Goal achievement the major theme of ‘Live with Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier’

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Published December 8, 2021 at 1:32 pm

Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier highlighted the achievements of his tenure during his first ‘Live with the Mayor’ session to feature an in-person audience since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Collier, who said 123 of Council’s 126 stated goals are in some stage of completion with 54 complete, began the event with a summary of the projects undertaken by council, broken down into three major categories.

“At the start of every term in council we sit down andcreate sort of a game plan. ‘This is where we are, this is the high priority of our council…’ We highlighted 127 different areas we wanted to do.”

First up was “Connecting the Community” initiatives, with 45 of the Town’s 47 projects underway or complete. These include initiatives like the In My Opinion feedback platform that allows residents to give feedback on town initiatives. So far, 88 projects have been open for engagement from the 2022 budget to a backyard chickens pilot project.

Collier called the platform “very important during COVID.”

Other major Connecting Community initiatives include a Diversity and Inclusion initiative, and an Anti-Black Racism task force to address discrimination. “We’ve really done a lot of work on diversity and inclusion, especially since the death of George Floyd,” he said. “We really are leaders in Durham and in the province.”

The rollout of hybrid or drive-through events, like the Santa Claus Parade, which featured stationary floats residents could drive by, was cited as a big win by Collier as a way to return Ajax to a degree of normalcy.

“Leading the Community” programs, all 42 of which are underway with 40 per cent complete, were next on the program. These initiatives include intergovernmental projects such as the Greenbelt expansion and ongoing efforts to include the Carruther’s Creek headwaters. Five hundred homes sit in the creek’s floodplain, and Collier said development would increase flooding up as much as 100 per cent.

Other successes Collier cited include the cannabis rollout, $3.7 million in new grant funding applications (by a designated grant writer), and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ajax met their reduction targets in 2015, and under Collier’s tenure set new targets.

Finally, Collier praised the Town’s “very, very active” planning department, who have started 36 of their 37 goals. Collier said Ajax went from “not being open for business” to being “very open” for business.”

This required nearly 9,000 submitted applications, with more than 4,500 already approved. These applications have garnered $12. 3 million in fees and 38 million in development charges collected by the Town.

In total these investments represent $853 million in construction value, a sum Collier called “unrivaled” in the Region. He predicted the total will hit $1 billion by the end of his term next year.

“Economic development is something this council feels very, very strongly about,” he said. “We’ve been very successful.” He noted the current council ran on creating jobs because 70 per cent of Ajax’s workers had to commute out of town for work, a number he hopes these new projects will reduce significantly.

He noted a major decline in the commercial sector across the Region over the last decade. He stressed his belief that the desired tax burden ratio is 80 per cent residential, 20 per cent commercial. The ratio is now at about 87 to 13.

These commercial applications are, according to Collier, “starting to bring that [balance] back again” and “taking the pressure off the residential taxpayer.”

Speaking to the overall vision for future growth in Durham Region, Collier noted Ajax has a “fixed” urban boundary. “We can only go up.” Ajax is surrounded by the Green Belt on the North and East, Pickering to the West and Lake on Ontario to the South, so the Town needs to make “the highest best use of every acre in our town.”

With a lot of single-storey plazas in Ajax that “don’t hire a lot of people,” Collier said one of Council’s goals is to increase the overall density. “As a result the Town is prioritizing mixed-use zoning that will see people live and work in the same areas.”

Collier has a vision for three-stack buildings with retail on the bottom, office space in the middle and apartments on top. “That’s a much better use and much higher density than a single-use commercial plaza.” Ajax approved five such projects yesterday.

“How do I feel?’ Really, really good,” he said, “because we keep getting one after another of wins for the Town, which is amazing. Couldn’t do it without Council.”

Town remains constrained in where they can put these projects by sewer capacity in the downtown core, he said. Until Hunt Street is expanded any projects downtown are effectively on hold. While the Region has three million dollars or so earmarked for the sewer upgrades, Ajax needs $20 million to cover the road renovation.

The Town is undergoing all the planning involved, but work won’t start until the funds are in, which Collier estimates may take five years.

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