Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Community battles on

Tonight there was a community meeting regarding the on-going saga of the development on the convent site. The meeting gave us an overview of the proposed site plan and highlighted some of the outstanding issues.

This whole story has been very discouraging for the community surrounding the development site. Right from the start the community has worked hard to express our concerns to the city, our Councillors and the developers. Time after time we find that public interests are trumped by the will and power of developers. It’s been a very negative lesson in municipal politics for me.

At this meeting, the planner-consultant hired by a local community group went over the proposed site plans which the developer has given to the city. It was interesting to hear her point of view since she is not emotionally vested like many of the people who speak at these meetings and she also has the experience to identify what aspects of the site plan are unusual or which do not fully address the issues at hand.

One of the problems she pointed out is that normally by the time a development gets to the ‘site plan’ stage, all the big issues like density, drainage and vehicular access have been addressed. In this case, these have not been fully addressed – not just to the community’s satisfaction, but even city staffers and councillors admit that all these issues have not been sorted out.

However, since site plans usually address such things as ‘birch tree here, fir tree there; red paving stones here, brick here, etc’ so there are not the mechanisms for real community input. So even though the big issues have not been answered, we’ve somehow skipped ahead to approving the colour of the building fa├žade. Wtf?

But another big problem we face is that the developers have split the development into two phases (which apparently is quite typical) but they’re being purposefully vague about what will happen during the second phase. Essentially there’s a large 9-storey building smack in the middle of the property to which developers are mum about how there will be vehicle access.

There’s much more to say about this, so I’ll continue tomorrow.

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