Examiner – Heather Watson Releases Action Plan

Long-term infrastructure goals, a four-year budget strategy, a three pronged approach to reining in nuisance short-term rental properties and a focus on expanding internet and cellphone network coverage are among the priorities outlined in Douro-Dummer Township mayoral candidate Heather Watson’s 50point action plan released Tuesday.
Watson has served as the township’s Douro Ward councillor since 2018. She’s running against Jim Coyle to replace J. Murray Jones, who is retiring as mayor.
The priorities, which are listed under nine categories — leadership, “bringing the community together,” roads and infrastructure, finance, environment and climate change, inflation and housing crisis, health and seniors, short-term rentals and business, growth and development — were identified through weeks of canvassing, meetings with individual constituents and community leaders and input from a town hall gathering, according to a press release from her campaign.
“After hearing from citizens, I have established a list of priorities where I will focus my energy if elected as mayor. It’s a tangible list that I will be held accountable to in the next term of council,” Watson stated.
Under her leadership, Watson pledges to develop a long-term plan to address the township’s infrastructure needs by setting out a vision for the community “20 to 40 years out,” and says she’ll “build and create new partnerships with other municipalities” to operate more efficiently. Moving ahead with construction planning for the Warsaw Fire Hall and the public works facility are part of Watson’s “roads and infrastructure” priorities, along with continuing to
lobby for bolstered access to reliable, high-speed internet throughout the township and putting in place a short- and long-term plan to address Douro-Dummer’s aging community centres, arenas, library and its overall recreation needs. Watson has also highlighted the need to create a framework for people living on private roads so they can access maintenance materials more affordably. Developing a plan to tackle ongoing road maintenance needs while
looking at updating the township’s road network is another priority. When it comes to the environment, Watson is promising to put in place an updated emergency response plan to support residents in the event of extreme weather events. She also wants to work with neighbouring municipalities to lake stewardship groups to confront issues including shoreline erosion and invasive species.
To address inflation and the housing crisis, Watson’s action plan focuses on government collaboration and the exploration of affordable housing alternatives.
She aims to “work with the province to amend the definitions in the Planning Act to provide more flexibility on settlement area boundaries and development as recommended by the Rural Ontario Municipal Association Task Force” and plans to “encourage tiny homes and work with the province to get regulation clarity as it relates to septic systems, fixtures and density.”
On short-term rentals — a divisive issue in Douro-Dummer Township and municipalities across the province — Watson has outlined a three step approach: establishing a licensing system to allow for the “respectful use of property rentals and the township to revoke or not renew licenses if there are issues,” strengthening nuisance bylaws to ensure offending parties are penalized and ushering in an accommodation tax. The tax would be collected by short-term rental companies to help fund enforcement and licensing administration.
In response, Coyle said Watson’s “action plan is to make plans.”
“If you go through her action plan, there’s nothing she can do directly. They’re mostly things she’ll have to delegate to the management team to suggest they work through for her. I’m just not sure she has the skill sets to make that happen,” Coyle told The Examiner. Improving road safety, streamlining the building permitting process, expediting affordable housing options and strengthening highspeed internet access are among Coyle’s priorities. The former businessperson has no plans of releasing his own action plan, saying his existing platform, “speaks for itself.” “To me, (Watson) is trying to do the day-to-day job of the administration staff. I’m going to (focus) on the bigger picture. My platform is more of a macro, directional plan,” he continued.

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