Posted December 2, 2013
Monday morning, Coun. Lise Burcher and Professor at the University of Guelph sent a memo announcing an open house that afternoon to be held in the Galleria of City Hall. The purpose was to show plans for the reclaiming of the river edge on the south side of Wellington Street currently occupied by a commercial plaza.
Why such short notice? Did Coun. Burcher really want the public properly notified and informed?
This was a promotion by the administration about a year ago. At the time, carried a $16 million price tag. It called for demolishing the working retail plaza plus a stand-alone veterinary practice to create a Riverpark.
Here is another example of the administration’s munispeak. Warning: This sentence is almost unmanageable for the average intelligent person to comprehend, but please try it any way. It is classic munispeak as practised by members of the city administration:
“Harnessing the exquisitely crafted foundation of the Downtown Secondary Plan (take a breath) and the tremendous excitement generated by the recent and future leveraging of private sector contributions in the “lowertown area” south of Market Square, (ye gads a comma) my co-instructor Nadia Amoroso and I engaged our graduating Bachelor of Landscape Architecture students over the semester in the design of the open space quadrant south of Wellington Street (and bounded by Gordon Street on the west and Windham Street of the East).”
Exquisitely crafted? Does Professor Burcher need an editor with common sense?
The bothersome point is the councillor is acting as a planner and facilitator in her role as a university professor. When elected officials mix their vocation with their responsibilities to the taxpayers, there exists a conflict of interest. Further, she uses students in her courses to develop a plan without the approval or consent of the members of council. But the city ends up paying for the open house. Finally, if and when this project comes forward for a vote in council, how does Coun. Burcher cast her ballot?
She stated that the student exercise involved communication with a cross section of community stakeholders. Did that group include the owners of the plaza and veterinary clinic and the city staff, including the Chief Financial Officer? Of the community contributors to this student exercise, none were identified except one, George Dark, partner in Urban Strategies. This is the consultant hired to develop the urban design framework for downtown Guelph.
Who knew the city had hired a consultant firm to develop the urban design for downtown?
It’s great that architectural students conducted this assignment but it is another matter to pass this off as an accomplishment that will allegedly embellish the lowertown part of downtown. It’s putting the cart before the horse.
Of all people, Coun. Burcher should realize that there is no funding for this project. She is a member of council that has spent capital on many projects to the extent there is little left on the table.
Surely she must be aware of the lack of funding for a new downtown Library. The last estimate for that project was $63 million and it will attract 100 times the potential number of citizens to the Riverpark project. And the library will operate all year for all the people.
Coun. Burcher has sat on council for the past seven years when the new downtown library project kept getting shoved off the table. Oh! Council spent $5 million to demolish three properties on Wyndham Street as part of its new library planning. It created 20 new parking spaces. Gee, that’s only $250,000 a parking space.
Does that not resonate in the councillor’s mind? Particularly when she was elected in 2006, the Mayor promised a new downtown library would be built.
The Riverpark project insiders, but not the taxpaying public, will enjoy this open house.
And the administration wonders why citizens are upset at the way their city is being run.