Candidate for Councillor, Ward 2

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Strong Town Responses

Question 1

New Tecumseth is forecasted to grow by 35,000 people over the next 30 years (an almost 80% increase to the current population of 45,000). The maximum amount of land to accommodate this growth is 450 hectares. The next Official Plan will be re-written in 2023 assigning where to put these new residents.  What is your vision for where and what kind of housing should be built to accommodate this growth? Should we consider reducing the amount of land required?

Response from Wendy Gabrek

As a new councillor, one of my first objectives will be to deepen my knowledge of urban planning and the impact it has on climate change, building healthy communities and affordable housing. I am not a scientist nor do I have a degree in Urban Planning, but I am willing to listen and learn. As such, I welcome input from residents, experts and groups such as Strongtown New Tecumseth to ensure all decisions made are in the best interest of the community – our current populace and incoming residents alike. Through my discussions with the residents in Ward 2, I know there are concerns about affordability and ‘walkability’ in New Tec. Building up, instead of building out, and creating complete communities (including a mixture of housing types and sizes) with recreational and shopping opportunities central to these developments is important to residents. Also of concern is protecting and creating usable green spaces for our children and families. If elected, I look forward to making educated and thoughtful decisions when the OP is discussed at council, in 2023.

Question 2

What are your thoughts on building ‘complete communities’ where people can have their basic needs met within a 15-minute walk from their house such as access to retail, green space, school, a range of housing choices and safe modes of transportation (biking, walking, public transit)?  How can this be achieved?

Response from Wendy Gabrek

To build on my response to question one, I think building ‘complete communities’ is the only way to go. My son Logan works in Plant 2 (Honda) cleaning, and he bikes/walks to work daily along Industrial Parkway. There are no sidewalks, and when it rains it’s especially dangerous. Our Recreation Centre in Alliston is also on the Parkway with no way to get there except by car. During my canvassing walks, I have heard from many ratepayers that their children have fallen under the spell of electronics, but would go to the Rec Centre if they could get there on their own. This is a problem – but it is also part of a future solution. Knowing this brings clarity to how we should consider the vastness of our municipality and the ability for people to get to shopping, recreation and other facilities/spaces without the use of a car or public transportation (that we do not have). Thoughtful consideration must be given to building new communities to ensure all Town owed facilities get maximum return on investment through usage, and so people have more ways to enjoy healthy living and the outdoors – without driving to it.

Question 3

How do you suggest that downtown Alliston, Beeton, or Tottenham are revitalised after the pandemic has taken a toll on local businesses?  How can we increase economic activity without adding to the traffic congestion and more sprawling parking lots?

Response from Wendy Gabrek

One of the reasons people are moving to New Tecumseth is to be part of something – a unique “Rurban” (to borrow the Alliston BIA’s slogan meaning: the best of all things rural and urban) experience. When you look at European countries where small businesses thrive, the main streets are closed to through traffic, and only walking or biking is permitted. Although this model isn’t conducive to our local economy (eliminating all vehicular traffic), we can support our local business associations (BIA’s & Chambers & business owners) by attending the many events in our downtown areas that bring people in, and give business owners a chance to showcase their goods. The summer patio program, Potato Festival, Monster Mash, Honey Festival, Tottenham Community Week, Frightfully Fun Family Event, and the Santa Claus parades (to name a few) are all great examples of this. Not everyone is a social media specialist, so it’s important that we help spread the word about the many terrific businesses we have in New Tecumseth.

Previously, New Tecumseth had been considered a “bedroom community”, with commuters shopping their way home from the city each night. We can change this and become more self-sustaining. Sometimes all a small business owner needs is a chance to been seen or heard, in order to develop life-long relationships with new customers (our current & future residents).

As the Town continues to grow, and new people learn to “Shop Local” we must remind them gently that this is their home now, and our downtowns are open for business.

Question 4

The 2019-2022 TNT Strategic Plan has a Pillar of “Environmental Sustainability: Lead in promoting and preserving our unique physical environment.”  Climate change is not mentioned in this plan.  What are the biggest threats to the local environment and what are your proposed solutions?

Response from Wendy Gabrek

The biggest threats to our local environment include climate change due to an increase in traffic flow and waste accumulation as our community grows. Developers must ensure that New Tecumseth is not adding to the worldwide climate change issue by building better homes – with thicker insulation, alternative energy solutions and better grade materials able to withstand the inevitable weather changes we are faced with due to past pollution. We must also cherish our local natural resources, protecting the Tottenham Pond, nature trails and forests, farms, wetlands and wildlife. As our population grows, we’ll need to look at creative ways to compost and re-purpose our plastics – over and above our existing recycling program. Perhaps our future leaders, the children, could help with this, after all they are the creative thinkers!

Creating walking and biking paths (with locking bike racks) to discourage unnecessary driving would be a great solution as well, as is encouraging residents to shop locally to eliminate unnecessary delivery trucks in our area.

Question 5

The price of home ownership or rent for many in TNT is unaffordable. What can be done municipally to increase housing affordability?

Response from Wendy Gabrek

Intensification in urban areas, or building apartments that are not condos, is one way to protect the local housing market. Allowing for legal basement apartments and in-law suites and looking at permitting costs incurred by homeowners to do so. Installing ‘tiny homes’, town homes and multi-family dwellings (with adequate parking) to create a mixture of housing types (while maintaining quality craftsmanship and curb appeal) will help offset the overall median value of homes in New Tecumseth. Making sure new subdivisions are built to allow adequate traffic flow while cars are parked on both sides of the street will allow for more intensification as well. Of course, keeping taxes reasonable (a factor in home ownership) and encouraging/incentivising property owners with solar/wind/water upfits to reduce monthly utility bills and keep fixed costs down is another suitable solution. Again, I am not an expert, but I’m open to new possibilities and want a better future for the residents of New Tecumseth.

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