4/19/11

A Lesson in Development

It didn’t take me long to learn that residential development is the most sacred of cows in Miss Mills. Any suggestion to improve a developer’s “perfect” design has about as much chance to succeed as a Falun Gong resolution at a meeting of the Chinese politburo.

This applies to developments big and small. Here are two examples.

A big example

The new developer for the Sadler subdivision (the one behind Tim Hortons) presented phase one of a five-phase development plan in March. All in all, it’s a good plan—the subdivision will not be on quality farmland or a mile from town (like a few we all know about).

One problem is that its design does not integrate with the existing town. Wherever it touches a street, it is fenced with homes looking inward—like a gated community. (Fences make sense next to highways only.) I asked that those houses be turned to face the street and the fences removed. Most councillors thought the fences were no problem. (I intend to bring this up again in later phases.)

John Edwards argued (rightly) that the main north-south street be widened because someday it will be a link to the next subdivision. He also suggested a bike lane. Both ideas were rejected.

When Mayor Levi remarked that he liked the plan just the way it is, most around the table nodded in agreement.

A small example

A landowner on Glen Isle asked to severe two lots on the southwest side of his property. The position of those two lots was right beside two lots severed from another property. Only Borden Road (a narrow private road) separated them. I argued that moving the severances to the southeast side would provide two benefits.

Benefit one: by not having four houses in a row you help preserve rural character. Benefit two: if a future Council wanted to widen Borden Road to town standards to better service the 40 houses along it, having narrow severances on both sides could make the project more difficult and more costly (because of rules for setbacks and minimum lot widths).

I saw the suggestion as a winner—it would not cost the landowner a penny and the change would produce tangible benefits. Only three people supported it. In fact, Councillor Ferguson gave me a terse lecture—saying that it is not our job to tell people what to do with their land.

Silly me. I thought improving development was part of our job.

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