Thursday, April 29, 2010

City challenges OMB decision - Brampton Guardian

A while back I wrote about a controversial development proposal to put a collection of high-rises and town homes on a undeveloped lot about 10 minutes drive from my home. Last week the Ontario Municipal Board ruled in favour of the developer, ordering the City of Brampton to give the necessary planning approvals to allow the project to move forward. The city had voted to withhold those approvals, and is vowing to continue to fight the decision. In these cases, an OMB decision can only be appealed if the board committed an error in law.

I had initially supported the project, and I do to this day. I believe that the traffic concerns can be mitigated and that the amenities in the area make this the best location for a high-density development. I don't think property values will be affected, as this development could be the catalyst to upgrade the Heart Lake Town Centre plaza - and that could mean higher property values from better nearby amenities.

In short, I think this development is good planning. Cities grow - that is an undeniable fact. When we enacted the Greenbelt Act and the Places to Grow Act, we made a decision that growing outward was not something we wanted to do anymore. The only other direction is upwards, and it's unrealistic to think that our neighbourhood will be exempt from the policy that we wanted put in place. If we are as committed to the environment as we say we are, we all have to chip in.

In reading my original blog post about this issue I've realized something... Back in 2007, I was fairly gung-ho about the need to reform the Ontario Municipal Board - the appeal body for matters of urban planning in Ontario. But, having just finished writing my final examination to complete my Bachelor of Urban & Regional Planning, I've realized that I've almost come full circle. We may not like the Ontario Municipal Board's decisions, but a society that only makes the popular choice usually ends up bankrupt. Somewhere along the line, we have to make the choice that betters our society - not just our impression of our society. If municipal councils choose the popular option, someone must be there to step in and make the right decision. It is for these rare occasions that we need expert panels like the OMB. I would much rather see every disputed development go to mediation to find a solution acceptable to everyone, but if that cannot be achieved, we need an independent panel of planning experts to judge what is right - in the same way we ask trial judges to help decide guilt or innocence.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Suicide barriers a waste of TTC money - Toronto Star

I don't know why, but I find myself mostly disagreeing with most of the posts in the Toronto Star's Your City, My City series. The most recent post is about the plan to install suicide barriers at selected subway stations, and the writer feels that the money is better spent lowering the fares or hiring observers to watch for distressed individuals on the platform. The first part is nowhere near true, as a one-time $30 million injection (the value of this project) would only lower fares a few cents for a few months. The second part has merit, but we have to consider all of the benefits of suicide barriers:

  1. They prevent suicides and accidental death by physically preventing people from jumping in front of the train.
  2. They improve the subway's people-moving capacity. Generally, automated train control is necessary to ensure the train's doors line up with the barrier's doors. This automated control system will allow the trains to operate much closer together than would be safe with humans in control, and higher frequencies (not higher speeds!) means higher capacity.
  3. They almost eliminate the delays caused by trash blowing onto the electrified rail and igniting, triggering the trackside smoke detectors. Unless there is a fire in a nearby building, this is the likely cause of the near daily 10-15 minute delays on the subway.
Suicide barriers don't seem like a good investment on face, but when one considers all the benefits it begins to seem like a pretty good value.

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