Meeting Minutes - Cam Guthrie: State of the City Address - Aug. 31st. 2017
This meeting was called to order at 9:55 am at Trinity United Church with President Ed Herold in the chair and with 40 members in attendance as well as today’s guest speaker, Guelph Mayor, Cam Guthrie. Also present were two visiting guests, Rob Higgins and Paul McKerocher.
As an opening to the meeting, Ken Marchant premiered a song written for the occasion of Mayor Guthrie presenting to us today and dedicated to the City of Guelph.
Julian Sale introduced Mayor Cam Guthrie. Cam Guthrie was elected Mayor of Guelph in 2014, after serving as a Councilor for Ward 4 from 2010 to 2014.
A licensed insurance broker and local entrepreneur for the past 16 years, Cam has served as a speaker and mentor at the Guelph-Wellington Business Enterprise Centre. He holds a business diploma from Sir Sandford Fleming College. In 2008, the Guelph Mercury named him as one of the city’s top “40 Under 40.”
An avid community volunteer, Cam has served on the Boards of Michael House, the Guelph Neighbourhood Watch Association, and Guelph Crime Stoppers. He is an accomplished drummer, a supporter of the arts, and a loyal Guelph Gryphons and Guelph Storm fan. Cam’s roots in Guelph stretch back to 1919, when his great-grandfather founded Guthrie’s Bakery on Quebec Street in downtown Guelph.
Mayor Cam Guthrie Mayor Guthrie started by presenting some current statistics about Guelph: - Guelph is a growing and thriving city with the latest census showing a 132,000 population; - the Province is forcing cities to grow under the Places to Grow Act to meet targets with a projected Guelph populations to be 191,000 by 2041; - the City is making decisions today for way down the road in time about roads, transit, parks, water & waste water, resources. All this flows from the one piece of data on projected population in 25 years time; - We're number one for real estate across Canada and we’re doing well economically, socially, and we’re recognized as one of the best cities in Canada to live in; - Our unemployment rate is one of the lowest rates in Canada however employers are having difficulty getting workers.
The Mayor talked about what he calls the "drive to qualify." This is the distance that people are prepared to drive to find a home that they can afford or qualify to buy and from which they can still commute to work. So people from the GTA are now driving to Guelph, Cambridge and KW to buy a home and commute to Toronto area. This is causing a spike in the housing market.
Because the borders of Guelph are fixed and because there are so many more people coming to Guelph to live the City is having to start to build up instead of out. This is causing a friction between the supply and demand and detached homes are becoming difficult to find. It is the competition between what is available and what people want.
Most of the land within Guelph city limits is already privately owned and there are limited options on places which can be developed. The next development phase for Guelph is to be the land on which the Springfield Golf Course now sits and it is owned by developer, Thomasfield Homes. Thereis now a huge development going on in the downtown core. The City is expecting about 9,000 people to live in the downtown core and this causes revitalization of the downtown area. There are economic benefits to developing the core of a city. Sprawl is more expensive because you have to provide new infrastructure servicing whereas building upward is on land that is already serviced. This is because sprawl requires more roads to be developed, more roads to be plowed, more parks to be built, more sewer lines to be built etc. There are only so many spots where we can build up in the downtown core because, for instance, we don’t want tall buildings dwarfing the Church of Our Lady. Of five areas that can be developed in the downtown core, four in the last five years have been taken by developers for development. The one remaining is the area where the current fire station sits including the area across the road from it. Of course this means a new fire station would have to be built. These sites represent the most degraded part of the downtown and they are the only areas where 18 story buildings can be built. There is a lot of pent up demand for these types of building to be put up, in the right place of course.
The City staff and expert advisors have said that the current water and waste water facilities will accommodate the demand up to the time of the population increase in 2041 but there could be some friction in the deep south end of the City out by Maltby Road.
In terms of population growth our average has been about a 1.5 percent growth.
Mayor Guthrie talked about the types of dwellings that have been developed in recent years and the “nodes” where amenities can be built to provide shopping and commercial services. One of the problems is that land is being held for this type of development which is privately owned by commercial interests like Loblaws and their real estate company and government can’t force them to build until they want to.
The other area in Guelph to be developed is the old Guelph Correctional Centre lands. This land belongs to the Ontario provincial government. This land is over one thousand acres. The City already has a council-approved plan of how they would like this to be developed with Infrastructure Ontario. The Provincial Government wants to dispose of this land in a way that will give it the most return on investment. Generally the way to get the most return is for it to go on the market and be bought up by developers from Toronto who will, in turn, develop the land as purely residential. But what Guelph needs there is for it to be developed for mix use – for residential as well as development that will provide employment, innovation and other uses on that land. So the City wants this land to be sold in a way that benefits Guelph.
Parking inventory in the downtown core has not increased since 1987 because it has been ignored and it is an economic development driver. There are companies that want to move to the downtown core but there is nowhere for their employees to park. The new Wilson St. Parkade will have close to 500 new spots.
Mayor Guthrie talked about “the Guelph factor” that existed in the past. This refers to the abundant roadblocks that always seem to be put in place restricting development. This was not a healthy culture. We are in such a competitive market. So one of the things that has really changed is in the Building Development and Enterprise Department. We are starting the conversation with getting the “yes.” This means instead of starting the conversation with a “no we can’t do this” we are starting with “yes we can do this.” If we don’t start providing the services that companies want they will go elsewhere where they can get them. We need to have good facilities for economic growth.
Regarding the GO Trains and high-speed rail and the innovation corridor, two years ago Guelph was not on the map for this. So the Mayor and staff fought and lobbied hard behind the scenes for two years to make the business case that Guelph needed a high-speed rail stop. This will be the first high-speed rail train in North American. This is a huge win for Guelph. A passenger will be able to get from Guelph to Pearson Airport in 23 minutes or Guelph to downtown Toronto in 39 minutes. Originally the stops were only to be Kitchener, London, Chatham and Windsor. The business case was made on the basis that Guelph and the University of Guelph is a major agri-food tech sector. So Guelph got a stop. There are 9,000 jobs alone in Guelph in the agri-food industry thanks to the University of Guelph. In the conversation the Guelph delegation to Ottawa had with each of the government parties in Ottawa, all the parties agreed that a high-speed rail stop in Guelph was a necessity.
Mayor Guthrie concluded his presentation by asking citizens to consider doing three things for Guelph as a gift to Canada for the 150 celebration.
A question and answer period followed Mayor Guthrie’s presentation.
Julian Sale thanked Mayor Guthrie for his knowledgeable and passionate presentation.
Announcements Activities – Ray Biffis - The night at the races at Elora is on September 25th; - only two weeks left to sign up and there are 27 members paid up with 10 others still to pay. - Glider School flights are scheduled for September 23rd at $140/person - Time slots will accommodate 4 people at a time in 4 planes
Coffee Gathering is still scheduled for Boathouse and the Airpark Café on alternate Thursdays
Board of Directors Meeting scheduled on Tues. September. 5th
Next Meeting is September 14th with Richard Sawyer, Glider Pilot Instructor talking about flying two miles high without an engine.