National to Local in Two Minutes

Last Thursday I was humbled by a successful launch to my campaign to become Selwyn Township’s Lakefield Ward Councillor. Seventy-one people gathered at Lakefield’s Isabel Morris Park Pavilion on a beautiful warm evening. Lakefield’s former Reeve, Bob Helsing, was MC and introduced businesswoman Susan Twist and engaged-citizen Sue Bell-Gastle. All said positive things about my candidacy. Their words and the crowd’s presence left me humbled. Then it was my turn.

Part of my remarks addressed the issue that seems top of mind for most people I am meeting at their doorsteps: the planned neighbourhood between the water tower and 7th Line known as Lakefield South. Some people have told me that it’s been talked about for years and will never happen and others that we must stop it. My response to both is the same. It’s happening. Our task is to ensure that it’s done right.

In my speech, I said that we should consider the impending Lakefield South development from a broad then narrowing perspective. To begin, all of Canada is experiencing a housing crisis. House prices and rents are too high, partly because supply is too low. We need more housing across the country, including here.

The Ontario government has designated Peterborough County as part of the Greater Toronto Area, or Golden Horseshoe, in terms of development. Part of that designation makes new housing a priority as much here as Toronto, Oshawa, or Hamilton. The province can issue ministerial orders regarding development decisions.

Peterborough County and Selwyn Township have both submitted new Official Plans to the province for approval. Both have designated two areas in Selwyn for development. One is Woodland Acres, adjacent to Peterborough, and the other is Lakefield South.

So, Lakefield South is happening. We are fortunate that a large portion of the land that will be developed has been purchased by Triple T, the Turner family business. We are fortunate because the Turners are good people, the company is strong with a track record of good work, and it is local. The people who will be on the next Selwyn council matter because to them will fall the task of partnering with Triple T to plan our community’s future.

We must begin with a vision. The vision must be informed by community. We must consider who we wish to attract to live in Lakefield South and how we can help them to interact with each other and those already here in safe and healthy ways. We must enhance and protect the character of the Selwyn-Lakefield community and not simply build a Peterborough suburb.

The vision must be future-ready with considerations that include environmental sustainability, a recognition that the climate crisis is real, and a genuine dedication to doing our part, however small, to address it. Directly linked to that imperative is that we must make the new neighbourhood for people and not cars and so consider safety, walkability, sidewalks, bike lanes, green space versus concrete, and plans for recreation, trees, and landscaping.

We must consider traffic in and around the new neighbourhood so that the tense situation where Lakefield already experiences frequent traffic snarls from the downtown traffic lights to Clementi Street is not made worse. We must consider the challenges and opportunities that welcoming 3,000 or so new neighbours will have on schools, arenas, police, fire, ambulance, and other municipal services.

There is more that can be said about establishing a comprehensive vision and some of this work has already begun but the point, I hope, is clear. That is, the decisions that the next council will make will affect the future of Selwyn and Lakefield for decades. Like the national to local perspective regarding whether the development will take place, we must begin with a vision, let that vision inform the plan, and the let the plan inform the details.

We have a once in a generation opportunity before us. We owe it to those of us living here now, our new neighbours, and to generations ahead, to get it right.

(I hope to earn your vote in the election that takes place beginning on October 11. Please contact me at boykolakefield.com with questions or comments.)