Supporting Progressive Strategic Directions in Tay Valley Township

Written on behalf of Jeff Kohl, former HC Link Consultant from the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition

One of my most satisfying experiences as a Consultant for HC Link and Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition was working with the Tay Valley Township council in 2017 to design a five-year strategic plan. Their goal was to improve the quality of life for all residents and visitors in a sustainable, adaptable, and secure environment.

TayValleyTay Valley Township is a small rural municipality in Lanark County, approximately equidistant between Kingston and Ottawa. The Township has a population of 5,571 (2011 census) which is dispersed throughout several villages, farming communities and waterfront areas. The population increases in the summer due to a significant cottage community along the waterfront of its 26 lakes. The Township has many strengths, including successes in key areas such as tourism and recreation, planning, community engagement, planning, infrastructure, and its finances.

Like many rural areas, the Township population has been shrinking as people, especially youth and seniors, move to larger towns or out of the area. This reduced tax base, the municipality’s sole source of revenue, has left very limited resources for initiatives beyond the core services, such as infrastructure, roads, and waste disposal.

Tay Valley Township contacted HC Link for support them in working out solutions to these concerns. Council was looking for innovative ways to attract and keep people in the area, as are many rural governments who are seeing the need to reinvent themselves to reverse out-migration. In order to do this, rural municipalities are often compelled to offer services in areas that they haven’t gotten into before; things like recreational programs, active transportation, and public transportation.

The Township council decided to use a healthy communities approach in developing their strategic plan and this is where I came in. My role was multi-faceted, including:

  • facilitating planning sessions to identify municipal priorities,

  • assisting council and senior staff in the development of the strategic plan, and

  • giving presentations to council on the social determinants of health and healthy rural communities.

While many issues were identified, the Township decided to focus on only three areas and do them well. As a result, the strategic plan includes these three strategic directions:TVStatPlan

Housing alternatives: Increase the range of housing options available to current and future residents.

The Township hopes to encourage people to continue to live there until old age by offering alternatives such as: granny flats, co-op housing, co-housing, cluster lot development (road with laneways where several houses are on shared laneways), and tiny energy efficient houses. To support this, there is language in the plan that lays the groundwork for passing by-laws that allows for wide range of housing alternatives.

Public and active transportation: Promote public and active transportation throughout the Township.

The Township will work with the Lanark County government and other county stakeholders on public transportation planning process. It will support active transportation (commuting by self-propelled methods) by paving road shoulders, providing network of trails, cycle routes, and road signage.

Communications and connectivity: Enhance communication between the Township and residents, and among residents.

Starting with gaining input from residents through community consultation, the Township will enhance online communications through improved internet connectivity, use of social media, and website enhancements that will help connect people to each other and increase interaction within community.

The Tay Valley Township strategic plan was formally adopted to guide the Township from 2017 to 2022 and will be implemented through annual work plans developed by staff in consultation with council.

Tay Valley Township’s strategic plan is very progressive for a rural community. It includes strategies to improve housing alternatives, public and active transportation, and communications in the face of changing demographics. It also addresses economic issues such as the increasing cost of living, job losses, and increasing demands on the township budget.

 

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