As the Town of Milton moves into the new year and as we prepare to face many new and exciting challenges, it is a good time to take a look back on the year that was 2017.
There were many reasons to celebrate as a community last year – including Canada’s 150th birthday – and the fact that last year Milton turned 160 years old, tops the list.
Basking in the heat of the summer, we joined in the 10th annual Street Festival in Downtown Milton with our friends and families. Tens of thousands of Miltonian’s took part in the fun and games that were topped off by an outstanding performance by the band Platinum Blonde.
The ice cream flowed freely at Milton Town Hall as we took a trip back in history and officially celebrated Milton’s birthday and the reopening of the newly renovated Victoria Park.
As Miltonian’s of all ages were celebrating Milton’s roots and coming together as a community, the Town of Milton had many more reasons to celebrate as well.
In the spring of this past year, The Town of Milton was greatly surprised by the announcement by the Ontario government to approve two new post secondary institutions – with one of them being right here in Milton.
The planning of the university campus began long before I was elected as a member of Milton Town Council. The Milton Education Village as its called today, was the result of many years of hard work, planning and the vision o so many people, but one in particular stands out the most. That person is former Town of Milton CAO Mario Belvedere. Sadly we lost Mario a couple of years ago but thankfully his vision still lives on today and going forward, the dream of a university campus in Milton will be realized.
Just this last week, the town had held the first of many public sessions where residents and stakeholders in Milton will have their input on how the MEV will look in its design and how it will blend into the Milton community. It will also be an additional catalyst for economic development and bring job opportunities to Milton. Business follows education and I am excited about the future of Milton Education both in the short and long terms.
As this work continues, we as a community continue to anxiously wait for the official announcement of funding for the Milton Education Village by the province of Ontario. So stay tuned.
Back in the summer of 2011, the Province of Ontario had announced an approval for the expansion of Milton District Hospital. For Miltonians, this was the culmination on the efforts of many people including Halton Region, the Town of Milton but more importantly the great work of the Milton District Hospital Foundation and the countless volunteers, supports, donors and businesses that donated so much and helped us as a community raise over $30 million to help make this expansion a success. In late 2017, we officially cut the ribbon and opened the new hospital and its over 300,000 sq ft of expansion.
It’s common knowledge that Milton will continue to grow and at some point we will seriously have to look at the next phases of the hospital expansion and even more fundraising. It started off with advocacy – signs, petitions, and rallies, but in the end the community worked together and as a result we have this wonderful facility to be proud of.
Those were just two examples of the good things that happened for Milton last year, but we have not been without our challenges. As many in Milton are aware, the proposal for an intermodal by CN that was resubmitted and raised concerns by both the residential and business communities and in turn the Town of Milton and Halton Region.
Here is a very quick update of the status of the proposed development, the CEAA (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency) continues to get input from not only CN, but from residents and stakeholders before anything happens on this site. It’s been a long and detailed process so far, and will continue for some time. Meanwhile The Town of Milton and Halton Region will continue working with its legal team to work on a solution to the numerous concerns raised unanimously by all four municipalities in Halton.
This past year has also brought on a number of changes to provincial legislation that will end up affecting how communities like Milton grow going forward.
Changes to the provincial growth plan require the Town of Milton and others in Halton Region to increase the density of its growth. There is growing evidence of these changes as you will begin to see more and more applications for higher density development in Milton. Intensification will occur in our urban growth centres like Main Street by the GO station and most recently at the intersection of Ontario St and Derry Road.
The town of Milton continues to prepare for this type of growth as we are also making changes to guidelines to growth in town, including our drafts for mid rise (4-6 stories) and high rise (over 6 stories) developments.
In addition to changes in the provincial growth plan, the Province of Ontario has made many changes to other provincial acts such as the Niagara Escarpment Plan, Waste Management Act, and the Municipal Act to name a few.
Needless to say these changes, combined with other challenges mentioned will have continued affects on growth in Milton.
That was just a small account of the events of 2017 that have shaped and will continue to shape Milton as we continue to grow.
The town of Milton has begun the long range planning that is required as we prepare for growth past the year 2031 and into 2041.
I am truly excited at a number of opportunities that we will be dealing with in 2018 and beyond. You will begin to see construction in the Derry Green Business park (east of James Snow Parkway from the 401 to Louis St Laurent) as the first two applications are moving through our planning department and more companies will move here and call Milton home for their businesses, opening up further opportunities for Milton residents to live and work at home.
As mentioned earlier, we eagerly await the province to make its announcement for the Milton Education Village to pave the way for our partnership with Laurier University and Conestoga College to take root and begin to grow.
Also recently announced by Conservation Halton is our partnership in the planning and development of the Giants Rib park, that once completed will connect our many conservation areas and parks into one Geo Park. It will rival many areas around the world in size like Central Park New York. More on this to come.
The Town of Milton continues to work with Golf Canada as they announced last year their intentions to make Rattlesnake Point Golf Club in Milton the permanent home of the PGA in Canada – which includes hosting the annual Canadian Open PGA tournament. This provides not only the Town of Milton but Halton Region as a whole, huge opportunities for economic development and tourism within Halton Region.
The challenges of growth and the management of that growth will also continue in the coming year as we deal with intensification, changes to the provincial legislation and infrastructure demands to help keep Milton moving. This council realized some of these pressures during our recent budget for 2018. Our council passed a higher than normal rate of increase for the town portion of the budget. As Miltons population continues to rise, so does the pressure on our finances, infrastructure both new and roads for state of good repair as well as service levels for our community centres, facilities and all the programs we offer.
As the population continues to ruse we have to address the state of transit, where we need to improve, where we should expand and possible reductions that will be needed.
Our staff is beginning the next steps in these plans by updating our transportation master plan. What will transit look like in the years to come? Will it mirror other municipalities using “ride sharing” to form the base of their system, or will bit be a hybrid of two systems? Questions that will have to be answered going forward. I will be counting on the participation of not only members of the public but also our business community as well.
There are no magical solutions to the challenges we face as we continue to grow. Each of these challenges need to be dealt with. But solutions cant be developed in silos.
It’s easy to say “this is what should be done” if we look at these challenges in silos … in isolation … or as part of an agenda.
But like a kitchen in a busy restaurant, its difficult to find the best solution for all that ails us as a growing community without a plan to get the job done. We cant reach that goal of being a complete community without working together to make it happen. This year and those that will follow provide us with the opportunity to work together … home owners and business owners … the Town of Milton, Halton Region, the Province of Ontario & the Government of Canada … current and future residents of what we still call “Canada’s Fastest Growing Municipality” … working together to face the challenges and be part of the process … working together to reach our common goals of building a complete community.
The challenges may be great but with the proper leadership in place, these challenges will be surmounted. And together we can realize these goals of becoming that complete community … one that we can live, learn, work, play, become healthy and BE healthy and be the gold standard of growth. We can be the example of what growth and a community should be. Life right here in Milton.