In the Know: New Year message from Scarborough town manager
As we ring in a new year, I would like to take a moment to reflect on 2022 and the formative experiences affecting the city of Scarborough and its residents.
In recent years, we have continued to respond to the effects of the pandemic. The past year has been no different, presenting our community with housing challenges on a scale new to Scarborough. Funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance program, a well-intentioned federal program to combat displacement of individuals and families, resulted in the temporary conversion of short-term shelters into longer-term shelters. While it provided housing and affordable housing for people struggling with homelessness, it also resulted in a significant increase in demand for our emergency services as part of the population required additional social services that were largely non-existent.
Without these necessary support services, we saw a significant increase in demand for our police, fire and ambulance services like we have never seen before. The city has been working with innkeepers to transition their operations back to short-term accommodation, for which they were licensed and built, early in the new year. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the compassion and care the City Council has shown in responding to this situation, and thank our public safety teams for their efforts over the past year as they meet these challenges with the utmost professionalism and empathy have mastered. In particular, Lauren Dembski-Martin, our social services navigator, has been invaluable in managing this challenging situation.
The City of Scarborough has also taken on the internal challenge of a changing workforce. In the past year, we’ve seen more retirements than I’ve ever remembered, partly for reasons of timing but no doubt accelerated by the challenges of the pandemic. As a result, in the last 15 months we have replaced nearly half of the senior leadership team and retired hundreds of years of experience and service to the Scarborough community. Make no mistake, these retirements were well deserved, with three retirees each having served the city for over forty years. The City of Scarborough is fortunate to have some of the best staff and management who I have had the pleasure of working with. Quality that can often only be achieved with many years of experience and affiliation. While I wish each of our retirees a happy retirement, losing the institutional knowledge and steady hand that comes with decades of experience would be challenging for any organization. In the meantime, I am grateful that we have been able to recruit and develop some outstanding leaders and look forward to what we will achieve together and for the Scarborough community over the coming year.
Looking ahead, there are a few priority areas that will be addressed with support from staff and guidance from the City Council. We will continue to manage growth in our community through a thoughtful and thorough review of the policies and practices we have put in place to ensure the pace of growth is in the best interest of the community. The City Council, with staff support, will revise our growth management ordinance in early 2023. Managing the pace of growth is just one of several strategies being pursued concurrently, including updating our development impact charges and increasing our landscape conservation efforts. I remain confident and hope that we are working towards a proper balance of interests and a common understanding and vision of a complicated issue.
Part of Scarborough’s management of growth and development is outlined in the city’s comprehensive plan, developed over several years with public input and formally adopted by City Council in 2021. The Comprehensive Plan is a state-approved vision document that is a prerequisite for a growth management regulation and provides a blueprint for where we want growth and, more importantly, where we don’t want growth. Ultimately, our strategy for managing growth must be consistent with the overall plan and balance competing priorities. Over the coming year, we expect to make significant progress in implementing our plan through committee initiatives and council action. We encourage the community to follow the progress and participate in the implementation.
I hope all of our residents had a meaningful year, a festive Christmas season and I wish you and yours a Happy New Year.