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Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce

Kirk McElwain - Councillor Ward 2

23 J.M. Quarrie Drive, R.R. #2, ArissKirk McElwain 2014

Biography

My wife, Julie, & I have lived in Inverhaugh for 16 years.  I retired from IBM after 32 years, then ran my own consulting business for 5 years. I now focus 100% of my time as a councillor and as a community volunteer.

I volunteer in a number of community organizations including:

  • Chair of Sensational Elora - Festival of the Senses
  • Board member and chair of marketing for Elora Centre for the Arts
  • Vice president and marketing director for Elora Curling Club
  • Founding member and volunteer for Fergus Elora Retail Alliance (FERA)
  • Volunteer for Elora Sculpture Project
  • Volunteer for Neighbourwoods
  • Volunteer for Riverfest
  • Formerly a director, now an active member of Gravel Watch Ontario
     

As a member of council, I have been:

  • Member of the Economic Development Advisory Committee for 8 years, chairing until recently
  • Council representative on the Elora Business Improvement Area (BIA) for 8 years
  • Helped develop Terms of Reference for our Growth Strategy Working Group and chaired for 4 years
  • Township representative on the County Economic Development Committee for 2 years

Platform

I am humbled by my acclamation and look forward to representing the citizens of Centre Wellington for another term.  At the beginning of this term, our team of council and staff developed a strategic plan to ensure Centre Wellington is positioned to meet our growth obligations while absorbing reduced provincial funding, keeping tax increases within the cost of inflation, and maintaining the quality of life that Centre Wellington residents enjoy and expect.  The focus areas of our strategic plan are Funding, Infrastructure Renewal, Growth Strategy, Lifestyle Services - 8 to 80, Communications and Human Capital.  While strategic plans are meant to be long term, the progress our team has made in only 4 years has been impressive:

  • initiated a major corporate restructuring with the focus on working collaboratively and more efficiently to plan future projects.
  • created a Growth Strategy Working Group with all members of senior staff, plus council representation, to develop a cohesive growth plan that incorporates new development strategies to protect our built heritage, our urban forest and the unique character of our community.
  • built a new state of the art wastewater treatment plant in Elora, built a new water tower in Fergus, and continue to improve our water and wastewater services.
  • completed road and bridge assessments to allow better prioritization of our infrastructure renewal projects.
  • created a township fibre optic network to cut our communications cost and provide an infrastructure local business can use to improve their communications infrastructure.
  • worked closely with Wightman Telecom to bring their fibre to the home services to Centre Wellington so that all citizens of Fergus and Elora/Salem will have access to unsurpassed connectivity speed.  
  • created a new website (soon to become public) that will allow citizens of Centre Wellington much easier & faster access to township information and services.  We have also implemented a single phone number switch board system to enable citizens to reach the person they want with one phone call.
  • completed the first phase of a Business Retention and Expansion program to meet the needs of existing businesses and attract new business to our community.
  • developed a Community Improvement Plan that will provide incentives for businesses to invest in our community. 
  • developed a Cultural Master Plan, working with citizens and community stakeholders to develop an environment in which culture thrives.
  • led the combined effort with the Chamber of Commerce and both BIA's to create the Fergus Elora Retail Alliance (FERA), an organization to promote "Shop Local" in Centre Wellington.
  • worked with community groups to develop accessible parks and the Elora Green Space.

The list could go on.  The team continues to follow our strategic plan to ensure that we can continue to meet the challenges of rapid population growth and aging infrastructure while creating a live, work, play environment that protects what we have, while planning how we grow in the future.

 

Questions & Answers

Question from Frederick Schuett, owner One Axe Pursuits for All Mayoral and Township Candidates

What will you do to support small businesses and signage for tourist attractions?

McElwain, Kirk -
We have introduced a number of programs to support small businesses including the Community Improvement Program.  Economic Development also led the initiative for a shop local program and the directional and event signage program (now managed by Tourism).  The signage program is a multiple year program that continues to evolve.  Our directional and event signage program is recognized as leading edge and is now being copied in other communities.

We also installed additional parking signage throughout Fergus and Elora over the last couple years although there is still a requirement for more.

Our building department implemented a fairly restrictive sign bylaw to ensure our communities don’t become over run with mobile and neon signs.  This program is also evolving and will be adjusted as required.

Question from Tammy Rutherford for Mayoral and Township Candidates

The Township Of Centre Wellington web page has a Termite Management Area map for both Fergus & Elora, dated May 2012.  There are more than 1300 properties within the boundaries, and there is no doubt the numbers are higher now.  The City of Guelph has a termite management program which was recently presented to the City Of Kitchener in light of the recent termite activity involving just 23 properties.  Do you think our township should adopt a termite management program to prevent the spread of termites?

McElwain, Kirk -
The Township Of Centre Wellington web page has a Termite Management Area map for both Fergus & Elora, dated May 2012.  There are more than 1300 properties within the boundaries, and there is no doubt the numbers are higher now.  The City of Guelph has a termite management program which was recently presented to the City Of Kitchener in light of the recent termite activity involving just 23 properties.  Do you think our township should adopt a termite management program to prevent the spread of termites?

Our building department are working on updating the Termite Management Area map because, as you have suggested, the numbers are higher now.  They are also working closely with Dr. Myles in Guelph and we have a commitment from him that he will expand his termite control program to Centre Wellington as soon as he gets approval from the federal government. Personally, I follow up with Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) on a regular basis to monitor their progress on approving new termite control products.  Unfortunately the available termite control products available in Canada are only repellants that are injected in the ground (with the potential of run-off into the river) that must be updated every few years at a significant cost to homeowners.  We need PMRA to approve a product that kills the pest.  In the meantime, the building department is updating the guidelines for citizens to help control the pests and developing a plan for better communication.

2 Questions from Melanie Cooper, Mosaic Spa for Incumbent Township Councillors

Would you briefly provide us with what you consider to be your top three major achievements during this term of Council?

McElwain, Kirk -
It’s difficult to limit the response to three items that could include the waste water treatment plant, reorganization of staff, etc.   The achievements I personally am most proud of are::

1.the development of Terms of Reference and chairing  a Growth Management Working Group, with all departments working together to develop a growth strategy that includes our infrastructure, our parks, our heritage, our culture, our environment, and all of the other parameters that used to be considered in separate strategies.  This team effort will be a major step forward and will make us much more proactive in helping new applications for growth proceed.
2. After 4 years of effort, Economic Development have finally completed the 1st phase of our Business Retention and Expansion Program and introduced the Community Improvement Plan.  Both of these programs, designed to help business succeed in our community, are great new tools for our Economic Development Advisory Group
3. The implementation of a communications company providing a fibre backbone throughout the community and bringing  Wightman Fibre to the Home to Centre Wellington are both major steps forward in positioning Centre Wellington as an attractive location for new business growth.

What have you brought to council for approval, versus just voting on?

McElwain, Kirk -
The items I have brought forward to council are all related to the Economic Development Advisory Committee and relate to the points above.  I would also add that I brought forward the request for township support of the Green Space in Elora.

Questions (2) from Steven Wright, Wrighthaven Homes for Mayoral, Township and County Candidates

Nimby Syndrome:  Not in My Backyard or "NIMBY" is a major concern for builders and developers who are faced with community opposition to important new developments including affordable housing, higher density housing mixed use developments and other housing options that provide choice for everyone.  Do you agree that NIMBY needs to be addressed?  If so by what methods will you address NIMBY attitudes in the community?

McElwain, Kirk -
If you define Nimby as trying to protect a quality of life that you have worked hard to attain, then I propose that we are all Nimby to some extent; whether it’s our federal customs and immigration protecting Canadian quality of life, our community official plan and zoning bylaws protecting the quality of life of our citizens or an individual or citizen group trying to protect their neighbourhood.  I am proud to be a Nimby, after spending considerable time and effort to fight two gravel pits within 200 metres of my home.  I accept the fact that aggregate is required but, I do not accept the fact that all locations are appropriate for mining the aggregate.
That being said, I believe that we, as a community, must accept the fact that new developments will be more intense with a wider selection of homes.  We cannot continue with urban sprawl, using up valuable farmland but, like aggregate mining, not every place is appropriate for high density, multi-storey development. I believe our urban Design Guidelines and our Heritage Design Guidelines, being developed as part of our growth strategy, will help builders and developers and citizens understand the guidelines for various areas in our community.

Places to grow legislation has increased pressures on planning departments to adhere to new rules and density requirements encouraging intensification in existing residential subdivisions and particularly downtown areas whereby often homes and buildings of heritage value exist.  Quite often these older buildings are in jeopardy as a result of requests to demolish so as maximize density requirements when a developer submits new plans to develop these building consistent with the places to grow legislation.  As a councillor do you feel you have the fortitude to resist pressures of the act and vote to deny the requests to demolish heritage resources?

McElwain, Kirk -
I am a huge supporter of our heritage buildings.  I was the only member of council to support the Victoria Crescent Heritage Conservation District plan being completed; because that is the only tool that township has at its disposal that will truly protect the buildings, the vista and the tree canopy.  I believe we should be considering additional HCDs in Elora and Fergus.  But, I don’t believe all old houses have heritage features.  I do believe that the township has many opportunities for intensification that do not jeopardize heritage buildings or heritage districts, I don’t believe we should assume that all old buildings are heritage buildings.

 

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