HomeWhy toy with success

Why toy with success

Dec 7 2006

I am compelled to respond to the news article regarding Stratford’s Core Area Plan. Let me first start by saying that there is nobody more in favour of good planning and new development in Stratford than I, but I would like to qualify that by asking “at what cost”?

The $200,000.00 report presented by Ekistics Planning Design Group starts out with a concept that calls for the creation of a New Downtown for Stratford, which they want to market as “Southport”? The majority of our Atlantic Communities are complaining about empty Downtowns and what to do with them and Stratford for some reason wants one; “Why is Stratford toying with their own success? To create this Disney-Designed Downtown, a new intersection would be developed as you came off the Hillsborough Bridge. You would then exit along a parkway over a multi-million dollar lagoon upgrade, which would accommodate this road. You would then arrive at the “Waterfront Plaza and Marina”, which they estimate would cost taxpayers $16,500,000.00, but would be closer to $25,000.000.00, not including the cost of the land. This is quite a contrast to the approach used in Cornwall for spending taxpayer’s money, or by the many Stratford taxpayers, who were recently concerned about Council spending some extra dollars on sidewalks.

Should the lagoon upgrade not be feasible, the report’s author calls for a meeting with the City of Charlottetown, and proposes pumping Stratford’s “sewage” to Charlottetown for treatment. I guess this is how they would pose the question, “We want to build a New Downtown to compete against yours, and by the way, do you mind if we pump our waste your way”?

When I asked “why the grandiose plans”? Stratford Administration told me “the Community was demanding that the last piece of Commercial land available in the Town had to be preserved for future controlled development.” I am not saying that isn’t an unreasonable request, but from a pure execution process, it would have been more cost effective for the Town to have secured an option on the land from the owner, prior to creating an unrealistic value in the seller’s mind. Council could then put the $3,500,000.00 plus asking price in front of the taxpayers, and it would be a true test of whether there was real support, for preserving this piece of land to support boat owners.

This plan for Downtown calls for 180,000 sq. ft. of small commercial space, with 600 residential units above them, all built around streets paved with cobblestone. The design standards set out for the buildings in the Downtown are straight out of a Town called “Celebration”, which was built and developed by Walt Disney, but in Disney’s case, he had millions of well healed customers who could afford this type of product. I don’t know of an example anywhere else, where a community of 6,500 people has achieved the building of a New Downtown, on this scale.

The report then moves on to what is called the “Town Centre Core” and the “Mason Road Core” and without getting into too much detail, the consultants have taken a lot of liberties without consulting the property owners. In my own case, they are proposing a sizeable pond in the middle of our Home Hardware parking lot, when what we really need is some more retail neighbors to give some choice to our residents. With reckless abandonment for cost implementations, and without consulting the land owners, they have clearly painted a picture of a plan that does not appeal to any common sense. Stratford has an empty business park and lots of empty land around the Kinlock intersection and we should be focused on how to fill these voids before we develop a scheme to compete against them. Stratford is a great community with lots of opportunity to build trails and other amenities that improve our lifestyle. The report could have focused more on how to create opportunities for growth by building community based organizations that could put forward fresh achievable ideas. We could use an incubator mall for our business park, expansion in our retail core and affordable housing for young families and seniors all of which can be achieved by developing reasonable bylaws that would encourage private enterprise to invest. We cannot achieve growth by creating standards that people cannot afford. The new CGI project is a great example of what can be done with some good old hard work of knocking on doors and selling what we already have and we owe this to Premier Binns, Minister Currie and our MLA David McKenna as this is huge for our Community. We didn’t need a waterfront plaza, a tower clock, boat slips or ornamental ponds to get them here but we will need good schools, medical clinics, department stores, grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, health clubs, affordable housing and most of all lower taxes to keep them.

I don’t profess to have all the answers but I do know whatever those answers are, they must be based in reality. I am quite prepared to work with the Council and the Community to develop a realistic approach, and that should be done with the stakeholders, and in this case, the taxpayers.

Tim Banks is president of APM Construction

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