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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Exeter Looks at Revitalization

Exeter | by Rick Stow  

Consulting firm issues report to South Huron Council on summer public meeting.

The consulting firm selected to do a beautification study for Exeter has made its initial presentation to South Huron Municipal Council.

Principal Planner Jay McGuffin and Landscape Planning Specialist Sylvia Gehr of Montieth-Brown Planning Consultants of London spoke at Monday's meeting of South Huron Council.

The firm was the successful bidder in an earlier Request-for-Proposals issued by Municipal Council.

Spokesperson Jay McGuffin says they began their work in late June 2011 with a public meeting in the community.

Research was then conducted in July and August, with their initial report written in September and presented to a Steering Committee in early October.

Historical architecture was identified as the community's greatest strength, while the public indicated more trees and better street lighting as its key priorities.

The firm would divide downtown Exeter into five or six specific zones or project areas, each with distinctive features to be enhanced.

The southern outskirts of the community need to be better buffered from their agricultural surroundings -- and made more welcoming for shoppers coming from London.

The intersection of Main and Sanders should be better presented as the centre of town.

The Francis Town district at Exeter's North End can ease the transition back to a rural landscape with smaller trees planted in this project area.

Common to all of the proposed zones are "streetscapes" and design changes to make downtown Exeter more pedestrian-friendly.

McGuffin says that while there is plenty of parking in Exeter access to those parking spaces can be better enhanced by partnering with landowners to spiff up existing alleyways.

He says Council will now review the proposals and formulate its input.

The consulting firm suggested several financial incentive tools the municipality might employ to stimulate businesses interested in embracing revitalization.

These include facade improvement programs covering 50 percent of eligible costs or tax increment equivalent grants to reduce the portion of assessment increases those improvements might generate.

South Huron Council will consider the findings more fully at its next Committee of the Whole meeting.

McGuffin expects to meet the public again at the end of November and have the final plan ready by January of next year.


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