The Saint Croix Courier

St. Stephen, NB

2005 December 9

Big response to St. Andrews survey


ST. ANDREWS — More than 4,000 comments were received in response to the survey conducted by the town this summer to gather views on resources and issues that are important to future municipal planning.

Lee Sochasky, who was one of the volunteers who designed and collated the survey, said people had a lot to say with the 252 questionnaires that were returned, containing more than 4,000 comments.

The majority of those who replied were in-town land owners, and 85 per cent live here year round. More than half of them had lived in town for over 20 years, but nearly a third had been here less than 10 years. Of those who owned a business, 62 per cent operated year-round and most (43 per cent) had been in business for less than five years. Most of the 39 respondents from out of town worked in St. Andrews or operated a business serving residents.

Asked what they liked best about St. Andrews, almost all of the respondents said that the small town setting and the beauty of the natural and heritage resources were key reasons for living here.

Other reasons listed included quality of life, clean environment, peacefulness, safety, ability to walk to everything, employment opportunities and a non-industrial business base.

People were asked to rate 73 physical, social, cultural and economic resources in the town, and they thought that nearly all were the same or better than in the past.

The few resources that were judged worse were water access and views (losing these), single family housing (expensive), dentist (only one at the time) and police (reduced service).

In answer to the question "how big should St. Andrews be?" most thought some growth was good as long as it didn't compromise the atmosphere, heritage, character and quality of life that they valued. Many felt growth should focus primarily on year-round residents.

Views differed on how many more summer residents and tourists the town could accommodate with its existing resources, and whether it could grow without expanding its boundaries.

"Yes definitely" was the response to the question "should St. Andrews work to retain basic services?"

Many noted the in-town services are critical for the growing number of residents who can't, or don't want to, drive 30 kilometres with the lack of a public transportation alternative although Charlotte Dial-A-Ride is now being piloted.

Others recognized that services such as the post office are vital to the sense of community.

People had strong views about the changing of the town's physical character.

The general response was that historic appearance and scale are very important to the economy and character of St. Andrews, and need to be retained.

Education, tourism, fisheries research and services have long been the cornerstones of the town's economy, and people felt these sectors should grow and diversify.

Technology and research and development businesses, as well as environmentally-friendly small manufacturing were the top candidates for new opportunities. Not welcome were LNG, heavy industry, chain stores and call centres — these were at the top of the list.

The question on the quality of the natural environment drew the highest response in the survey. The greatest concern was for the future quality and availability of drinking water.

Noise and air pollution and light pollution from street and security lights were also noted.

Nearly 70 per cent of the respondents would like to see an environmental policy for the town's new municipal operations, while nearly 80 per cent said the town should be active in industrial expansions that might impact it — a potential LNG and the Bayside quarry were most mentioned.

Dealing with youth, people knew the value of having all ages in the community, whether they personally favoured a greater role for young or old in the town population.

They noted that St. Andrews' youth issues are common to many small towns, and offered ways to improve the situation.

One of the suggestions was attracting more employment to retain young adults with families. Another was to create more opportunities for youth to be constructively involved in local activities and in their community.

As the town's mix of residents continues to diversify, maintaining a strong sense of community can be a challenge.

People felt this was important and worth working on. More community events and projects, meetings on town issues and a community newsletter were suggested frequently while a welcome package or welcome wagon was proposed for newcomers.

Many felt there should be more ways to bring potential volunteers together with those who need them. Greater publicity about opportunities, a volunteer fair, a volunteer network and a volunteer coordinator were among the suggestions. Some noted that greater volunteer recognition is important in maintaining and growing this community asset.

Residents made it clear that "by-the-Sea" was an important part of the town's identity and, they hoped, its future.

Many were concerned about the loss of water views and access and they voiced their views on how to retain what remains. Others stressed the community benefits. Nearly all felt that action was needed.

Can the town improve its ability to bring interests together for community planning and development? The respondents said yes, especially if it continues to seek public involvement (like the survey) and pursues strong by-laws to support the objectives of the next municipal plan.

A total of 164 people were not shy about listing their pet peeves. Noise from motorcyles and late nighters, pet feces, new construction not recognizing the town's heritage character, and traffic issues topped the list, but there were lots more.

Many people had ideas on where they would spend the town's money. Sidewalks, streets, water and sewer improvements and more greenspace were high on their list. A total of 119 people had ideas on how to build greater town pride.

The town is hiring a town planner to work with a committee of town residents to draft the new municipal plan.

With the planner's help, and town council approval, it is hoped to hold a series of public meetings in January and February to invite more input from residents on the key issues that were identified in the survey.


© 2005 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.

The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB