There is controversy once again coming out of City Hall as council tries to institute an added tax for new developments. The Municipal Government has positioned itself in a way of trying to recover costs associated with infrastructure development and the increasing deficit our city has where as the provincial government has indicated they will not approve additional taxes as they are providing enough money to the city for infrastructure so it leaves us to wonder what the right solution is. Well both have gotten it wrong.
Our continued difficulty with Municipal and Provincial politics in the area of development is lack of a sustainable development plan. The reasons our city struggles with Urban Sprawl as well as development situations that place our Mayor and Councilors in ethical dilemmas to decisions they make in regards to projects is we have no guidelines or protocols for the design, development or approval of projects. Development is seen by our Mayor as a purely economic decision rather than a decision that needs to take into account economic, social, environmental and long-term sustainability of our city.
Why has the City of Winnipeg and the Provincial Government got it wrong. The Niagara Region has a guiding vision for determining growth.
The purpose of planning is to guide the physical development and redevelopment of the Municipality. Planning seeks to manage the land and resources within a municipality to ensure a healthy and sustainable future economically, socially and environmentally.
Good planning ensures orderly development and provides appropriate locations and choice for homes, retail shops, parks, offices and industrial uses, supported by an appropriate network of services such as sewers and roads and transit. Good planning also takes into account the need to preserve heritage resources, conserve energy, and protect our natural features, such as the Niagara Escarpment and our valley and wetlands.
They use these guidelines in order to assist in the development of incentives to create and rejuvenate existing communities. The trouble with Urban Sprawl is it creates the need for expanded infrastructure without generating the tax revenue to support it. It also creates the need for increased transportation needs as people commute to work. Our other neighbourhoods still exist so we also need to maintain current services like police, hospital, schools, libraries well we now need to expand these services to our bedroom communities. Our desire to spread out to the suburbs not only increases our reliance on cars but also is putting houses on once productive farmland. As our neighbourhoods sprawl our sense of community diminishes. This does not meet any environmental standard. We need to develop strong vibrant communities that are self-sufficient with parks, stores, shops all within walking distance.
The Niagara Region has five principles when developing neighbourhoods.
1) Identifiable – meaningful community involvement in the process
2) Interconnected – examining traffic and street design to improve traffic flow
3) Compact and Walkable – mix-use communities that have a wide range of residential designs, businesses, services and recreation in our neighbourhoods
4) Diverse – use street design to create layouts that encourage mutli=use development
5) Respect for Natural Heritage – building should have a strong connection physically and visually to existing natural environmental features (I would add historical and local flavour)
The Mayor and Council would have us believe that by putting guidelines and expectations in place would discourage development. The Niagara Region has a long-term plan until 2031 as to what growth will look like. They have used tax incentives rather than taxes to encourage sustainable growth.
The Niagara region does not tax ‘Urban Sprawl’ but rather provides the guidelines and incentives for growth from a provincial and municipal level. The two governments work together to make vibrant self-sustaining communities by encouraging people and developers to build and rejuvenate existing neighbourhoods. Taxes have always been a needed part of our country to provide those essential services for health, education police and fire services. Taxing the growth, or overtaxing densely populated areas at the same rate as less dense areas is counterproductive to creating a vision for a healthy economic, environmental and neighbourhood growth.
We need to re-examine our attitudes and beliefs about development. To have a city to continue to mismanaged in the manner our current Mayor and Council are doing is all of our responsibilities. We must remember that we do not inherit our earth from our ancestors but rather borrow it from our children.
- Hidden costs of sprawl will cripple cities, report says (thestar.com)
- Sustainability – what’s in a word? (taylorwimpey.co.uk)
- http://www.citiesforpeople.net/cities/curitiba.html (Jaime Lerner)
- http://www.citiesforpeople.net/how/index.html (How to Change – Jaime Lerner)
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