Serving Dorchester, Belmont, Thorndale, Thamesford, Putnam, Crampton, Avon, Harrietsville, Mossley and surrounding area
Signpost photo by Scott Taylor
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE: Alexander Gibson, 97, who served for three years in the Merchant Marines in the Second World War, attends the Dorchester Remembrance ceremony last Saturday.

Smibert calls for more study

on strategic plan

by Scott Taylor

        The final draft of the Thames Centre Strategic Plan went before council Tuesday night. Since the meeting occurred after this paper went to print, we're unable to report if it was adopted, but according to Deputy-Mayor Michelle Smibert, there are aspects that might require further discussion.
        The plan builds on four pillars. They are smart planning, community communications and engagement, active living, and economic development.
        It's to be the municipality's roadmap over the next four years. Smibert said it's crucial to understand the directions of the province and county when planning for the municipality.
        "I am hoping to see that we can identify those objectives that are important for Thames Centre and understand what steps we need to take in order to see this happen. I think it's important that we understand the current conditions like provincial policy and legislation and also Middlesex County priorities when discussing our strategic priorities.
        "For example, if more homes or density of development is a priority of the province then we need to understand how best we can work within that framework rather than taking an opposing approach by not building any homes. We want to be sure that Thames Centre leads and supports development that's best for Thames Centre and understanding the residents concerns when reviewing development proposals. A strategic plan should set those objectives for council to follow when making decisions for our community of unique communities."
        It's also recommended that council should promote greater diversity in housing, such as an increased number of apartments, townhouses, and semi-detached homes for young families and seniors. This is a common theme, especially in Dorchester, where there are precious few options for seniors to downsize or for young people to purchase their first home. That said, it appears most residents are opposed to such density.
        Smibert explained why it's so important the plan gets issues like housing right before it is adopted.
        "Thames Centre council has had the opportunity to hear from residents through the recent survey questions, which provides us with a great start to this process. I am hoping that we can take some more time to hear from staff and council members about their great ideas and priorities before we finalize our plan. I feel it's important for both council and staff to be on the same page when understanding our strategic priorities as staff will need to undertake the work to achieve the expected results that council is looking for."
        The report also stresses community communications and engagement.
        "The three ward councillors should conduct annual town hall meetings in their respective wards to update their constituents on council decisions, budgets, policies, and to receive citizen feedback on issues important to them."
        Since council has stressed the need to be as transparent as possible with residents, this would be a step in the right direction.
        It goes on to state, "The mayor can conduct an annual Business Breakfast event, focussed on the business community, but welcoming the general public. The event can provide business awards. The municipality could fund the establishment of the Thames Centre Chamber of Commerce, in addition to funding community groups, local arts and cultural initiatives."
        "I will be specifically looking for ways in which Thames Centre can build upon our financial sustainability," Smibert added. "There seems to be greater expectations for services which we would love to deliver, but we need to be mindful that taxes should be kept to minimum increases as we need to understand the current financial challenges that we are currently facing like the increase in living expenses such as groceries, utility costs and uncertainty with mortgage rates."
        The exhaustive report includes dozens of recommendations, which leads Smibert to believe it should be discussed in greater detail.
        "For me, it's important that we get this guiding document right before we approve it. When we take our time to ensure that the strategic plan provides the best possible path forward for Thames Centre then we all win."
        The full plan can be found on the municipality's website at

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