Here is the second of several articles in the December issue of the Mud Creek News.
Wolfville and the Greenwich issue
Lutz E. Becker
On November 04, 2010 Kings County held a Public Participation Meeting at the Greenwich Fire Hall regarding the Elderkin et. al. application to re-zone the farm lands adjacent to Wolfville’s Western boundary for commercial and residential development.
I heard excellent presentations against a re-zoning which really made sense. My two top choices were the presentations of farmer Tom Cosman and Councillor Keith Irving (full-text-ones on the MCN web-site).
Mr. Irving outlined three major concerns of the Town of Wolfville and its projected negative impacts on our community.
The first one covered the cost of infrastructure. As soon as turned over to the municipality, the infrastructure (maintaining roads, sewer and water systems etc.) will become a liability and due to the fact that it can take very many (up to 20) years for the vacant lots to be fully developed, the additional yearly tax revenue might or will not cover infrastructure maintenance and/or replacement costs and the tax payer will have to fill the gap. A Greenwich re-zoning will take quite a demand away from Wolfville’s existing and half-filled subdivisions, hurting its tax base and shifting an unnecessary burden to its tax payers. Each planned 50 acre development parcel will hold up to 300 units with a total capacity of 2,280 dwelling units. It may take decades to sell and fill all of them.
Irving’s second point focused on the real and demonstrated demand on building units. He stated that over a 20 year period (until 2006) the population in entire Kings County (including the 3 Towns) grew 12.7% or 6,760 persons in total. He then calculated that Kings County (including Kentville, Berwick and Wolfville) has at present time close to 20,000 units worth of land zoned for residential development. If about 300 new housing units a year are developed there would be enough land to accommodate 67 years of growth and demand. From this point of view the Elderkin application justifies no need for a new growth center by creating an oversupply and economic strains for existing developments.
The third point of Councillor Irving was introduced by the more political statement that municipal leaders and planners must consider the public good and not just the views and needs of a few individuals. Contracting an external consultant, with no corporate knowledge and without an understanding of the regional issues, to look at this farm land in isolation of the rest of the county, has resulted in a recommendation of a new growth center for which the need is more than questionable. Councillor Irving’s and the Town’s views were to move to a long overdue regional planning structure and that there was no reason to rush a decision due to the fact that any demand for growth could be accommodated in Kings County for about 67 years already.
Kings County Council passed the first reading of the Greenwich amendments 6:5 on December 07. Your last chance to have your voice heard will be at the Public Meeting at Kings County Council Chambers on January 17, 2011 at 5 pm. The final voting will then be done the very next day.
We will reserve our comments on this issue except for one which we would like to make now concerning Keith Irving ‘s presentation. He says:
History has shown that it can take many years for subdivisions to be fully developed -some have taken 10 – 20 or more years to be built-out. Meanwhile during those 20 years the roads and sewers and water systems are being fully maintained… while the tax revenue ramps up only as houses are built. In other words the town is paying for the full cost of maintaining and using the infrastructure, while the tax revenue may be well below its potential because of vacant lots. What is the sense…we asked ourselves…of having three competing subdivisions… half developed …generating half the potential taxes…but all requiring full road maintenance…water and sewer services and solid waste collection… at full cost?
What is the sense indeed. Why has Wolfville given developers a long time period to build out? This was and is in Council’s control; they could have demanded more immediate construction before approving. It is disingenuous to blame this on developers – or on Greenwich farmers. Mr. Irving’s presentation is an admission of Wolfville’s poor planning, yet Wolfville taxpayers have paid for a burgeoning planning Dept.
In Wolfville we perhaps now understand being caught up in the dreams of big development and growth.
Love that word perhaps. Mr. Irving is perhaps the only one on Council with any sense. But he also says this:
As Municipal leaders and planners must consider the public good. While considering the needs of the individual we must also consider the public good.
Why should we put our trust in our Council to decide what is in the public’s best interest when they have done such a bad job so far?
The most important decision is who makes the decisions. -Thomas Solwell