• Stephanie O'Hanely

Hudson invites citizen action for strategic plan


PHOTO BY STEPHANIE O'HANLEY

Elke Steinwender (foreground) addresses citizens in attendance at the presentation of Hudson’s Strategic Plan as (left to right) Director General Jean-Pierre Roy, Councillor Natalie Best, Councillor Deborah Whitehead, Councillor Ron Goldenberg, Pro-Mayor Barbara Robinson and Councillor Nicole Durand look on.

Last Thursday (May 12) at the Stephen F. Shaar Community Centre, Hudson’s town council and administration invited citizens to form committees to make the town’s five-year strategic plan and vision a reality.

As the meeting began, Pro-Mayor Barbara Robinson read a note from Mayor Ed Prévost, who is on a medical leave of absence.

“He says ‘I wish I was here tonight because council, 250-plus residents and myself started this ball rolling back in April 2014.... My presence tonight would distract from the focus the plan deserves. This is your plan, not mine per se. I ask for one thing — keep your mind open to change, you still have the opportunity to fashion the new Hudson to your liking but change is inevitable. If not, Hudson will be part of the folklore sooner or later. Let’s work together towards our collective good.’“

“There are no favourable winds when you don’t know where you’re going... this is the meaning of having a mission statement for a town or anywhere,” said Director General Jean-Pierre Roy.

Since receiving citizen input in September 2015, the town has put a preliminary mission statement into action, Roy said. “We are working on 400 mémoires and many more goals and projects but officially 260 of them are set.”

Elke Steinwender, who was hired by the town to lead the meeting, said the strategic plan, formally adopted in April, gives Hudson a vision as being, “the most enchanting and inviting village to visit in Canada... in a beautiful and accessible waterfront setting surrounded by nature.” The plan provides values for the city, “that actually guide your principles, guide the daily actions, as Monsieur Roy indicated,” Steinweinder said. “The values are integrity, respect, honesty, pride, responsibility, heritage and collaboration.”

Councillors are responsible for five different areas of the plan and during the meeting they invited attendees to volunteer for committees.

Natalie Best, responsible for Arts and Culture, invited citizens to explore ideas for an arts and cultural centre. “The end goal is to create a structure which would bring all arts groups together in a harmonious manner,” she said. “This centre would showcase local talent as well as workshops for further creations. Eventually we would harness the energy of such a group and find ways to establish an Arts-Étude program.” Best said with the town’s transportation practically non-existent, “we will study ecological solutions to allow locals and tourists alike to travel within points of interest such as Finnegan’s to the Village Theatre, onward to Greenwood, to the Willow.

“The goal is to preserve this beautiful landscape and encourage better use of these assets,” said Deborah Woodhead, who’s leading the Nature Playground file. Goals include improving trails, incorporating bicycle paths and greater access to the waterfront. Woodhead suggested “underutilized” agricultural land be made available for young farmers to encourage the local organic farming movement and said a farm-to-table program might lead to an all-season greenhouse project. Land across from Thompson Park could potentially host a collaborative venture between entrepreneurs and the town, she said. “Natalie spoke of an Arts-Étude program, why not an agri-étude program, perhaps with Macdonald College? “

Ron Goldenberg called his infrastructure dossier the “foundation” of the strategic plan and said funding for other projects won’t happen until “critical infrastructure funding is satisfied,” noting councillors have a meeting ‘with our Ottawa representative, Peter Schiefke, on May 24 to go over all the funding opportunities.” Goldenberg said since infrastructure plans are, “close to the execution stage” he needed “one or two” people for a committee concentrating on three areas — roads, water and the sale of redundant town assets.

“Like every home and business, towns need upgrading and enhancing every so often,” said Barbara Robinson, who’s responsible for the town’s beautification. She listed ideas for tackling problems such as empty stores and offices, unsightly yards, poor signage and parking issues, which make a difference in attracting new residents, including young families and new businesses.

Charged with balancing housing and seniors, Nicole Durand described a plan that would merge citizen growth and densification, “allowing a balanced housing plan with a population growth that can easily be assimilated without taking away from Hudson’s character.” The mix would include “available single homes, apartment buildings, senior residences, luxury homes, semi-detached and others to meet the requirements of all ages and different socio-economic profiles,” Durand said. In-house suites could provide affordable rent for students and income for homeowners, including seniors. “Why should lifetime residents of Hudson have to leave their community just because they need assisted living?” she added. “We have to encourage the design and construction of a care facility capable of housing and assisting our seniors’ requirements.”

“Who’s accountable for all this? The execution of the plan?” resident Bill Nash asked during question period. Robinson, Roy and Durand answered Nash, with Robinson pointing out, “it is council that’s accountable but based on residents’ input.” Nash replied, “I hear what you’re saying but in my experience if someone isn’t project managing this on a day-to-day basis we’re going to get into trouble.”

“I’m wondering how much these favourable winds are going to cost and where’s the money coming from,” asked another resident.

“Obviously we’re not going to commit to anything until we have the funds for it,” Goldenberg replied.

Lynda Clouette-Mackay, president of Hudson’s Music Festival, asked about her application for a contemporary art studio project that would provide space for Hudson’s arts community and cultural organisations. “My question is, Madame Best, have you read the file?” said Clouette-Mackay, who said Best had never spoken to her or phoned her.

“Ms. Clouette is saying we’ve never met but we’ve sat at a table many times with other artists,” Best replied. “...I don’t want the meeting to end like this because you’re being given a false image of what’s been happening,” she added. “Unfortunately we have not been provided all the documents,” Best said, noting the town needs all of its groups in the arts “to be represented collaboratively, not confrontationally.”

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