Municipal elections are this week. It’s time to focus on how our local government can best build and maintain our city over the next four years. Rue Principale will be of particular concern given the imminent demolition and reconstruction of Place des Pionniers, a multi-year project.
There is no shortage of great ideas from residents about how we can help keep shops on this important commercial artery open through what will be a very challenging period.
Mike Clemann, the owner of the British Hotel, Café British and the future British Square recommends improving visibility. Some gates, brick pillars or an arch at the entrance to the historic part of the street would help attract attention from those passing through, something already used in the past.
In terms of protecting our local heritage, Mike points out that owners or future owners of the heritage buildings could greatly benefit from more consultations with private experts such as professional architects, heritage engineers and construction managers. Having resources that make such advice available would guide owners to more efficiently navigate rules and regulations.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to improving heritage buildings is taxes. When owners invest money to upgrade and make these properties more attractive they get penalized with substantially higher property tax bills. This creates a significant disincentive to put money into improving heritage properties in Old Aylmer.
Martin Lacasse, a local businessman who opened several Ronas in the area, shares many of the same ideas. He recommends that the city find ways to better organize and ease the navigation of bureaucracy. Creating a 5 year plan to improve Main Street would also help local business owners to know what to expect. He sees festivals as a great way to promote our historic downtown, and also recommends widening sidewalks to make it easier for larger groups to walk together. Holding a contest for the most beautiful property on the street with incentivizing prizes would also encourage people to take better care of their buildings and front lawns.
In terms of taxes, he also highlights the importance of tax freezes for heritage properties to allow revitalization without added financial burden. APICA could also work to create more alignment between different businesses as well. Having better communication between business owners would help entrepreneurs to share experiences and ideas. Business representation on local committees and associations would also allow more harmony and exchanges of ideas in the development of our neighbourhood.
Martin also points out that Gatineau can take lessons from other towns in the region. In particular, Niagara on the Lake, a town in Southern Ontario, is a similar size to Aylmer, has much historical significance, and is also built with a scenic view of the water. It has balanced preservation of its heritage with commercial development, particularly in its tourism industry.
There are many other residents with great ideas for how we can move forward over the coming years. Let’s make sure that we choose an administration for the next four years that will listen.