Written for Root Issues in the Barrie Examiner, published under the title "Impending growth an opportunity for us all".
During the 2010 municipal elections in which I am running for school board trustee, guest authors Ruth Blaicher and Karen Fox are taking over my column.
Working in the city of Barrie for over 20 years as Real Estate Sales Representatives, both Karen Fox and Ruth Blaicher have seen the city evolve from a relatively tight-knit community setting in the 60s to a growing metropolis in recent years.
In 1991 Barrie’s population was 62,728. By 2011 we’ll reach 157,000 residents and in 2031 we are projected to have a population of 210,000. Our city has been designated by the province as a Growth area. There are two initiatives that will accomplish this mandate. The first will be to increase the population in a few areas within the city, what planners refer to as intensification. The second strategy is to develop the recently annexed 2293 hectare parcel of land to the south of Barrie. As this growth unfolds, we also need to recognize that our city will be expected to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint from our current levels. So the challenge is to produce less waste with a bigger population.
How these two approaches to growth are rolled out should be a major concern to every citizen now living in the original city limits, in the annexed area or those planning to move to our city. Over the next four years, our city council will play a major role in deciding the direction our city will take. With a municipal election now under way, the focus should be on how the newly elected politicians plan to address the growth. We need to use design principles right from the start that promote municipal sustainability.
At Transition Barrie, we look at ways to make our community more people-friendly. We consistently hear comments from Barrie residents about the lack of bike paths in the city. Interconnecting bike paths should be an integral part of every new development as well as all existing road rework. Active transportation and effective public transit are ongoing issues. Rising energy costs will soon encourage use and availability of affordable and efficient alternative transportation. All new development should demand the best in energy conservation practices and design and require eco-friendly building practices. We don’t need more urban sprawl where you have to use your car for everything that you do. Residents in new communities should have access to local amenities and schools within walking distance and perhaps even community gardens in each ward. We are far behind our European counterparts in our transportation systems, alternative energy programs and housing standards. We tear down our heritage buildings. 100 years is old in Barrie; in Amsterdam homes built in the 1600’s still stand.
Take the time to discover what your politicians are all about. Living Green is hosting a Mayoral debate that will be focused on sustainability issues. Gord Miller, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, will be the moderator. Plan to attend the Fischer Auditorium on October 19th from 6:30 to 9 pm to hear the vision of each Mayoral candidate.
Founding members of Transition Barrie, Ruth Blaicher and Karen Fox are local Realtors with a passion for Green issues and are directors of Living Green.