The Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to all locally elected leaders, including City and County Councils, First Nations, our MPP and MP, and senior staff. The letter was endorsed by Peterborough & The Kawarthas Home Builders Association, Peterborough and the Kawarthas Association of Realtors, Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area, Kawartha Manufacturers Association and the Kawartha Chamber of Commerce & Tourism.
The perspectives and suggestions captured in the letter had been discussed on various levels previous to the pandemic, but especially since.
The letter suggests a Regional Plan for Recovery, and features nine recommendations that these business organizations feel would guide Peterborough through recovery and beyond.
Letter RE: Regional Plan for Recovery
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced change upon us, and a regional strategic plan for recovery is needed.
Many discussions have been held over the last six months, including the Mayor and Warden’s Economic Taskforce, weekly calls with Minister Monsef, and MPP Smith, the Chamber of Commerce Policy Committee, the Housing Action Task Force Working Group, the Homebuilders Association, meetings with other business organizations, and individual meetings with business owners.
Several common themes have emerged. While some may appear to be specific to either the City or County, we have copied all elected leaders, City, County, MPP and MP, First Nations and senior staff.
Pandemic recovery will take many forms, but one of the ways to emerge from an economic slowdown is to build. Growth not only provides our municipalities with development charge revenue and an increased tax base, but development also creates local jobs and economic spinoffs for local business.
Recognizing that there are serious financial constraints facing the City and County of Peterborough we, the undersigned, put forward the following recommendations around building back better from COVID.
Zoning & Planning
- Cancel the hiring freeze for departments, such as planning, building and engineering, that will be integral to COVID-19 economic recovery.
- Further streamline the development, zoning, and planning approvals process to reach a goal of a six month turnaround time (including public engagement). Flag for specific review, any project approval that goes beyond six months. While the City is to be commended for adding staff and creating a
pre-consultation process, further refinement and
investments in staff and
technology will more than pay for themselves with increased development.
- Consider innovative and adaptive zoning practices that allow for the emergence of new business models
being presented by the business community. (e.g., in Peterborough County, new on-farm uses and in City of Peterborough, mixing traditionally commercial and industrial uses).
- Complete the final year of the tax ratio reduction program for the industrial class.
Strategic Land Use
- Develop integrated strategies to build out and maximize economic growth areas such as the Peterborough Airport and Cleantech Commons.
- Map, build a strategy, and identify required investments (e.g. rezoning, environmental, servicing needs) for available commercial and industrial lands.
- Pilot a project that identifies a section of the city e.g. south end of downtown where development approval is given based on broader zoning principles.
- Identify lands for regional collaboration and then create and apply a regional development approach for each (e.g. cost-sharing, zoning and planning agreements) for these lands.
- Commit to quarterly meetings with developers and associated stakeholders (architects, PKED, Business organizations such as Chamber, PKHBA, PDCA) to review the process and any changes as a result of provincial requirements. This meeting could also be used to discuss builds that require partnerships to access federal and provincial dollars.
These principles were appropriate guiding goals before the pandemic and now they are even more relevant as municipalities, businesses and organizations steer Peterborough through COVID-19 recovery.
While we recognize and respect the various limitations and restrictions faced by municipalities, we also know that building these nine recommendations into a proactive approach would create a culture of yes and provide significant opportunities for Peterborough City and County.