Comment Sheet: Whitchurch-Stouffville Public Library and Leisure Centre Expansion
Date: November 1, 2015
Attention: leisure.services@townofws.ca (Mr. Rob Raycroft);
cc: mayorandcouncil@townofws.ca
From: Arnold Neufeldt-Fast, 672 Millard Street, Stouffville (neufast@yahoo.ca)

Thank you for posting the presentation for the new Library/Leisure Centre expansion on the
town website and inviting feedback.
There is much at stake with this scaled-back, revised plan, including the shuffling of two other
major public amenities in town: the Older Adults Centre (55+ Club) and the Latcham Art Gallery.
Council and Staff are looking for a consensus from 55+ (to move to 6240 Main instead of the
Leisure Centre), Latcham Gallery (to move from 6240 Main to the Leisure Centre), the Library (a
smaller than expected expansion), and Leisure Centre users (fewer amenities). A smaller
addition to the Leisure
Centre than first
planned, together with
a big shuffle on Main
Street, may at first
seem like a brilliant,
cost-saving solution.
But there are large
community-buildingproblems to this
solution, in my opinion,
which I outline below. I
conclude with a series
of questions for council
and staff to consider
and address.
In brief, the new proposal—the 2015 plan—calls for the construction of an “addition” that deals
with space issues, but requires compromise from all players. The older proposal—the 2014
proposed design—is governed by a "concept” of community building, activity and connecting.


The architects write: "[T]he building must act as not simply an addition [my emphasis], but be a
comprehensive whole, uniting [the parts/activities]... . Intrinsic to this [concept] was the
creation of a central uniting social space [the Galleria] ... . Supporting this space, three
fundamental concerns developed [from the consultations]... the ideas of Activity, Connection
and Community." At its core is a philosophy of design that aims to promote “healthy” and
“strong communities” through the right design of “spaces” “that allow for generations to
interact and overlap” (see 1.1., Project Overview). The 2014 concept builds on community
feedback, but also reflects on the emerging demographic profile of our town (intentionally
inter-generational), on the dynamics of social space, on transparency and other aspects
designed to connect, to build community and promote activity.
In contrast, the new 2015 proposal appears to be little more than an "addition"; it creates extra
space with some shuffling (including the removal of older adult dedicated space). The one-level
box design does not inspire, and it is not a show-piece for the community. The removal of the
older adults centre and the galleria make it clear that it is not about inter-generational
connectivity and community building.
With due respect, the 2015 proposal fails on most levels that are important for community
Below are some more specific comments, with questions that follow.
How does Whitchurch-Stouffville Council's vision for a public library expansion compare?
Currently 14,215 sq. ft., plus shared municipal space (15,424 sq. ft. total). Plan: additional
16,000 sq. ft. Total: 31,424 sq. ft. (plus some more municipal space?), serving 46,385 (2015).
Here are two recently completed Ontario libraries in comparable communities:

Orillia's new public library: 40,000 sq. ft.; serving 30,709 residents (2013) --significantly
larger than our plan, serving significantly fewer people.
Bradford-West Gwillimbury's new public library: 42,000 sq. ft.; serving 32,166 residents
(2013); significantly larger than our plan, serving significantly fewer people.


Stouffville’s consultants (dmA) recommended a minimum of 0.65 sq. ft. per resident served:
i.e., the new proposed addition will be just shy of the minimum for our 2016 population
projection (but ... with shared municipal space it is in the ballpark). But we need to be explicit:
this is not a plan for a growing community. Compare:

Orillia: 1.3 sq. ft./ per resident; i.e., built for a growing community.
Bradford-West Gwillimbury: 1.3 sq. ft. /resident; i.e., built for a growing community.

The provincial SOLS Guidelines (Southern Ontario Library Service) for a stand-alone,
comprehensive library for towns our size call for 1.3 sq. ft. /resident. Other comparable
communities are doing this.


The proposed 2015 plan for Stouffville's library expansion does not come close to the SOLS
standard followed by comparable Ontario communities, nor is it designed for a growing
On what grounds could this be acceptable?


a) Leisure and a Local Knowledge-Based Economy
A smaller library addition could be acceptable if a case were made for the library as primarily
“leisure experience.” But that is too narrow. One of our library's key priorities, for example, is
to "foster job readiness in a knowledge-based economy and support small and home-based
business development and entrepreneurs, making the library a catalyst for economic
development." Even as information goes digital, the library of the twenty-first century is looking
less like a “warehouse of information” and more like “a community workshop, a hub filled with
the tools of the knowledge economy” (B. Resnick, “The Library of the Future is here,” Next
Economy Project, 2014).
According to the "Employment Trends" in the October 2015 Report to the Committee of the
Whole, York Region Council, communities in our Region need to anticipate growth in "work at
home," "no fixed place of work" employment. Library space and resources play important,
supporting role for these new trends. Our town needs to make the connection—and the Library
has already made this the first goal of their Strategic Plan; its role for attracting and supporting
knowledge-based businesses large and small will only become more important with time.
A lot of reading can be leisure, but the role of a public library is so much more, namely to be a
place where residents explore, interact and imagine. In 2011 Council and Leisure staff proposed
an update to the Leisure Services Plan, with a broadened definition of “leisure.” One of the
recommendations was to put the library within this framework of leisure and experiences. I
addressed these reductionisms at Council on June 21, 2011. Leisure is by definition
discretionary, an extra or luxury; a preference; nice—but not necessary. As such, leisure funding
could be scaled back, given to one group/activity and not another, or postponed indefinitely.
Historically, however, public libraries have had a broader mandate: to strengthen communities,
to be a welcoming hub with equality of access for diverse communities; to champion youth, to
offer a place and resources for life-long learning, and offer informational needs and
opportunities for knowledge creation.
b) Anxiety about Housing Projections and incoming Development Charges
At a special April 2015 meeting of the Library Board, the (then Acting) CAO argued that
Stouffville's projected population growth is behind by 18 to 24 months, and that with a slowing
economy, people do not have money for down-payments (Minutes). This could be a reason for
a smaller library addition.
Population projections are important because they are the basis on which Council makes capital
decisions for infrastructure projects, including soft infrastructure. However, such projections
have been an anxiety for Council for at least 8 years with regard to library expansion. That exact
kind of anxiety and language was expressed by the mayor and councillors as a rationale for


postponing library expansion in February 2007 (Sun-Tribune). The concern was brought up
again at a special Library Board meeting in July 2007 (Minutes), where a councillor reported on
the mayor’s anxiety about “public expectations of an expanded facility.”
The anxiety is about sufficient Development Charges / dollars for “growth to pay for growth.”
The newest projections of a slowdown however can and should be
challenged—or, at the very least,
held loosely. Our population
projections for Stouffville have been
far-off for at least fifteen years. In
2000-01 when the library was built
(population: 22,859), the
assumption was that the town
would reach a population of 41,000
in 2026; that was surpassed in 2012,
or 14 years ahead of what planners
anticipated. As late as 2005-06, the
town assumed we would reach a
population of 43,000 in 2026. Yet we reached that target in 2013, or 13 years ahead of that
schedule. At that time, when mayor, councillors and the Library Board were first beginning to
fret and debate a library expansion publicly, no one had an idea of how the population would
actually mushroom in the coming years.
Later, in 2011 the pattern continued; planners projected that Whitchurch-Stouffville would
have a population of 45,600 residents in 2016. Yet we passed that goal in 2014.


Notably planners were more or less right on with population projections for some York Region
communities, and are sticking with original projections (e.g., Markham); in other communities
the projections are scaled back
(e.g., Richmond Hill, Aurora,
Newmarket). But Stouffville's
numbers from 2006 on went far
higher than planners imagined, and
they bear no resemblance to early
projections. Compare the
community projections from Dec.
2005 with those from 2013 (table).
In April 2015, the Acting CAO gave
a rationale for a smaller library
expansion to the Library Board
based on population growth that
appears to be 18 to 24 months
behind projections (Minutes). We
must ask: What projections? For
which year are we building? What
is the current population
estimate? There is very good
reason to believe that as long as
the Greenbelt stays buckled, the
train keeps running into town, and
we build with density, that growth
will be strong. Investment advisor
and local resident Frank van Veen
writes (Oct. 27, 2015):
Globally, interest rates will probably stay at these levels or move lower as the Chinese
20 year growth story falters and brings global economic growth to a grinding halt. 3%
five year fixed mortgage rates will probably be with us for the foreseeable future. This
allows a great many families to purchase houses in towns like WS where their family has
room to grow. … the only thing that will slow development in WS and all of the GTA
bedroom communities would be an increase in interest rates [and] … that is unlikely to
happen. [Moreover] … Boomers are ageing and downsizing. They are also saving their
money in safe fixed income products providing a huge source of capital which again will
keep rates interest rates low. So, the Town should spend the money and do the
expansion as has been the plan for the past five years. Take advantage of these low


interest rates and fund it over 10 or 20 years. Let's not skimp on what will inevitably be
the centre piece in the heart of WS.
Anxiety is good at the right time and place. Concern and hesitation however can be crippling at
the wrong time, or when it extends unreasonably. Here and now –after eight years of anxiety
and hesitancy with respect to social or “soft” infrastructure, and with unprecedented
population growth—the proposal for a reduced library and leisure centre expansion is
inappropriately hesitant, unambitious and detrimental for community building.
c) Financial Exigency?
A smaller library addition could be acceptable as a drastic move based on financial exigency and
a long-term strategy of dependence on neighbouring communities. One councillor has
suggested external partnerships, perhaps with Aurora, Richmond Hill or Newmarket. This year
Council has imposed upon itself a new Debt Management Policy and a hard cap on borrowing
for the Library /Leisure Centre expansion. From this perspective, the 2014 plan is seen by the
new Council as extravagant and well-beyond our means.
I am a parent; my daughter starts high school next year. I remember well a discussion I and
another library supporter had with a local high school student after a council meeting in 2012;
she (Shagun Jindal, age 17) was on the Mayor's Youth Council, and told us that she and her
friends go to Markham's Angus Glen Library for both "space and resources" (an interview with
her appeared a little later in the Sun-Tribune). The reality is that Whitchurch-Stouffville is one of
Canada’s wealthiest communities (average household net worth, according to MoneySense,
June 2015). We are not in exigency. My fear is that with a small addition, another generation of
high schoolers in Stouffville will be left unsupported, without space and uninspired; the library
will be below minimum space recommendations the day it opens in 2016 or 2017. This is not
the kind of library situation we envisage for our town and our children (a related issue: our
town’s per capita funding of the library is still the lowest of all Ontario communities in our size


The former long-time library chair wrote to the Sun-Tribune in 2011, describing the library like a
town beggar, coming annually before council for scraps, "with cap in hand." In a SWOT analysis
(strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats - attached), the Library Board identified the
Council and key municipal staff (CAO, CFO) as both a "threat" to its mandate and as the library's
most real "weakness"--because the lack of shared vision, lack of adequate funding, impacting
staffing, resources and also
capital projects, etc.
This simply has to change.
Youth, families, the business
community, etc., desperately
need this new council to "get
it," and champion the role of
the library in our community.

Elders, 55+ Club or Older
Adults Centre
While I am a parent of 13
year old, I am also a babyboomer who will be 55 in
three short years. With the
2014 concept design for the
Leisure Centre Expansion, Whitchurch-Stouffville has the opportunity for a real intergenerational, community hub; however the reduced plan coming to Council removes the
dedicated "older adult" space. There may be new agreement with the current 55+ Club
leadership, but it does not look ahead to the demographic bulge (boomers) who are already
retiring in large numbers. Whitchurch-Stouffville does not have an "Older Adults" strategic
plan—e.g., like in St. Catharines to guide these steps. Importantly, the St. Catharines plan
distinguishes between "young-old 55 – 74, middle-old 75 – 84, and oldest-old 85 and older."
Were the "young-olds"--the tsunami of aging baby-boomers all under 75 and as young as me,
born 1964--in Stouffville ever really consulted about the removal of the "older adults center"
from the Leisure Centre expansion concept? We were not. Notably, the spokesperson for the
55+ Club, Wilf Morley, is 82--and initially he was not too keen on the idea either because of
size: “membership is steadily growing,” and the need is for 20,000 sq.ft., not 7,000 sq.ft.
[Latcham Gallery], according to Morley (cf. April 9, 2015, Sun-Tribune); moreover, the larger
cohort of young-olds (boomers) who will take his place in a few years have not been surveyed
by the town.


It is well documented that boomers are very different from their parents (e.g., they grew up
with the Beatles, a time of dramatic social change, and called into question traditional values,
who are as a group wealthy, active, free-spirited, etc. -- leisure wasn't in their parents'
vocabulary!). Will boomers prefer dedicated space to be: a) together with library, café, pool and
fitness centre, and younger people too (2014 Plan), or b) segregated where the Latcham Gallery
now is on Main St., without a gallery (2015 revised Plan)? The 2015 proposal is, in my view, very
short-sighted; it feels like it is designed perhaps more for my mother’s generation (also close to
80). Former Free-Press editor, Kate Gilderdale—a new retiree--read a draft of the above, and
wrote: "Arnold, you are articulating perfectly what I tried to point out when I was living in
Stouffville - you can't lump people into a category of 55 and over - you're talking two or three
generations here, all with very different interests and agendas... ." Let's get this right.
Whitchurch-Stouffville's YOU177 Legacy Centre has received a provincial age-friendly grant
specifically to do local surveys and focus groups involving all local citizens around age-friendly
needs. Their report is to be completed in April. Moreover, just this week a York Region seniors’
task force was announced “aiming at developing a strategy to address the needs of older
adults” (Sun-Tribune). Logically the report and task force should inform major town decisions
impacting "older adults" (or “Elders” that includes all baby-boomers). I'm assuming that the
Report is already well underway, and must be consulted.

6240 Main Street and the Latcham Gallery
It would be tragic if we exchanged and
reversed the ideal location of one group
or cultural activity in town with the ideal
location of the other. At which location
does an Older Adults Centre and the
Latcham Gallery best meet or exceed their
own respective goals and outcomes?
Which site, with their unique
configuration of other assets, creates
built-in synergies for the Older Adults Centre / Latcham Gallery respectively, i.e., where each
will benefit and be a benefit – to make a great Leisure Centre, a great Main Street, and a great
We lose much—Main Street loses much—if we remove the Latcham Gallery from its current
location, in my opinion. Removing an art gallery from "our" Main Street that we are desperately
trying to revitalize, may be a tipping point—that is, a small change that pushes us over a
threshold with a large impact on the community. We may not be far from a truly vibrant Main


Street, but it could easily topple in the other direction and take a generation before a new fix is
found. This year we already lost the towering anchor for the heritage district, the iconic Grain
Elevator; what will happen to Main Street with the removal of the art gallery?
The Community of Stouffville Urban Design Guidelines
(2002; below) are very optimistic on the potential impact
of this site on the whole of the downtown: it is a “key
gateway site,” well-suited for a “public building”
accessible to all residents (young and old), in particular,
for a “gallery.” Creek, [yet unbuilt] gardens and trail,
sculptures, gallery, and Main Street are, together, a
“whole” and work together to offer more than the sum of
their parts (synergies). Taking the gallery out of that
configuration and using the space of the building for “this or that” purpose or activity (e.g., 55+
Club) seriously impacts the site’s potential contribution towards downtown revitalization. There
is a plan that should only be tinkered with with the greatest forethought, and with reflection on
all the consequences—in particular the impact on downtown revitalization. With a few more
changes to that site which don’t follow the plan (like the recent expansion of parking towards
the creek), a tipping point could be reached, resulting in the loss of the site's role and potential
for transforming Main Street.

An immediate question does arise for me as a parent of a 13 year old: without the gallery,
which holds all of these elements together, and its programs for all ages, what is left for any
child on Main Street? “This current location is where the Latcham Gallery can best fulfill its
mandate. Recent renovations have amalgamated the art exhibition and arts education program
spaces under one roof,” states Ray McNeice, Latcham Board Chair (April 9, 2015, Sun-Tribune).


Based on the above, I ask councillors and mayor (with staff):
a) To articulate a philosophy / concept plan that informs their preferred proposal in terms
of community, connectivity, and activity.
b) To offer a long-term rationale for building a library that will fall short of minimum space
requirements within the first year of use, as well as a plan forward to a 2026 (10 year)
population increase of 13,000 residents over 2015 (projection: 59,800). Is the 2015
design designed for expansion?
c) To give an account of the role of 6240 Main Street for downtown revitalization; the
long-term impact of removing a public art gallery from the configuration of creek, trail,
park, sculpture collection, versus its potential on that site for the downtown. The 2002
Community of Stouffville Urban Design Guidelines are strong, offering a clear and
compelling argument. If an alternate future is being proposed, what is the long-term
vision that competes with the 2002 Guidelines? What synergies will be lost or gained?
d) To clarify the long-term Older Adult (or Elder) strategy shaping the decision to locate the
Older Adult Centre (55+) at 6240 Main Street as opposed to an inter-generational space.
e) To re-open debate on the new Debt Management Policy and self-imposed cap on
borrowing. It is not fiscally prudent to build a plan that does not meet the needs of a
growing community. Other spending options must also be reconsidered, including
$820,000 on the Lawn Bowling Facility (2015 Budget, slated for 2017).
Thank you for considering my comments in this process. – Arnold Neufeldt-Fast