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

‘Our Place’ Public Open Houses

The Town of Innisfil has released Our Place, the Draft Official Plan which lays out objectives, planning policies, zoning and goals for our municipality. Residents have an opportunity to learn more about the plan at 2 drop-in Open Houses:

  • Thursday January 19, Lefroy Arena, 6 – 8 pm
  • Tues. January 24, IdeaLab /Library, Alcona 4 – 8 pm

The report outlines three goals:

  • Grow – “collaboratively develop a thriving community that embraces a managed level of growth, actively engages residents, attracts and supports business and promotes economic prosperity.”
  • Connect – “ensure opportunities exist for residents, businesses and organizations to connect in all ways that are meaningful – physically, socially, culturally and digitally.”
  • Sustain – actively maintain itself as a viable and vibrant community that fully embraces the principles of sustainability.”

Some of strategies for achieving these goals include:  Continue reading

Innisfil – Just Not Ready

As I write this, Innisfil is making good on its promise to demolish the streetscape median east of St. John’s Rd. Let me share the result with you:







It only took a couple of whiners and an ignorant, weak-kneed council.

Continue reading

Geography More Than Luck

In my last article, Bradford was said to be “very lucky to have a very cohesive development group that’s willing to front-end the water and wastewater projects”. Of course, it’s obvious that a lot more than luck is involved.

It has more to do with geography. Bradford’s core is centered around Yonge St. and it has developed new housing tracts to the west, filling the area between Yonge St and Highway 400. The cost of installing the wastewater services is being absorbed by those new Bradford households. Naturally, those developers are now willing to share the cost of extending that infrastructure beyond Hwy 400 for Bradford’s industrial lands.

My abbreviated history of Innisfil Heights illustrates that the situation is much different in Innisfil. Our town is a collection of small settlements based on historical farming communities and post-war seasonal cottage communities. Our ‘primary’ settlement, Alcona, which encompasses about half of Innisfil’s population, was built adjacent to Lake Simcoe. Hwy 400 is about 12 km distant. Extending municipal services to the designated highway industrial lands without major new residential development to finance it has proved to be virtually impossible. Councillor Doug Lougheed regularly likes to refer to Alcona as “The Mistake by the Lake”.  Continue reading

The Innisfil Water Wheel

The wheels continue to spin on a viable plan to bring sewer service to Innisfil Heights industrial lands. The prolonged examination of a strategy centred around the creation of a Municipal Services Corporation has come to an abrupt end.

An early staff report to Council (DSR-53-15, March 18, 2015) discussed a study from KPMG, which included an option for a Municipal Services Corporation:

“… the KPMG study concluded that the best option for the municipality was to create a municipal services corporation (MSC) and place the assets for both water and wastewater into that structure which would enable the MSC to separate the assets and liabilities from the Town’s books. The future debt capacity would vest with the new corporation consistent with the manner in which we handle the financial requirements of INNPOWER …”

“On January 1, 2016, the Town transferred the water and wastewater assets, including two water pollution control plants, one surface water treatment plant, municipal wells and the associated collection and distribution systems to InnServices [Utilities Inc.].  InnServices is also tasked with building over $200 million in new infrastructure …” [Town of Innisfil website]  Continue reading

Legislating for Place-Making (3)

My last two articles summarized the Options and Recommendations contained in the Town’s “Draft Policy Directions Report” concerning specific aspects of Place-Making. This last summary covers the report’s discussion of urban intensification and growth management.

Growth Forecast & Intensification Target

The current Official Plan anticipates a population of 56,000 by 2031, about 22,300 more people than in 2011, and about 10,100 residences, including seasonal properties. This growth will take place in Built-up Areas (built-up as of 2006 within a settlement boundary) and in Designated Greenfield Areas (vacant land within a Settlement Area but outside a Built-up Area).

Provincial Policy requires “at least” a third (33%) of growth to take place within a Built-up Area. This is termed urban “intensification”. Most Ontario municipalities make this minimum their intensification target. The Report says, “This target is achievable and will be exceeded.”

While the current Official Plan set a target of 75% low-density housing, the Report’s recommendation is for 70% low-density housing, 20% townhouses, and 10% apartments by 2031.

More Construction Will Shift Toward Lefroy

“With no need to expand settlement areas to accommodate the 2031 population forecasts and as Alcona’s greenfield areas near build out, the residential growth will shift to Lefroy–Belle Ewart and Sandy Cove due to the large amount of greenfield lands in those settlement areas… The majority of infill and redevelopment will be focused in Alcona as set out below in the intensification strategy. Retail growth and expansion will also be focused in Alcona to enhance it as a complete community.”  Continue reading