By Chad Ingram
Last summer, the Township of Minden Hills embarked upon the creation of a community improvement plan, and that process is now at a phase of public input, the township encouraging residents to take an online survey and provide feedback. Taking the survey is a short but worthwhile exercise.
The institution of a community improvement plan allows a municipality to provide private property owners financial incentives for improvements to their properties, the idea being these aesthetic enhancements improve the economic development viability of the community. A local government giving money to private enterprise is something normally prohibited through the Municipal Act, but a section in the Planning Act allows municipalities to create such a framework through the establishment of a community improvement plan. Such plans entail the delineation of a physical area within which business- and homeowners can apply for access to grants and loans.
In the case of Minden Hills, the recommended geographic area includes Minden’s downtown core and the immediately abutting neighbourhoods, which makes sense.
Minden is a gem, just one in need of some polishing. Minden has a lot of things working in its favour. The Gull River, while sometimes our foe during the spring freshet, is, the rest of the year, a shimmering asset flowing through the heart of the downtown. It is not only picturesque, but a venue for leisurely recreation. Last year’s inaugural operating season for Minden River Run, allowing customers to float from Rotary Park into the downtown, added another layer of buzz to the village’s busy summer vibes. Riverwalk, the boardwalk connecting Invergordon Avenue to the cultural centre, the cultural centre itself – all assets.
Hindrances include the perennial challenge of keeping all of the main drag’s storefronts full. There is an ebb and flow to this, but Minden’s main strip virtually always has some vacancy, and no vacancy is the goal. Aesthetic improvements resulting from a community improvement plan, as well as access to its financial incentives, should in theory attract new business owners to the downtown core, as well as help existing business owners spruce up their buildings. Another hindrance comes in the form of two notable eyesores in the downtown: a former tavern and a former theatre. Two of Minden’s flagships in their glory days, these properties now sit as vacant and dilapidated ghosts, both for sale and both waiting to be reborn. The redevelopment of these highly visible commercial properties will be key to making downtown Minden feel whole again.
The plan will also draw upon aspects of the 2014 Minden Village Redevelopment Master Plan. The council of the day got started on some of that work – new sidewalks, the blue gateway signage located at village entry points on Bobcaygeon Road and Water Street – but certainly more highly visible signage along Highway 35 is required to awaken passersby to the fact there is an entire village with a whack of great businesses located just off the highway.
In the meantime, residents have a chance to contribute to the work by taking the township’s survey. It’s half a dozen questions long, takes just a few minutes and can be found at https://mindenhills.ca/