Peches et Poivres
89 Mill street, Almonte (613) 256-5764
April 14, 2013
Mr. John Levi – Mayor, Town of Mississippi Mills
RE: Proposed Enerdu power generating project for Mississippi River at Almonte
Dear Mayor Levi,
We are writing today first to express our serious concerns about the impact of the proposed Enerdu power generating project on the historic Almonte downtown core small business sector and second, to ask for your consideration of having council take an official position against the proposed project.
It is hard not to be blunt and to simply state that we think that the proposed Enerdu project is a very bad idea for Almonte. It strikes us that of the 84 river power generation project applications currently before the government for decision in Ontario, the one in Almonte is the ONLY one that is situated directly in the downtown and residential area of a community. Furthermore, this particular project is proposed for a scenic small town that still has an historic ‘downtown’ core in an increasingly popular picturesque destination for visitors. The proposed location for THIS project IS different on so many counts.
Almonte is a beautiful, friendly community with cultural, architectural, and vibrant human resources. It is an exceptional natural beauty, with a beautiful river flowing through and creating falls through it’s very centre. It is a pretty, small town within one hour’s drive of a large urban area that has managed to keep its character and has managed to keep its small historic downtown core alive and now, many will agree, Almonte is on the cusp of ‘booming’ in the way we have seen Merrickville become a tourist and day tripper destination. As operators of the now one year old Peches & Poivre on Mill St., we are fortunate to have a considerable number of clients frequenting the shop who live locally. However, we have realized early on that to make ends meet we also depend on day trippers and tourists to shop in our store. In talking with other retailers in the core, we have learned that many depend heavily on non-local visitors to their shops. We have also spoken with many visitors to understand that whether local or from further away, people’s overall experience in the town, including the beauty of the town, the river, the ambience in the street and in individual shops, the unique selection offered and the pleasure of their experience with small, personal-scale shopkeepers is part of what is building Almonte’s growing reputation as both a destination to visit and potentially to consider moving to. And these experiences are what keep people returning to Almonte for day trips and, in turn, keeps these people telling their friends.
In a nutshell, given the above, we believe that if a mega-project to take place in Almonte were to negatively affect tourism to Almonte, it could have many unpleasant and even devastating repercussions. First, we believe that it would seriously harm the business sector in the historic downtown core. Lost businesses equals lost local jobs, lost ability of store owners to support themselves. This in turn, could impact commercial landlords, perhaps negatively affecting their property values and their ability to attract new commercial tenants. This could equate to lost tax revenues to the Town. One might also see a loss in tourists using Almonte as their base to launch their exploration of regions further from it ie more of Mississippi Mills and Lanark County. And most tragically of all, should our now bustling, just starting to thrive, downtown core go the way of so many other small rural towns and lose the storefronts on the old ‘main’ street and become something of a ‘ghostcore’ – well, this actually brings tears to my eyes as I write this. Just look at the historic photos.
We believe that the proposed Enerdu project would have this negative effect.
These are our concerns:
1) How the Almonte core will be transformed during construction – unrelenting noise, blasting and/or hoe ramming, smell, heavy trucks, dust, vibration for a considerable period of time. We think this will definitely decrease the number of visitors to Almonte (word of mouth is very powerful) and local shoppers to the downtown core as well as the pleasure of their experiences. These factors could lead to a considerable decrease in individual shop revenues not only during construction but also beyond.
2) How the Almonte area will be transformed after construction, aesthetically, effect on tourism, think a) a big (likely concrete) building taking up a disproportionate percentage of the river width in plain view of residences and businesses b) concrete, buoys, fencing, danger signage c) a new symmetrical large concrete dam over which water flows uniformly versus the more natural cascading over levels of bedrock. Effect on use of/access to river for swimming, boating, fishing (also a part of tourism). Who put money into the Riverwalk? And what would people see should Enerdu’s proposed turbine building and significant dam and their barricades go in place of the beauty that is there now?
3) Duration of demolition of the riverbed – construction could be anywhere from 1 to 2 (most likely summer/fall i.e. peak tourist) seasons (3 even, in a worst case scenario). One bad summer/year may be survivable financially; however, 2 or more could result in many store closings.
4) The Town is investing tax dollars to build tourism in Mississippi Mills – Enerdu project is blatantly counter-productive to building tourism.
5) Biologically/Ecologically – harmful to ecosystem, extensive demolition of riverbed, fluctuating water levels – both localized effect and effect upstream on microbial, fish, bird, flora and fauna…tourism.
6) Can businesses on and near Mill St. sustain both the proposed Enerdu project and the municipal infrastructure upgrades required on/under Mill St in the next couple of years? Enerdu is NOT consulting with businesses. The Town IS. The Town is ready to work with businesses through the rough period and try to improve the outcome for retailers on and near Mill St. But can the small core area businesses sustain multiple years of construction effects?
7) Financial – no significant financial benefit to residents or Town or small businesses
8) Information from Enerdu is not shared – suspicious
9) Dichotomy – Enerdu says ‘doing for Almonte’; however, have not been inclusive nor worked with residents and businesses; seem to be forging ahead with what they want
10) Culturally/structurally/historically – are the numerous significant historic buildings in the proximity of the proposed blasting and/or hoe-ramming up to these effects? (How much money was spent recently on repairing the old town hall?)
11) Constant noise from new turbines
12) Potential for devastating flooding in the downtown core
And one last important question: How can we justify this project that would benefit ONE large business/individual at the expense of so many vital small businesses, a still vibrant historic town core and a community of people that live here?
Please John, Mr. Levi, Mayor of beautiful Mississippi Mills, remember your own beginnings. Within the last 24 years (my time and experience in Almonte) you had your Home Hardware shops on Mill St. I fondly remember a story from my friend when the two of you were sitting on the wooden floor of your shop on Mill St. sorting through ‘bits and bobs’ of hardware to figure out the right combination of ‘something or other’ – apparently, according to my friend, you seemed so content. You were very personally providing that friendly, helpful experience that caring, involvement and passion that good shopkeepers share. Now you have a wonderful large expansive Home Hardware with so much more to offer. And the staff there are helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly. We shop there regularly, both for household needs as well as for our new shop on Mill St. In fact, most, if not all of our leasehold improvements and equipment we needed to open our small shop just over 1 year ago were purchased in your store. We implore you to not overlook the myriad of wonderful small businesses that have currently taken up residence on Mill St. and are keeping this historic core alive and attractive to local shoppers, tourists, and visitors alike. The architecturally interesting street, the scenic river, the splendid falls, the Riverwalk, the experience of shopping in small independent businesses, that special attention and interaction, the proximity to Ottawa and Gatineau, ALL make Almonte very very special. Almonte and Mississippi Mills residents, small businesses and the Town itself seemingly have nothing to gain from this project and very much at stake to potentially lose.
Please consider our plea! A Unified Council’s position against the project could influence government to reconsider the direction of this particular project. A Unified Council’s position gives strength and support to the community that is so concerned about this project’s repercussions. A Unified Council’s position lets us know that you care about this very special community, the people and businesses that make it vibrant. It is right to express your caring for this community. It is council’s privilege and duty. This IS a big deal. This is OUR home and we need to protect it together, aligned with our governing representatives, who also live and thrive here.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, we know it is not short. These concerns are heartfelt and have us very very worried both for our own livelihoods and also for the bigger picture.
Lise Ladouceur Sandra Salminscc all council members of the Town of Mississippi Mills cc The Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario cc Hon. Jim Bradley, Minister of the Environment cc Hon. David Orazitti, Minister of Natural Resources cc Mississippi Mills Chamber of Commerce cc Mississippi Mills Riverwatchers cc The Millstone