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Grey Highlands defers mayor's idea for economic development team

'We're shooting ourselves in the foot here,' says Mayor Paul McQueen
Grey Highlands Mayor Paul McQueen.

Grey Highlands council has deferred a request from mayor Paul McQueen to create an economic development team for the municipality.

What appeared to be a relatively straightforward resolution from McQueen to establish an informal staff and council structure to deal with economic development-related inquiries from the public turned out to be anything but easy.

The resolution from the mayor called for the creation of an economic development team consisting of himself, deputy mayor Dane Nielsen, planning committee chair and Coun. Paul Allen, CAO Karen Govan, Director of Economic and Community Development Michelle Harris, Director of Corporate and Legislative Services Raylene Martell and other senior staff as needed.

McQueen said the intention of the resolution was to have a group in place that could collectively function as a point of first contact for developers or those interested in establishing a business in Grey Highlands.

The full text of the resolution can be found on the agenda here.

“I want to move things forward, not slow things down. We need a mechanism that shows we are open for business,” said McQueen, adding it is important to those he hears from to have the opportunity to discuss ideas with both council and members of the senior administration. “They want the political lens and the staff side.”

Initially, the concept was well-received.

“It allows for a more balanced discussion and conversation,” said Nielsen.

However, the longer council discussed the resolution, the more complications arose with the concept.

“Why is this necessary?” asked Coun. Joel Loughead.

Martell indicated concerns that the resolution, as worded, was asking for the creation of a committee of staff and council. She said a committee would require agendas, minutes and a formalized structure.

At times, the discussion and debate about the resolution was intense and McQueen shared his frustrations with the direction the conversation had taken.

McQueen said he had multiple individuals with potential projects in Grey Highlands interested in meeting with council and staff to discuss their ideas. One, the mayor said, involved the possibility of an apartment building being constructed.

“Do I just meet with that individual? I don’t think that’s fair,” he said. “We’re shooting ourselves in the foot here.”

An attempt to re-word McQueen’s resolution was not successful and ultimately council decided to defer the motion to allow staff to conduct more research into best practices and how other municipalities handle such a group.

“I understand the mayor’s intent here. It’s a good one. He feels there is a need for this body,” said Loughead.

McQueen also supported holding off for the time being, but said it is important for Grey Highlands to get something in place along the lines of what he was asking for in the resolution.

“I have people standing by that want to come and do business here,” he said, noting that it was important for prospective developers and business operators to have an opportunity to hear diverse viewpoints from the municipality and not just the mayor’s voice. “I bring a certain perspective, but so do other people. It’s not the Paul McQueen show.”

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About the Author: Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Chris Fell covers The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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