Kudos to Lord Mayor Betty Disero for arranging monthly, informal meetings with residents over coffee and cookies, to be held at various locations around the community.
The first one, at the Kirk Hall of St. Andrew’s Church, may have been more than she bargained for, but she said afterward she was thrilled with the turnout.
Disero said she wasn’t at all sure what to expect, but more than 50 people turned up. Although a few might have gone out of curiosity or for free cookies, most wanted to talk about issues.
Disero began the session with a bit of a run-down of what has transpired during the first year of a new council, and then turned the floor over to the residents.
A large contingent of short-term rental owners were there to express their opposition to a hefty licensing fee hike, but after listening to their concerns, and explaining the reasoning behind the fee increase — to pay for two new bylaw officers to deal with some of the problems caused by rentals, and the large number of visitors who come to town each year — Disero offered to go back to staff to see what could be done, and to meet again with the licensed operators.
She also dealt with a question about waiving development fees to bring jobs to town, which some municipalities have adopted.
She explained she believes it’s not a good idea for NOTL — as it is, there are businesses who want to open up shop here but can’t find the space. And waiving development charges, when by provincial legislation the dollar amount would have to be paid to Town reserves, means the fee becomes the taxpayers’ responsibilty, she said.
Long-term rentals in Glendale were also discussed, with a need for solutions for the community, which suffers from insufficient parking and the poor condition of some properties which are not being maintained. Residents are selling their homes and moving out of the neighbourhood, one 12-year Glendale woman said.
Recycling and climate change were also mentioned — the need for more recycling bins downtown, and for a climate change committee.
Disero chose the setting because she didn’t want the formality of a public meeting at the community centre. What unfolded seemed more like a meeting than a chat over coffee, but also a distinctly worthwhile exercise in that anyone with issues they wanted aired, had that opprtunity. And the lord mayor not only had a chance to listen, but to take those concerns back to staff and council to see what can be done about them.
Information was shared, compromises discussed, solutions proposed. Win-win.