PPU keeps good times rolling in Wakefield, Que

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by Nikki Mantell on June 17, 2009

Wakefield has really hit its stride.

What a different place it is from 10 or 15 years ago when main street was a lonely handful of struggling shops and getting the municipality to pay attention to the village was like asking your dog to do your taxes.

New business abounds, tourists are pouring in, the iconic bridge is in top shape, new parks invite picnickers and village real estate moves fast.

Add to that the electric, contagious energy that its grassroots organizations have sparked. The Wakefield Grannies, The Fair Trade Village Committee, the nude fundraiser calendar, Wakefield Players, the squealing-good-fun Piggyback Fringe Fest, Wakefest, Harvest Fest, the future community centre that has 1,000 paid members and its not even built yet… those are just some of the projects and groups that make this tiny village burst at the seems with an irrepressible, “Can do!”  spirit that is the envy of other communities far and nearby (how Chelsea weeps).

To use a horrible business idiom, much of Wakefield’s success is due to a “synergy” between these business owners and groups, and a mayor and councillor that at long last have finally recognized Wakefield’s wealth of people, tourists and geography and are actively trying to open doors for new projects. Historically, this municipality has been borderline dysfunctional from years of infighting between the interests of Masham vs Wakefield (or French vs English).

Mayor Bussiere and his (most of his) crew seem to have developed a system where the two main villages develop in tandem, not necessarily working together, but side by side, towards growth of both villages. Masham is slated to get a Maison de Culture, Wakefield a community centre. Similarly, the amount of funds dedicated to Wakefield’s village planning report (PPU) has also been promised for a Masham PPU.

Wakefield’s PPU, released to the public last week, is a planning tool villagers should be really happy to embrace.  It is a very detailed document, covering everything from how many houses per acre should be allowed in each and every neighbourhood, to where benches should go along a “river to hills” pedestrian-biking corridor. It’s very visual, it’s logically and clearly presented in plain language, and, most importantly, it does a good job of spelling out how Wakefield can grow and accommodate more houses, businesses, traffic and tourists, while still maintaining its identity as a unique country village on the river.

As Neil Faulkner, who headed the last PPU committee ten years ago put it, “We don’t want to be Disneyland, and we don’t want to be Merivale (Road, in Ottawa). We want to be special.”

Now it’s the public’s job to take a look at it -www.villelapeche.qc.ca   – and give their feedback. Unlike ten years ago, council is committed to adopting the report that will be the village’s primary planning tool for the next 10 to 15 years. If you don’t like it, speak up, if you do, speak up. But Wakefield should take note to not do as their neighbours to the south and wait for the eleventh hour to scream and protest.

Residents should take a look, and give their feedback. This is the plan, it affects you. After a few tweaks, council should go ahead and adopt the PPU and keep Wakefield’s positive momentum rolling.