bringing in the OPP.

“I don’t want to get back into the debate about policing.,” he remarked. “But we need to make good decisions. Chances are if you’re 30 or younger, you may be thinking of leaving; if you’re over 60, you might be too.

“For me, one of the things is there is a big disconnect between the town and the residents.” This is his message and concern, “We don’t do a good job of communicating,” he commented. “And we should work on that.”

What sort of person is needed in municipal politics is a question he answered easily, “You need someone that is going to speak to the residents in an open and sincere way, like a customer service.”

When Coun. Taylor was first elected as councillor, he thought it should be run like a business: “You spend within your means and be respectful,” he asserted.

With respect to customer service and providing good value for taxpayers, he noted a recent situation where residents felt their neighbourhood was being neglected.

“On Veterans Way, no one was cutting the grass along the side of the road,” he recalled. “A resident called to tell us, during the winter, the pathways behind Drew Brown Boulevard weren’t being cleared of snow. A resident called a local politician.”

He advised, “Call me. When people call and tell me there’s a problem in their neighbourhood, I do drive around and check it out. We did get that grass cut on Veterans Way and, that winter, the pathways behind Drew Brown Blvd. were plowed.

“Sometimes, we don’t do anything about a problem because we don’t know about it. People and the town need to communicate with each other,” he said.

Mostly, though, the next story he told us defined how Coun. Taylor feels about the local municipality and its residents.

“One lady called – her home was hit three times by vehicles on her corner, up by Rolling Hills,” he began. “So, we, as a town, what should we have done? I’ll never forget sitting in that kitchen with Lisa [Post, Councillor], while that lady cried and said how frightened she was about the danger of someone else ramming her home. So, we put up a barrier in front of her house to keep them safer and a sign warning about the curve. Now, if you miss the curve, you’ll hit the barrier.”

Coun. Taylor summed it up: “The town is about town money. But this is not a business. This is about people.”

Councillor Taylor can be reached at ttaylor@orangeville.ca  



         

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