Friday, November 17, 2006

Residents furious with new transit terminal - Brampton Guardian

Residents furious with new transit terminal


What residents in a northwest Brampton subdivision thought was a park is now being turned into a major Brampton Transit terminal on Sandalwood Parkway, and that has homeowners saying they feel misled by the city.

Three baseball diamonds in Caterpillar Park on Sandalwood, west of Hurontario Street, have been in place for more than a decade, even before the subdivision to the west of the land was built. There was no sign on the property indicating a major transit facility was planned for the site.

That has residents like Brian Houselander upset and concerned about noise, emissions and property values.

"We took two years to find this property, find a good builder, and decided this is going to be our last house," said Houselander. "For six years we have lived here, just the baseball fields, nice and quiet on the weekends even at that, and no sign indicating this bus garage was going to be placed here. If I had seen that when I was driving by looking for this particular piece of property, I would never have bought here. You can bet this is going to decrease our home values considerably when it's finished."

His neighbours are equally upset about the prospect of having the bus terminal operating on the adjacent land.

Recently bought a house

"I think the key issue is, they didn't warn us," Houselander said.

Daniel Bielawski has just bought a home in the subdivision, which was built in 1998. He has yet to move in, and when he found out about the transit facility, he contacted Mayor Susan Fennell and city staff, asking if the decision could be reversed. He was told it could not. Construction has already begun and, despite the temporary baseball diamonds that have been on the site since at least 1996, the property is zoned "industrial" and was never meant to be kept as a park, according to city officials. The zoning has been in place since 1988.

The city has apologized to residents in a letter for not notifying them construction on the facility was about to begin last month, and in an e-mail to Bielawski, Fennell agreed a sign should have been on the property informing residents of what was in the future plans for the city-owned land. She said the land was never meant to be a park, but the diamonds were a "temporary use" until the transit facility was needed.

The master bedrooms in the homes backing onto the city land are all on the second floor, he said.

"When you walk up to the master bedroom and look out, all you're going to see is this bus garage," he said.

He said the buses will be coming and going all day, starting at 5 a.m. and going until 11 p.m. or midnight as bus drivers begin and end their regular shifts.

Traffic on Sandalwood Parkway is "nuts", he said, so the addition of bus traffic is going to make it worse.

Houselander said the best residents can hope for now is a tall enough berm between the homes and the terminal to block the view and any potential emissions, he said. That berm would have to be as high as the rooftops, which would make it 40 feet tall, he said, because the industrial land is 16 feet lower than the subdivision, and he is skeptical the berm can be built that high.

"And we would still have to live with the drone of the noise," Houselander said.

The city is in a rush to build the much-needed facility to accommodate the rapid expansion of Brampton Transit. The $28 million project has been put on an "accelerated" construction schedule that will see it completed in just 14 months. It is expected to open in the spring of 2008.

Noise-reduction measures

It isn't a public facility, but a secondary facility that will support 200 buses and contain a maintenance garage with 11 hoists, a control centre and an expanded customer service call centre.

A city works and transportation yard is located on the east side of the site, and it will remain.

The city said it will have noise-reduction measures, including a building designed to minimize noise impacts on the surrounding residential properties.

Diesel emissions will be mitigated, according to the city, and computer model testing done by the construction manager indicates it will meet all Ministry of the Environment air emission standards.

The city's only existing transit facility is at 185 Clark Blvd. and it is currently supporting a fleet of 190 buses, 40 more than its capacity.

Brampton Transit ridership is expanding at approximately five times the national average, according to the city.

Transit Director Sue Bass said she is confident ridership will break the 10 million mark this year. October was a record month, with 967,000 passengers, a 14 per cent increase compared to October 2005.

"This growth is causing extreme pressure for transit service increases to be planned and implemented at regular intervals," according to Bass.

Last year, Brampton Transit increased service by 25 per cent and moved to a grid-based system. This year, service was increased another 10 per cent.

The baseball diamonds on the site were removed and the lights and bleachers put in storage to be re-used at another site. Sports groups using the diamonds were re-located, according to city officials.

This transit garage has been in the works for years and is necessary to improve transit in Brampton, but with houses so close, the city should have done more to notify the residents, or should have relocated the garage to a more industrialized area of the city. Either further north, near the brick works, or somewhere along the heavily industrialized Steeles Ave. corridor.

One of my planning textbooks suggests that NIMBY-ism stems from members of the community feeling like they were unable to participate in the planning process. This is a clear example of that theory in action. So what can we do about these situations? I propose a three pronged plan:
  1. If you move to a house close to a nuisance land use, like an airport or rail yard, you do so at your own peril. It was there before you, don't expect it to change, and don't believe anyone who promises you it will change.
  2. The developer should show the secondary and subdivision plan for the whole area to prospective buyers, not just the land that the subdivision sits on. Trying to hide things from prospective buyers or telling them that a nearby nuisance is set to close down should be, if it isn't already, criminal.
  3. The planning process needs to be much more inclusive and give citizens many more opportunities to participate. While we cannot let proposals be killed because of citizen opposition, we must let citizens know that they can help make changes that will lead to a solution everyone can agree upon.

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At 11/17/2006 6:13 p.m. , Blogger D. Halwest said...

More notice should of been given. Checking Google Earth, only one side of the planned garage will be along side houses, separated by the OBRY line.

One thing I can see them doing it assigning buses operating on routes west of the 410 to the Sandalwood garage, whereas the Clark garage will run routes in the east.

At 1/11/2010 11:55 a.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually,good post. thx


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