There’s a surprising wild card in the Chelsea mayoral race this election: Anne Gazley.
The long-time Chelsea resident and anti-development activist has thrown her name in against incumbent Mayor Caryl Green and Ward 2 Coun. Marcel Gauvreau.
Gazley plans to largely campaign via Youtube and keep her platform simple: No “mega-development,” she said.
She’s clearly the odd one out against pro-development Green and Gauvreau.
Many are saying Gazley will split the vote, which could be a good thing for the incumbent mayor.
Or, if Gauvreau’s campaign team can pull it together, it might work in his favour.
But that won’t be easy when the Ward 2 councillor has mostly sided with council on issues this past year – at least at the public meetings. He will have some tough questions to answer on why council has not been working and what direction he plans to take it in.
So far, he promises more debates between councillors at public meetings (currently, they debate behind closed doors and then publicly vote on resolutions). Apart from that, he’s all for diversifying tax revenues and avoiding “reckless development,” which sounds like Green.
He needs to better define his own “vision.”
Unless Gauvreau can spell that out, on-the-fence Chelsea residents won’t have much reason to vote for him.
In another scenario: the anti-development vote could win against the split pro-development vote. But that seems unlikely.
Just compare the current race to that of the last election in 2009.
Back then, Green squeaked through the election with a 56 per cent majority of the vote.
She was pitted against the “scale-back-and-curb-spending” platform of Liam Fitzgerald, as Low Down publisher Nikki Mantell wrote in an editorial following that election. It was a pro-development versus anti-development race that reflected on the Chelsea community. Back then, it was a community divided on the $9.8 million Meredith Centre (it passed the referendum with a 51 per cent “yes” vote), the
municipal water and sewer system, and other developments.
But the water and sewer debate seems to have died down in Chelsea – at least publicly.
Just three years ago, the basement of the old Chelsea Community Centre was packed with people hotly divided on the $15 million infrastructure. That figure has climbed to $22 million, and many Old Chelsea Road residents have said they now want access to the municipal water system, which they will get whenever the province gives the infrastructure a green light.
The development debate, however, is heating up in Chelsea’s fringe communities: Farm Point and Hollow Glen.
Farm Point’s development plan (PPU) has yet to be fleshed out, but an initial draft – one that included a 400-unit housing development in the quarry – was not well-received by many residents. Council backed down last spring, leaving it to the next council to decide.
Earlier this year, Green smoothed over issues with Hollow Glen when she said Chelsea will repair the dam and raise the water levels of Beamish Lake. It had been a sticking point for the community, as has the Mountain Estates housing project slated for 162 acres of farmland.
If the fringe communities have enough of an anti-development bent and are able to mobilize, Gazley could have a shot.
But given that the Chelsea-wide development debates have died down, Gauvreau and Green seem the likeliest front-runners in this mayoral race.
Who will benefit from the vote splitting? We’ll see Nov. 3.