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Thursday, October 6, 2022
First state of the town focuses on positives, challenges for NOTL

When will Niagara-on-the-Lake get a dog park? What’s up with the town’s diversity committee? How will the municipality streamline operations during the pandemic? What are the pandemic impacts and how are the town’s finances?

Those were some of the questions asked during the first-ever state of the town address on Friday, during which Lord Mayor Betty Disero and chief administrator Marnie Cluckie discussed where the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is at in 2021.

The forum was hosted by Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce president Eduardo Lafforgue.

Disero highlighted some of the accomplishments and challenges council has faced in the last two years since she was elected mayor, while Cluckie spoke about what she’s done during her first three months as the town's top civil servant.

The mayor’s list of wins for the town included securing an expansion for the nursery school, a new on-demand transit system and the creation of a town wellness committee.

Challenges included being $4.9 million behind in infrastructure spending for roads, as well as the town’s financial and revenue problems looking toward future budgets, noting tough decisions are going to have to be made to boost revenues and avoid major taxes hikes every year.

She also talked about the town’s vision for major issues like protecting heritage and setting standards for development.

“When we started just over two years ago, single lots were being converted to repetitive, cookie-cutter housing, cannabis companies were lining up in the agricultural areas, waiting for the interim control bylaw to expire, and some of our woodlots in places like Virgil, St. Davids and the Old Town were being clear-cut to make room for, again, repetitive cookie-cutter housing,” Disero said.

Council immediately focused on addressing those issues and updating the town's official plan, she said.

That official plan still isn’t done, however, she said it is “working its way through the region, particularly concerning the environmental mapping in the rural area.”

In the meantime, the town has amended its existing official plan to require compatible development in older established areas of Old Town and Virgil.

As for the dog park, Cluckie said it’s on the agenda for 2022, but won't be discussed until then.