Legacies of more than brick and mortar - Denny Scott editorial
Unless there’s a plaque or a ribbon-cutting, it can be tough for municipal council members to hang their hats
on accomplishments that are guaranteed to stick around with subsequent councils taking over.
Great legislation can be undone, relationships with neighbours can unravel and decisions to support initiatives can be recanted by the next group of people to take over. Having something concrete, both literally and figuratively, can be the only way a group of council members can make their impact five, 10 or 20 years after they leave the chair.
Fortunately, the current session of North Huron Council doesn’t have that problem, because they were able to stand in front of the space that is now home to a brand new building housing Public Works and the Fire Department of North Huron in Blyth, however, that won’t be the biggest impact the council has.
And I’m not going soft here - we all know we could criticize decisions and mistakes made by members of this council (among other councils), but, this week, instead of tearing down, I decided I’d remind our new council members what they should aim for: a legacy that isn’t necessarily bricks-and-mortar.
So, yes, the outgoing session of North Huron Council has that building, but, if my guess is accurate, it won’t be close to the most important decision council has made for the betterment of the community.
At Monday night’s meeting, staff provided the members of council one last update on the project council has championed for the past four years: the development of Hutton Heights.
Hutton Heights is a small community southwest of Wingham, just south of the river and flood plains that border on County Road 86 and accessible off of County Road 4. There are a number of houses and a church there now, however North Huron staff, on Nov. 7, briefed council on the Expression of Interest process to try and find a builder/developer to start building a brand new subdivision at the entrance.
With water infrastructure currently being run to the area, and set to be finished next year, the current session of council won’t be the one that gets to mark its success. Instead, the current council has created an opportunity for the next council (even if most of the council isn’t going to change) to cut a ribbon or overturn the earth at the site, which could make a serious dent in the housing shortage in Huron County.
Initially borne from a desire to have more housing and focus on internal development, the Hutton Heights project has proceeded slowly over the past four years, with infrastructure installation finally starting in just the past few months. The project has become a favourite of outgoing Reeve Bernie Bailey, who points to it often as a success of his council over the past four years.
Since the municipality isn’t developing the area, but seeking someone else to do that for the township, we won’t know how long it will take to enjoy the fruits of council’s labour, but a developer could be chosen as early as next month to start capitalizing on the efforts that council made a priority.
Like I said - I’m not saying council did a great job over the past four years (just read my past columns, you’ll know which decisions didn’t fly with me). However, in this singular effort, the current council has done what all councils should endeavour to do: make it easy for the next council to look good.
The new North Huron Council that incoming Reeve Paul Heffer will lead will have the chance to stand in front of the houses at Hutton Heights and, while some of them have been a part of pushing the project forward, the fact is they couldn’t stand there without the efforts of those who came before them.
So instead of a finger wagging or a praising piece, this is a parable, or a story designed to inspire people to do the right thing.
New council members will need to know that the decisions they make can be ethereal, no sooner made than undone by this council or the next. However, they will have opportunities to push forward the right kinds of initiatives that people may not see the benefits of for five, 10 or 20 years from now. There may be no picture, no plaque and no gold shovel, but there will hopefully be a better community left in the wake of those efforts, and shouldn’t that be the goal of every municipal politician?