Community plan now available to public

The Town of Fort Frances is seeking public input on a community improvement plan which includes, among other things, ideas for economic development financial incentive programs.
“We’ve made a bunch copies, and people are welcome to drop by the Civic Centre and give us their comments,” said municipal planner Faye Flatt, who was instrumental in compiling the plan.
“Then, we’ll have a special meeting on Oct. 28, where the public is welcome to come out,” she added. “The idea there is to get council to hear what the people have to say.
“Maybe there’s a program they would like to see that’s not in there.”
The meeting is slated for 7 p.m., and will be held before the regular council meeting that evening.
The plan, which was finished in late August and comes in at a count of 15 pages, is meant to:
•facilitate the efficient and orderly implementation of community improvement policies;
•establish financial incentive programs to encourage rehabilitation of properties in the downtown, industrial, waterfront, and other areas; and
•provide a basis for future programs within the community.
Project areas under the plan include the development of recreational trail and parks systems, improvements to sidewalks and road surfaces, and a by-pass traffic route for large trucks.
Still others include beautification programs, advancing wireless technology, co-operation with First Nations for Pither’s Point Park development, and available and innovative financial incentives to stimulate development.
Flatt previously noted in late August that while perhaps not the focus of the community plan, the business incentives were a crucial part of the overall document.
“While the Municipal Act currently prohibits ‘bonusing,’ the financial incentive is way to get around that,” she noted. “It is a tool that is available to the municipality.
“By having a community plan with designated projects in it that the ministry has approved, it allows us to give incentives we otherwise couldn’t.”
Flatt said a few of the ideas for incentives include exemption from building permit fees, waiving of landfill tipping fees, and a land availability program, whereby the town possibly could get rid of land at below market value—something prohibited under the Municipal Planning Act.
“Once the community plan been approved by the ministry, it can’t be added to. So we brainstormed and came up with as many ideas as possible,” she added.
The plan has been submitted to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for a pre-consultation as a kind of “heads up” as to what the town was doing, and again will be submitted to it for comment today, said Flatt.
“Hopefully, by the public meeting, council will have some comments from the ministry. But if it comes back by Oct. 28 with no comments, that’s fine, too,” she noted.
Once public input is taken into consideration, and council adopts and passes the plan, a formal request must then be made to ministry for final approval and adoption.
Following a request from town council this spring, Flatt, along with a small committee including local economic development officer Geoff Gillon, had worked on the community plan since late May.
It most recently was approved by the Economic Development Advisory executive committee.
Flatt said the document came together through meetings, talking with a consultant, and after studying sources like the “Tomorrow” report and similar community plans from London, Cambridge, and Thunder Bay.