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Wellesley council adopts new pandemic-delayed strategic plan

A desire to maintain the township’s unique cultural aspects will guide Wellesley’s programs and services under the most recent updates to council’s strategic plan.

Prepared with the assistance of a consultant in 2019, the document shaping the operational direction for 2020-2023 was essentially on hold through the pandemic. Meeting this week, councillors put their formal stamp on the document.

The plan will serve as a guide for council in how they tackle and solve issues or projects that may arise over the next few years.

“The strategic plan is really our guiding document. It tells us what council’s vision is for the future,” explained chief administrative officer Rik Louwagie in a virtual presentation at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

The content of the plan was derived from multiple sources, including 291 online public surveys, open public consultation, telephone interviews, one-on-one group interviews with the mayor, councillors and strategic planning committee members, planning workshops, ongoing reviews of all internal and external reports as well as budget reviews of all initiatives.

“Based on feedback, council landed on this mission to maintain our unique cultures and the individuality of our communities as we meet the challenges of a constantly evolving world to protect, preserve and enhance our natural environment and ensure the health, safety and happiness of our residents,” said Louwagie.

The mission laid out by the data collected follows the core values of service integrity, respect, innovation, and collaboration. Additionally council staff and residents were part of the process in identifying 14 strategic issues that are core to the strategic plan. These issues are: portable, age appropriate and available housing, business and tourism support, environmental stewardship, fiscal responsibility, health promotion, Infrastructure Improvement management, development and growth, internal efficiencies and shared services, non motorized vehicle management, opportunities for youth and seniors, public engagement, public transit, access to urban services, recreation community facilities and programs and retention of small town rural culture and identities, his presentation noted.

The goal of retaining the culture of the township was an issue for Coun. Peter van der Maas.

“The thing that concerns me most in terms of retaining our identity and our culture is the retail economy of the villages,” said van der Mass. “Although I see later on there’s some attention paid to that, it might be worth including in the economic transaction to indicate that we wish to preserve and enhance that.”

Mayor Joe Nowak also raised some questions regarding how this plan will impact future council members.

“I’m a little concerned about guiding the next council’s hand,” Nowak said. “My suggestion would be once that next council is sworn-in, within a very short period of time a presentation similar to what you’ve done tonight is presented to them so that they understand that this is the direction and maybe at that time if they have any concerns that they can address them.”

That idea was embraced by Louwagie.

“Absolutely, and that is one of the highlights of this new strategic plan is that annually, we would meet with council in November and that would give them the opportunity to adjust the plan, adjust priorities, things like that,” he replied.

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