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Trillium Ford

Council opts for wards that split Tottenham in two, and mix rural urban bounds

Posted June 5, 2017

New Tecumseth councillors took less than an hour this morning to approve a new eight ward system that mixes urban and rural, splits Tottenham in two and hives off portions of Beeton so it's no longer all in one ward.

It is option 1 of the five - including the status quo, which was knocked off early in the meeting. And it flows from the April 10 working session map which was drawn up by Ward 1 councillor Marc Biss. Mr. Biss said this morning it's based more on voter age representation and provides "multiple contacts" for residents.

Option 1 - Ward map.

Below is the analysis of Option 1:
  • Mix of urban and rural/agricultural land uses in each ward which will allow for expansion opportunities in each ward;
  • While population as of 2016 for 50 per cent of the wards is outside the optimal range, the population is distributed fairly evenly over the long term (2031), with one exception being Ward 4;
  • The Treetops subdivision is not geographically connected to the large areas of agricultural land;
  • The downtowns of Beeton falls within a single ward, whereas Alliston and Tottenham each fall within two wards;
  • While the urban and rural split has the benefit of each Councillor being responsible to different resident and business needs, the principle of distinct geographic and infrastructure elements is not always maintained;
  • The wards, while they attempt to balance the population, have the unintended consequence of splitting some subdivisions into separate wards;
  • Population balances in the short term (2016) are outside the optimal range for 50 per cent of the 8 wards;
  • In most instances, ward boundaries attempt to follow major roads or collector roads, which avoid disjointed neighbourhoods;
  • Portions of the Beeton and Tottenham Settlement Areas are in a shared ward, which may not be desirable; and,
  • The proposed new subdivision in the south end of Beeton (Sorbara) will fall within the same ward as the north Tottenham ward.
Ward 7 councillor Shira Harrison McIntyre was most vocal this morning insisting that mixing urban and rural into the same ward, ignored the "communities of interest."

Ms. Harrison McIntyre said New Tecumseth was made up of three divisions - urban, suburban, and rural.

"The challenge with representing the needs of urban, rural and a suburban constituency, is the needs of the urban are always going to outweigh the needs of the rural because of the population base," she said. "So if you're representing a group of people who live on one street, you're talking about 30 people, as opposed to a rural road, you're talking about 10 people. So as somebody who's looking for public approval, you're going to be pleasing more people by doing an urban road, but that is not fair to the people who pay high taxes who live out in the rural area."

Ward 5 councillor Donna Jebb, who also represents an all rural constituency, said "we could potentially have a council of urban councillors."

Ms. Harrison McIntyre also worried that changing the wards would confuse residents.

"There's also the added issue of people are still getting a handle on what ward they are in. It would be ideal to try and maintain as much as the status quo as possible so that you maintain voter's interest in going out," she said. "I just want to make things simple and straight forward for people, because they know now, people in my ward know they're in Ward 7. Change it, now they say what ward am I in now. Now I'm 8, who do I call? At this point, I'd just say do it at-large for that area so they can call whoever they want."

Councillor Biss said they already decided against the idea.

"I think we've already debated this ad naseum, we already decided as a council we wouldn't do at-large anymore," he said. "Let's focus on these four options, let's not unravel this ball of yarn. We've already made these decisions, let's stick by our decisions, let's have an adult conversation and go through the four we've got."

In the end, the majority of council voted in favour of option 1, which will be presented at a still to be scheduled public meeting as the recommended changes. A bylaw has to be approved by Dec. 31, 2017 to be implemented in time for the October 2018 municipal elections. The bylaw is appealable to the OMB, which also has to be heard and ruled on by the end of this year.

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All stories, unless otherwise noted,
by Tony Veltri
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