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 I hardly think that a tired and outdated approach to make Stroud look like 1960s Mississauga or contemporary Brampton should get any serious consideration at all.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

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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:

MedianAfter2

Road

 

 

 

 

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

Continue reading

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.

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

Planning for Place-Making

Residents have spent quite a few years “visioning” their community. First came the strategic plan, Inspiring Innisfil. Now, the successor project, “Our Place, Innisfil” seeks to identify specific spaces within Innisfil to develop into active multi-use, multi-season hubs of neighbourhood activity. We now have a “Community Engagement Feedback” report that spells out what residents say they want.

Reading between the lines, several findings point to a common yearning among all ages for a stronger sense of community – places to gather, meet, socialize and form relationships. One comment in particular expressed it poignantly: “Innisfil needs to become the family that it is…”. Here are some of the “key messages” from residents:  Continue reading

Fallen Forests, 2

My last article illustrated the loophole that developers exploit to clear forested land long before any rezoning or development approvals are granted. The particular example was of a tract in New Tecumseth where 30 acres of trees are being removed by Tecumseth Estates under the guise of “agricultural expansion”.

In case readers think this is an isolated incident, it’s not difficult to find other examples. In fact, the same developer pulled a similar stunt in Innisfil, although on a much smaller scale. In 2011, under the name Alriz Development Ltd., an application was made for a Special Permit to clear approximately 3 acres “to expand an existing agricultural area”. This was a small portion of 135 acres on the 7th Line, 100 acres of which was agricultural.  Continue reading