landuse

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You won’t make everybody happy about that strawberry field

Posted by on 10 Sep 2012 | Tagged as: Fredericton, landuse

Looks like Fredericton city councillors are in a tough jam. They want to sell some land that they own. Trouble is, there’s currently a popular strawberry U-Pick operation running on part of it. There’s also a wetland that can’t be developed (we’ll just exclude this portion from further discussion). Another problem is that the residents near there have become accustomed to having that area undeveloped and simply don’t want more houses there.

So now there are three proposals:

1. Develop the entire property into a single-family residential neighbourhood, just like the properties that are near it.

2. Turn the entire property into a park while keeping the strawberry operation intact.

3. Keep the strawberry operation, but develop the wooded portion.

Let’s have a look at some arguments that were seen about it: (can’t link to sources due to paywall)

  • “If you build houses there, then you are creating sprawl” – False. If you don’t build houses there, they will be built somewhere else, cutting down trees somewhere else. They would have to be built further away, possibly outside city limits with no water/sewer access and create more carbon by people having to drive farther to get to work/shop.
  • “If the wooded area isn’t developed, it would cost a lot for washrooms/parking” – False. The proposal isn’t looking to make the wooded area into a park, just to leave it wooded.
  • “It is better for the environment to keep the berry field there” – Questionable. This is a commercial farming operation, not claiming to be organic.
  • “Many great memories were made there and it should be kept for that reason” – True. The debate about the strawberry field is entirely emotional. This essentially makes it a tourism issue.

So there seems to be strong logical and popular support for option 3, yet the city has set up an all-or-nothing approach. They are only voting on option 2. If that doesn’t pass, then they will still be in the same position where they were when they started and we’ll keep having this debate year after year. There is a lot of popular support for keeping the strawberry fields intact, but there’s little reason to keep the wooded area intact. The only people who want that saved are the residents who live nearby, just like what happens with so many other developments.

Save the strawberry field for political reasons, but develop the wooded area into something nice. The city could use that area and build an excellent walking and bike friendly neighbourhood. It’s about time that Fredericton gets some high quality residential neighbourhoods. We aren’t used to them as our usual gang of local developers just opt for the cheapest options that earn them the most profit. Perhaps there will be less resistance to such things in the future if someone can prove that Fredericton will welcome quality development. It’s time to set the bar higher.

 

Here’s a map. The grey area is the strawberry field, the area with the diagonal lines init is the rest (wooded area and wetland).

How not to spend $100,000

Posted by on 23 Jul 2012 | Tagged as: fail, Fredericton, landuse

How much did it cost the City of Fredericton to tear down that old strip club? They sold the land for $100,000 less than they paid for it, plus they paid to tear down the building. You would think at that price, they would be able to force the buyer to build a nice, high-quality building.

What will we get instead? A squat (presumably) wood-framed building with “horizontal siding” (probably vinyl). Another typical cheapo Fredericton apartment building (will the rent also be cheap? Doubt it.)

Don’t get me wrong, the developers should be free to build as cheaply as they like, but when they get an indirect subsidy from the city, the bar needs to be set higher.

More details about the site are available here at yourfred.com

Goodbye TRA building

Posted by on 20 Jul 2011 | Tagged as: Fredericton, landuse

And throughout the city, not a tear was shed. (The new building will be much nicer)

Review of 746-792 McLeod Ave.

Posted by on 26 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Fredericton, landuse

Tired of looking at these tired, old, shabby railway-era industrial buildings?


View Larger Map

Pretty soon you won’t be. If this passes council, and the developer is actually able to build it, it will soon look like this:

But wait, there’s more. Phase 2 will include a row of townhouses which will fill in the rest of the lot:

The apartment building will also have 64 units of underground parking (1 per unit), and four penthouse suites. This is a high-quality development that will add density to the area and will hopefully reduce some of the issues in the nearby “student ghetto”. Hopefully the city will ignore the NIMBYs and allow this to be built.

Review of TRA building replacement proposal

Posted by on 19 Apr 2011 | Tagged as: Fredericton, landuse

Many people have been tired of looking at the old TRA building on Queen St. which currently looks like this: (that picture was from 2 years ago, it actually looks much worse now)

One group hopes to replace it with this:

TC Land Holdings (who are somehow related to PlazaCorp, the strip-mall developer) have filed an application to build this 32 unit apartment building on that site. Some might say that 32 units is a bit small, but the actual lot isn’t that big:

As you can see, it pretty much fills the entire lot, leaving only enough space for 14 parking spaces. There will be another 26 spaces located on the first floor of the building. Due to flooding concerns, there won’t be a basement.

Hopefully the project won’t get derailed by soil conditions (or the fact that it’s built on an old dump). This will be a great addition to the downtown and will bring in some much-needed residents. Some density advocates would wish for a larger building, but considering the technical issues, I think this is the best anyone could do.

Planning Advisory Council members will be voting on this on Wednesday, April 20th. It will then have to pass council at a later date, probably in May.

Update: Building is under construction. Here is the website that has some leasing information: http://www.westpointebytheriver.ca/ The prices aren’t listed, but the extra “e” on “pointe” implies that it will be expensive.

A Few Problem Areas of Fredericton’s Current Municipal Plan

Posted by on 07 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: Fredericton, landuse, Reviews, suggestions, transit

As part of the “Sustainability. By Design.” process, we’ll have a quick look at Fredericton’s current municipal plan. Overall, it isn’t all that bad, however, there are a few particular areas that need a second look.

High density residential needs to be required in certain areas, especially large lots near major arteries. This will be needed to reduce the cost of delivering municipal services to a neighbourhood.

Section 3.4 insists that the look-and-feel of Brunswick St. needs to be preserved for “historic reasons”. If we want to expand our downtown, wouldn’t Brunswick St. be the logical choice for an increase in density?

Section 3.5 residential town plat – the worst example of NIMBY appeasement. Some parts will need to be redesignated for higher density housing, especially along transit corridors such as Regent, York, and Smythe. This will pit the environmentalists against the heritage preservationists, which might be entertaining to watch.

Section 3.7 seems to tow a hard line on the student ghetto. An effective transit system will allow students to move farther away from UNB/STU thereby reducing pressures on this neighbourhood.

The biggest mistake they made is that you can’t download the municipal plan as a single PDF file. That makes it really hard to find things if you are just looking for a few key words.

“Sustainability. By Design.” – a speculative preview

Posted by on 24 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: Fredericton, landuse

As part of his “State of the City” address, Fredericton mayor Brad Woodside announced “Sustainability. By Design.” which appears to be a buzzy term for updating the municipal plan. That plan was created in 1991, last updated in 2002 and amended several times later whenever a proposal didn’t fit the plan. The biggest problem with that plan is that it isn’t very green. It encourages sprawl, has no ties with transit and focuses on heritage preservation over density.

This is exactly the same thing that Halifax did a few years ago in their HRMbyDesign process. Saint John is doing it too with PlanSJ. Municipal plans do need to be updated every few years as demographics and focus change so this isn’t an unexpected process.

Here are a few points to consider when thinking about urban planning:

  • Don’t use this as a venue to bash other people’s lifestyles. (Yes, I’ve said that before)
  • There will have to be several versions of the document, depending on the outcome of Alward’s promise for municipal reform.
  • The cost of transportation will go up significantly in the next few years. Public transit won’t just be for students and poor people, it will need to be included in the municipal planning process.
  • Active transportation and walkability will be a greater consideration when designing neighbourhoods.
  • Existing neighbourhoods will need be retrofitted to conform to the new standards. This will be a difficult process, but it must be done as “obsolete” neighbourhoods will become the slums of tomorrow.
  • Heritage will have to take a back seat to sustainability. Heritage buildings won’t necessarily be torn down, but heritage “look and feel” zones will be less important than density.

In the end, it will have to be a big compromise for all of the involved stakeholders. Here’s hoping that all parties involved get a chance to voice their opinion and that cooler heads prevail.

Stop bashing the cul-de-sac

Posted by on 13 Dec 2010 | Tagged as: Fredericton, landuse

Too often the car-haters treat the cul-de-sac as the enemy of good urban design. They aren’t the most efficient for driving, and they do cost a little more to plow in the winter, however, with proper planning, they can be better for walkability (and bikeability). All it takes is a path that connects the dead end to the road running behind it.

We’ll take this example in Fredericton’s Lincoln Heights:

Doesn’t look very walkable, does it? How about we add the interconnecting paths (that actually exist) to the map:

This provides a nice balance. You can easily walk or bike around the neighbourhood and many of the residential streets have low and slower-moving traffic. Planning doesn’t have to be about punishing car owners, you can compromise and still have a great neighbourhood to live in.

The debate about 1530 Lincoln Rd gets a little crazy

Posted by on 19 May 2010 | Tagged as: Fredericton, landuse

Found this stuffed in my door the other day:

This is in reference to the subdivision of a large lot at 1530 Lincoln Rd. Since my last post about it, the application had been revised to only be 6 lots instead of 7. This means that the application no longer needs to be voted on by city council, it only needs to pass at the Planning Advisory Council (PAC) level.  The PAC ended up denying the subdivision over the issue of the driveways being too close to a dangerous intersection.  However, City lawyers were asked to look into the PAC and see what their actual scope is. Turns out, they can’t actually deny a subdivision application that meets the zoning requirements. They can only decide whether 8% of the total property must be given up as parkland, or a cash equivalent be provided. This means that the most the PAC can do is hope they can inconvenience the developer into having to give up 8% of the land and annoys him enough that he eventually resubmits an application that solves the issue with the driveways.

The authors of the flyer seem to think that this is a human rights issue. Rather than letting this one go and trying to permanently close the loophole, they are hoping that this can be magically overturned by having a bunch of people showing up to a meeting. I’ve seen that before with the UNB woodlot and Acadian Lines bus station rezoning. Hopefully this group won’t bring drums.

To be fair to the protesters, the driveway configuration is dumb, but it will mostly affect the safety of people that end up buying those lots.  It will also affect the developer as this debate will reduce the desirability of the lots and therefore reduce the price, which will reduce his profit margins.

Another Ugly Building: 621 King St.

Posted by on 13 Jul 2009 | Tagged as: Fredericton, landuse

demo-petmass

This building is just run down. It has been renovated many times, badly. They can’t even be bothered to paint the siding, which has been mismatched since the ice storm of 1998. If you look in the windows of the upper floors, you can see that some of them have been boarded up from the inside. There are even remnants of the old King of Donair sign that hasn’t been properly removed. I think this is a perfect example of how Fredericton’s unsightly property by-laws don’t actually work.

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