David Daniels has sent us comments that he has given to our Town Council regarding the MPS and LUB Review. As requested we are posting them here. This is the first of three letters and has already been posted on Voices of Wolfville. The piece which follows is lengthy but he makes several very good points which make it worth reading through. We have taken the liberty of highlighting some points in bold or underlining. We have also taken the liberty of distinguishing Mr. Daniel’s words from direct quotes from the draft document by colour (quotes are in red).
August 4, 2008
Dear Mayor and Councilors:
I intend to provide you with three different sets of comments and questions on Draft 4 of the MPS, in addition to comments I hope to make at the August 11th public hearing. The first set of comments and questions, which I will be include in this letter, will provide a “running” commentary on the entire MPS. The second set of comments I hope to write will deal with specific issues at greater length, and the third document will consist of proposed revisions to particular sections of the MPS with explanations.
I request that all my comments be made part of the official record of the Council’s review of the MPS and LUB.
Part 1 and Part 2:
There are repeated references in these two sections to the environmental, economic, social and cultural dimensions in planning. Yet the MPS does not contain either much detail or proposals which deal directly with the economic, social and cultural aspects of planning.
By stressing the “environmental” dimension of planning and not sufficiently taking into account the other dimensions of planning (economic, social and cultural) you end up with statements such as the following found in section 8.3:
“Land use policies that: encourage residential clustering; zone high density developments along established transit routes; encourage the infilling (development) of existing vacant land in built-up areas; integrate work, residence and shopping in mixed use development; and encourage the development of walking and bicycling facilities promote energy-efficient land use and therefore more sustainable residential development over the long term.”
Yes, these may “promote” energy efficiency, but “sustainability” is more than just that. Sustainability also refers to the sustaining neighbourhoods, and social and economic networks, etc.
1.3. Reference is made to the The Natural Step as providing the framework for the MPS. Will there be at least a reference so that readers will have some idea of what the TNS entails? Or even better, include a brief summary, if possible, of the TNS and how in practice it was used.
I recall that John Brown, a member of the STF, stated on several occasions that he believed the steps required by TNS process were not being followed by the STF.
2.1 Vision Statement.
Reference is made to “citizen engagement through ongoing public consultation.” See also Principle 7 of the Melbourne Principle.
It is ironic that there were repeated critical and constructive comments made about the Vision Statement at one of the earlier PAC meetings (at the Irving Centre). And yet, the Vision Statement has not changed at all.
When I raised this issue at the July 28th meeting, I recall Deputy Mayor Wrye stating that the Vision Statement had previously been adopted by Council. Isn’t the Vision Statement, like the rest of the MPS, now subject to revision and adoption by the Council?
Part 3: Community Profile
I have pointed out before that the Community Profile lacks crucial information. The Profile contains no information about shopping patterns for town residents or their commuting habits.
There is no information about the decrease in enrolment at Acadia, and whether or not there was an increased vacancy rate last school year in the town.
I would refer you to Chapter 1 Background, pages 4-5, of the January 2006 Commercial Development Plan: “Data Limitations. In same way that convention wisdom of problems can be based on unfounded assumptions not supported by fact, there is a lack of data and a need to collect this and understand the date to assist in accurately defining the problem. This data needs to be quantified.”
Reference is made to the “devastating social effects” if the public school were to close and later the MPS states that “Young families require affordable housing in Wolfville in order to be encouraged to settle here . . .” Yet there is no precise information about where young families are settling or the employment situation.
There is no information about what effect, if any, the increased price of gas may have on the town.
Part 5: Objectives
Background: para 3: any information about tourism and high price of fuel?
5.1.8: should this policy be stated explicitly within the Part 18 Implementation?
5.1.9: is there actually “urban sprawl” occurring in Wolfville? Again, should this policy be made part of the principles guiding RCDD developments and/or referenced in Part 18 Implementation policies?
5.1.19: There is reference to “new urbanism.” Should there be a summary of what this means; or at least some a citation to what the Council has in mind.
5.1.22 Foster citizen participation. What is new in this new MPS which will foster citizen participation? (I hope to write more about this issue.)
Part 6: Conservation and Environmental Stewardship
6.1.1. Is “environmentally sensitive area” a defined term? I did not see it in the LUB. My concern is that what if there is an area which is environmentally sensitive or becomes environmentally sensitive and is not included on Map 3. Will it be protected? The better, more protective approach, may be to protect “environmentally sensitive areas” as defined, including, but not limited to, those areas specified on Map 3.
6.1.2. Same comment as 6.1.1, above, except for “riparian buffer.”
6.1.13. Is this part of the FCM grant requirement? If so, does it need to be treated in a different way?
6.1.17. “limit” types of land uses permitted on flood plan. Why not provide for limiting and in appropriate circumstances, prohibiting uses in a flood plain. The Council has the authority to do this.
Part 7: Parks, Open Space and Recreation.
7.4.2. It is unclear whether developers have choice whether or not to provide land or cash in lieu. Was legal opinion sought on powers of the town on this issue? If possible, preference would be to give town the option, and not developer.
Part 8: Residential Development and Land Use
Background: “The construction of detached single unit dwellings has been on the decline.” Does this statement take into account Woodman Grove and Cadry developments?
“Compact residential development within easy walking/cycling distance of shops, services and work reduces community dependence on the private automobile and facilitates a more active and healthy lifestyle.”
This statement may be true in the abstract, but does it apply to Wolfville? Without information about where residents shop and work, and their ability to walk and cycle, it is hard to know what impacts “compactness” will have.
In the Background section there is no discussion of attracting families (however you wish to define “families”) with young children. Are they not moving to N.S.? Are they heading west? Do they prefer cities? Where are the employment opportunities? Are they moving to Port Williams? And if so, why?
Is affordable housing a way to attract young families? If so, are young families seeking “higher density developments”?
What does “higher density residential developments” mean? Is that clustered developments? Or multi-unit apartment buildings?
Can the last two paragraphs in the Background section be explicitly incorporated into the RCDD and Implementation policies?
Para 2, sentence 2: “ . . . mixture of housing types in all residential areas.” This claim may not make sense in a small town. As Mr. Gordon pointed out in his comments at the last public hearing, different residential types in Wolfville are in close proximity, but not necessarily in the same residential area.
8.2 Medium Density Residential
Para 1: last sentence. Are the “residents” you are referring to mainly students? If so, the MPS should state that. Also, are there statistics on car ownership?
8.3 High Density Residential
Can there be explanation or citations to “smart growth” and “new urbanism”?
8.4 Comprehensive Development District.
(I will propose changes to this section in another comment.)
How will the RCDD work, in practice. There is a max. of 12 dwelling units per acre and 5 dwelling units per acre minimum. 8.4.4.(c). To be allowed to construct 12 per acre the developer will be required to to have “an exceptional and wide ranging response to the sustainability criteria . . .” Does that mean that if a developer wants only 5 units per acre only a minimum response is required. See 8.4.5
Have developers been consulted about this scheme?
The recent Commercial Development Plan has several references to residential development which are not discussed in any detail the MPS.
For example, page 30 makes reference to the attractiveness of the community for retirement age people. What are the implications for having diverse population?
On the same page under “Threats” there is reference to new real estate developments in nearby communities. Again, what are the implications for the town.
Under “Trends” on page 30 there is reference to “more multiunit developments will follow in Wolfville as it becomes easier [because of the twinning of 101] to commute to and from Halifax.”
Given the increase in the price of fuel, is this statement still valid? Will public transport be available? And what are the implications for residential planning?
Part 9: Commercial Development and Land Use.
”A mixture of land uses in the commercial core of the community allows people to live within walking distance of work and obtain basic services and necessities without requiring private transportation.”
Is there any information about employment downtown? Where do the people live who work in the shops?
There are several references to bicycle access and safety in this section. See, for example, 9.1.3. and 9.1.4; see also Part 13 references on cycling. Are there any concrete plans or proposals on how to deal with biking in the downtown area? And if not, why not? If not a plan, then at least a list of suggestions.
I recall this was an issue discussed several times during STF meetings.
9.2 Central Commercial
There is no discussion about shopping patterns of those who live in the Town. Certainly, there could have been some mention about the fact that New Minas is right down the road. What will happen if public transport becomes more available to townsfolk?
9.4 Industrial Commercial.
Third paragraph under background. Why has there been little or no light industrial development in the town? Is there anything which can be done in the planning context to encourage such development?
9.4.8(d): why limit environmental damage to just “significant” damage? And in the last line of the subsection, why qualify damage to “undue” damage? If you wish to protect the environment, you may wish to eliminate both these qualifiers. And in any case, find out why they were inserted in the first place.
Part 10: Institutional Development and Land Use.
There is no discussion about dropping enrolment at Acadia. Why not? What are the implications if enrolment drops further for the commercial sector of town? for residential sector?
Part 11: Agriculture.
I hope to include more detailed statements in another set of comments.
Part 13: Transportation, Public Services and Utilities.
Again, there is little or no concrete information about how residents travel in and around Wolfville. How many commute to workplaces outside Wolfville, and do they use carpools or public transport? Where to people shop and how do they get there?
There is reference to “bike friendly streets.” See also similar references in 13.2.
If the MPS does not contain specific plans to make this a reality, were there ideas that were mentioned during the almost three year planning process? I recall some discussion about having a dedicated bike lane downtown.
13.3 Police and Fire Protection
I see no discussion about possible future problems recruiting volunteers for the fire department. Will an aging population and increased housing costs lead to such a problem?
Can there be some provision/discussion about living off the grid?
Part 15: Parking, etc.
Background, last sentence in para. 1.
“Due to the current number of parking spaces in the downtown area mandatory parking requirements for new developments in the central commercial zone will be removed from the Land Use By-law.”
Can you provide further explanation and details? What was the reasoning behind this position?
Part 16: Landscaping, Etc.
16.1.3. Replace “developments” with more inclusive phrase, such as “buildings and developments”.
16.1.8: Specify that town has authority to require size and type of tree replacement.
Part 18: Implementation.
I will propose changes to language for approving development agreements in another set of comments.
The PAC recommended that the DO not have the power to grant variances for lot frontage and lot area. Should the ability to grant variances for percentage of land to be built upon also be eliminated?
David A. Daniels
The main point we see to conclude is that the language of the MPS review exposes the blinkered, one track, view of the framers of the document ( who used words and phrases cribbed from a variety of popular but inappropriate places). It is not a balanced document which takes into account the varied interests and concerns of residents and as such it will not serve the Town or its ratepayers well as time goes on.