After two public meetings, a proposed development for the main street of Stroud gets another look on Wednesday, June 14 at Town Hall. In this revised plan:
- the number of townhouses is reduced from 107 to 94 on a slightly smaller space
- 12 single detached homes are proposed for the western boundary
- the size of the commercial blocks is reduced slightly
- the site includes a gas bar and convenience store
A proposal to include several floors of apartments over the commercial units was rejected by local residents at previous public meetings. The single detached homes (instead of townhouses) are intended to buffer the transition from existing residential homes to the new development.
I think this revised plan continues to miss the mark for good planning. Completely removing apartments above the commercial space is a mistake. It would have been wiser to include this mixed-use option to offer more housing options for all age groups. Younger and older Innisfil residents don’t necessarily want, or can afford, a single family home. A retired individual that I know who is planning to move from their home is forced to look in Barrie, Alliston and Midland because there are no suitable apartment options in Innisfil. The objections from Stroud residents to more housing options is unreasonable and puzzling. Including these residents in the development would also make Stroud livelier and more economically viable.
The site plan itself is sadly disappointing in offering yet another parking-lot laden strip mall. I hardly think that a tired and outdated approach to make Stroud look like 1960s Mississauga or contemporary Brampton should get any serious consideration at all. It flies in the face of all the urban planning discussions that have taken place in Innisfil in the last 10 years.
The Implementation Plan for Inspiring Innisfil 2020 (Feb. 2011) stated the following objectives:
- Make sure each neighbourhood remains distinctive – Undertake a neighbourhood character study aimed at defining and visually illustrating the specific aspects of each neighbourhood’s unique characteristics.
- Complete a detailed Community Design Plan (CDP) for each of Innisfil’s distinct neighbourhoods.
- Implement Community Improvement Plans (CIP) for “main streets” (i.e. Innisfil Beach Road, Cookstown, Stroud) to promote the redevelopment of neighbourhood cores.
- Develop and implement Building Architectural Design Guidelines for each neighbourhood or those areas within Innisfil that are deemed to have unique building characteristics.
The planning criteria for urban “cores” have clearly been to place new development at the street so as to make them more walkable and pedestrian friendly. This was established in planning guidelines for Alcona and more recently in Urban Design Guidelines for Lefroy:
“The Lefroy Urban Design Guidelines (LUDG) are intended to ensure that Plans of Subdivision for the Lefroy Secondary Plan Area support provincial policies as well as the objectives of the Town of Innisfil Official Plan, the Lefroy Secondary Plan, and the Draft Zoning By-laws.”
“The Killarney Beach Road commercial area is intended to be the historical central core area or main street. As such it should incorporate the local heritage buildings and build on their image. The area will be pedestrian-oriented with grade-related retail or a mix of retail, service, community or institutional and residential or commercial uses above. Built form in this area will be low-rise, with a maximum of four storeys and have street-oriented building entries located close to the streetscape zone to reinforce the street edge. Building service areas and on-site parking should be located at the rear. Site design will minimize the visual impact of parking areas from the street …” (Lefroy Community, Urban Design Guidelines, Oct 2011)
Is Stroud so different from Lefroy? How does a strip mall parking lot retain or enhance Stroud’s distinctive character? Why do we have ‘urban’ guidelines for Lefroy and not for Stroud? Why do our town planners ignore long established planning principles when evaluating development proposals in Alcona and Stroud? We often hear developers complain that there is too much red tape, and yet, here again, good planning principles are tossed to the wind, red tape be damned!
Is there any way to compel developers to toe the Official Plan guidelines? I can think of a couple of ideas. First, any developer who wants to substantially change the existing zoning should be required to submit two development plans – the first one which entirely conforms to all existing zoning, planning and architectural guidelines and a second plan that illustrates requested zoning changes and the perceived public benefits of them. (Can we estimate the relative value of public vs. private benefits? In other words, how much has greed influenced the shape and scope of a proposal?)
Secondly, let’s change the way town planners review development proposals. In the example of Stroud Centreville, planners began from the most general policies to the more specific: Ontario Places to Grow? Check. Lake Simcoe Protection Plan? Check. County of Simcoe Official Plan? Check. Etc. When we get down to the Innisfil Strategic Plan (2017-2020) the Staff Report gives us standard boilerplate: “the goal is to “develop community amenities – including restaurants, shops and services – that provide valued and viable local options for our community.” Really? Sharp analysis there! Let’s turn this process around and start the staff planning review with the specifics on the ground. Does the proposal conform with existing architectural guidelines and objectives? No? Back to the drawing board!
An informal Open House takes place in the lobby of Town Hall to review the revised Stroud Centreville plans. Starting at 7:00 pm, there will be a second public planning meeting of Council to hear public input on the revised plans.