A blog about sustainability, citizen engagement, good governance in the 21st century
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.
The value of nature in urban environments has been highlighted and emphasized over the past year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nature of Cities is a Web site that contains a wide variety of essays written by people from around the world. For example:
The Value of Green Urban Assets and the True Costs of Development: How a city’s under-appreciated green assets are quietly making oxygen, absorbing pollutants, sponging up storm water, and controlling erosion. They also enhance property values, supporting urban fisheries, agriculture and recreation, and providing animal habitats and pollinator corridors.
Putting Nature First: What cities need to do to put nature first in strategic urban agendas.
Biophilic Cities is a growing global community that aims to “build an understanding of the value and contribution of nature in cities to the lives of urban residents” and “acknowledges the importance of daily contact with nature as an element of a meaningful urban life, as well as the ethical responsibility that cities have to conserve global nature as shared habitat for non-human life and people”. The Web site includes resources, films, and even a COVID-19 Research section with a long reading list covering everything from food security to active travel to urban planning to biodiversity … and more!
I hope you enjoy exploring the links above and that they inspire you to be an advocate for the protection and preservation of nature and green spaces in our beautiful city.
Submitted by Joan Cumming, a long-time Sydney Street resident who attended the 27 April Public Meeting for the 199 Grafton residential/parkade/commercial development proposal
At the public meeting on April 27, 2021, I quoted to you from the “Standards and Guidelines” section of the report by the Planning Partnership approved by Council a few years ago, highlighting their comments on large and taller buildings proposed for the historic 500 Lot Area.
Larger & Taller Buildings Have the Greatest Civic Responsibilities
The 500 Lot Area has a long history of large and tall buildings. Historic buildings, such as St. Dunstan’s Basilica or the Rodd Charlottetown Hotel, exhibit architectural grandeur that corresponds to their scale and civic importance. The way they are situate on their sites, the expressed massing, material quality, and design detail, all work in concert to enhance their stature while positively contributing to their context. By contrast, more contemporary large-scaled developments, such as the Delta Prince Edward, exhibit far lesser care for their context or design quality. Consequently, by virtue of their scale, they sit prominently and distractingly in the streetscape, constantly reinforcing the perception of large-scale being synonymous with bad design.The Standard & Guidelines recognize that large-scaled buildings are, and will continue to be, part of the urban fabric of the 500 Lot Area. However, these developments should be directed only to where they already exist and can be accommodated, and subject to stringent conditions and performance standards. Appropriate setbacks and massing are especially important to ensuring that these building do not overwhelm and adversely impact streetscapes and adjacent properties with respect to matters such as sky view, wind, and shadows. Given their visual prominence, these buildings should be held to the highest design standards, exhibiting landmark architectural qualities. Furthermore, these development rights ought to be privileged through a bonus afforded only in exchange for public benefits such as heritage protection, community amenities, or public realm improvements.
The development currently under review is nowhere near compliant with these recommendations nor is it a structure of civic importance like the majority of past and present tall buildings in the city.
I would like to have spent more time reminding those present of what dire straits Charlottetown has been in since last spring with COVID-19 restrictions keeping visitors away, devastating the local economy, and showing us just how deeply dependent we are on attracting tourists.
Why do visitors come to our city? Firstly, because of its signature place in the history of this country, but once here they are totally surprised and captivated by the uniqueness and charm of the place. I know, because I have been hosting them for over 30 years and have enjoyed taking them on walking tours for the last twenty. I know what they love, admire, and wished they had in their part of the world — the built evidence of our history lining the streets. These streetscapes should be preserved at all costs — in fact, any resident who owns a “designated heritage property” is subjected to restrictions by City bylaws if they want to make improvements or changes to it.
Why is it not the same for big-building developers? Anyone building “infill” in the 500 Lot Area should be obliged to adhere to the bylaws but instead, the reverse seems to be the case because approval of zoning changes and variances seem to be the norm rather than the exception. This encourages developers to dictate what they want to City Council and to push the limits to get the optimum benefit out of empty space, sometimes to the detriment of those living nearby, often regardless of the negative impact on a streetscape, and showing no respect for the City’s efforts at heritage preservation.
What should be required of such projects is that they be in harmony with what is already there, not something which is distracting. The Planning Partnership study does not promote the concept of “modern” being a desirable or appealing contrast with the historic gems I mentioned like City Hall and the three churches on Prince Street! None of my guests or walkers on my tours has ever raved about the glass and metal structures that have appeared in the city core in the last few years but rather mention how these ruin the character of an otherwise attractive street. To keep travellers interested in coming here, returning for longer stays, and encouraging others to do the same, Charlottetown has to remain an icon with a high standard of integrating the old with the new.
This proposal fails miserably to do that and should be sent back to the drawing board.
The proposed development is located in downtown Charlottetown. Why was the public meeting not held downtown? Choosing the Rodd Royalty Hotel on Capital Drive prevented car-less (or car-free) residents from participating in person, since no public transit is available in the evening. This is intentional exclusion.
The meeting starts at minute 19:00 in the video-recording and runs a little over one hour.
A few thoughts about APM’s application for the proposed 84-unit apartment building and 213-space parkade:
1. A development application that requires seven variances — and not minor variances at that — should never have been approved by the Planning Department. A requirement is precisely what the word says: “A thing that is compulsory; a necessary condition.” (Oxford Dictionary). Why wasn’t the application refused on grounds that the building plans failed to fulfill the requirements?
2. Parkade: Should the project eventually be approved, would the 213 parking spaces in the new building be seen as an opportunity for the City to reduce on-street parking by an equal number of spaces? Downtown sidewalks are already narrow enough. Removing on-street parking would enable the City to widen sidewalks on several blocks along Prince, Kent, Great George, and Grafton, and/or make room for bicycle lanes. This would create a more walkable and pedestrian/cyclist friendly downtown. Many North American cities have been making such changes over the past year.
3. Clark Street: This street has been neglected for too long. A 278-foot long, 71-foot high building would overshadow and overwhelm the two- and three-storey residences on Kent Street whose backyards are on Clark Street. Curiously enough, Mr Banks’s slide show did not include an image of the proposed building from a Clark Street perspective.
4. Professional design review: Doug MacArthur was present at the meeting and pointed out that Fellow & Company Limited (45:00) is the same firm that did the design review for Killam’s 15 Haviland project (1:03:45–1:05:45).
The application for 199 Grafton will be presented to the Planning Board and streamed live on Monday, 3 May, starting at 4:30 p.m.
Lowlight 1 : City officials stated that they’ve been dealing with developers for the last four years, that they’ve “been working on this for a number of months” and “put a lot of work into this”, yet allocated a mere two hours for a public meeting at the tail end — instead of the front end — of the process.
Lowlight 2: Two City employees with microphones assigned to go to members of the audience wishing to speak were not directed in an efficient manner to the next speaker. Result: Possibly as many as ten people did not get an opportunity to ask a question or voice a comment, because the meeting had to end at 9 P.M.
Unforgivable technical glitch: The video-recording did not capture Planning Manager Alex Forbes’s portion of the presentation (8:20–12:40), in which he shared significant information about the planning process. I have written to Public Works Manager Scott Adams to request that Mr Forbes provide a written version of the situational context for the public’s benefit.
Tokenism: The slide of a Complete Streets design (32:00), which was not included in the Draft Final Report of the traffic study. CBCL’s traffic engineer Mark MacDonald hesitant delivery of this portion sounded very much like a last-minute addition to address criticisms about the lack of transit and active travel components in the Report.
Questions and comments: The public feedback portion starts at 34:50. Every speaker, bar none, contributed perceptive and informed comments or asked significant questions. (Audience applause muted).
Q&A Highlights (a few among many)
1.Catherine Mullally’s comments and questions about transparency and communications, followed by replies from Public Works Manager Scott Adams and Public Works Committee Chair and Councillor Terry MacLeod. (1:01:57 to 1:09:06)
2. Don Read’s analogy to opening a Champagne bottle. (1:38:13)
3. Beth Cullen’s passionate plea for the protection and preservation of the Confederation Trail and our natural spaces. (1:39:04 to 1:43:26, including CBCL’s response).
I found a notice taped to the side my community mailbox on Prince Street about this Public Meeting yesterday.
It took a lot of effort to find this notice on the City’s website – not in News and Events and barely visible at the bottom of the small square for April 27 on the meeting calendar due to other postings for that date.
This is a big building and has potential to set trends downtown yet again. Going for many height and setback variances. When you read the Planning Board meeting, the only rationale I could see (so far) that he [developer] is giving for the extra bonus height is … ‘housing’ (on top of a parkade which was the main selling point in his news release).
If you want to read exactly what is written on the lime green notice, it is now available under Upcoming Events on the City’s home page.
To quote/paraphrase Dave Meslin: “The City of Charlottetown clearly doesn’t want you involved with the planning process, otherwise their ads would look something like this [below], with all the information laid out clearly. As long as the city’s putting out notices like [above] to try to get people engaged, then of course people aren’t going to be engaged. But that’s not apathy; that’s intentional exclusion.”
Following Meslin’s example, homeowners created their own sign in an attempt to inform neighbouring residents, many of whom are tenants.
If a homeowner can provide such a clear, comprehensible, and inviting public meeting notice, why can’t the Planning Department?
The full meeting package (49 pages) contains APMʼs Site Specific Exemption application with drawings and images, the letter sent to property owners located within 100 metres of the subject property, and copies of the public notices (posters and newspaper ad). A separate folder contains letters received until today, with likely more added after the public meeting.
If you decide to see and hear what the plans are for 199 Grafton, tune in on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. Themeeting will be streamed live at www.charlottetown.ca/video
On Friday, February 26, the City posted a bare-boned announcement on its website with a rather misleading title: City Requests Input on Traffic Master Plan. Equally misleading subtitle: City Requests Feedback on West Royalty Commercial Area Traffic Master Plan. In addition to information on where to find the documents and how to submit comments, the announcement stated: “While there is no current deadline to submit feedback, please note that residents will have the opportunity to provide input in a public consultation, the details of which will be announced in the coming weeks.”
On Tuesday, April 13—a full nine weeks later—a seemingly unrelated announcement was posted on the Cityʼs website: City to Hold Public Consultation Meeting. Subtitle: City to Hold Public Consultation on West Royalty Area Traffic Master Plan. (Oops! Someone forgot to include ‛Commercial’). It contained essentially the same information as the February 26 notice, only this time the date, the meeting location (Homburg Theatre, Confederation Centre of the Arts), and instructions for reserving seats were added.
On Friday, April 23—three days before the meeting—a notice about the public meeting was published on page B7 in The Guardian.
Aside from the appalling lack of clear, effective, and open communication, the City failed to include in its three totally inadequate announcements any images of the future planned developments and the roads around them. All, by the way, on greenfields or former agricultural land.
Note also that the Confederation Trail, which is under Provincial jurisdiction, will be bisected by two roads: (1) the planned Spencer Drive extension, part of the Killam/RioCan/APM development at Towers Road and (2) the Fern Garden Drive extension (Martha’s Court). Apparently, neither the Province nor Island Trails have been informed or consulted about the two roads, which will severely undermine the integrity of the Trail.
In essence, the last paragraph in the newspaper ad seems to indicate that the so-called Plan is a fait accompli. After all, the City hasn’t specified precisely what kind of input it is seeking from the public so late in the process.
If all these developments were to be built, by 2041 the population living in this area would be equal to (if not greater than) the population of Souris. All in an area of approximately one square kilometre (or 250 acres or 100 hectares).
If too few citizens show up at the meeting on Monday night, City officials have no one to blame but themselves (which begs the question: why did it choose the Homburg Theatre, current capacity 300?).
See my April 22 post for the 2025 and 2031 Future Conditions.
Even though this eighteen-minute video was shot in New York City, Rollie Williams does a fabulous job explaining how the car industry hijacked our roads.
Be prepared for some history, a bit of satire, a bit of comedy, and a lot of information. As he says, “Now is the time to get involved!” We cannot let motor vehicles continue to be the only way to travel on Prince Edward Island.
In May 2019, Killam REIT announced the purchase of 50% of RioCan REIT’s Charlottetown Mall property, “with future multi-family development opportunities of up to 300 units.”
In February 2020, those 300 units moved to undeveloped land on the other side of the Confederation Trail (aka Rails to Trails). As reported by CBC: “Developer Tim Banks told CBC News his company, Pan American Properties, plans to build 300 units over the next decade on about six hectares off of Towers Road.”
The Killam/RioCan/APM residential development was presented in a public meeting on August 26, 2020, as part of a rezoning application. All the other pieces around it have been handled piecemeal by the City, before and after that date. In so doing, City Council failed to duly inform the public in accordance with the Council Code of Conduct Bylaw #2020-CC-01, Part II – Principles, Section 8.4. “Members of Council are responsible for the decisons that they make. This responsibility includes acts of commission and acts of omission. In turn, decision-making processes must be transparent and subject to public scrutiny”; and Section 8.8.“Members of Council have a duty to demonstrate openness and transparency about their decisions and actions.”
Feb. 7, 2020: The City’s Capital Budget was approved. The Guardianreported: “The capital budget also includes $650,000 that will enable the city to create a road that links Towers Road up with Spencer Drive, giving traffic the option of bypassing the parking lot at the rear of the Charlottetown Mall. And while no one will say anything on the record, the city is also looking into extending Spencer Drive to Mount Edward Road.”
Mar. 17, 2020: Premier King announced that the provincial cabinet had declared a state of public health emergency under the Public Health Act. (COVID-19)
Mar. 19, 2020: Special Meeting of Council (vote 9–0 in favour): Resolution 4 (c) “[…] That the submission from CBCL Ltd. to perform a comprehensive traffic study of undeveloped lands adjacent to the main retail area of Charlottetown, as additional work to the City’s Growth Management Study, be accepted.” Cost $69,000. City of Charlottetown website
April 12, 2020: “The Public Works Department would like to advise the public that negotiations are underway regarding the section of private road located between Towers Road and Spencer Drive.” City of Charlottetown website
Aug. 5, 2020: New Road Construction – Towers Road to Spencer Drive (Invitation To Tender) – Closing date Aug. 19
Aug. 26, 2020: Public Meeting held at the Rodd Royalty Hotel, Charlottetown. Presentation starts at 1:37:00 in the video. Documents available at charlottetown.ca.
Oct. 29, 2020: In a closed session at a Special Meeting, Council received a presentation regarding the traffic study from CBCL engineers and authorized CAO Peter Kelly to expedite thepurchase of two properties [241/245 Mt Edward Rd], to be leased back to the occupants for two years.
Feb. 8, 2021: Monthly Meeting of Council (vote 6–3 in favour): Council authorized the increase in the 20/21 Capital Budget of $550,000to fund the purchase of two properties (241 and 245 Mount Edward Rd). These properties face Ash Drive and stand in the way of the Spencer Drive extension, which is on Killam/RioCan/APM’s proposed Sherwood Crossing development property. It is worth noting that the City’s Public Works Department will act as property manager for a two-year period.
Feb. 26, 2021: The City posts an announcement on its Web site: “CITY REQUESTS INPUT ON TRAFFIC MASTER PLAN” with details on how to access the traffic plan and ends with “While there is no current deadline to submit feedback, please note that residents will have the opportunity to provide input in a public consultation, the details of which will be announced in the coming weeks.” The Guardian publishes the announcement on March 12, the CBC posts an article on March 16, presumably in response to a letter I sent on March 11 to ask why the media has failed to inform the public.
April 13, 2021: The City posts another announcement with the date of the public meeting (7 p.m., Monday, April 26, Confederation Centre of the Arts). Neither local newspaper The Guardian nor CBC PEI have reported the new details so far.
A Transportation Master Plan (TMP) is one of many documents that directs a municipality over the long term. It works with a municipality’s Official Plan, which directs land use and development, as well as others concerning municipal servicing, parks and recreation, and economic development. Generally, a transportation master plan determines the need fortransportation improvements and establishes policies for the future transportation network.
Seven municipalities currently working on their TMP
Here’s a brief list of Canadian municipalities (with 2016 population data) who are in the process of developing a new TMP or updating an outdated one:
If you clicked the hyperlinks to view the details, you’ll notice that every municipality, no matter how small, has one thing in common on their website: a project timeline. Smaller municipalities allocate about six months, bigger ones up to two years, to complete their Plan.
Here is Peterborough’s project timeline:
Another common feature: a visible link to a survey or various ways in which residents, businesses and other stakeholders are encouraged to share their opinions.
The City of Charlottetown Public Works Department wishes to invite the public to a public consultation for the City to receive feedback on the Transportation Master Plan for the West Royalty Commercial Area. This public meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 26, 2021, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Confederation Centre of the Arts (145 Richmond Street).
In addition to the master plan presentation, uploaded on February 26, 2021, the City’s Public Works department has made the Full Report of the West Royalty Commercial Area Transportation Master Plan available online for residents to consult prior to the public meeting. Both documents are available at www.charlottetown.ca/trafficplan
This meeting is to enable the Public Works Department to check off the Public Feedback component as a token gesture to the planning process, because apparently the Final Report is to be submitted to the Planning Department. At that point, one presumes the Planning Department will present the Final Report to the Planning Board and/or City Council.
One has to wonder whether City Council will be required to call a public meeting on the traffic plan’s Final Report, which, let’s be clear, is to enable developers to receive approval for their projects.
This is why it’s so important to make your voice heard. Nothing prevents anyone from outright challenging the report. Whether you write one sentence or twenty, your comments are crucial to ensure the Final Report isn’t just a duplicate of the Draft Final Report.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
The words “traffic study” and “traffic master plan” were used interchangeably last year during the North of Towers, a.k.a. Sherwood Crossing, rezoning application meetings. Despite requests by citizens for a copy of the traffic study, the City consistently refused, partly on the grounds that the two were not connected, partly because it would call a public meeting in future. In a 6–3 City Council vote on December 14, 2020, the rezoning application for the future Killam/APM development located within the traffic study area was approved.
On April 13, the City announced that the Public Works department is hosting a public consultation on Monday, April 26 at the Homburg Theatre (Confederation Centre of the Arts). The purpose is to provide prepare a final West Royalty Commercial Area Transportation Master Plan based on public input received during a one-meeting, two-hour ‛consultation processʼ.
When a slide presentation of the traffic study was released to the public in February, it bore the title SDU & Area Vacant Lands—Transportation Master Plan.
In March, when the Draft Final Report posted on the City’s website, it was renamed West Royalty Commercial Area—Transportation Master Plan.
What is a Transportation Master Plan [TMP]?
It is a document that guides a municipality’s transportation investment and activities, and typically uses a strategic framework that incorporates the Cityʼs vision, feedback from the community, and an analysis of transportation challenges and opportunities.
The City of Courtenay, B.C., (2016 pop. 54,157) presents an excellent example with its completed 2019 Transportation Master Plan.
Transportation … or Traffic?
The Transportation Master Plan document created by CBCL, whose mission“is to provide world-class engineering and environmental services” (no Transportation Planning in its list of ‛Solutionsʼ), states the following in the Executive Summary:
Nearly 35 pages are filled with details of the traffic analysis zones and roughly 40 pages with traffic data.
What about other modes of transportation?
Section 4.2. Active Transportation: “AT design focused on the human experience will positively influence mode choice among residents and visitors, and help to reduce the negative effects of a transportation system dominated by motorized vehicles.”
Section 4.3. Transit: “Future roadways and development site plans within the study area should be designed with transit connectivity in mind include adequate lighting and signage at stops; safe, comfortable shelters; and good active transportation connections.”
Section 4.4. entitled Sherwood Residential Area appears to have been added to soothe local residentsʼ fears about increased traffic. (Not a joke.)
The cover letter to Scott Adams, Manager of Public Works, states:
CBCL Limited (CBCL) is pleased to present the findings of this comprehensive study of vacant lands adjacent to the main commercial area of Charlottetown. We understand there is increasing pressure from several property owners, primarily north and east of the Charlottetown Mall, to obtain City approval to move forward with various development plans. The main objective of this Transportation Master Plan is to assist City staff by providing strategies for future development and street connections to the existing road network needed to support this growth.
Posted: April 19, 2021 | Last Updated: April 22, 2021