Wellington North seeks feedback on township priorities for strategic plan update

ARTHUR – A handful of residents who turned out to the Arthur and Area Community Centre earlier this week will have a role in shaping Wellington North’s updated strategic plan.

Elsa Mann put pen to paper at the community centre on the evening of July 27, contributing her ideas to the ongoing development of a plan that will guide council and township priorities over the next three years.

A resident of 20 years, Mann has seen a lot of change in the community

Although she concedes some of it has been inevitable, there are other aspects she feels could have been handled differently.

Mann participated in surveys held in March to gauge residents’ satisfaction with life in the township, and wanted to see how that information was synthesized into the strategic plan.

She noted an absence of a deliberate focus on environmental sustainability related to growth.

“As a resident, that’s very important to me because we’re growing by leaps and bounds in our smaller urban settings,” she said.

Sitting nearby around a table were five long-time residents also filling out survey questionnaires which will influence a final strategic plan draft expected to land before council this fall.

Their concerns largely revolved around growth and development and the loss of a “small-town feel” they say comes with it.

Janice Walsh wants to see a priority on medical services and health care in the community.

“We can’t forget about seniors; they’re important,” she said.

Others said they worry over Wellington North turning into a bedroom community with its increasing population.

Kris Cummings of Doable Consulting, the Guelph-based company guiding the strategic plan process for the township, said Thursday’s exercise serves as “a pulse check” for the township’s current priority list.

“[Residents] get a chance to weigh in on two things: the initial draft list, and they can influence what that turns into, and then the other is what they actually want to see, practically,” Cummings explained.

Though there are local nuances in Wellington North, such as how to tackle growth in a sustainable way, Cummings believes communities have similar interests.

“People want somewhere where they can work, they want somewhere with a good quality of life, and somewhere where they can participate in community,” he remarked.

The local question, he said, becomes how to achieve those goals.

Feedback collected from the July 27 session, another on July 31 being held at the Mount Forest and District Sports Complex, and an online survey, will provide Cummings with an idea for how “on target” the draft plan is so far.

“We’ll be able to see what the community is suggesting,” he said.

Comments will be summarized and brought to the township for an internal planning session, with potential for another resident survey to follow.

Once the consultation work is completed, a draft strategic plan report will come before council for discussion.

“We are trying to move really quick, so that it can help inform the budget process,” Cummings noted.

Wellington North CAO Brooke Lambert said the strategic planning process identifies areas for council and the township to focus their efforts over the next three years.

“There’s a whole bunch of different ways that this information feeds into the operations of the town,” Lambert said, adding, “This is an opportunity for us to listen to the community.”

The next public engagement session takes place in Mount Forest, 850 Princess Street, from 6:30pm to 8pm on July 31.

The online survey is also available until Aug. 8 and can be accessed by clicking or tapping here.

Consolidated PDF of TWN Public Consultation Posters