All candidates for Aylmer mayor, deputy mayor and councillors were submitted the same six questions by the Aylmer Express. The three candidates for mayor are Jack Couckuyt, Greg Currie and Bob Habkirk. The three candidates for deputy mayor are Doug Avram, Mary French and Gerry Richer. The nine candidates for coucnillors (five to be elected) are Sheri Andrews, Pete Barbour, David LaPointe, Barbara Ann Laur, Ted McDonald, Bill Murch, Arthur Oslach, John Vandermeersch and Judi Wright. Here are unedited answers to one of the questions in order of candidate:
The following question was submitted by Susan Graves who wasn’t able to ask the questions at the all-candidates meeting:
Recently, quite a few couples aged 55-70 have moved or are in the process of moving to either St. Thomas or Tillsonburg in order to find homes in a condo community. What can you do to offer similar accommodation here so we don’t lose our younger retirees?
Couckuyt: There is “condo” housing available in the Trillium Building. Most of the new development over the past few years has been that of three and four units and other rental housing. Developers are obviously seeing these as a better investment. Many of the people I have spoken to all mentioned the specific amenity of having a great swimming pool in Tillsonburg or St. Thomas. I plan to talk to developers and businesses on a regular basis in the new term to hear why condo development is not happening. Our commercial rates, development charges and building permit costs are all very competitive with most surrounding communities .
Currie: I would reduce town spending, which, in turn would relieve the tax burden so that the conditions for property developers and citizens to build affordable accommodations to suite the needs of this age gorup would be more ideal.
Habkirk: First thing I would do is start beating the bushes to find out why no one has pushed for the second 22 unit apartment building on Brown street that was supposed to be built and hasn’t been. That was guaranteed and funding was allocated, but has been let slip away by inaction. Second part is the developers are going to work where abundant serviced land is available, at the present time we need more land to accommodate that. With no guarantee they will build Condos as the failed Forest street development will attest.
Avram: A concern naturally, not just for retirees but all ages. Council is not in the business of building condo centers BUT we can create zones in order to accommodate such buildings. Our biggest challenge however is to acquire more land area to build on which means annexing land from Malahide in order for Aylmer to grow. This should be a major priority for Aylmer council.
French: Take a close look at the procedure that is now in place and streamline it to make it more user friendly. An easier system could possibly encourage more development such as a condo community in the Town of Aylmer.
Richer: Couples 55-70 move to St Thomas or Tillsonburg for Condo access……..Aylmer has a quantity of private condos and persons seeking this lifestyle have the options to seek their choice depending on their personal needs. As a municipality, it is not our core business to be building condos nor to be in competition to private developers but rather to provide a serviced environment that will attract the development community to build. Private developers routinely develop business plans based on research which reflects supply/demand and needs of local interests. Developers will not necessarily share their research nor business plans for obvious reasons. The development community needs to have closer communication ties with the municipality to ensure the proper land use planning tools and pertinent services are in place to accommodate future growth.
Andrews: It’s no secret we are losing our young retirees to other communities such as St. Thomas and Tillsonburg. We are losing these people because the tax base in other communities are lower, yet amenities are greater. We need to improve and revitalize our downtown core and make people want to stay in our town. I agree we need more housing for seniors but until we focus on our tax rate, we will have a difficult time keeping young retirees or young families in Aylmer.
Barbour: Condo housing is one of the largest growth segments of residential development, it meets the needs of a downsizing demographic. Aylmer could be a focus of new development if we work together and embrace positive growth in a fair and consistent manner. Our developmental land base is nearing its capacity, additional land inventory needs to be established.
LaPointe: The only thing council can do is encourage this type of development for our young retirees. The Town cannot force developers to build this kind of housing. Are these residents moving because of lack of condo community or other personal reasons, there is a difference. There happens to be condos for sale in this community, hopefully we can encourage them to stay.
Laur: Aylmer currently has a condo development with availability. While we do not have as many options as our larger neighbours what is of more importance is the difference in services. We will never be able to compete on the level of the mentioned communities but I do believe there is much that could be done. Keeping the cost of housing and taxes affordable for fixed income households, providing better medical services is a big concern for many, involving retirees in our community through volonteer programs, offering more recreational activities, are all ideas to help this age group feel more invested in Aylmer and more likely to stay.
McDonald: The seniors market is burgeoning and will continue to do so this our aging population. As a community we need to look at providing affordable living to this vital part of our society. A reflection of our society will be measured on how we treat our elders.
Murch: The five goals of the town’s Community Improvement Plan foster ways to restore and establish improvements including that of condo development. Working with existing resources we can create more ways for people of all ages to live and work in Aylmer.
Oslach: In the last six months I have scrutinized the Real-estate market with the following conclusion, there are plenty of average homes and condos in the 150 to 200 thousand range, plus the Trillium Building. We should be concerned with more funding for low income units and homes for the under privileged.
Vandermeersch: I have no doubt that if sufficient demand was there for condo developments to fill the niche market that the questioner is asking about, there would be a response from builders in the area and in that market. While we do have low income housing available I must assume that this is not what is being sought and, therefore, should be investigated. I’ll gladly look into it for you if re-relected.
Wright: Re couples moving to St Thomas or Tillsonburg possibly indicates that we don’t have the retirement accommodation the seniors are looking for. Possibly the developers can be encouraged to look at building condos or rental units closer to the town core with the amenities seniors are looking for. I do know that many move to be closer to family.