The current plan for the city’s residential neighbourhoods – a blanket overlay for the one-hundred-odd communities in the core of our city – is dividing us more than any other issue. In the same breath as losing historically significant places and spaces, there is absolutely no consideration of the views and concerns of the current residents of these older communities. Property damage, infrastructure damage, violation of safety codes, death of majestic and healthy trees, poor quality newer buildings, uncoordinated urban planning, and very little time for opposition to variance applications are hallmark of our city’s infill policy. The death of a labourer who died in a trench in April, 2015, while building a house near 124 St and 107 Ave, has still not been enough to enforce trench supports for builders, and the developer responsible is still building homes in the same way, it seems with impunity. We all know the problems, council will not change its stance on this issue, and, as a result, we are a very divided city over an issue that should not really be an issue at all.
Now, I have to interject and be clear: I live in an infill house, and I am not opposed to infill. There are many good infill projects and good builders and developers. But, there are far too many bad infill projects, cheap projects, projects that destroy community, projects that are designed by people who do not live in our city, are not part of our community, and do not care about the long-term implications of their projects. This must stop. And, council members must be held accountable for not heeding valid complaints from their constituents, complaints that, if heeded, would save us money, and possibly save lives.
What is a valid complaint? This would be made much easier if we, as a city, stated what it is that we want, what we like, and what should change in our neighbourhoods. We cannot expect that the empty lots throughout town remain empty, that decrepit buildings will not be replaced, and that builders and developers only be allowed to build small bungalows when the market is clearly asking for 2000+ square-foot homes. We also cannot expect every home to have a large yard, because many people do not want to care for large areas of greenery. However, we can expect that damage caused by carelessness or time-saving methods be paid for by the developer or builder without hassle. We can expect safety regulations to be not only enforced, but, when broken, absolutely deny a builder or developer the ability to continue their projects anywhere in our city. We can expect garbage bylaws to be enforced, and end the mud-tracked streets that help to prematurely wear away our roads and put huge amounts of debris into our drainage system. And, we can expect that, when time-honoured buildings are taken down, the new ones match, by reference to a set of clearly-articulated conditions, the surrounding landscape of the community. Finally, we can expect that variances from such bylaws and requirements be given fair opportunity to be reviewed by community members and other people affected by such a development. As an example, a zoning variance came to me in the mail on 3 March, and I had until 20 March to appeal the stipulations of the development, and this is not, in my mind, fair. These are expectations that are not upheld by current sustainable development, and not considered important by members on council.
I stand for protecting our existing community and property investments with bylaws that protect history and property owners. I call for specific infill/growth/development plans for communities or sections in the city, which are built with the guidance of the residents, builders, and public works representatives together. I am against the current blanket infill development plan, and would see to its replacement with area-specific ones. This one-system-fits-all is damaging, and makes residents despise any initiative for community renewal that the city presents. My approach helps bring people together respectfully, and with proper results. I will communicate properly with residents affected by infill, and ensure accountable dialogue continuously happens between residents and sustainable development.