Friday, September 21, 2007

...and the east end growth machine rumbles along.

"Most cities are busily doing everything they can to grow as fast as possible. They are aggresively recruiting new businessess with subsidies, tax waivers, and other giveaways. They are pouring millions into building infrastructure to accommodate future growth. And they seem willing to sacrifice local livability and environmental quality to achieve this growth" This was written almost 10 years ago by Eben Fodor in his book "Better Not Bigger"

Yet growth for the sake of growth still reigns supreme in the building and planning departments at city hall. It isn't difficult to understand why, as the question of growth rarely gets challenged in today's culture. There are many vested interests involved in keeping the challenges to the status quo at a minimum.

Everyone from the obvious; land developers, road builders and real estate speculators, to retailers (the new residents will all need plasma televisions and leatherette sofas) and the media (who will gladly sell full page ads and television advertisements to all these new big-box retailers and real estate brokers selling the newly opened up land), to the professionals themselves (architects, landscapers, engineers, surveyors, interior decorators, home inspectors, appraisers, etc) who are trusted with planning our built environment are in on this scheme. All you had to do is read Dave Hall's article yesterday, which said that "(c)ity administrators are recommending approval" of the zoning changes necessary for the proposed big-box development on the city's far west end to move forward,to know that not everyone at city hall is looking out for Windsor's long-term sustainability. Everyone listed here has a vested interest in the continued propogation of the growth machine.

Sheesh! It's a wonder that we have any agricutlural land around this city left at all.

Case in point: The City of Windsor has initiated a Class Environmental Assessment Study (Class EA) to investigate providing an improved transportation corridor along Banwell Road from Tecumseh Road East to the Windsor City Limits at the CPR tracks south of Intersection Road (approximately 2.7 km). The purpose of conducting this EA is in anticipation of future growth through staged program of improvements over the next 20 years. They are now in their second stage of community participation, with the next information session scheduled for this Tuesday, September 22, from 3:00 PM until 8:00 PM at the Banwell Community Church.

So, the city is undertaking an EA to evaluate a project (which would cost between 3 and 20 million dollars) in anticipation of future area growth? Do they not think that they may be guiding this growth with the laying of this "improved" infrastructure? Do they not think that by upgrading routes out of the city, we may just be accelerating the migration of city residents to the pastoral countryside of the outlying bedroom communities, thereby lowering our tax base while we increase our capital budget?

Here's the official reasons the city is using to justify this "investment" in our future:

- The current operations (including current volumes, configurations and signal timing) of the Banwell Road and the EC Row Expressway intersection operates at a poor level of service during the AM peak hour and PM peak hour respectively. (read: big traffic jams)
- Traffic projections have identified a need to widen Banwell Road to 4 basic traffic lanes by 2021.
- Anticipated population and employment growth in the immediate area will result in increasing traffic congestion over the next 20 – 25 years. To accommodate this growth, improvements to the Banwell Road corridor are required.
- Grade separation at EC Row Expressway and Banwell Road will eliminate the current traffic safety and congestion issues.

Existing Traffic Volumes on Banwell Road
- Traffic volumes on Banwell Road north of EC Row Expressway are 13,000 – 16,000 vehicles per day. South of EC Row Expressway the volumes are 3,000 – 8,000 vehicles per day.
- Trucks comprise approximately 1.5 – 3.5 percent of the traffic.

Area Growth
- Large areas of residential and employment growth are anticipated in the City of Windsor and this growth will affect the entire Banwell Road corridor. The 20 year population growth is expected to increase to over 2,500 persons and employment growth is expected to increase over 2,000 persons adjacent to the corridor.
- Town of Tecumseh population is forecasted to increase by 10,000 (40% increase) by 2021. (hmmm, maybe it's because we're still building roads like this in conjunction with making Windsor a crappy place to live?)

So, we build a subdivision out "there" and are amazed that people drive everywhere, filling up those old roads. Then we have to build bigger and better roads which in turn opens up more land for subdivisions and strip plazas, and then those bigger and better roads are no longer big enough, and...well, you get the gist. Solving our traffic jams in this manner is like the obese person solving their weight problem by getting bigger pants.

When do you think the time will come when we, as a society, start to question the need to grow for the sake of growing? It has been proven that the so-called benefits of this growth ends up costing a municipality more in the long run than the initial high of a few more jobs and increased retail tax-base. And the Banwell Road upgrade is not the only vein that the city is opening up encouraging people to flee to the suburbs and outlying communities; the Provincial / Division Road Environmental Assessment will make it easier to flee out to Lakeshore, the Windsor Annexed Lands Master Planning Study is making Essex seem pretty attractive, the widening of EC Row will be good for both LaSalle, Tecumseh and beyond, and even the Riverside Drive Vista Improvement Project will inadvertantly make it easier to run away to Tecumseh via Wyandotte in the guise of making Riverside Drive a more scenic drive.

But at least we get bike lanes!?!

And this doesn't even consider what PAC's decision last night on approving the zoning change paving the way for Jenny Coco's big-box development in the far west end! Can you imagine what that will do to our road infrastructure - especially the EC Row expressway - not to mention this will be right next door to Ojibway park and right across the street from the Provincial Reserve. ERCA has already signed off on an Environmental Evaluation Report (EER) that states "no negative impacts on the ecological function" of the Ojibway Complex are expected!?!

Doesn't it seem as though the ultimate goal is to empty Windsor of all it's residents, their taxes, their culture, environment and its livability?


Anonymous said...

To add to the irony, isn't the real question:

Its not that we have the best waterfront and corresponding park in the world

Its that we have the best waterfront in the world that NO ONE wants to live next to.

The only business thats taking. off on the riverfront next to the casino is the "For Sale" sign business. they're on fire

What no one has the stomach for is that to really develop City Center West or any core residential, someone has to spend millions on changing the perception of core living. No politician will put their ass on the line to pay for something that is not "tangible" but what they all know is required.

Josh Biggley said...

Has anyone considered taking ERCA, and the other organizations that approved this debacle, to task over their recommendations?

Just as our elected officials need to be held accountable, I strongly believe that these NGOs, etc need to be held equally accountable for their contribution to the choices that destroy our city.

Anyone have the contact information for ERCA, preferrably direct contacts, not group mailboxes?

Chris Holt said...

That's the strange thing about Windsor (and a lot of other western cities) - their perception about core living.

You look at some of the greatest cities in the world - the New Yorks, Paris', Amsterdams, etc. - and the price of their real estate grows as their proximity to the core increases. They value the amenities that core living provides and they gladly pay for them. Small one bedroom flats in Rome and London's centre's easily start at $400,000 and then shoot upwards.

Yet Windsor sees itself as a city where these rules don't apply. The rules of good urban design may add value and quality to every other city, but not us.

You are absolutely correct in using the term "perception" when writing about our core malais. It is this perception that needs to be changed and why we are trying to elevate the dialogue.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon - do you really think city councillors know this kind of development is required?

If so, we just need to show them there's public support in doing it.

If not, sharpen your pencils. We've got a lot of letters to write!

Anonymous said...

My point is that if they ever act on the recommendations of the community improvement plans two things are required:

1. A few hundred thousand spend on market studies to decide what price range of housing windsorites would be willing to spend. As of now the CIP's sit on shelves collecting dust until 2012 when they'll probably just be deferred again. Why are we spending money on another CIP in sandwich when we have shown we have absolutely zero willingness to implement the ones we've already spent 100's of thousands on. I feel strongly about my tax dollars being wasted on perfectly good studies that are shelved while new studies are commissioned

2. They need to spend some serious cash and hire someone like they hire for marketing the CVB to come up with a residential marketing plan that will change Windsorite's Perception of living in the core

The city needs to get the message out like the following link

but effectively


We need to have a two teir development charge for residential development rates in the core vs the suburbs. Even conside some other fee reductions. In amherstburg they just allowed developers a 1 year grace period to pay residential development fees. Why can't we do that within certain boundaries?

The fact that Tecumseh, Lasalle and other sprawl can't work with us is a provincial problem that we need to ask our MPP's to solve.

Anonymous said...

...and those MPP's will be knocking on your door for the Oct 10 election.

Ask them what their party is doing to strengthen municipalities and specifically their downtowns.