Proponents extol benefits of village green

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The clock is ticking on a proposal to transform the shuttered TD Bank into an active green space. Proponents of the village green project say a donation agreement with TD requires council approval by Sept. 1.
At Monday’s meeting, Clearview council will revisit a proposed TD Bank partnership agreement, after an April decision to proceed was deferred. Council members needed some extra time to consult with the community and get up to speed on the proposal after Councillor Thom Paterson tabled a motion directing staff to work with the build team and draft a partnership agreement. (That motion was reconsidered at the next meeting and is still in a state of limbo.)
Creemore Community Foundation took out a two-page ad in The Creemore Echo last week outlining the project’s background, its $2 million financial benefit and a list of benefits to the community.
During an interview with Foundation members Tony Arrell, Stuart Lazier and Brent Preston, said they chose to take out that ad to improve communication and get the same message that is going to council out to the whole community.
“There was a good list of economic benefits there that maybe hadn’t been put in one place,” said Arrell.
He said after he tried to get the bank to remain open, Arrell became aware of TD’s willingness to donate the building. He said this is an opportunity that has come out of an adverse situation and he hopes the community grabs it.
“You had somebody willing to give a valuable property and you had some people willing to put in some significant money and together it would result in an opportunity for Creemore in a transformational nature,” he said, adding that the Creemore Community Foundation could also be a vehicle for future projects.
Preston said the vision hasn’t been developed further than a village green, the one developed through the public process.
“This has to be a vision for the whole community. We want to create a process so that the community can participate and articulate our collective vision for what we want this to look like. We have an opportunity to create a central public space in the village,” said Preston. “We’ve gone part of the way down the road to figuring out what that space should look like but there’s more to go on that journey and we want everyone in the community to know that it’s happening and knows that they can participate.”
The build team is in the process of choosing a firm that will design the space, with public input.
“The reality is I don’t think there is anything quite like this,” said Lazier. “Every landscape plan is different because the communities are different and the needs are different.”
He said the Station on the Green, Purple Hills Arts and Heritage Society, and the BIA’s use of the space will impact the design. “We are going to be using that space very differently than other people tend to use space.”
How exactly, they cannot say because the specifics will be up to the chosen design firm with input from stakeholder groups and the general public.
Lazier said they believe they have broad support for the project.
“We wouldn’t be moving forward with this if we didn’t honestly believe that we have the majority of people in our community with us on this journey and I think it’s really important that is the case,” said Lazier. “When you actually look at the people who are concerned about going forward with this kind of thing it’s very few in number because most people realize and appreciate that it is going to be a good thing for this village to create a new centre that will be dynamic and active, will work for multi generations.”
He said we are lucky to have the lovely horticultural park that we have and they are only going to enhance that by making the gardens three or four times larger, while preserving the old trees that are there. The foundation has committed to hiring someone to program the space. Lazier said the stakeholder groups, initiated by the BIA, will determine what that role will entail.
“Do we have a picture and a vision of what it’s going to be? We don’t actually, because that’s not our job. Our job is to select a recognized design firm who will then, working together with all the stakeholder groups, take all the input and put it into one bucket and filter through with something really fascinating and interesting for the community,” said Lazier.
The exact level of support for the plan is unmeasured but there are dissenting voices in the community, with some coming from within stakeholder groups, including the Horticultural Society.
Lazier said the Hort Society is vital to have on board.
“They’ll have a very special place in this landscape with the proper identity to recognize their 100 years of commitment to this community and that’s really important to us,” he said.
“Nobody needs to do this. We’re not benefitting from this. This is a cost. We’re trying to create an opportunity. If we didn’t think there was a very big majority of the people in this town including the Hort Society we wouldn’t do it,” said Arrell.
When asked how they respond to the view that tearing down the bank is a waste of a commercial building they say it is the property that holds true value.
“Life is full of trade-offs. You can’t do everything in life so we can have a beautiful town centre or we can have the faceless building that we have, an ordinary thing that doesn’t really fit,” said Arrell.
He sees this as a chance to knit Mill Street together with Station on the Green, the Cenotaph, library and log cabin, saying the project would create a nice pathway through to those facilities.
“You could say tearing down the building is a waste or you can say that concrete square on a really valuable piece of property in the middle of our beautiful village is a waste of a beautiful piece of property,” said Preston. “You are never going to have unanimous opinion on this but I think during the public process there was a strong majority for what I could see at those meetings that the trade off is worth it for what you are going to get.”
Lazier said the goal is to strengthen the vitality of the community and Mill Street.
“The push back we are getting is totally to be expected. Its normal and its helpful for the process but I don’t think anyone should think the people who are the movers and shakers behind all this, especially Stuart and Tony, have anything but the best intentions for the community,” said Preston.

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