Kingmere Property Association letter

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by admin on March 31, 2011

1) The lack of transparency and accountability in decision-making.
All candidates in the last election promised more open government. So far, this Council has proven to be more secretive than its predecessor. It has put off promised public consultations on water, sewer, and the Master Plan for over a year. It has suspended the PPU planning exercise for central Chelsea. Without inclusive community input Council made major changes to the configuration of the Meredith Centre twice in the past year.

2) The absence of strategic planning.
2010 was to have been a revision year for Chelsea’s Master Plan, the blueprint that is supposed to guide development in the Municipality. The last revision, in 2005, featured 14 separate community meetings to decide Chelsea’s way forward. Though the Mayor promised public consultations on the Master Plan would be held in July of 2010, and then revised the date to November 2010, no meetings have taken place and none are planned. While facing some of the most important decisions in Chelsea’s history, Council continues to prefer to operate on an ad hoc basis.

3) The ignoring of the public input.
The Municipality formed Vision Chelsea and initially was a strong supporter of its objective to produce a citizen-led vision for the future of central Chelsea which would be used to develop the PPU (plan) for the Old Chelsea/Chelsea corridor. However, the vision of the citizens (low density, rural village feel) conflicted with Council’s vision (high density, urban infrastructure). To deal with this Council hired a consultant who produced a PPU which ignored the Vision Chelsea report and supported Council’s vision. Public push-back has led to the suspension of the PPU exercise just at a time when Chelsea desperately needs a proper plan for its central core. Members of Council have been talking publically about scrapping the PPU exercise and keeping the PAE system which has no planning rules.

4) An unclear agenda on water and sewer.
Throughout 2010 the Mayor promised meaningful public consultations on the issue of a municipal water and sewer system for central Chelsea. The public was assured that no decision would be taken without this public input. No such consultations have taken place. Now, the Mayor and Council are stating publically that they plan to put a sewer system in central Chelsea, and that they support putting in municipal water as well.
Even though there has been no public discourse on this major infrastructure, Council last year spent over $200,000 on plans for a system (subsequently shelved) and have budgeted $600,000 for engineering plans this year. In addition, the municipality is currently advertizing a permanent position for a water and wastewater engineer, with the successful candidate due to start on March 28, 2011. We still have no idea what this infrastructure will cost to build and to operate.

5) Mismanagement of development in central Chelsea.
When the previous Council approved the Chelsea Creek project based on the responsibility of the developers to monitor and remediate other wells in the ‘zone of influence’ of the project for a period of 20 years, it effectively froze all subsequent development in the ‘zone’, as any new well would change the existing water draw and therefore eliminate Chelsea Creek’s responsibility. The current Council is now trying to use this major error in management as an argument for bringing in municipal water.

6) The lack of a clear financial picture for the Meredith Centre.
Council has said it is determined to proceed with construction of the Meredith Centre. The business plan upon which this decision is based relies on projected revenues that are based on assumptions rather than on actual market studies, and on unknown operating and maintenance costs (since the actual design of the complex has yet to be decided). The proportion of annual operating and maintenance costs for which the taxpayers of Chelsea will be responsible has not been made public. Also, Council has made conflicting statements as to whether the Centre will have its own water/wastewater system or whether it will rely on a yet-to-be-built municipal system. There unknown costs implications for either scenario.

7) The lack of adequate project assessment.
Council’s high-density, urban infrastructure vision for central Chelsea has major tax and social implications. In spite of this, Council has not undertaken any economic, social, traffic, or safety impact studies to validate its vision. Nor has it undertaken a hydro geological study of the central Chelsea area to determine what water resources currently exist, and what sort of development these would support.
In its discussion of municipal water, Council does not address the elephant in the room, namely that piped-in water and high density zoning is a prescription for the urbanization of Chelsea, and for the very real possibility of future amalgamation with Gatineau. Rather than ignoring this, Council should be making it central to the debate.

8) Mixed messages and misinformation from Council.
For the past year there has been a steady stream of contradictory statements coming from Council. ‘There will be consultations’ followed by none. ‘No decision on sewer and water without public input’ followed by inferences that Council has already decided on its course of action. ‘The Meredith Centre is designed with a stand-alone water and septic system’ followed by the Mayor’s statement to certain KPOA members that there will be no septic system and that there will only be a temporary well for arena ice-making while the municipality builds water/sewer infrastructure. ‘No decision will been taken on water without public discussions’ followed by statements by one Councillor that Council has a contingency plan to avoid a referendum on this issue by having developers put up the initial funding thus avoiding a borrowing by-law which would be subject to a referendum.

9) Lack of expertise on staff and on Council.
The Mayor and Council repeatedly blame shortcomings and the lack of adequate information on inadequate staff and a part-time Council, yet they continue to proceed with major projects without proper advice and planning. Suggestions from citizens groups that they step back and bring the best expertise available to bear on the critical issues facing Chelsea have been ignored.