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Town seeking public input on community plan

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A proposed vision of the town’s future—a community improvement plan that includes an economic financial incentive plan within it—will be the topic of a public Monday night at the Civic Centre.

“I think it’s important for the public to come out to this,” Mayor Glenn Witherspoon said Monday morning.

“If they want to know what the plan is, where we want to go to, what we want the town to look like and be like in the next five years, they should come out.

“Especially if they have any ideas on top of the ones in the plan that we could consider,” he stressed.

The meeting is slated for 7 p.m. in council chambers, prior to the regular council meeting.

Municipal planner Faye Flatt, who said at least 130 copies of the draft plan have been distributed among the public since late September, also stressed the importance of the public coming out tonight.

“The name says it all—it’s a community improvement plan,” she noted. “The ultimate goal is the betterment of the community, whether it’s more jobs or an increased tax base.

“Council is not planning on passing this plan tonight,” added Flatt. “While a public meeting is necessary under the Municipal Planning Act when you have a community plan like this, this is no mere formality.

“The public’s comments are considered and if any of them pertain to some part of the plan, it’s presumed the plan will go back to the working group,” she remarked.

Geoff Gillon, the town’s economic development officer, will give an overview of the purpose of the community improvement plan while Flatt will explain the process of implementing it.

The public then will be asked for their questions and comments, which Gillon and Flatt will answer.

As reported earlier this month, one group sure to attend and offer its input this evening is the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce, which has been actively seeking comments from its members over the past few weeks.

Questions and comments will be taken into consideration prior to the adoption of the community improvement plan by council at a future date. If council adopts the plan, it then will be sent to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for final approval.

Project areas under the plan include:

•the development of recreational trail and parks systems;

•rehabilitation for municipal properties for sale or lease;

•the provisions of loans/grants to registered or assessed property owners for such purposes as facade improvement, improvements to sidewalks, and road surfaces;

•a bypass traffic route for large trucks;

•advancing wireless technology; and

•co-operation with First Nations for Pither’s Point Park development.

Flatt noted while perhaps not the focus of the community plan, the business incentives are a crucial part of the overall document.

By having a community plan with designated projects in it that the ministry has approved, it allows the town to give incentives otherwise prohibited, she explained.

Among these incentives are exemption from building, plumbing, and municipal application and sign permit fees; waiving of landfill tipping fees; and a contaminated sites grant program whereby the town would encourage the developments on restored contaminated properties.

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