In 1976, Donnie and Marie Osmond premiered their television show “Donnie and Marie.” Peter Frampton released the album “Frampton Comes Alive.” “The Bionic Woman” released its very first episode.
Apple Computer was founded by Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak. Mao Zedong died.
And the St. John’s Urban Regional Plan was written.
Almost 40 years later, that plan’s replacement is still on the drawing board, and if you were the least bit cynical, you’d have to argue that’s just the way this region’s municipal leaders like it.
Why? Because, in the absence of an integrated plan, municipalities can chug along on a project-by-project basis, approving work piecemeal and not having to examine the larger consequences.
The City of St. John’s, for example, had been delaying developing its own municipal plan while waiting to see what the regional plan brings. In the meantime, arguing the municipal plan is outdated, the council has just gone merrily along, approving big-ticket developments — especially in the downtown — even if they don’t meet existing development rules.
It is easier, of course, to do one-off approvals than it is to look at a larger integrated picture of where municipalities expect to find themselves in terms of overlapping jurisdictions, shared services, infrastructure and any number of interrelated services. The question, of course, is whether that kind of haphazard examination actually serves the residents of the region, who may find themselves on the hook for costly re-engineering down the road.
Monday, municipalities were to meet with the minister of municipal affairs to try and move the process ahead. A spokesman for the department told CBC News, “The Department of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs is prepared to support them throughout this process, as required, to ensure progress occurs in a timely manner.” Newsflash: progress has already not occurred in a timely manner.
By the time the new plan is even close to being finished, huge swaths of development, from Glencrest on one side to Kenmount Hill to any number of urban-rural sprawl developments in the satellite towns on the northeast Avalon will be complete, municipal councils will be happy with their short-term development fees and new tax bases. Looming infrastructure development and integration costs will, like the regional plan, be left for another day and another council.
The CBC News story on Monday said the new plan — once expected in 2011 — is so far behind that the municipalities got logjammed and couldn’t even agree on a vision statement.
To be more precise — and wordy — they said in a 2012 report that they were “unable to agree on a position with respect to a vision statement.”
Holy cow. Talk about losing your way at the earliest possible opportunity.
Here’s one they could use for free: “The northeast Avalon municipalities agree that a regional plan should take into account and balance the needs and concerns of residential, commercial and development interests, while actively and economically protecting the unique nature, geography and heritage of a region that comprises both urban and rural areas.”
Now, get on with it.