Can We Change … for the Better?

I’ve been browsing the full Climate Change Action Plan released by the Ontario government. I see a lot of encouraging policy and a fair share of more vague intentions. But I can foresee the plan hitting some speed bumps along the way too.

The Abandel development proposal that Council just approved is a good example. It is a classic 1950’s strip plaza design with lots of vehicle parking and two drive through lanes. We are being graced with this architectural embarrassment, which does not conform with Innisfil’s Official Plan, because the developer insisted on having the project ‘grandfathered’ under old rules with the assistance of the OMB.

Before it is even constructed it is a fossil, totally incompatible with modern urban planning policy. We’ll be stuck with it for a generation. How many other “grandfather” projects are lingering out there in Ontario? This is a huge obstacle when architects and developers obstinately insist on designing for the 1950s instead of 2015. The government needs to outlaw all ‘grandfathering’ of development proposals. Regular recertification of architects, or early retirement for some of them, might be necessary too.

Let’s look at how out-of-step some current development proposals, like Abendel’s, are when compared to Climate Change Policy:

  • “The government intends to update the Building Code with long-term energy efficiency targets for new net zero carbon emission small buildings that will come into effect by 2030 at the latest, and consult on initial changes that will be effective by 2020.”
  • “Minimum parking requirements would be eliminated over the next five years for municipal zoning bylaws, especially in transit corridors and other high-density, highly walkable communities… Instead, bylaws will encourage bike lanes, larger sidewalks, and enhanced tree canopies.”
  • “The government intends to consult and propose amendments to the Planning Act to make climate change mitigation and adaptation mandatory in municipal official plans.”
  • “Municipalities would be able to require installation of electric vehicle charging stations in surface parking areas.”
  • “Ontario intends to establish a green bank to deploy and finance readily available low-carbon energy technologies to reduce carbon pollution from Ontario buildings.”

In theory, existing strip plazas in Innisfil like Trinity Crossing, Crossroads Plaza, and Innisfil Town Centre are ideal sites for rooftop solar or other renewable energy. There are no nearby buildings, trees or other obstructions. In practice this doesn’t happen because the roof belongs to a landlord with no interest in it, while the benefit would accrue to the tenants below who don’t have legal access to the roof or the means to install renewable energy. I don’t see how a ‘green bank’ is going to solve this problem. The only way I can see to break this impasse is to require landlords with buildings above a certain size to offer all tenants net metering of electricity. This would put the onus firmly on the building owners.

These are some of my initial thoughts as the climate change plan moves forward. I’m sure I will have more to say on the topic.

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