Stroud Centreville Gets Another Look

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

Centreville3

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 I hardly think that a tired and outdated approach to make Stroud look like 1960s Mississauga or contemporary Brampton should get any serious consideration at all.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:  Continue reading

Taking Innisfil into the Future

By the time most people read this, we will have chosen our Mayor and Council. It will be up to them to find a consensus on the perennial challenge of providing efficient services at a reasonable cost. Improved roads, sidewalks, trails and transit are high on people’s lists. Provincial legislation requiring ‘replacement cost’ funding of water infrastructure is also bringing a big hike in water rates. Beyond that, decisions on residential and commercial growth will affect the rural/urban nature of our Town, role of agriculture, potential local employment opportunities, and overall quality of life. And then there are long-term issues of climate change, adaptation, the carbon economy, and economic disparity. It’s disappointing that few citizens want to consider the big issues and few politicians want to address them.

While local electioneering was in full swing, an article, written by Don Tapscott, praising the municipal strategy in Guelph caught my eye. (As Toronto dithers, Guelph sets sights on 21st century, Toronto Star, October 17, 2014) He described seven key actions that have made Guelph stand out as a municipal leader. It’s worth reading the entire article:

Promoting entrepreneurship to achieve prosperity
“close to 80 per cent of new jobs come from companies five years old or less …”

Open government
“The city is releasing data sets as public assets …”

Turning public safety inside out
“Guelph has launched Guelph Enterprise — a model for innovation in human services. The model asserts that cities do not have a policing problem but a marginalized people problem.”

Rethinking transportation
“the city council has made affordable, alternative transportation a priority for Guelph’s growth.”

Creating a sustainable city
“Amazingly, Guelph is building North America’s first city-wide district energy network.”

Transforming social services
“22 community leaders from different sectors, agencies and stakeholders … agreed to work together using shared performance indicators to tackle tough issues…”

Reinventing local democracy
“Events like Hackathons, Health Jams and Change Camps demonstrate a community approach to redefining the relationship between citizens and their local government.”

These are all excellent initiatives that should inspire numerous imitators. The lesson for us is that these transformative ideas are being implemented by combining engaged citizens with imaginative leaders. Dumbed-down slogans may be effective in motivating a harried electorate but won’t likely serve us well as a municipal strategy.

A Day with the OMB

I’ve never attended an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing before, so I joined about 30 other people at Town Hall when it convened to hear the appeal of Innisfil’s Cookstown Heritage Conservation District (HCD) bylaw. The presiding Member of the Board reserved her decision after the 2-day hearing process. The Board’s website says most decisions are rendered within 45 days.

The experience got me thinking about the process in general. It is a somewhat formal, but limited, legal proceeding described as an ‘administrative tribunal’. There were only a few key questions to consider:

  • Did the Town of Innisfil have legal authority to pass the HCD bylaw?
  • Did the Town meet the required pre-conditions necessary to enact an HCD bylaw?
  • Did the Town satisfy the requirement for public consultation?

In general, these encounters with our legal system look like a cash cow for lawyers, consultants, printers and paper makers. Others might not fare as well. The Cookstown appellants appeared embarrassingly unprepared for what transpired. The public impression is that developers come out ahead most often. And why not?

  • Developers have the deep pockets to afford a team of legal counsel, planners, and consultants to challenge any municipality. They accumulate experience with each OMB hearing.
  • Developers can calculate the benefit to them in dollars of winning an OMB challenge
  • Municipalities are less able to put a dollar figure on an OMB challenge. What dollar value can be put on winning an incremental increase in ‘quality of life’? How much damage might a loss do?
  • Municipalities are only as strong as their legal and planning staff. They are cautious about diverting money from core services or spending a limited budget on something that their taxpayers might consider a waste, especially if winning is in doubt.
  • Individual appellants are the least equipped in terms of financial resources, legal expertise, and access to planners and consultants.

Previously:
If not Heritage Conservation, then what?

Beach Volleyball – It’s Here Saturday, August 9

SandZone

The Town of Innisfil has partnered with Liberty Hospitality and Outta Hand Inc. to create “Sand Zone”, four beach volleyball courts, in the Innisfil Recreation Complex.

The Grand Opening of Sand Zone takes place Saturday, August 9 at 9:30 am beginning with a tournament, and continuing with a party, BBQ and door prizes.

Innisfil Beach Volleyball
Sand Zone

 

Cookstown Heritage District OMB Hearing August 7

I really thought this issue would drift into fall before a hearing date was set. Instead the challenge to the town’s Cookstown Heritage Conservation District bylaw will be heard by the OMB in the Town’s Council Chamber on August 7 beginning at 10:30 a.m. OMB hearings are public and residents can attend. Continue reading

Abandel Group Revises Development Plan

A public meeting was held to discuss the new development proposal from Abandel Group Ltd. for their property on Innisfil Beach Road (#1124, 1130. 1136, approximately opposite Shoppers Drug Mart). The developer is appealing a Town decision to zone the rear of the property as “Future Development. It is seeking a zoning of “Mixed Use 2” to allow for the construction of three commercial buildings. A hearing scheduled at the OMB on August 25, 12014. This more comprehensive proposal replaces their earlier partial plan to construct a multi-story condominium building on the rear portion of the land, which would have been accessed by a driveway to Goshen Road. That concept is no longer valid.

Abandel3

The Town background information describes the zoning issue this way: Continue reading