Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
As a city councillor and chair of Stratford’s Planning and Heritage subcommittee, as well as a member of the Heritage Stratford advisory committee, Karen Smythe has been hearing it from both sides as to what should happen with the Cooper site and the former railway shops.
And perhaps that is why the two-term councillor is confident – particularly so now that the city has signed a memorandum of understanding with a developer that is interested in restoring and reusing all or parts of the old building – that a solution can be found that appeases everyone involved.
“I do believe that there is a portion of the building that can be redesigned and brought into a new development. I think it’s a win-win for both citizens and the heritage groups,” she said.
The possibility of private development on the vacant downtown land is “great news” and a “positive” for taxpayers, added Smythe in an interview this week. She noted, however, she hopes that more proposals for the site will come forward so that council has alternatives to compare and consider.
Smythe has entered her name for the municipal election, and said she wants to be a part of the discussion and help decide the fate the Cooper site and the other major outstanding redevelopment project presently before council – Market Square.
She said she’s eager to see progress there but believes that the parking challenges in the downtown, as well as determining where city buses will go, need to be decided first before a proper assessment on the square can be completed. Cost will also come into play, through she suggested there are many citizens who will likely want to fundraise for the project.
Moving forward, Smythe – a former business owner who said she has a good understanding of what it takes to keep finances in check – told the Gazette she wants the city to continue with a responsible fiscal plan that doesn’t burden local taxpayers with more debt or new user fees, and keeps taxes in line with inflation.
“I realize that there are a lot of needs and I-want lists, but we have to move forward with debt reduction,” she added.
Smythe said she enjoys working the other councillors and citizens and being a part of the decision making. Her focus, she noted, is trying to balance the city’s needs with what it can afford.
“I feel that I have a lot to contribute to the citizens of the City of Stratford,” she added.
Asked if there were any projects she is particularly proud to have been a part of, Smythe cited Woodland Towers 3, which opened in 2010 and provides more affordable accommodations for seniors at Spruce Lodge, and the recent review and amendments that were made to the city's Official Plan. Both took a lot of hard work and collaboration between many people, she said.