Much community discussion of late has centred on housing developments, Forksdale Avenue and soon, Spring Bank as arguably the most contentious examples. Mayor Brown and Council have been grappling with addressing the need for rental housing amid accusations of being pro-developer. An unenviable position to be in and I commend them for their efforts. One must remember however, that politicians are elected not to rule, but to serve. Out of town developers do not elect city councils. The current groundswell of resistance and anger by adversely affected residents, it should be noted, is unequivocally not over the construction of such needed housing, but rather the proposed absurd locations of such large scale developments. Spring Bank Avenue, for example, is a profoundly quiet, semi-isolated neighbourhood populated mainly by seniors who have built their down-sized retirement homes or live in one of the quaint town houses. Needless to say, a forty unit, multi-level social housing complex with plans to double is obviously a poor fit. (Residents have, to my knowledge, unanimously signed a petition against the proposal.)
The Official Community Plan was developed with much effort, expense and hype as a blueprint for a thoughtful, measured and collaborative approach to city growth. Two key elements of the plan state that, A) the project must complement and respect the character and scale of existing residential development in the area and B) the project must not negatively affect the existing quality of life within the neighbourhood. Without stating the obvious, those two clauses alone should provide the required impetus for council to, on behalf of their constituents, direct city staffers to work diligently with proponents to secure more sensible and practical locations.
Should council act in stark contravention of their (our) vaunted OCP and approve the zoning applications in question, then it’s probably not worth the paper it’s written on. Should council disrespect and defy the near unanimous wishes of entire neighbourhoods, then one can only assume motivations outside the scope of their mandate.