Density over sprawl, says St. John’s Board of Trade

The Telegram
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Board of Trade chairman Denis Mahoney.

According to St. John’s Board of Trade, size does matter, but bigger is not necessarily better.

At least not when it comes to a sprawling city.

The board is bringing up density as a municipal election issue and suggesting voters ask infrastructure-savvy questions when candidates come knocking on their doors looking for support.

According to a news release from the board, if the city of St. John’s were designed more densely, basic services could cost less.

“Growing out is not a good indicator of prosperity if it is more expensive to service and maintain needed infrastructure,” board chairman Denis Mahoney says in the release.

“The question to ask your candidates when they come knocking for your vote, is what their plans are for using existing infrastructure?

“How do they plan to effectively grow the city without sprawling out?”

The news release says a Sierra Club report called “How Sprawl Hurts us All” points out that residential tax rates are 38 per cent lower in Toronto proper than in many surrounding municipalities that are growing at more than twice the rate of Toronto.

It’s suggested this disparity is due to the municipalities building new infrastructure while Toronto uses what already exists.

The release says more than $67 million in infrastructure was built and turned over to the St. John’s  from new developments between 2007 and 2010.

Taxes will have to pay for the clearing and repaving of those roads over the years and the regular maintenance on the water and sewer lines.

The release says the number of lane kilometres of road has increased significantly and public works is struggling to get lines painted on them.

“Redeveloping previously used spaces, connecting neighbourhoods via trails, parks and bike lanes, among other tactics, have been used to increase density and reduce sprawl around the world,” Mahoney says.

“We have seen glimpses of such initiatives in St. John’s, and we encourage the candidates to start talking about how they would enhance our existing neighbourhoods.”

Organizations: Board of Trade, Sierra Club

Geographic location: Toronto

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Recent comments

  • Stephen Brophy
    August 07, 2013 - 14:05

    CRAZY, You seem somewhat crazy. Density means public transit can more effectively be serviced by public transit (and for a lot less). Density means people don't need or don't even have cars. Lots of people want density. Sprawl is unsustainable and we simply cannot afford to continue doing what we are doing.

  • Jack
    August 07, 2013 - 06:48

    The St. John's Board of Trade maybe on to something about urban sprawl. Urban sprawl is not just destructive to the environment, but also the surrounding city's economy. Believe it or not, some Atlantic Canadian cities are now paying a serious price as a result of urban sprawl, particularly Halifax. In the case of Halifax, urban sprawl has resulted in increasing traffic levels on their main roads leading to their inner city area as Herring Cove Road, St. Margaret's Bay Road, Joseph Howe Drive, Centennial Highway (Nova Scotia Highway 102), Dutch Village Road, Bedford Highway, and the MacKay and Macdonald bridges. Secondly, Halifax's urban sprawl problems are also causing the hallowing of the city's core area as more businesses are relocating to suburban business parks like Bayer's Lake or Dartmouth Crossing, road widening disputes along the Halifax Peninsula such the controversial Chebucto Road widening project of 2008, increasing costs of providing municipal services such as water and transit, just to name a few. Lessons learned from Halifax's urban sprawl problems are that cities should focus on smart growth, meaning increasing density levels.

  • Darryl
    August 06, 2013 - 22:00

    CRAZY, you are as your name suggests if you think we have a traffic problem. Clearly you haven't driven anywhere outside the island where they actually have problems

  • Totally Agree
    August 06, 2013 - 20:58

    Go visit Edmonton. Urban sprawl is AWFUL and if you talk to long time residents, they will say that the city was better BEFORE the boom and sprawl took over. When it takes an hour to cross a city of 1,000,000 people, it destroys the "vibe" of the city and costs a fortune to maintain services. Build up and you'll have a place that people WANT to live in and culture can thrive and it'll be cheaper for residents. Plus, if density goes up, mass transit becomes viable and it's better for the environment. Think of the city you want to see in 50 years. Would you want to go from Pouch Cove to Carbonear to cross a city of 400k people? Sounds obscene now, but I'm sure our grandparents never would have thought living in CBS would be one day considered living in Metro. Go back a generation from that, Mt Pearl was out in "the country". It CAN and WILL happen, if we're not careful now. Way to go Dennis and the BOT!!!

  • Joe
    August 06, 2013 - 18:18

    I challenge Mahoney and all other Board of Trade members to sell their homes and move into a high rise. Actions speak louder than words!

  • Mount Pearl Guy
    August 06, 2013 - 15:53

    CRAZY, Traffic goes down with greater density. Density doesn't just mean more units like on Blackmarsh rd. It also means things like Grocery stores near housing areas or shops in office buildings. Big box centres like Stavenger drive and Kelsey drive are poor uses of Infrastructure. With great density we can have better public transportation. It also has to be greater density in the right areas.

  • Crazy
    August 06, 2013 - 10:06

    We already have a problem with traffic and BOT wants to go up and not out?? We'll have to wait to get in line to get out of the driveway. It may be cheaper but who wants it??. The new development on Blackmarsh has 4 units per house. Imagine if they went 10 stories with 20 units per house. Traffic would be wicked. If they want to go up, where does Mahoney live??

    • BC
      August 06, 2013 - 16:09

      High density == less traffic, care of more efficient and cheaper public transit & the opportunity for bike or foot travel to work, grocery stores, etc. Having 4 units per house of Blackmarsh doesn't increase the number of cars on the road, by the way. The alternative is 1 unit on Blackmarsh, and 3 in Paradise where there isn't even the option of a bus-route; those 3 extra units worth of cars are driving down Topsail road. The only non-benefit to the whole ordeal.. not everyone can have their own detached unit and yards. With the price of real estate though, many can't afford that anyway. In the special case of the enclave of Mount Pearl, they've run out of land. Intensification of development is their only real option at this point. Intensified growth brings innumerable smaller benefits as well - things like cheaper utilities, better road clearing, faster taxi response times.. etc.

    • W McLean
      August 06, 2013 - 22:55

      1. The problem with traffic is because there's too much out, and not enough up. If the city were denser, with more mixture of uses, fewer people would have to drive to do less of their daily living. 2. If you have to wait in line to get out of your driveway, then that means, to someone else, you are "traffic". "Traffic" is the inevitable result of *someone else's* choice to drive.

    • Jack
      August 07, 2013 - 06:54

      Crazy, if you learn from Halifax's mistakes, urban sprawl causes a myriad of problems, including increased traffic congestion problems, increasing costs of municipal services such as public transit, water, and policing, hallowing of the city's core and downtown areas in favour of suburban business parks, infrastructure upgrade disputes with existing inner city residents such as the controversial Chebucto Road widening project of 2008, increased pollution, just to name a few. That's why St. John's needs to encourage more high density development so that what happened to Halifax won't happen in St. John's.

    • Tom
      August 07, 2013 - 12:56

      Sprawl actually makes traffic worse, not better. If people live close to their place of work, then they travel shorter distances in their vehicle, and they are more likely to walk, bike, or use public transit.