Having been in the room at the city’s Brownfields Community Advisory Committee meeting March 8 to watch this conversation unfold, I kept reading all weekend as committee member Mary Ellen Kaye struck up an email exchange with Mayor Chris Friel. All of council, several staff members and local media were all cc’d on the exchange throughout the weekend.
The exchange is embedded below, as I printed and Scribd it earlier today.
In a nutshell, Kaye asked a question of the planners at the BCAC meeting about why the city wasn’t re-designating lands around the Garden Avenue / Sinclair Boulevard medical centre as residential. Currently, the area is designated industrial (with some small pockets as business park). The zoning for the medical-centre site is “business park industrial,” with a sub-class created specifically to allow the centre to exist within that zoning. Zoning around the site is largely “general industrial.”
When Kaye kept pushing the policy planners at the meeting for why the city wasn’t demanding that area become residential infill — argument centering on how the medical centre could really use some residents nearby — the response, while not always to the point, pointed to how while the existing zoning is industrial nothing stops current landowners in the area from applying to redesignate and rezone. Or from intensifying it as is— the city’s strategy and targets refer to “people and jobs” per hectare, not just residential units. I do wish the planners had been clearer in stating this, as it would have pointed to how perhaps it’s the medical centre that’s in the wrong location as opposed to suitable surrounding land uses.
Landowners’ meetings with planning department staff members are par for the course. There is regular exchange of correspondence, inquiries and so on as a developer builds a file for any planning changes it’s seeking for a parcel of land it owns. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear, now that Vincorp got the land it wanted and may have plans for it, that it’s been talking to the city’s planning department about how its own plans might fit (or not fit) within the existing designation and zoning. A $5 request under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act could net emails, phone lots and appointment calendars to prove or disprove whether or not said meetings have actually taken place, but be prepared for a lot of black ink on any records returned.
Kaye, not having received a satisfactory response to her committee questions, grabbed something out of Hamilton and then insinuated — nay, outright stated — the same was happening in Brantford. How she got from “why isn’t Garden/Sinclair in a 2005 intensification map” to “city planners are having secret dinners with developers” is beyond me.
Should Garden Avenue / Sinclair be an intensification corridor? Anyone is welcome to suggest it. However since it’s, uh, quite far from other identified residential / commercial / industrial intensification areas, it’s not the strongest candidate. Should we weep when the medical centre struggles to draw patients to its easterly location? In a free-market response? No— the developers and others involved should have spent more time on whether that was a suitable location.
As to the rest? Let’s see whether or what it might evolve / devolve into.