Monday, July 14, 2014

Reality Chelsea

If you ever thought there was a place for Reality TV, cameras following around the odd assortment of characters in Chelsea these last few years would have had a number 1 rated show. Between the deeply divided public, the short-staffed Council, the swarming developers and the unhappy business people, it made for high drama. Somewhere in there were the "extras", i.e. the taxpayers not in on the game who watched all this in either utter frustration and/or bewilderment from the sidelines. If they weren't busy ignoring the whole thing. They were mostly people who went to work, came home exhausted, did chores, handled all those things they had to do and got up the next day to do it all again. They had neither time nor energy to devote to the game.

The announcement on Thursday of the go-ahead on the $23 million mega sewer and water system was a season finale at its finest. Vindicated were the Municipality and Hendrick's Farm whose contested voting procedure was found to be legal it can be presumed. The announcement came the day after the Financial Analysis of Chelsea's Debt by Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton was published on the Municipal website. It also came the day before Le Nordik Spa began cutting down trees and putting in a road likely to their new hotel. 

The empire-building started long ago by then Mayor Jean Perras and Council has begun--they who busily sold lots in its "green environmentally friendly community" and rezoned green land to commercial zones.  That's what cash-strapped Municipalities do. On Chelsea's website, ten development projects are listed in varying stages of construction. Four of those projects are in Farm Point. Many will go from red to green now. It has begun. But is that the end of it?

No. Of course not. There's always next season. What will the population do when they realize that their crumbling pot-holed hell roads will not be renewed anytime soon? The debt-analysis document pretty much had to restrict that full budget for a few years in order to make all things possible. What will Marc Shank of Chelsea Creek and associated developers do, having clearly indicated that he and his compatriots were not at all happy carrying the lion's share of the debt?

And what about the fog and mould-infested, money-down-the-proverbial-drain broken Meredith Centre?  Let's not get into the existing legal wranglings. And that landslide on the 105? And how about the whole disruption over the construction that is about to happen? Given the Municipality's track record on septic systems, the concern is palpable. And what about those illegal sheds on Meech Lake? Or building a treatment plant on a landslide zone? And that DEBT! The list goes on. The Almighty better bless our new councillors, engineer and Director General. The headaches have just begun for this intrepid crew.

The new mega sewer and water system has culminated in unbridled relief and joy by many who have waited a very very long time. They should be given their day in the sun because they certainly worked for what they wanted. For this group, the mega-sewer and water project will solve long-standing problems in the village for businesses, developers, municipal offices, schools and 100 or so residents. It promises to realize the Visioning Process done so long ago. With the go-ahead particularly relieved are those who love Hendrick's Farm; Carrie Wallace and Sean MacAdam presumably exonerated from having been accused of voting illegally. This group and the Municipality has been subjected to a stream of often vitriolic criticism effectively silenced by mises-en-demeures sent out both by Mayor Green and other parties.

For others, it is a day of mourning. They also worked hard. For those, there is little consolation or even respect for their seemingly lost battle to prevent what they see as environmental degradation, possible financial armageddon for taxpayers and the Municipality, fundamental changes to what they knew as their community, and a worrisome door waiting to be opened to further development. Faced with lack of transparency and numerous bureaucratic roadblocks, this group did not fair well. For them, there is only the constant label of being alarmist negative spoilsports. Instead of actually being heard, this group has been subjected to mises-en-demeures, ridicule, dismissal and outright hostility from some sectors of this still-divided town. 

At the end, who is right? Who knows. But both sides need to be honoured as Chelseaites who worked hard for what they believed in despite all odds. If this town can ever unite, it surely could be because they all care deeply about what happens to it and that deserves respect.

As for me? I didn't get what I wanted. The taxes are going up, the potholes continue and judging from Le Nordik's first move, the trees are coming down.

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