North Dundas: Forward focused for township’s success
Eric Duncan kept his name off the ballot in 2018, but he didn’t get a free ride through the year as he and his council balanced support and fury with the municipality’s largest processor. New mayor Tony Fraser isn’t immune to the challenges of the past, but has fully focused on the future.
WINCHESTER – The grace period didn’t last long for Tony Fraser, as his time is no longer his alone in the role of the Township of North Dundas’ new mayor.
The guard at the top has changed for the first time in nearly a decade, and Fraser isn’t getting much slack, given that he spent eight years at the council table ahead of his ascent.
“I was expecting that the level of responsibility was going to be elevated greatly, and the number of requests for my time and my opinion and thoughts would increase, and it has sharply increased all of a sudden,” he said. “It wasn’t an unexpected change, but the immediacy of the change and the level of seriousness and the need to really give sober thought before coming up with an answer is critical.”
Beyond that, Fraser had his eyes opened some on the campaign trail last fall, as some had the knives sharpened against him, taking the tenured Parmalat employee to task for his association to the processor during the height of tension related to the plant’s compounding issues throughout the spring and summer.
As well, more than once the electorate wanted a firm answer when it came to Fraser’s stance on cannabis sales in the township. For those wanting to know, his position remains the same – he has no intention of stifling business opportunities in North Dundas, and will leave it to the marketplace to determine the viability of marijuana stores locally.
So, what’s coming on the horizon? It’ll come down to what North Dundas can afford.
“I don’t see any roadblocks budget wise… Some of the things that we have been talking about are driven by budget, though there are things that will be challenging, sure, especially when it comes to modernizing infrastructure like sewer and water; it’s all going to start coming to a head very quickly,” Fraser said.
The drumbeat, however, remains the same for the newly minted mayor – there is a housing crisis coming.
“Of the things I’d like to promote, one of them being housing, the challenge isn’t so much budgetary, but we have to make sure that we promote ourselves as a community, as a council, as a township that is open to the idea and open to receiving new ideas, “We’re open to the challenge that we’re facing, and that’s housing and the need to find more diversification. That is a challenge that I expect us to meet… That is the biggest challenge in that department for me – to seek out and encourage people to come with their ideas for diversified housing.”
Fraser’s siren song of sorts comes at a time when an area developer has hit North Dundas where it hurts.
Along the Clarence Street extension in Winchester, builder Al Racine has turned back on his initial plan for a row of townhomes on the remaining developable land he owns in the area. Racine contends that through nearly 20 years of construction, single-family homes have been more prosperous, and he’d like a rezoning to meet that mandate.
This isn’t an idea Fraser and his fellow councillors agree with, however.
“It does go against what I’m seeking – I’m seeking more diversification. I’m not seeking strictly single-family and not seeking to eliminate single-family homes… There is a need for that and I want people to build homes,” he said. “But we have to ensure that we don’t lose the opportunity to have diversified homes. The zoning was in place there for a reason, and to change the reason or to change the zoning, the reasons have to be strong. To have a comment that it is tough to sell townhomes or rowhouses because there isn’t a market for it, when during the campaign a lot of people that I spoke to are hoping to find just that here – that was the biggest comment.”
People are ready for this type of construction in the municipality, Fraser contends.
“There are people who don’t want a home, they want something smaller and we need more of those here,” he said. “We can’t eliminate these types of possibilities without good reason and a good understanding of why certain construction isn’t feasible.”