Report: strategic plan will balance Erin’s growth, charm

ERIN – Town council now has a draft of the strategic plan to guide improvements for local residents, ranging from wastewater service and economic growth to investment in town facilities and maintenance of Erin’s “nature-oriented charm”.

The draft was presented to councillors on June 18 by John Tennant of Global Investment Attraction Group, with final approval planned for a future meeting.

“The strategic plan will provide a future course, a framework going forward, a road map if you wish,” said Tennant. “It starts with the vision of what the community aspires to achieve in the longer term, then for each of the five areas of focus.”

Strategic goals are being set for growth management, investment in community assets, economic prosperity, healthy lifestyle/vibrant community and service excellence /good governance.

The process is guided by a vision statement: “The Town of Erin will be recognized for well-managed growth that is attractive to businesses, residents and visitors while preserving its unique rural and small-town feel.”

The town’s mission will be to “achieve stable growth and long-term sustainability while creating a prosperous, healthy, environmentally progressive, livable and inviting community through well-managed municipal services, programs, assets and amenities”.

The town should be dedicated to the community, providing excellent service, being engaged with and accountable to the public, and showing respect and being transparent about town business.

“We aim to be agile, show initiative, be future focused, challenge the status quo, seek out new ways and learn from best practices globally,” the draft says.

The plan looks mainly at the next four years, providing a bridge to the next term of council.

The process of developing the plan included two workshops with councillors and staff, and a citizen engagement survey from Feb. 18 to April 5, with 452 participants.

Councillor John Brennan was not surprised to see people asking to maintain the small-town feel and quality of life “that we all hold near and dear to our hearts”.

He said the document so far is “nice-sounding words”, but the key is actual action.

With the growth management goal, the plan says that well-managed and environmentally sustainable growth will require a wastewater servicing system, with specific goals of obtaining financing, managing construction and setting parameters for the growth that take account of community needs and views.

Councillor Mike Robins said the plan should not pre-suppose that everyone in Erin agrees with the goal of growth, saying it requires explanation.

He said communication with the public is key to the action plans, and suggested a survey of current public perceptions to act as a baseline to measure future progress.

Robins asked how actions will move from being items on a list to actually being done. He used an example he considers an important action in the economic prosperity category: “Develop the value proposition for the town as a preferred location for environmentally sustainable clean technology businesses.”

CAO Nathan Hyde said staff members will be assigned specific tasks in developing the actions outlined in the plan, and there will be regular progress reports to council.

He said to get a more accurate picture of public opinion in Erin it may be necessary to hire a polling firm instead of just posting a survey on the town website.

Tennant said while the web survey was “not statistically valid”, it did get a good level of response.

“Small-town feel” was identified by 70% of respondents as the main reason for choosing to live in Erin. Satisfaction with Erin as a place to live was: very satisfied – 29%, somewhat satisfied – 52%, neutral – 10%, somewhat dissatisfied – 7% and very dissatisfied – 1.8%.

For the top five issues or challenges facing the town, 67% chose high property taxes. Others were development of a wastewater system – 54%; affordable broadband – 38%, a more balanced tax base – 33%, environmental protection – 33% and recreation, parks and trails – 27%.

For more, go to the June 18 agenda at