The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

UTOPIAN THINK­ING ABOUT HOW we live met with real­ity yet again this week, as res­i­dents of an Elmira neigh­bour­hood turned up at coun­cil to voice their many con­cerns about a pro­posed new sub­di­vi­sion.

Much of the prob­lem stems from ever-in­creas­ing den­sity re­quire­ments forced on mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties by a Toronto-cen­tric pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment. Poli­cies that de­crease lot sizes and de­mand higher den­sity hous­ing then ex­ac­er­bate traffic and park­ing is­sues that are al­ready get­ting worse, even in a small town like Elmira.

In group­ing the homes more closely, plan­ners achieve a num­ber of goals: us­ing less land, re­duc­ing the in­fra­struc­ture (par­tic­u­larly water and sewer pipes) needed to ser­vice the homes and, ide­ally, re­duc­ing the need for cars.

But the den­si­ties don’t mesh well with ex­ist­ing neigh­bour­hoods, a prob­lem for which the prov­ince cares not one whit, leav­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to deal with the fall­out.

The sub­urbs of old have come un­der fire for the sprawl and iso­la­tion they rep­re­sent. New think­ing, en­dorsed and en­force by the prov­ince, calls for more in­te­grated neigh­bour­hoods where peo­ple can live, shop and work in close prox­im­ity, per­haps even do­ing so on foot or bi­cy­cle rather than de­pend­ing on the per­sonal au­to­mo­bile.

That re­mains some­thing of an al­lu­sive dream in this area. And price more than any­thing has dic­tated smaller lot sizes. Most of us, it seems, still want a big lot and big house away from what we see as the down­side of higher den­sity ur­ban liv­ing. But sky­rock­et­ing land prices and soar­ing taxes and charges on de­vel­op­ment have driven up costs such that 80and 100-foot frontages are be­yond the means of many as house prices out­strip in­fla­tion and in­comes.

As with pub­lic tran­sit, higher den­si­ties and mixed com­mu­ni­ties are fine for the other guy.

In the ideal sit­u­a­tion, the mixed devel­op­ments pro­posed by de­vel­op­ers of­fer many ben­e­fits. The pat­tern of sprawl we’ve seen in cities since the Sec­ond World War has come with many down­sides.

In­creas­ing num­bers of au­to­mo­biles are trav­el­ling over longer dis­tances re­sult­ing in clogged trans­porta­tion cor­ri­dors, in­clud­ing those that pro­vide ac­cess to border crossings. Traffic con­ges­tion and the de­lay in move­ment of goods costs On­tario bil­lions of dol­lars in lost pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Use­ful and ef­fi­cient pub­lic tran­sit is dif­fi­cult to in­tro­duce into sprawl­ing com­mu­ni­ties, and this lim­its the abil­ity to re­spond ef­fec­tively to grow­ing traffic con­ges­tion is­sues.

Em­ploy­ment lands are be­ing con­verted from their in­tended uses, thereby lim­it­ing fu­ture eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties.

So-called green field de­vel­op­ment re­quires new in­fra­struc­ture to be built to ser­vice lower-den­sity ar­eas, while ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture in the older parts of the cities re­main un­der­uti­lized – this is the im­pe­tus of the brown­field devel­op­ments pre­ferred in the Water­loo Re­gion’s growth strat­egy.

Ur­ban sprawl con­trib­utes to the degra­da­tion of our nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, air qual­ity and water re­sources, as well as the con­sump­tion of agri­cul­tural lands and other nat­u­ral re­sources so crit­i­cal to the fu­ture econ­omy.

Im­ple­ment­ing those changes will be dif­fi­cult, and it will take years to see re­sults even if such plans are im­ple­mented here. We’ve seen some den­sity shifts due to eco­nom­ics, but the re­main­der of the goals re­main as yet un­met in this area.

As this week’s meet­ing showed, the fit isn’t al­ways good, and will not be em­braced eas­ily. What re­mains to see is if re­sis­tance is fu­tile.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.