A conversation between an engineer and a home-owner – Part 5/7

The more growth that we can generate, the better off things are for everyone. Yes, there are some people who are anti-growth. They sometimes come to council meetings with a sentimental attachment to some old building, a concern over an environmental issue, or maybe expressing their concerns with the economic dislocation. There are generally a few speaking out against each project, but they usually arenʼt taken very seriously. What are we supposed to do? Stop growing? That would be a disaster.

Resident: Where is all of this growth happening?
Eng.: New growth is being created in the tax subsidy zone.
Resident: Where is the tax subsidy zone?
Eng.: The tax subsidy zone is on the edge of town.

In a recent planning process with the City, my colleagues and I identified many sites where infrastructure could be extended. These are places primed for growth, where public spending can be a catalyst for quick private investment. All of the major developers and business leaders were at these meetings, and they were enthusiastic for that kind of public support. That makes sense because they know what it takes to create growth.

To their credit, the City leadership followed through. They took on a lot of debt to invest in additional capacity. They applied for economic development grants from the federal and state governments. They waived fees and other development charges, and they streamlined the approval processes. Even more proactively, they established some tax subsidy areas, a move that had paid off with an initial round of development proposals. It was all very exciting.

Resident: What kind of new growth is going to occur in the tax subsidy zone?
Eng.: On the edge of town, there is a proposal for a grocery store as well as a drive-through restaurant and a gas station.
Resident: Okay. But I go to the neighbourhood grocery store across the street, I eat at the restaurant up the block, and I donʼt drive much, so I donʼt need another gas station.

I had heard this kind of thing before, but what she referred to as a ‛grocery storeʼ was just a small neighbourhood grocery. You couldnʼt get much there, nothing like the big box store that my family bought groceries from, not to mention all of the fmilies I knew.

The same thing with the restaurant. I knew the family that owned it from way back. They didnʼt really invest in their own place and, economically, they were being left behind. It was obvious. The whole neighbourhood had been officially listed as blighted. It had seen better days, for sure.

Even so, if we were to get growth going out on the edge and get a good, high-capacity street running through here, there was a chance that someone would buy up these old buildings, tear them down, and build something new. Thatʼs about the only hope I saw for this neighbourhood. The zoning code wouldnʼt allow this old stuff to be rebuilt here again anyway. And for good reason.

Eng.: Yes, we know. That is why we have planned for a pedestrian overpass on this block.
Resident: What is it a pedestrian overpass?
Eng.: It is a bridge that will allow you to get from one side of the street to the other safely.
Resident: But I can walk across the street safely right now. My kids can walk across the street safely right now. Why will I need a pedestrian overpass?

I felt like the answer was obvious here and that, once again, she was almost deliberately trying not to understand. She had just told me that she wanted to cross the street. With all of the additional cars speeding through here, how did she think that was going to happen?

Eng.: With four lanes for traffic, you will not be able to walk across the street without slowing down the cars. Slowing down the cars would not be safe.
Resident: But I am not going to be able to haul my baby stroller up a pedestrian overpass every time I want to cross the street to buy milk. How does this benefit to me?

To be continued …

Report an error, or send a question or comment by e-mail to:
newcharlottetownproject @ eastlink.ca

Author: New Charlottetown Project

Barbara Dylla has lived in Charlottetown since 2017. The aim of this blog is to inspire and encourage Charlottetowners to be more aware of municipal affairs, to participate as engaged citizens, to support an issue close to their heart, so that together we create a sense of the larger community we live in. And, along the way, become a united community passionate about making Charlottetown the best it can be.

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