Good News Bad News Day for Milton

If you’ve been following the news recently, yesterday was a bit of a roller coaster for Milton.

downloadEarlier in the day we found out that CN, despite its assertions to the contrary, must apply to the Canadian Transport Agency (CTA) for approval of their proposed intermodal in Milton.

What does this mean? It means that it isn’t going to be smooth sailing as they thought it would be.  In the grand scheme of things it means it’s another hurdle CN must climb before anything is approved.

You can read about the decision here (Inside Halton/Milton Canadian Champion – Rachael Williams)  Further to that, there is a decision pending to see if CN has to complete a full environmental assessment with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) as part of their plans.  If this is ordered by the CEAA, CN will have yet another hurdle to overcome before anything happens with the intermodal facility.

Is it good news for Milton? Yes it is.  It goes with what Halton Region municipalities have been asking for since day one.  Follow the process any other developer would have to follow in Milton.  Is it perfect? Not at all, but it shows CN that they simply can not make assumptions and they do indeed need to follow a process.

There’s the “good news” for Milton.  Now, to the bad.

mevAfter close to 8 years of planning by the Town of Milton, Halton Region and Laurier University, the Province of Ontario made a decision for a new location of a university campus.  It wasn’t Milton.

The Province announced yesterday that the City of Markham (the municipality that tried for an NHL arena without a franchise) was the winner and approved a new York University / Seneca College campus beating out 12 others including Milton – which was considered a favourite – and Barrie.

You can read about this decision here (Inside Halton/Milton Canadian Champion – Rachael Williams)  Dr Max Blouw, who is the President and Vice-Chancellor of Laurier University, stated that they will indeed re-submit the proposal to the Province of Ontario in 2016.  The small sliver of a silver lining is that all is not done with new university campuses in Ontario.  They did say that in spring 2016 there will be another bid process opened up and the Milton Education Village has another shot.

I spoke of roadblocks earlier and this is one for Laurier University and the Town of Milton’s plans for the Education Village – located at Tremaine Road from Derry Road to Britannia Road – and potential economic development along with much needed job opportunities for Milton.  The Education Village, along with the Derry Green Corporate Business Park, is one of the keys to job growth and success in the Town of Milton.

In a press release by the Town of Milton (see here) we have committed to forge ahead with these plans and continue our advocacy with the Province to approve this campus.  Laurier University along with Dr Max Blouw willl press on and resubmit their proposal in the spring of 2016.

The question remains is this.  Why not Milton? Milton being the fastest growing municipality in Canada, is a prime location in the GTA for a university campus.  It has the full support of all parties involved including the Town, Halton Region and Laurier University along with their future partners.  The land is ready, available and serviceable.  There is also a facility in place that will be part of the campus up and running – a little thing called the Mattamy National Centre for Cycling which is now being prepared for the Pan AM Games in roughly 50 days.

All the pieces are in place, yet brushed aside by the Province.  These questions will hopefully be answered over the course of time and between now and the next proposal date, I will continue to advocate to the Province of Ontario, our MPP and anyone else who will listen, that the Milton Education Village / Laurier University campus should be approved as quickly as possible.

Jobs, economic growth and not to mention the Province of Ontario’s long time promise of post secondary spaces are keys to success.  Maybe the Province thought that a few token announcement of a couple of additional GO Trains and a quick payment of ice storm funds would suffice for Milton.  Not in my opinion.

Its time the Province of Ontario sees this.  With Milton growing as fast as it is, at the behest of the Province itself, with close to 400,000 residents expected by 2041, the provincial government must recognize that this is a priority area and the right decisions need to be made at the first opportunity, not as an afterthought.

Milton Has To Wait For University Campus … again

Markham chosen by the Province of Ontario for new York Campus while Milton continues to wait….yet again.

Here is a press release from the Town of Milton today.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Town of Milton forges on with plans for a Laurier campus

On Wednesday, May 20, 2015, Reza Moridi, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities announced that the City of Markham’s proposal for a combined York University/Seneca College campus has been accepted by the ministry’s capital expansion process. According to Minister Moridi, Markham’s is the sole proposal that will be considered at this time.

The announcement has deeply disappointed the Town of Milton and Wilfrid Laurier University. Since 2008, the two have been building a strong and determined partnership with the goal of bringing post-secondary opportunities to Canada’s fastest-growing municipality.

The Laurier Milton bid proposed a 150-acre university campus situated within a 400-acre Milton Education Village (MEV) on the southwest side of town, adjacent to the Niagara Escarpment. The MEV would be a purpose-built, fully integrated neighbourhood of multi-level education, research and commercialization, as well as complementary residential and commercial development.

“While I am thoroughly disappointed and saddened by this decision, it only strengthens our resolve to make the Milton Education Village a reality,” said Mayor Gord Krantz. “A university campus is key to building a complete community and we will continue to work closely with Laurier to bring that vision to life.”

During his announcement, Minister Moridi also mentioned that a targeted call for proposals for a postsecondary facility in Peel and Halton regions will be issued in the spring of 2016. The Town, along with Wilfrid Laurier and Halton Region will continue to move forward with conceptual plans for the MEV and will develop strategies to ensure that their bid is successful when the second call comes forward.

“Halton Region is committed to continuing to work with our community partners to help bring high-quality post-secondary education to the Town of Milton,” said Gary Carr, Halton’s Regional Chair. “The proposed Milton Education Village would fuel economic growth and foster community partnerships. We look forward to a successful outcome during the next investment by the Province in 2016.”

For additional information about the Milton Education Village, visitwww.milton.ca/en/townhall/miltoneducationvillage.asp.

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Milton Education Village Getting Closer?

According to an article in The Toronto Star, it looks like the provincial government in Ontario is making headway to possibly choosing more than the 3 promised campuses for post secondary institutions.

But the province no longer specifies it will fund precisely three such projects — despite the Liberals’ pledge for three new satellite campuses during the last election — but rather says now it will fund as many as required to meet the need.

“It could be more than three, it could be less, but the focus is on those high-growth areas that are currently underserved (by higher learning), where Ontario students are waiting to get into undergraduate programs,” said Emily Hedges, spokesperson for MPP Brad Duguid, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities.

For the last couple of years you have read on my blog that Milton Education Village is one of those potential locations.
Here is some information from the Town of Milton website on the status of the Milton Education Village, the plans, who will be involved and the potential job opportunities that will be available, not only from the campus location but the Milton Innovation Centre being located there as well.

As Milton has grown rapidly over the last decade, the amount of new business development has fallen further behind our residential development.  This puts even more pressure on the residential tax base to fund programs and future infrastructure as we rely less on business taxes & fees and more on property taxes.

Milton Town Council has been working hard with other levels of government to ensuring this becomes a reality.  There is no end to the positive impacts this will have in Milton in driving new companies and jobs to Milton….something that we need.

Here is a link to the Star article.

By: Louise Brown

Queen’s Park will fund new satellite campuses and possibly expand current sites to make room for thousands more undergraduate students in boom areas where space is falling short of demand.

But the province no longer specifies it will fund precisely three such projects — despite the Liberals’ pledge for three new satellite campuses during the last election — but rather says now it will fund as many as required to meet the need.

“It could be more than three, it could be less, but the focus is on those high-growth areas that are currently underserved (by higher learning), where Ontario students are waiting to get into undergraduate programs,” said Emily Hedges, spokesperson for MPP Brad Duguid, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities.

The ministry said it will soon call for proposals for expansion projects that each have space for at least 1,000 new students to start, with room for 5,000 to 10,000 more in the next 20 years. Proposals are expected to provide at least 6,500 new square meters of space (70,000 square feet).

Already several universities have said they hope to be considered for a new satellite campus. Sudbury’s Laurentian University has its eye on a campus in Barrie, where it currently offers some programs together with Georgian College, and Wilfrid Laurier University hopes to open a satellite campus in Milton, and there are others.

In recently released guidelines called the Major Capital Expansion Policy, the province said it will favour sites that offer a range of undergraduate degrees as well as student services, something satellite campuses sometimes lack.

“Satellite campuses can sometimes become a two-tier system where students don’t have the supports they need, from health counselling and disability services to academic counselling and a writing centre,” said Queen’s University student Allison Williams, a member of the steering committee of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance. “So we’re happy to see the province is requiring these services should be in place.”

It’s also crucial to ensure satellite campuses have some senior, tenured professors who conduct research — not just instructors on short-term contracts with little time to prepare, noted University of Waterloo Professor Kate Lawson, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.

“We’re happy there is a policy now on how satellite campuses will work, because we have seen problems before where they haven’t had decent libraries or labs, and sometimes even scramble to throw classrooms together,” said Lawson. “If you’re a student paying good money for an education, you want to make sure the quality is preserved wherever you are.”

Alastair Woods of the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario warned students at a satellite campus should be able to complete their entire degree at the satellite — which is not always the case.

Emily Hedges said this focus on degrees needn’t squeeze out community colleges, noting the province could consider new sites with degree programs offered jointly by a college and university.

Town of Milton 2013 Budget Proposed at 4.1% Increase

This coming Monday December 10th Milton Town council will be debating the proposed budget for 2013.  This budget is a result of a number of budget call reports, meetings with staff and councillors and of course you the public.  You will remember earlier this year I held my Budget Input Sessions at Milton Sports Centre to gauge your opinions on what the towns priorities should be.

To summarize those discussions, phone calls and emails I found:

  • spending on parks maintenance especially during the spring/summer time,
  • weed removal if possible,
  • prioritize transit spending (ie is it growing too fast)
  • maintain goal of increases around the rate of inflation

Of course when you look at the report it shows that the projection is for a 4.1% increase in spending but there are some items that staff proposed to be removed as well as individual councillors going through the budget line by line.

I am hopeful that this council can work through these items to come up with a lower increase for the town portion of your tax bill.  This does not include the Halton Region portion that, including Police Services, will be roughly 1% increase and the education tax bill.

The last two budgets came in over the rate of inflation and I could not support either one of them.  There are a lot of financial challenges we face in this year and in coming years at both the town level and the Region of Halton.  Business growth needs to be a focus of both levels of government.  What can we do to get more companies to move to Milton, so that we as Miltonians can have an opportunity to both live and work in town.  Right now those opportunities arent there.

This is why projects like the Milton Education Village are critical to that job growth.  We have challenges due to regional development charges being appealed which further puts behind much needed projects like MEV and the Derry Green Corporate Business Park (401/James Snow Parkway area)

The Boyne survey which is slated to bring in a reported 50,000 more people to town (I feel its going to be much higher and we need to raise the expectations from a planning point of view so that area isnt underserviced when its built) and the need for infrastructure is imperative.  Thankfully the Region of Halton has made a number of road projects priorities for Milton and hopefully we can get them started.

Steeles needs to be completed at James Snow Parkway as its a major route for large truck traffic coming into and leaving Milton as well as the completing of extending James Snow Parkway to Hwy 25.  Once that is completed in early 2013, you will be able to see a reduction in the amount of truck traffic on our regional and town roads.

I could spend forever outlining projects that need to get the green light from both the regional and provincial level.  In order to get the MEV going, the provincial government needs to step forward and say the magic words….GO.  Laurier University is ready to start this project and is committed, along with Sheridan College, to build a state of the art educational facility that can be self sustaining as well as an area for businesses to start, grow and prosper to create jobs for this area.  The more businesses we have in town, the lesser the impact on the residential tax base at this time of year.

Target will be opening soon, bringing forth lots of job opportunities and dare I say, much needed revenue for the town.  Its a great start and thank you to Target for making Milton your new home.  You’ll be hearing more about the opening soon and I know that the Town of Milton is very excited to get things started.  But its only a first step.

We have to continue to be an affordable place to live and to do business.  Thats why keeping our taxes as low as possible, while providing the much needed services for residents is vital to our success.  If property taxes and red tape get out of hand, you can say goodbye to these opportunities.

Needless to say between now and Monday night some councillors heads will be buried in the budget reports, emails from residents, meeting notes with staff.  As always I am available by phone, email or in person if you’d like to discuss more in detail.

Until then, here is an article on the 2013 budget from Julia Le at the Milton Canadian Champion

Town taxes could rise a little over four per cent

Milton residents could see a 4.1 per cent tax hike on the municipal portion of their property tax bill next year.

According to the proposed 2013 capital and operating budget and related staff-prepared reports that were handed out to councillors at last week’s council meeting, the average Milton rural resident and urban resident could pay an extra $12.21 and $13.16 per $100,000 of assessment on 2013 property taxes respectively or $42.74 and $46.06 on a home worth $350,000.

Councillors are currently reviewing capital and operating budget documents, which represent a combined investment of $160 million in the community, in preparation for budget committee meetings this Monday and Tuesday. The budget will go before council for final approval December 17.

The reports show a number of different tax hike scenarios from a 1 per cent increase to a 5 per cent increase.

The capital budget projects a $65 million investment in about 100 projects related to new infrastructure and the rehabilitation of existing assets like facilities, roads, bridges, parks and equipment.

Nearly two-thirds of that budget, about $41.7 million, would focus on the development and redevelopment of roads and traffic infrastructure. This includes projects like the continuation of the Main Street grade separation near Ontario Street, the construction of the CN crossing on Louis St. Laurent Avenue between Tremaine Road and Bronte Street and the asphalt overlay and surface treatment on various roads to prevent deterioration of the roadway and protect against major reconstruction.

The projects would be funded by development charges, reserves and reserve funds, GTA pooling funds (which end next year), debentures, the general tax levy and other funding sources.

The operating budget, which looks after the delivery of services required to meet the needs arising from growth in the community and to support the quality of life that residents expect, is projected at around $95 million. It’s divided among the departments at the Town, with engineering services, community services and planning and fire departments providing the most direct services to the community.

The operating budget would allot $22.9 million (25.4 per cent) to engineering services, $16.8 million (18.6 per cent) to community services, and $7.8 million (8.6 per cent) to fire services.

The Town’s portion of the property tax bill is 30 per cent. When combined with regional and educational components of residential taxes, accounting for 43 per cent and 27 per cent respectively, Miltonians could see an overall tax increase of 1.59 per cent in the urban area and 1.54 per cent in the rural area on their 2013 property tax bill.

Residents can view the proposed budget by visiting www.milton.ca/en/townhall/budgets.asp.

Public Open House Milton Education Village Sept 25th

Public Open House: Milton Education Village Secondary Plan

A Public Open House relating to the Milton Education Village Secondary Plan Study will be held:

Date: Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Location: Milton Sports Centre, Banquet Room (located closest to south entrance), 605 Santa Maria Blvd., Milton

Time: 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
(A presentation will be given by staff and the Consulting Team at 7:30 p.m., followed by a question and answer period)

The purpose of this initial public open house and presentation is to provide an opportunity for the public to discuss with Planning staff, the study process and initial results of the background studies relating to the Milton Education Village Secondary Plan (see map). Copies of the Background & Concepts Report will be available at the open house for viewing, and Town staff and members of the Consulting Team will be on hand to answer questions.

The Milton Education Village Secondary Plan is being conducted in accordance with Sections 17 and 21 of the Planning Act, and the policies of the Town of Milton Official Plan. In addition, all related Secondary Plan studies are being carried out in conformity with approved procedures contained in the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment (Class EA) Process.

We encourage you to take this opportunity to get involved in this exciting project, and to provide staff with your questions and comments. Public consultation is an essential component of the preparation of the Secondary Plan, and we ask you to join us and help shape the future of the Milton Education Village.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Ms. Bronwyn Parker, Senior Policy Planner, 905-878-7252, ext. 2307, browyn.parker@milton.ca