Amherst town council has identified a “Top 10” list of issues to be addressed. They include:
After these priorities were identified, Council and staff set about working on the initial drafts of project outlines that would serve as rough outlines of the work to be and the related estimated timelines.
A number of the priority areas represent work that really represent that strategic direction of the day-to-day operations of the Town. Work on outlines for these priority areas is ongoing.
Four of the priority areas, however, were more in the manner of “projects,” where a well defined commencement and completion date could be envisioned. For those, priority areas first drafts of project plans have been completed. They will be dynamic in nature and will change and adapt as we go forward. The high-level project goals are summarized below.
Our municipal planning strategy has not had a complete review in almost 20 years. The review of the MPS is a highly consultative process with many opportunities for public engagement and input and it will be an excellent opportunity for the members of the community, and the members of Council, to put their own stamp on the future of Amherst.
The MPS review will require some additional professional planning resources for the duration of the review. A recommendation will be included in the upcoming Council consideration of the operating budget to transfer $100,000 from the operating reserve to fund this work. It is expected to be completed by December of 2022.
In order to ensure the committees of Council are appropriately organized to support Council’s work, a complete review of the terms of reference of all committees of Council is planned to start immediately and continue through the spring. As many members of Council serve on external committees, a review of their roles on these committees is also part of the review.
To ensure the policies and bylaws of the Town reflect the mission, vision and values of the Town, and support the work of Council, a complete review of these documents is planned.
This work will be co-ordinated by Council and staff. The review of committees and roles will be completed in a few months, but it is expected the policy and bylaw review will be ongoing throughout the term of this Council.
The Amherst and Area Industrial Park is nearing capacity.
While some parcels remain, our Business Development Officer and planning staff continue to receive enquiries for a variety of configurations of land parcels. Council has identified an evidenced-based review of the need for and financial feasibility of the potential expansion of the land available in the industrial park.
During the next few months, planning, business development and operations staff will be working to prepare a discussion paper for Council to address the issue. The discussion paper is expected to be ready, in draft form, for presentation to Council in May of this year.
Perhaps the highest profile entry on Council’s list of priority projects for this year is beginning the work toward the establishment of a new multi-purpose community centre to replace, among other things, the 60-year-old Amherst Stadium.
This project has been talked about for many years. The time has come for serious discussion on needs, wants and feasibility.
The draft action plan calls for some internal visioning of the project, along with discussions with potential partners for the project and a call for submissions from community groups who wish to provide input into the initial planning of the project. This initial visioning phase is expected to be completed in time for a call for proposals for a consultant to perform a detailed feasibility study during the summer and fall of this year.
Public meetings and consultations will be part of the feasibility study and will be conducted by the consultants. In addition, a virtual suggestion box will be established to facilitate the submission of suggestions by individuals or groups.
It is expected that the report of the feasibility study will be ready by December 2021, so that Council will be in a position to make a formal decision on scope and costs during the 2022/23 budget process in the winter and spring of 2022, with a view to construction in 2023. The current operating budget carries an allowance of $100,000 for this study.
The work on Council’s priorities is not yet complete; it is very much a work in progress.However, it is important that the Town actually move forward on these projects while continuing to plan them. The draft work plans reflect that.
The work on these priority projects represents a significant current investment of about $200,000 and hours and hours of staff and Council time. Beyond that though, and more importantly, projects like a new community centre and the possible expansion of the industrial park carry potential price tags in the tens of millions of dollars.
In all cases, they are investments in the future of Amherst as a sustainable and growing community.
With the MPS review, Amherstonians will have a say in what the future holds for the development of community spaces, transportation, recreation, accessibility and inclusiveness of the community.
By envisioning, refining, planning and investing in the community, the Town of Amherst is ALL IN on the prospect of a sustainable, growing, inclusive, welcoming community that will re-take its rightful place in Nova Scotia and the Maritimes as THE place to live, work, play and INVEST.