Wolfville and the Greenwich issue

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

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5 responses to “Wolfville and the Greenwich issue

  1. There are too many things to address here. For now, I’ll just tackle one of them.

    It is important to realize that people have a notion that increased growth leads to increased prosperity. It doesn’t. For a relevant statistical study, see:
    http://blogs.alternet.org/growthbusters/2010/12/14/cities-with-stable-population-outperform-fastest-growing-cities/
    and for the full report you should click on the link that says:
    Relationship between Growth and Prosperity in 100 Largest U.S. Metropolitan Areas

    One must keep in mind why people associate high growth with increasing prosperity. We recall that the mid-twentieth century saw explosive development of technologies and petroleum which provided humanity with increased resources like never before. With rapidly increased resource availability we got both population growth and increased wealth. Thus both wealth and population grew, for a time, because of the third factor (increased resource availability). For a time there was a clear correlation between growing wealth and growing population… People have that relationship fixed in their heads. It is a correct relationship, but ONLY in the context for which it was observed. Now we no longer have such rapid increase in resource availability (resources may be shrinking?). The old correlation, which people grew up with, no longer applies for many places — which is exactly consistent with the Eben Fodor work.

    For a complete dynamical analysis, see:
    Colinvaux, Paul A. (1980). The fates of nations: a biological theory of history. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-25204-6.

  2. Question: “Why has Wolfville given developers a long time period to build out?”
    My best guess: because Council operated under the mistaken notion that growth is always good — so they took whatever they could get.

    I am of the opinion that growth can be good or it can be bad, depending entirely upon the specifics. We get into trouble when we obviate thinking in favour of resorting to dogma and popularity contests.

    Sometimes there is good reason for people to relocate so it becomes inevitable that some areas dwindle while others grow. I suspect that may be so in Nova Scotia, with a general trend towards urbanization. I’m not saying I like it, just that this seems to be happening. It seems that some Valley-people would prefer that all the urbanization happens in and around HRM? Why? Certainly, one should not expect many to relocate to Wolfville, except for those few who have bags of cash… and those who are sponsored by charitable organizations and Wolfville Council

    • Personally I would prefer to see vibrant small towns – each with basic amenities and with their own personalities and specialty businesses, rather than pockets of high commercial and residential density (like New Minas) surrounded by not very much at all. Why shouldn’t Greenwich have a restaurant and some stores, with a residential community around them, like Port Williams? I thought this was the idea – small communities where people could walk and not use their car.
      Wolfville’s policies are very contradictory. They have approved areas for residential development but then discourage people from buying here (by having deed transfer tax and high taxes generally). Then they complain about slow build out (which they allowed). Those things also discourage young families and yet they want a school here. They don’t encourage small business or tourism (they cut back on Information Centre hours, and have high commercial taxes). Our council seems blind to the consequences of their fiscal policies and their planning approvals. I do not see the sense in another park (when we have so many parks and so much green space around us) and yet this (and other similar silliness) is what they spend our money on.
      The farmland issue is complex but until I see vibrant, sustainable, profitable farms I can’t see the sense in saving land as green space, just because it is arable, at public expense and to the detriment of owners. The efforts of the No Farms, No Food group should be directed to asking for policies which help make farming a profitable occupation for our young families instead of just calling for restrictions which force owners into an unsustainable position. They seem to think just having legislation solves problems. It doesn’t.

      • As you say, “Why shouldn’t Greenwich have a restaurant and some stores, with a residential community around them, like Port Williams?” I think it should be allowed the opportunity to do just that. Presently, busy-bodies from neighboring communities seem to be bent upon suppressing business in Greenwich. Inevitably this will result in the Greenwich area stagnating until it is eventually bought-out, for a very low price, by the ever-expanding New Minas.

        Legislation is the opposite of problem solving. Freedom is the soul mate of innovation.

  3. Why not have one small city that includes Wolfville, New Minas and Kentville, then we would only need one central government.