Impressed by village green public meetings

 In Letters, Opinion

To be honest, when I first heard about the proposed removal of the TD bank, with the plan to create a bigger public green space, my reaction was large and decidedly negative
I walked into the first public “TD lands ideas” meeting last winter skeptical. I thought that the removal of the building was wasteful, that the plan came from a place of privilege and that it wasn’t something that our town wanted or needed.
I was however, impressed by how well the public meeting was advertised, with posters all over town and large ads in The Creemore Echo. I was equally impressed by the Station on the Green being packed to capacity, it was standing room only.
As I listened and participated in that meeting and the second, equally well attended meeting, my feelings about the project shifted.
I was surrounded by people who are passionate about the health of Creemore’s present and future. No one was being strong armed, everyone had a chance to speak.
I left genuinely believing that an extended village square, with dedicated money to provide ongoing maintenance and programming is something that many people want. I see its value and am excited by its possibilities.
I had to ask myself why then, was my initial reaction so harsh? Truth be told, I had to address that part of my negative reaction was rooted in my own, unchecked, bias against wealth. My family didn’t have much when I was a kid and money makes me uncomfortable.
Despite my bias and pessimism I found no ill intention in the planning of this community space. The planning committee met with the Creemore Area Residents Association, the BIA, Purple Hills Arts and Heritage Society and the Horticultural Society many times. I’ve heard criticism abound that the community was not consulted about the TD lands and the Village Green and that just isn’t true.
A gift has been offered to our town, of time, extensive consultation and a very large sum of money to create a meaningful space to gather, celebrate, create and commune together. However, lately the loudest voices speaking and writing about it are full of rage.
I’ve heard the sentiment that this Village Green is dividing the town. Personally I think that the language used to describe the planning and design process, and the people supporting it, is extremely divisive. Calling out the build committee and the projects donors for not living here and putting quotations around do-gooders is both mean and not constructive in any way.
It is one thing to not like the design being proposed for the Village Green (and there is a mechanism to voice your thoughts about it). It is another thing entirely to turn this project into an Us against Them war. I love this town. My kids love this town and I feel so fortunate that they get to grow up here. I think it’s important to recognize that the health of Creemore depends on a balance of folks – the ones with roots generations deep, the ones who have relocated their families here, the ones who have weekend and summer homes here and the ones who just stop by for the day.
Our businesses, our grocery store, our culture, our school all benefit from this wellspring and diversity of people who care so deeply about keeping Creemore vibrant. There is no “other” in that equation.
Sara Sniderhan,

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