The ballots have been cast and the signs torn down; now Highlands is figuring out what’s next for their nearly all-new mayor and council.
“Our inaugural meeting is coming up and once everyone is sworn in, we’re going to try and establish our strategic priorities,” said Mayor Ken Williams, who moved into the seat after three terms on council when Jane Mendum stepped down.
Continuing with groundwater protection initiatives and moving into public education is high on the list, as is furthering the discussion on secondary housing.
“That’s a biggie. It’s very important to throw that into the mix,” Williams said.
Longtime councillor and former mayor Karel Roessingh agreed.
“There are positives and negatives for sure (around secondary suites),” he said. “There are water issues and traffic issues and safety is really top of mind.”
Roessingh said council likely won’t be out in the community policing secondary suites, but they do need to ensure suites are safe. “Generally we know there’s lots of (suites). For fire safety, we really should make sure they’re safe.”
Every lot in Highlands is currently zoned as a single family residence, but there’s a chance that could be changing.
“We’ve done some work, but it’s been quite a while,” Roessingh said. “Council has had other things to tackle, and now other municipalities are coming up with plans and policies on secondary housing, so that will be a good guide for us as well.”
Williams will be looking for members for three newly established select committees: heritage, social sustainability and sustainable land use.
Then there are finishing touches to put on the East Fire Hall and the Highlands Community Hall, and the relationship with the developers at Bear Mountain to further explore.
“There may be some new development there,” Williams said. “But it will depend on what the community wants to hear and see.”
“We’re looking to see how the new owners want to treat the property,” added Roessingh. “And there will have to be a balance between how much water they use. Their own water supply is very good, but we have to make sure their neighbours are safe.”
With Williams moving into the mayor’s chair, Highlands council has four new faces coming to the table for the upcoming term.
Leslie Anderson, Ann Baird, Karen Burns and Gord Baird are all newcomers to their elected seats, and join incumbents Roessingh and Marcie McLean in plotting out the future of Highlands for the next four years.
“I think we have a tremendous amount of talent,” said the new mayor. For his part, Williams is excited to be stepping into the new role.
“It’s a listening role where we move together. I’ve been sitting on council for nine years, so I think it’s going to be really interesting sitting in a different chair.”