Intensification, Sprawl & the OMB

The province is currently reviewing the future of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) so it was interesting that the builder’s association (BILD) came to it’s defense in a recent article (Ontario Municipal Board not to blame for intensification, Brian Tuckey, March 25):

“Some people mistakenly blame OMB decisions for the intensification that we have experienced across the GTA … The reality is that intensification is actually the result of provincial policy and the OMB makes its decisions based on that provincial policy, including the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, using submissions made by experts in land planning and development… If municipalities, local politicians or members of the public feel there is too much intensification in the GTA, then the remedy lies with the province and its policies — not with the building industry or the OMB.”

I wish it were that simple. We tend to get too much intensification in places where it is already heavily populated, like downtown Toronto. And provincial policy has only led to more dense forms of suburban housing (smaller single lots and townhouses) on the fringes of existing towns instead of as infill or redevelopment in the core. The OMB has garnered a lot of resentment because the Board tends to favour developers in 60% or more of cases according some analyses. The threat of a developer’s appeal to the OMB can sway a Council because of certain factors:

  • The cost to an individual of presenting ‘expert’ witnesses to this quasi-judicial body is estimated to range between $35,000 and $80,000. I’m guessing if municipal legal staff are involved, it could be a lot higher.
  • An appeal at the board begins “from new”, (de novo) meaning, “as if the developers application had just been tabled, disregarding the Municipalities report or decisions by the Municipalities Planning Committee or City Council … it invites the Developer to table what they really wanted vs. what the City approved or refused. ” (Think twice about appealing to the OMB, July 2014)

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Places to Grow – in Barrie

McKayPlan1

A public meeting tomorrow in Barrie (council chambers, 7:00 pm) is further proof that Ontario’s Places to Grow strategy to limit urban sprawl is a failure – at least in Simcoe County. It also confirms that Barrie is a city without boundaries and an insatiable appetite for greenfields.

McKayPlan2

“The lands are designated Highway 400 Industrial/Business Park within the City’s Official Plan and are currently zoned Agriculture (AG) in accordance with Zoning Bylaw 054-04 (Innisfil). The owner has applied to amend the current zoning of the property to Highway 400 Industrial with Site Specific exceptions …”  Continue reading

Complete Streets and Villages

A silo is all that remains of Stroud’s “last operating farm”. The farmhouse and agricultural buildings were demolished several years ago by a developer. The 5.2 hectare site is now the subject of a development proposal (Centreville by Daycore Venture Group Inc.) which consists of residential homes, commercial buildings and a gas station.

Residents were presented with a draft plan in December 2016. The first phase proposed 107 townhomes with communal septic. A second phase, contingent on provision of municipal services, would have added 86 more townhouses and a six story apartment/retail complex fronting on Yonge Street.

This proposal was heavily criticized, at the time, by local residents as inappropriate for their “quiet and peaceful” village. “We moved here for a rural urban feel”, said one. “You’re putting a city in a village. It’s just dumb. That’s the very reason a lot of people are getting out of Barrie and Alcona and into Stroud”, said another. Stroud consists mostly of single-family homes and has little growth because of the absence of municipal sewers. The developer’s proposal relies on sophisticated modular septic systems from BioNest based in Quebec.  Continue reading

Townhomes Coming to 7th Line

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Map from DIAM Developments Inc.website: radianceinnisfil.ca

Innisfil is attracting the attention of a developer that has previously completed building projects in Kleinburg , Mississauga, Oakville, and Toronto. DIAM Developments is advertising a new townhome development, Radiance, situated at the 7th Line west of Webster Blvd. in south Alcona.

The townhome project, set to launch “this spring”, will “range from three to five bedrooms and will boast spacious decks and rooftop terraces” according to online publicity. Prices are expected to be in the “mid-400s”.

DIAM Developments recently completed a mid-rise condominium project in Toronto, under the name, On the Danforth.

Neighbours, Friends and ‘hoods

I was intrigued recently by an article published in Vox titled, “How our housing choices make friendships more difficult” (David Roberts, Jan. 16, 2017). It seems particularly important as Innisfil prepares its next Official Plan, Our Place, which seeks to define specific places for public gathering and interaction. Speaking of experience in the United States, the author says:

“Our ability to form and maintain friendships is shaped in crucial ways by the physical spaces in which we live. “Land use,” as it’s rather aridly known, shapes behavior and sociality. And in America we have settled on patterns of land use that might as well have been designed to prevent spontaneous encounters, the kind out of which rich social ties are built.”

The article goes on to discuss how friendships change as people age, form families and move into their own homes. The article references some research on the subject:

“The researchers believed that physical space was the key to friendship formation; that “friendships are likely to develop on the basis of brief and passive contacts made going to and from home or walking about the neighborhood.” In their view, it wasn’t so much that people with similar attitudes became friends, but rather that people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and later adopted similar attitudes.”

The article notes how patterns of human settlement have changed over millennia:  Continue reading

Planning Streets for Everyone

Seniors at Lakeside Retirement Residence in Alcona have petitioned for a crosswalk that would allow them to cross safely to businesses on the north side of Innisfil Beach Rd. (full disclosure: a family member is a resident there) A quick internet search shows that seniors across the country petition for this amenity so regularly it makes you wonder why it isn’t mandatory.

Town Council had a reasonable solution in their lap when they were planning the Innisfil Beach Rd urbanization project. This would have been the ideal location for a raised median with a cross-over ramp through the center allowing seniors with walkers to safely navigate their way across the street at their own pace. The median would serve as a pedestrian safety island.

Considering that Council wasted $100,000 to rip up significant portions of the completed project, undoing years of planning, public consultation and consensus, and marring the streetscape in the process, spending about $50,000 to accommodate our seniors seems like money well spent. (Note to business owners: the seniors want to cross to spend money at your shops and services).  Continue reading