The ability of candidates for Council (and the Mayoralty) to pay attention and play by the rules was called into question recently on Facebook.

The discussion I’m thinking of took place on what is now called Campaigning for North Grenville. It’s a closed Facebook Group page that requires invitees to follow simple social media etiquette rules to participate and is not necessarily focused on individual candidate campaigns. It has four Moderators and at last count it had over 240 members. Full Disclosure: I’m the Administrator.

As campaign election signs started to appear (one incumbent actually put theirs up before the official campaign period started), questions started to appear questioning their placement. Complaints were made about the number occupying prime public space at intersections. Issues of safety and visual clutter were raised.

Dave rolls up his survey’s tape at 44 and Beach Road.

What’s the big deal; shouldn’t people be talking about more important issues? Not everyone is on Facebook, or Twitter or whatever. Well yes, but . . The deal, as Kristin Strackerjan pointed out in a post, is that the online complaints and the response the candidates are taking, or not taking, to comply with the by-law had greater significance. It revealed their sense of fairness, their responsiveness, and their degree of agility and access via social media platforms.

Another “take away” from SignGate is that we also need to stop the “cut and paste” approach to creating new Municipal by-laws or updating the old ones. The Municipality’s Election Sign By-law requires close reading  to understand because there are different County and Provincial roads within the Municipality – and they, of course, require different rules. Even then there are sections that seem unclear or out-of-place in a rural or hamlet setting. Language and terms “borrowed” from larger urban centres don’t always fit our small rural community. Some do but many don’t. We need Made in North Grenville by-laws; by-laws that are unique to our experience and have the ring of common sense. The next Council should adopt a Policy of working with community stakeholders when drafting or revising Municipal By-laws.

Cheers, John Barclay

PS. I’m proud of my neighbour Dave Melville for taking issue with the election sign placements (including my own) and getting municipal staff involved in order to address it. I know of  one other friend who filed a formal complaint. Dave also volunteered to help me move some of mine. (see photo above).

Oct 15 – Oct 22 – Cast your vote for a more effective Council.

Elect John Barclay


We are the ones we’re waiting for

In 2017 I attended the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affair’s Teeny Tiny Summit in Merrickville. The summit was an opportunity to learn and discuss “scale appropriate” economic development. For all our much vaunted urban-style amenities, Kemptville is still very much a small rural town with all the typical development problems of other teeny tiny places, so I was very interested in attending on behalf of the Old Town Kemptville BIA.

The keynote speaker was Peter Kenyon, a self described “community enthusiast” from Western Australia. A dynamic speaker, he shared a number of amazing examples of how very small rural communities had transformed themselves from the inside out using imaginative, positive thinking community members rather than government-driven programs or philanthropy, The range of ideas and projects initiated by ordinary citizens to turn their community’s economy around was truly inspiring. Not that these ideas can be replicated successfully in other communities. Each found their own unique solution to declining population and job loss. The “take away” was the power of positive thinking and the confirmation that “People who care are a community’s greatest asset” (Paul Born)

I was reminded of what our community has accomplished by the vision and dedication of ordinary people; of what the Friends of the Library and the Friends of Ferguson Forest have accomplished; of what the various faith communities in North Grenville have built and I started to wonder might be accomplished in Kemptville by Friends of Downtown. Could it be, as Peter Kenyon suggested a number of times that “we are the ones we’re waiting for” to create a vibrant, thriving and resilient economy downtown?

The community of Oxford Mills got tired of waiting for the Municipality to replace the gazebo in Maplewood Park and did it themselves. Take a look at what they accomplished by having a vision and a belief in themselves. Great things can happen when people get together. When they share their talents, time and treasure in the service of an idea.

Does North Grenville want a walkable, bicycle friendly downtown with adequate parking; an outdoor rink and splash pad in Riverside Park; a trail running along the South Branch connecting Ferguson Forest to the downtown parks (Curry, Rotary, Post Office and Riverside). Does it want to preserve and celebrate it’s unique history and it’s built heritage? Do we want to retain and increase the number of unique businesses downtown?

This is a call to action to those with a positive outlook – to find others who share their vision of the type of downtown they want. Start figuring out a way to bring it about. Start a conversation with a neighbour or friend.There are some things money can’t buy and one of them is community. Community has to be built and built by participation.

(Photo: Maggie M. –  The Wedge)

The BIA has a Facebook page you can post to – find it at: They publish a montly newsletter, subscribe to it here: Both will provide you with information about issues and events downtown.

How to Build a Gazebo

Part One

In my 33-year career of producing video with and for non-profits, foundations and many levels of government, I never created anything worthwhile without patience, persistence and a great team of collaborators. Whether a 30 second Public Service Announcement or an hour long TV arts special, the challenge was always the same – how to overcome the myriad obstacles and complications invariably placed in your way. Replacing the gazebo in Maplewood Park last year was no different, at times it just seemed impossible to do.

Faithful readers will dimly recall the two-year struggle by the Oxford Mills Community Association (OMCA) to 1) get Council to re-instate the budget that was set aside to replace what was an iconic focal point of the park; 2) get Council to contribute part of the replacement costs; 3) get staff to provide specifications for gazebos on Municipal property; 4) get Council to conditionally grant permission to the OMCA to construct a gazebo using their own funds; and 5) get the Building Department to approve the project design and construction drawings. Then there was the task of raising the $11,000 it took to design, build and install the structure.

I’d like to write about the lessons that I hope have been learned. That a beautiful, well built, accessible gazebo is now situated in Maplewood Park is a testament to the kind of collaboration that is possible between the citizens of North Grenville and the Municipality. Hopefully we’ll see much more of it in the future, but only if a culture of cooperation and collaboration can be fostered.

Too often, in a fast growing community like ours, residents, Municipal staff and Council are at loggerheads. Expectations outstrip resources available. Public service positions demand more and more skills and capabilities. The situation creates the perfect storm for frustration, suspicion and mistrust. Staff and Council develop a siege mentality, while the general public becomes cynical and all too often, apathetic.

It doesn’t have to be that way and I believe it has to start with a change of attitude, led first by the residents of this community. They have to recognize that there will be obstacles in the way of getting what they want from Municipal government but they should not let it deter them. They should be persistent and, here’s the hard part, patient. Staff and Council are far from perfect; most of them are trying to do their best and some of them, unfortunately, are over-whelmed by the growing demands of their job.

There is a general lack of understanding by residents about how the Municipality works. Managing a Municipality is very complicated and people are too busy living their lives to pay much attention. When they do have a reason to interact with the Municipality they often feel crushed by the rules and regulations; wrapped up in the dreaded “red tape”. It’s incumbent therefore for both Municipality Council and staff to raise awareness of the regulatory environment they have to operate in and to clearly explain the process involved in doing almost anything in North Grenville.

It’s a difficult but necessary task for staff to put themselves in the public’s shoes and imagine what it’s like “not to know what you know”. They have to be ever diligent to find ways to simplify, clarify and effectively communicate to the public the process that leads to accomplishing whatever task is at hand.

For the general public, it’s also important to remember to be assertive but not aggressive when obstacles appear, as they always will. Again, persistence and patience is the way to achieve your goals no matter how complicated and outrageous they may appear at first glance. Don’t underestimate the power of public support either. Mobilize your neighbours. It’s amazing what can happen when a diverse group of people unite behind a common goal, things really start to move. A “can do” attitude and a willingness to martial often untapped resources, this is the power of community. This is how the gazebo in Maplewood Park was built.

Pop Star #3 – Erika Cuccaro

Erika Cuccaro created an excellent blog in 2013 that focused on the stories of individuals and businesses in Kemptville and District. “52 weeks in North Grenville” (52weeksng) ended in 2014 for a variety of reasons but I still hold it out as the model for local tourism writing.

Now four years later, she’s a Haven Maven and we’d be smart to keep her and her partners in town. Recently we’ve woken up to the economic possibilities that tourism brings and we’re suddenly looking at the South Branch of the Rideau River as an asset.

(R to L: Shelley Mitchell, 2017 Pop-Up Shop Steering Committee and Erika Cuccaro, 2017 Pop-Up Shop Sponsor secure 209 Sanders as a Pop-Up Shop loaction)

This past year Erika’s company “James Street Writing Company” was the third 2017 Kemptville Pop-Up Shop Program sponsor. The other two were Rob Noseworthy’s Westerra Homes and Neil Pringle’s Pringle Brothers Construction . There’s a strong creative business sector in Kemptville – which is to be expected being so close to a large market like Ottawa. Erika’s company is just one of many creative businesses that exist here by choice and who are community-minded by nature.

As Kemptville grows and our recreational infrastructure improves, look to people like Erika to play a large role in building tourist interest in Kemptville and the surrounding hamlets. North Grenville’s reputation as a generous community is confirmed by the number of businesses sponsoring important programs, local events and fundraisers. Businesses like James Street Writing Company.

A full 2017 Kemptville Pop-Up Shop Evaluation Report is available for download



Pop Star #2 – Rob Noseworthy

Kemptville Pop-Up Shop Graduate wins New Business of the Year Award at the 2018 North Grenville Breakfast Banquet.

Rob was there at the very beginning. (Apr. 22, 2016)

May 18, 2018 – Presentation of the 2018 New Business of the Year by Robert Noseworthy of Westerra Homes to Shulamit Bar Levtov of Compassionate Support for Stressful Times.

April 6, 2018 Compassionate Support for Stressful Times – Grand Opening and Open House

September 15, 2017 – Robert Noseworthy of Westerra Homes (L) presents his sponsorship cheque to Deb Wilson (BIA Chair) and John Barclay (BIA Executive Director) outside the first Pop-Up Shop Location (9 Clothier St. E)

April 22, 2016 – Presentation of the Pop-Up Shop Program to North Grenville’s Economic Development Advisory Committee with a request totalling $2,500 – Rob Noseworthy of Westerra Homes commits $500 as a corporate sponsor of the Program through Westerra Homes. Staff is directed to find money within the existing Eco Dev budget.

A full 2017 Kemptville Pop-Up Shop Evaluation Report is available for download

Pop Star #1 – Neil Pringle

April 6th, 2018 – Neil Pringle (Left) of Pringle Brothers Construction presents a cheque sponsoring the Kemptville Pop-Up Shop Program to Kim Smalridge (BIA Director) and Shulamit Ber Levtov of Compassionate Support for Stressful Times

I’m very grateful to the Pop-Up Shop program that helped me move into my first full-time and independent office space. This enabled me to expand from a one-person show to a clinic that can better serve my community. Also, the exposure my clinic has received as the result of my participation in the program was priceless. – Shulamit Ber Levtov, Owner, Compassionate Support in Stressful Times

Based on the positive results in 2017 , the Board of Management of the Old Town Kemptville BIA approved the Kemptville Pop-Up Shop Program as a permanent program of the BIA and funds were provided for it in the 2018 Operating Budget. In May of 2018 Council cut funding for the Program

Excerpts from  an Editorial written by Neil Pringle and published over a year ago in the North Grenville Times (March 8th, 2017):

” . . .  Council has paid a lot of lip service to the idea of re-vitalizing the old town core of its community, and, indeed, a few years ago they tore up Prescott Street for a year to beautify it, which inadvertently crippled many of the businesses there. Yes, the street looks much better without the powerlines, and the tiny park on the corner of Prescott and Clothier is beautiful, but without real support for the people trying to compete with the corporations we begged to come in, these efforts are wasted. There’s lots of talk about being a family-oriented, unique community that blends modern convenience and old-town charm, but when the chips are down, the support from council is conspicuously absent. Shame on you, council.

Unfortunately, I can do nothing about the Starbucks, except vow to never, ever, ever spend $5 on a coffee there. I can do something to help the BIA, however, and so I put this challenge forward to you, my fellow residents and business owners in North Grenville. I will pledge $500 of my own hard-earned money to this pop-up store initiative, and I challenge each of you to make a real effort to support the local businesses here, by attending the events that are held in Old Town, and shopping there regularly, even when there’s no event going on, even if it’s just for a cup of coffee, where the profits from the coffee don’t go to Seattle. You see, I’ve made points about the lack of vision and leadership by town council, but the other half of the problem is us. It’s easy to point fingers or wish things were different, but if each of us doesn’t make an effort and support our local businesses, they will continue to disappear until there’s absolutely nothing unique about Kemptville, and it becomes another Kanata, Barrhaven, or any other faceless suburb.. . . “

A full 2017 Kemptville Pop-Up Shop Evaluation Report is available for download

Downtown Revitalization Phase Two?

This January the provincial government announced they were investing up to $26 million into rural downtown revitalization. Through the Main Street Revitalization Initiative, municipalities can fund projects that will support and benefit small businesses, such as signage, parking, trails, streetscape improvement and marketing plan implementation including business attraction activities and special events. North Grenville qualifies for $52,198.96 worth of funding (over twice the annual BIA budget !).

This all seems like very good news for Downtown Kemptville and the efforts to continue its revitalization. However, due to the upcoming elections, Municipal governments are required to sign a funding agreement as soon as possible and indicate how these one-time funds are to be spent. Staff recommendations are to be presented the Committee of the Whole on April 16th. Not much time to consult with stakeholders and develop a plan.

Luckily the BIA enjoys a close relationship with the Municipality. We are, after all, a Committee of Council, so when the news hit regarding this opportunity we were already in contact with the Economic Development Department and they attended our February Board of Management meeting to brief us and to consult.

On March 21st, the Old Town Kemptville Business Improvement Area Board of Management passed the following: “Be it resolved that three ideas to be presented to the Municipality regarding use of the Main Street Revitalization Funds: 1) Parking as a priority for the downtown; 2) Development of a downtown website; and 3) Accessibility for challenged people to the Rotary Park area”. If Council agrees then these ideas must be developed and costed in short order.

The BIA has been very active over the past year in advocating for improved parking to meet current and future needs downtown. A request to identify and create additional off-street parking was included in the BIA’s deputation to Council during their budget deliberations in the fall of 2017. In 2010 the Municipality conducted a Downtown Kemptville Commercial Area Parking Study and then two years later a Strategic Action Plan was written based on that study. It identified a number of recommendations to manage demand, improve supply and promote alternatives. One of the “long term” (2020 and beyond) recommendations contained in the 2012 Strategic Action Plan was: “That the Municipality acquires another large public lot in the downtown commercial area”.

If we encourage people to shop, dine and explore Downtown Kemptville, we need to provide them with enough adequate parking. This continues to be a common complaint among downtown merchants and customers alike. The question, as always, is where is the money going to come from? With the recent announcement about the Main Street Revitalization Initiative, we might just have the beginning of an answer.

More Parking for Downtown Kemptville

In the summer of 2017 the Old Town Kemptville Business Improvement Area’s (BIA) Board of Management identified a downtown wishlist in anticipation of the Municipality’s 2018 budget deliberations. They included such things as a Community Information Board in one of the parks and funds to continue the Pop-Up Shop Program but by far the most important request from businesses was to dramatically improve parking downtown.

On September 25th, the BIA Chair, Deb Wilson and I presented to Council six items for their consideration and then scheduled private meetings with each individual Councilor to review our budget requests. Here is an excerpt from the background document we provided in advance of these meetings:

A 2012 Strategic Action Plan, based on the 2010 Parking Study, identified a number of recommendations to Manage Demand, Improve Supply and Promote Alternatives. The BIA would like to see more progress made on these recommendations, namely:

a) Additional Municipal off-street parking

We need to identify and create additional off-street parking to meet current and future needs. This was identified 7 years ago as a long term action plan in the 2010 Parking Study. With the construction of the new North Grenville District High School and Kemptville Public School in areas away from Downtown Kemptville, these two large properties are not being used to their full potential and they have ample availability of parking. Is there an opportunity here to negotiate with the Upper Canada District School Board for some sort of arrangement?

b) Rationalization of current Parking By-Laws

The Municipality has instituted a 3-hour parking limit between 7:00am and 7:00pm on all streets within the boundaries of the entire Municipality. Signage in certain parts of the Downtown Kemptville area including Clothier Street between Rideau Street and Sanders Street and Prescott Street between the north branch of Reuben Crescent and Asa Street indicate a 1 hour parking limit. Without enforcement, and to encourage longer visits downtown, we suggest removing them.

c) More (and larger) directional signs indicating Free Parking
There is free parking downtown but it’s hard to find especially for first time visitors. Let’s make it very easy for people to find the parking we do have.

Our Council is to be applauded for soliciting Community Requests and for instituting consultations with Councilors as part of their budget deliberations. More citizens and members community groups should take advantage of this opportunity in the future. Here is an extract of the November 14th, 2017 Minutes of Special Committee of the Whole meeting that dealt with Community Requests:

Downtown Parking Improvements

– Councillor Bertram advised that he had met with the BIA to improve supply, manage the demand and provide alternatives for parking in the downtown. Karen Dunlop noted that she had met with BIA to discuss limited parking for 3 hours. There are some 1 hour signs that will be removed. The sidewalk budget has been increased from $9000 to $14000 in 2018. We will look at a priority listing of sidewalks in 2018. Phil Gerrard advised that leasing the former high school site is problematic as we do not know who the new owners will be. No cost has been identified. Our parking study will be reviewed in 2018.

Improve Signage for Free Parking in the Downtown Core
– Councillor Onasanya advised that he has met with the BIA. This will help businesses.
Moved by David Gordon, Seconded by Jim Bertram
That $500 be included in the 2018 budget to improve directional signage for free downtown parking areas.

I will continue to work with the BIA to press the Municipality to implement their short term plans to improve the current parking situation and finally initiate long term plans to create additional off-street parking downtown. If we encourage people to shop, dine and explore Downtown Kemptville, they need to easily find convenient parking.

The Old Town Kemptville BIA – Will It Grow or Die?

Dear Friends of Downtown Kemptville:

When I accepted the position of Executive Director in January of 2016, I was quite frank about how I saw my primary responsibility working with the Old Town Kemptville BIA again. I was going to "either help build it or blow it up”.

The jury is still out on how successful we've been in building the BIA over the past two years. “We” because the current BIA Board of Management is committed to creating much more value to BIA Members and Associate Members than we currently offer. Eliminating the BIA is an option - the status quo is simply untenable; we can't continue in our current form. 

The BIA comprises a tiny physical footprint representing no more than 70 to 80 businesses and tries to provide value to all of Downtown Kemptville on a budget of less than $25,000 a year. Compare that to the Downtown Carleton Place BIA with 150 members and a budget of $150,000.

The question of expanding the Old Town Kemptville Business Improvement Area boundaries to better serve the local business community is attracting not only interest but also support from existing members and potential members alike.

A bit of background is necessary at this point - In 2015, the BIA received matching funds from the Eastern Ontario Development Program to commission a Business, Marketing and Programming Plan from the consulting firm of McSweeney & Associates. In their final report dated July of that year, they recommended:

In order to successfully support the achievement of the Downtown Vision, and achieve greater resident and visitor attraction to both Downtown and to Kemptville, McSweeney and Associates recommends to the Municipality of North Grenville the consideration of a new BIA to be established for the Urban Service Area of Kemptville that includes the current BIA area ”.

In July of this year a BIA Expansion Steering Committee was struck to identify the potential new boundaries and set a date for one or more formal public information sessions. The Steering Committee, chaired by our Treasurer, Stephen Bent (Manager,CIBC), recently completed an Boundary Expansion Prospectus which was approved by the BIA Board of Management for public distribution and discussion two weeks ago.

The Old Town Kemptville BIA has a two-fold aim in proposing boundary expansion: a) to continue our work reasserting the importance of smart growth for Kemptville and b) to expand our programs into adjacent areas, where they will add value to property owners and businesses alike. Next steps include meeting with Council and Municipal staff and to hold public meetings to determine the degree of community interest in proceeding with the proposed boundary changes.
(Yellow: Current BIA footprint; Red: Urban Service Area)
Currently comprising Prescott Street from Elizabeth Street to Clothier Street and Clothier from Rideau to Barnes, the Old Town Kemptville BIA has for several years serviced businesses just outside its formal footprint and in the past two years has slowly moved away from the "Old Town" branding to a more generic "Downtown" appellation. 
(These directional signs on Hwy 43 were funded by the BIA with help from the EODP)
The fear of “losing” Old Town Kemptville’s identity within a larger BIA footprint is a commonly raised concern, but it should be balanced against the opportunity provided by much more extensive marketing that will reach into secondary markets, provide cross-marketing and promotion of two or three different types of “experiences” in Kemptville. The preservation of a downtown identity will always remain a critical part of marketing the overall Kemptville experience. 

What many people aren't aware of is that BIAs are member-funded through an additional levy applied to commercial and industrial properties within the footprint and that income goes straight into area improvements and programming. Annual BIA budgets are submitted to Municipal Council for approval, as well as being independently audited by external auditors. 

The Boundary Expansion Prospectus focuses on lowering the levy (per $1,000 of assessed property value) from $2.30 to $1.00 while presenting a range of itemized budget items to prospective members. A new Kemptville BIA would see its budget increase from $25,000 to $131,000 based on this lower levy and the larger footprint. It could provide for such things as regional advertising as well as local advertorials highlighting 24 businesses a year; an office with full time staff and a detailed Economic Survey every three years. Put out to tender, this professionally conducted survey would provide members with detailed information about the trading area and customer preferences within it - beyond what is available through Statistics Canada - including people-on-the-street interviews. 

All businesses in Kemptville share some common interests. 

A Kemptville BIA would be a better advocate for economic development within our community, with the goal that employment growth in Kemptville is realized through the retention and expansion of local small business. 

A Kemptville BIA would have sufficient resources and capacities to reach and market much more effectively and consistently into both primary and secondary markets. There are far greater results and successes to be gained by marketing a “complete package” of all that Kemptville has to offer. 

A Kemptville BIA could represent concerns more anonymously and effectively as a larger group than a single business/property owner. For example, a new expanded BIA could be very effective at liaising with the Municipality and the County with respect to the revitalization of the Highway 43 corridor and future boulevard and street-scaping plans. 

The boundaries of the Old Town Kemptville BIA were created over ten years ago. Since then there has been significant growth in North Grenville and we will see even more commercial growth over the next 5 years. A new more effective Kemptville Business Improvement Area should be in place to meet this challenge.