BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to a letter regarding the preservation of rural communities, published July 30.
In his letter, Mr. Ralph Wood of Orillia pays homage to small, rural communities.
Some of the best farmland in Simcoe County has become more valuable for commercial, industrial and residential development than for agriculture. In Oro-Medonte, for example, council and its development services continue to promote and accommodate urbanization, putting farmland, natural resources and rural communities at risk.
Even though the township Official Plan states: ”According to the people of Oro-Medonte, the excellent quality of life is what makes the township a desirable place to live. This quality of life is created, in large part, by the rural character of the community, the open countryside, farmland, extensive wooded areas, the Oro Moraine, Lake Simcoe, Bass Lake and a number of small settlement areas. Rather than being dominated by man-made structures and landscaped yards, the township has an open, relatively natural and rural character. These are the qualities that, taken together, contribute to the identity of the community that is of the greatest importance to the residents.”
Protecting the rural character and farmland communities entails more than just preserving the land itself and a few historical buildings, more than commemorating with stone markers and bronze plaques, the families who built these communities. Many of those founders’ descendants are continuing to keep our agricultural industry very much alive and providing numerous benefits to all of us, a food source major among them.
Also, as Mr. Wood described, most of these rural communities and their well-being were centred around small schools, churches, community hall activities and, most importantly, helping each other in their farming endeavours. Unfortunately, and some may call it progress, large residential developments have sprung up around these small communities and heavy vehicle volumes running through them are isolating and destroying the ‘quality of life’ for the residents who live within them. These are the same rural communities which the Official Plan describes as not just desirable but of greatest importance to township residents.
Craighurst is a relatively small, rural community, recognized for its historical farming and forestry background. However, in the Official Plan it’s now identified as a ‘rural settlement area’ and was recently deemed the ‘Main Street of Oro-Medonte.’ As a part of this declaration some federally funded public art was recently installed in an attempt to make the community more attractive for both tourists and residents. Seemingly overlooked in this scheme is the reality that the village is located at the intersection of two county roads, which heavy trucks thunder through all day and where subdivisions soon to appear will greet visitors coming from all directions. One of those planned subdivisions will consist of 400 tightly spaced homes and destroy another parcel of good farmland.
As even more development lies ahead for this community it will undoubtedly lose its rural character and be even further at odds with the township’s Official Plan stating, “Rather than being dominated by man-made structures and landscaped yards, the township has an open, relatively natural and rural character.”
So, how do we overcome the destructive actions being approved by our current elected representatives and better protect and preserve the valued characteristics and the quality of life for township residents? The people, not just the farmlands. Once again, as Mr. Wood stated: “Municipalities are now seeking people to run in the next municipal election. If a candidate were to run and include rural community preservation in his or her platform, would this have traction with rural residents?”
And, if that person were to be elected, how effective would they be as a member of Oro-Medonte’s council? In a township which is happy to embrace the province’s continuous growth directive and is addicted to the smell of increased tax revenues from these developments to help offset their excessive spending habits, that could be quite challenging but not impossible. We can help improve those odds by carefully selecting candidates and voting in the upcoming election. The issue of poorly planned and uncontrolled development begs the question: At what point does the quest for more result in less?