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2014-04-29 at 21:15

Limiting the sprawl

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By Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com

THUNDER BAY -- Many of the proposed changes to the city’s official plan are designed to limit urban sprawl.

City supervisor of policy and development Anne Dawkins says the planning division is looking at ways of keeping rural land areas intact for their primary purposes, which are mainly resource based.

“In order to protect land for those preferred land use you limit residential development,” Dawkins said at a public feedback open house session on Tuesday at the St. John Ambulance headquarters.

“Residential in the rural areas is actually seen as incompatible with many of the resource uses.”

That includes limiting subdivisions to two areas in the southern portion of city limits.

Dawkins said the two hamlets, one between Highway 61 and 20th Side Road and the second between Rosslyn Road, 25th Side Road and West Arthur Street, will allow developers to fill in partial residential areas rather than creating completely new divisions.

It serves as infilling rather than spreading, she said.

Development consultant Stefan Huzan says there are significant reductions in development potential that go too far beyond achieving an urban and rural residential balance.

He said while compact development and measures to reduce sprawl are generally positive, it might be too restrictive with well-documented needs for more housing.

“To slow down and add impediments and barriers to the development of new housing doesn’t seem to jive with that objective,” Huzan said.

“Any steps to increase the supply of lots is welcomed and sought rather than increasing the barriers.”

Huzan, who worked for the city in the planning department for nearly 30 years, says the proposed changes are causing frustrations to developers and property owners alike.

One of the most common concerns he keeps hearing is the new restrictions on the severance of lots.

“For people who had invested in land with the idea of someday in the future of sever it and give it to (a family member), you can’t do that. You lose half your investment,” Huzan said.

Dawkins acknowledged the severance issue has been one of the most often discussed topics at the open house, saying city representatives had heard from close to 20 concerned residents.

The new proposed plan still has to be voted on and approved by city council before becoming official.

It is still unsure when the draft of the new original plan will be presented to council. Dawkins said the original target was the June 15 meeting but it might have to wait until September after the summer break.


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Comments

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Wolfie says:
Great news. Limiting urban sprawl will reduce municipal costs. It's things like this that the "Concerned Taxpayers of Thunder Bay" should be most concerned about.
4/29/2014 10:05:17 PM
mika says:
Yes, where are the "concerned taxpayers" group on this issue... or are they just "concerned" when their preferred site... a BUSINESS PARK, isn't chosen as the most logical and economical site for the future, Thunder Bay Event Centre?

Sprawl and it's associated cost for any municipality is the number ONE drain on city coffers!!!
4/30/2014 10:28:51 AM
averagejoe says:
What if I don't want to live in rack-em and stack-em multi unit buildings downtown, or in congested inner city residential neighbourhoods? Next I'll be told where to work and where I can travel.

UN Agenda 21 and ICLEI at work. Think these programs sound great? Think of the future impact on your freedoms.
4/30/2014 12:44:26 PM
tbay2005 says:
Want to bet no one on council or at the city deciding on this owns property in these areas?!
4/29/2014 11:47:44 PM
fastball says:
Congratulations on being the first one to troll about this long-overdue proposal. This about the city's long-term viability.
4/30/2014 10:54:35 AM
New Democrat says:
The time to limit sprawl was before you clowns approved Parkdale, Sherwood Estates, and the smaller subdivisions in Neebing.

Now the tax base is pushed higher to pay for building and maintaining infrastructure to these subdivisions and what these homes pay in taxes, although they're more affluent, still do not provide enough taxes to cover what it actually costs to live so spread out.

This city's fear of anything over four storeys will cost it dearly in taxes. Glad I don't live in city limits anymore so I'm not the one who has to pay for it.
4/30/2014 4:13:32 AM
Wolfie says:
Agreed. But better late than never.
4/30/2014 9:49:24 AM
jonthunder says:
Stop the urban/rural sprawl. It raises infrastructure and service costs for all citizens. It hinders the old areas of the city from being rebuilt and urban renewal. It discourages the higher efficiency of increased density. This should have happened in 1970 when Thunder Bay was created and the first official plan recommended filling in the empty lots within the city - it did not recommend such sprawl, yet it happened.
4/30/2014 7:43:02 AM
The Beaver..... says:
“For people who had invested in land with the idea of someday in the future of severing it and give it to (a family member)"you can’t do that". You lose half your investment,” Huzan said.
Now why did I never think of that oh well back to the drawing board
4/30/2014 8:07:27 AM
spazz says:
This is a step in the right direction. Thunder Bay needs to grow upwards, not outwards. I do think that severance should be allowed in a non-commercial setting though. As long as certain space requirements are met.
4/30/2014 8:45:47 AM
MikeD says:
I agree that we need to invest in the cores and build up, that's the future of thunder bay right now to reduce excessive urban sprawl.

But we NEED to bridge the north core with the south core to unite the city so we can get away from all this P.A. vs. F.W. bs we all deal with. Thunder Bay's residential area should look like a big C with downtown P.A., F.W. and intercity as its core.
Unfortunately, innova park, the city's biggest mistake in the last 25 years prevented the residential bridge from forming on this side of the expressway. So we need to build it on the west side of the expressway. This plan isn't going to help with lowering taxes. It will just handcuff our children from fixing our mistakes. That and there are hard-core P.A. and F.W individuals at the city who don't ever want their old town to merge with the other old town. Springfield vs. Shelbyville bs.
4/30/2014 9:50:31 AM
conker2012 says:
This plan is a good start, but there is still about 40-50 million dollars in new infrastructure to support the suburbs that is not necessary. Making changes like the NW arterial and converting Alice/belrose into major arterial routes will not serve the best interest of the community. These projects only cost millions to build and do nothing but raise the infrastructure deficit.

How about some smart planning like include new intersections along the west side of the new golflinks/junot project. The new road being build will not include for the new roads that will be needed to convert the area contained within the expressway and the project into a residential area. When this new suburb will be built a new roads will need to be cut into the recently finished project..... WASTE OF MONEY.

The city wants to stop sprawl, yet the transportation plan does not include one upgrade to any transportation infrastructure in the core areas. Perhaps Harbour expressway extension to Cumberland perhaps
4/30/2014 10:11:07 AM
common cents says:
Conker did you mean to say:

A downtown events center "will not serve the best interest of the community. These projects only cost millions to build and do nothing but raise the infrastructure deficit".

flip flop much?????
5/1/2014 7:08:08 PM
MikeD says:
All the lots in the downtown cores are contaminated. Its a huge cost for a developer to clean up the site then build...That's why the empty lots are not being built on....not urban sprawl.
4/30/2014 11:47:26 AM
fastball says:
Contaminated with....what? Oil, gas, asbestos, nuclear?
I'm not trolling - just legitimately interested.
4/30/2014 1:01:38 PM
SomeGuy says:
Given the audience of this forum, it's probably poor people.
4/30/2014 10:54:06 PM
Duncan Debunker says:
Perhaps I am just confused on this issue so maybe someone can clarify things for me, but isn't restricting development counter-productive?

Jobs need workers, workers need homes. Since we can't build homes on top of homes, and since not everyone can afford to live in a 300k condo, why is rural development a bad thing?
4/30/2014 11:48:39 AM
BetterThunderBay says:
Rural development isn't by definition a bad thing, but the current official plan allows for it to be done in a way that is detrimental (see recent subdivisions).

As other commenters have noted it can be a drain on city resources. In fact, council recently approved a subdivision that planning recommended rejection. One of the reasons why they recommended that it be rejected was because the taxes paid by those living in the subdivision would not be enough to cover the cost of providing services to them (it's a comparatively remote area). Therefore, all other taxpayers subsidize their living arrangement. It's not a particularly sustainable development pattern (for lots of other reasons also).

The new official plan accommodates many housing types, not just condos. There are plenty of underused areas within the existing urban limits that can support smarter growth and house those workers you're talking about.
4/30/2014 12:50:45 PM
hadenough says:
I think that you're for the most part correct.

However there are a lot of City and private owned sites that could be sold and used to infill.
The old PA General site comes to mind as does the LPH green space once that has been decided. Perhaps not as prestigious as some of the semi rural but available all the same.

I'll bet once the City has sold off the "surplus" lands that it owns, they'll revisit this change or maybe I'm just a cynic.
4/30/2014 1:14:36 PM
smartguy83 says:
I don't think this is an issue. Those condo's should result in the owners selling of their homes. Also, anyone who is building is looking at paying $200k+++++++++++.

For people strapped for cash, you should not be building a new home anyways. Maybe that's the problem with this city?

Buying older homes and fixing them up is what the City wants. Businesses are just as guilty. New buildings while older buildings sit unoccupied.

Reinvesting in existing infrastructure is more beneficial from a city stand point.
4/30/2014 3:49:19 PM
Arch Stanton says:
It's astonishing that these 'Town-Planners' still get to spout their drivel to the rest of us.

The only thing that would improve 90% of the work they have ever done is A BULLDOZER!!!
4/30/2014 12:26:46 PM
BetterThunderBay says:
Fantastic news! A better official plan that includes control for sprawl will help us grow in a way that we can sustain.
4/30/2014 12:42:17 PM
Eastender says:
Glad you asked. Urban sprawl in Thunder Bay is a myth, created by people with a narrow view of how people should exist, that is being crowded into tiny 600 square foot condos, costing half a million dollars a la Vancouver. This is not a major metropolis, and does not suffer from urban sprawl. Restrictions on building and severing property will only drive up the price of housing, making it ever harder for the economically challenged minimum wage earners to find affordable housing. It will only benefit those who own real estate in the inner city, since land prices will skyrocket.
Living in a suburban environment has many advantages, such as fresh air, greenery, no noise, and a generally more relaxed lifestyle. These are values which you cant put a price on. Bottom line is you pay more taxes but you get good value. Unlike some of the goods we are being sold by those with an agenda and a buck to make.
Urban sprawl? In Thunder Bay? Pfffft!
4/30/2014 12:58:23 PM
SomeGuy says:
There are not enough words to explain how wrong you are.
4/30/2014 4:24:39 PM
Eastender says:
Dont get me wrong, i am not against developing and utilizing property within the city cores, I am just against imposed restrictions on development of rural land, unless there are strong, convincing and compelling reasons for such restrictions.
Social engineering doesn't qualify as such. Forcing people to live in highrises is not a desireable or convincing arguement for rural building restrictions.
As I stated esrlier, it only plays into the hands of a select few real estate developers who control property within the city.
There is a lot of available land within the cores that could be utilized, however there does not seem to be a will in this administration to encourage its use.
5/1/2014 9:34:44 AM
fastball says:
We've got 480 square kilometers of township to service. We run roads up to 5 miles away - build those roads, pave/plow those roads, provide water and hydro to those places...and we get a few grand back in taxes from those places per year? It costs MILLIONS to provide those services...they could pay 5K in taxes a year and never come close to paying off the costs.
4/30/2014 4:38:57 PM
Wolfie says:
I disagree with most of your comment, but agree with the part about severing. I'm not sure why the city would prevent this since it builds density and would generate much higher tax revenue from the same lot.
4/30/2014 5:44:53 PM
progress now says:
My understanding is high density will give you the cheapest accommodations, and with high density you have a lot of opportunity for services and business to find niches for themselves - niches that make neighbourhoods interesting places to live.

I have lived in many cities, and personally, would not challenge the value of high density.
4/30/2014 6:11:48 PM
BetterThunderBay says:
Check out the draft official plan, you'll be happy to find out that it sounds nothing like the "Vancouver-like" picture you've painted.

I hate to say it, but sprawl in Thunder Bay is definitely real, and fixing it doesn't necessarily lead to the outcomes that you project. Thunder Bay is only one city in a very big world, and lots of other places have dealt with the same issues successfully.

If low density is your thing, I wouldn't worry, most of Thunder Bay will feel like the suburbs for a very long time.
4/30/2014 9:50:49 PM
thunderbaycouncel says:
this will never pass. stupidest thing ever! lawsuits against the city will be huge if this passes.
4/30/2014 3:03:48 PM
SomeGuy says:
How could the city get sued from this? Please enlighten us.
4/30/2014 7:43:11 PM
cazam says:
I can't believe they actually figured this out.

Now if they could provide incentives to develop the city from within we may see some progress in this city!!!
4/30/2014 6:04:03 PM
thunderbaycouncel says:
someguy: ive looked into it. If someone has purchased many acres of property in the last few years in hopes of subdivision and/or profit, then this happeneds...
5/1/2014 1:29:51 PM
SomeGuy says:
I don't think that's possible, I highly doubt that any government, or anything really guarantees you a profit on speculating on land.

If the subdivision is already approved for development though they could not just rezone it for a different kind of development.
5/1/2014 9:29:52 PM
j_northey says:
I grew up within an hours drive of Toronto and the sprawl there is insane. The costs of it are sky-high and taxes in a lot of the cities there make the taxes here seem low. However, the city of Toronto has a rock bottom tax rate even with services far beyond what we could imagine here due to the density.

Encouraging more urban density is a very good thing. Makes public transit cheaper (more riders, smaller distance), reduces road costs (fewer needed), reduces sewer costs (again, less needed), etc. If someone wants the countryside then they can build their own home out there and be serviced by wells. No need to expand the city further out.
5/1/2014 2:09:44 PM
dbty says:
What about the people who own property on the fringe of the city? Is the city prepared to lower their taxes because the value of their property will now decrease?
5/1/2014 5:21:12 PM
tsb says:
Calgary's land use plan is far more restrictive than ours... Toronto, denser than us, has considerably lower taxes AND better services.

Do the math, guys.
5/1/2014 6:23:15 PM
mystified says:
Simple!
If you own property apply for severance today, or sever it before the proposed changes take effect.
5/2/2014 8:37:12 AM
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