Time to make a plan?

Alisha Morrissey
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St. John's mayor wants to delay city planning; province says there's no need

City hall will soon be asking you what you want St. John's of the future to look like.

But your suggestions will then be shelved until the province first finishes a regional plan.

Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff has raised her concern about the city waiting too long before making a plan. She says she'd like to start working on a plan now - specifically for the downtown, which is under pressure from developers - but she's part of a minority on council.

"The reason that I wanted to do this ages ago is because I don't think what happens in our downtown bears any relation to the regional plan," she says. "We're under such development pressure right now that we are making decisions that we really should wait until we have a better sense of direction. And I think you should prioritize the areas that you wanted to focus on first as the areas that need the most attention - and our downtown is certainly (one)."

St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe

Municipal politics -

City hall will soon be asking you what you want St. John's of the future to look like.

But your suggestions will then be shelved until the province first finishes a regional plan.

Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff has raised her concern about the city waiting too long before making a plan. She says she'd like to start working on a plan now - specifically for the downtown, which is under pressure from developers - but she's part of a minority on council.

"The reason that I wanted to do this ages ago is because I don't think what happens in our downtown bears any relation to the regional plan," she says. "We're under such development pressure right now that we are making decisions that we really should wait until we have a better sense of direction. And I think you should prioritize the areas that you wanted to focus on first as the areas that need the most attention - and our downtown is certainly (one)."

The decision on holding off on a city plan has become a bone of contention at City Hall, and is frequently brought up in council meetings when development applications are discussed.

A bare minority of council have been suggesting the city go ahead with developing a new plan - or at least a downtown plan - that would help determine where and what development is appropriate.

Mayor Dennis O'Keefe insists that going ahead with a plan - either for the downtown or the city as a whole - without the guidance of a regional plan could cause irrevocable damage to the city.

"it's important to have the big picture completed so that then when we review our own municipal plan it will be in the context of the relationship we have with the regional plan," O'Keefe says. "To do it in reverse wouldn't be advisable, I think, because you could be putting in motion a series of decisions that might end up being contrary to the regional plan."

Further, he says it's not good planning to balkanize the city and look at one part over another.

"No, we're not doing (it). We have a city plan and our city plan is still in tact. ... We will review in 2011 and it's not right to do mini-plans for different sections of the city."

Don't wait for us

The regional plan, which is scheduled to be completed by March 2011, would include decisions about development beyond the 90-metre contour, transportation considerations, parks and farmland.

However, the province doesn't seem to have a problem with muncipalities going ahead with their own plans.

A spokeswoman for the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs says there are no rules or regulations preventing the city of St. John's from completing its municipal plan.

In fact, she says, the province is encouraging most municipalities to carry on with their own plans.

She says there have been a couple of delays in the regional plan process, including province-wide municipal elections, that might yet mean the plan won't be finished on time.

Further, the website designed to advertise and update the public about the progress still says there will be "visioning sessions" in the fall of 2009. Other notices on the site say that sessions for October have been cancelled.

Several of the 15 communities in the region have already started work on their municipal plans, including Portugal Cove-St. Philip's, C.B.S., Torbay and Holyrood.

C.B.S. Mayor Woodrow French says his town council decided to go ahead with the municipal plan because theirs was so outdated.

"It came about and basically we have to go ahead and do our municipal plan regardless of the regional plan," he says, explaining that the public meetings process is complete and all the information has been sent off to consultants to compile a plan for the town.

C.B.S. should have some form of its municipal plan done by the fall, French says.

Full consultation

Meanwhile, Duff is suggesting to St. John's council that they and city staff at least start looking at how municipal plans elsewhere are done. That's something O'Keefe and most other councillors are agreeable to.

Duff wants to see a comprehensive public consultation process and the inclusion of what residents want to see in their city.

"That does require some creative approaches, not just simply announcing that there's a meeting and telling them to come down, but actually inviting different stakeholders to sit around the same table and actually think about where we want to be in 10 years' time."

Duff agrees the current plan is fine, and that there may not be many changes to it at the end of the day. But, she says, the process still has to happen.

"I think the general philosophy of it is good, but it's constantly being battered and criticized and changed without having a long-term picture of where we're going to end up. We're creating precedents without having the blueprint," Duff says.

amorrissey@thetelegram.com

WEBLINKS:

www.stjohns.ca

www.nearplan.ca




REGIONAL PLAYERS

The Northeast Avalon Regional plan will encompass these 15 communities:
- St. John's
- Mount Pearl
- Conception Bay South (C.B.S.)
- Paradise
- Portugal Cove-St. Philip's
- Torbay
- Wabana
- Holyrood
- Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove
- Pouch Cove
- Flatrock
- Witless Bay
- Bay Bulls
- Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove
- Bauline
- Butterpot-Witless Bay Line area

Organizations: Department of Municipal Affairs

Geographic location: St. John's, Portugal Cove, Holyrood Witless Bay Northeast Avalon Mount Pearl Conception Bay Logy Bay Pouch Cove Bay Bulls

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Recent comments

  • Marilyn
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I was reading an article yesterday regarding the development of the Pleasantville area. I was not pleased and found it appalling. It seems to me that the municipal government is using this area to segregate people of a certain class group, namely the lower class of society. I am for development of any area but I do not like that the concentration of design for this area is based primary on social standing. low income housing, single parenting housing, apartment complexes etc. It is very hard in society to break the stigma attached to a certain group or if you are of a low class. I believe that housing for low income persons, single parents, apartment complexes should be spread throughout our city. All children should grow up in areas where there is a blend of all classes so that they are not identified according to their parents social status. This area is considered already by some to be a welfare area and I believe that this type of thinking should change. If this development should happen, the area will be marked as the welfare state of St. John's just as areas as Cashin Avenue is referred to as the Blocks or Buckmaster Circle is referred as the Circle . Children who grow up in areas where they are not segregated have a better chance of improving their lot in life and have a better chance of growing to be more responsible. law abiding career oriented adults of society. Just my opinion, it just seems to build all lower class housing in one particular area is not a smart decision.

  • Esron
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I have issues with their plans, as, from what I can see, they have no plans.
    The only plan seems to be to build as many subdivisions as possible, and hope for the best, which, in the end, will never work.

    We don't need more subdivisions, if anything, we need less, as the current state of the city, and surrounding areas is fast becoming a suburban wasteland, which in turn, is causing the population density to fall, which means, per square KM, there will not be enough people to fund all of the city services, and will cause a major increase in traffic. Sure, you can off set it, but it only works for so long before you need to jack up taxes to compensate for the shortfall in income due to low density, or the city will collapse on itself. Another issue that is cause by low density is traffic...a lot of traffic, because people are now living further and further from their work place, they must now commute longer distances, resulting in far more cars, which results in traffic jams [Look at Los Angeles: They are so sprawly and such low density (and with out an adequate transit system) that traffic jams are almost a constant, and as a result of all of those idling cars, major pollution], and then results in more road repairs more often, as there is that much more road to fix.

    Also, the more sprawly a city is, the more it affects the local climate, by way of lack of trees [as they have been removed for development] and the kilometres of new pavement heat up at causes the local temperature to skyrocket.

    Transit, in this case, is not the answer, as transit cannot effectively service suburbs as they can with a more dense neighbourhood, because of lack of riders per square KM, won't be able to properly fund the service.

    We need more apartment buildings and condos, closer together, with better pedestrian access, and better access to transit [Because the local population would be dense enough then].

    The only city/town in the region that probably does not need a plan would be Mount Pearl, as it is enclosed on all sides, therefore, limiting sprawl, and for it's land area, is dense enough to feasibly tax to fund city services, some times with a surplus. I'm not saying Mount Pearl is perfect, as it could be far more dense with better transit, but it already has pedestrian access in place through out the city, but over all, it should serve as a model for the rest of the region.

    As for amalgamation, that is the worst idea ever. It will never, I repeat N E V E R work as promised because it just dilutes the density of a city, and the city that was taken over, who had a perfectly stable tax base, and adequately funded services, will soon find that their services are cut because they can't be funded to the same degree as before due to the dilution of the density, resulting in tax dollars from the annexed city going to fund another section of the city that doesn't have the proper tax base [Due to improper planning].

    While this, in writing, all seems very complex, it is actually common sense.

    Here is a good example: Go get a bunch of coins, dollars, nickels, pennies, doesn't matter, and toss them in a pile, on top of a blank piece of paper.

    Now draw a circle around the pile.

    Now start spreading that money out side of the circle, and keep drawing circles around the pile. Keep going until you reach the limits of the paper.

    Notice how far you have spread the money, and how big the circle on the outside got. Those circles represent the cities infrastructure. As the circle gets bigger, the tax base generally remains the same but the costs of the infrastructure has skyrocketed because of [lack of] density.

    In the end, I can't tell the city what to do [Otherwise, the city would look very different, in places, right now], but all I can say is - STOP!

    Get a qualified city planner [Or maybe even an unqualified one, as their current one doesn't seem to be doing the job] and start from scratch.

  • chuck
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    The best plans would be in my opinion is to get rid of all the old folks on council and put some open minded councillors there. The mess on kenmount rd. with lights everywhere holding up traffic to a standstill could have been improved if ramps and causeways were buiilt as in most cities. Might be costly but would pay off in the long run.