Sustainable Urban Development

Posted March 26, 2021 | Last updated March 29, 2021

Sustainable urban development is the way forward for cities to mitigate climate change. Integrated urban places designed to bring people, activities, buildings, and public spaces together, with easy walking and cycling connection between them and near-excellent transit service to the rest of the city. 

When you think of your neighbourhood, would you say it includes the right mix of activities and the right mix of people? What would it take to achieve the right mix?

How well do you think Charlottetown is doing to integrate its urban places?

How would you rate the walkability – and the safety and accessibility of sidewalks – around Charlottetown?

What type of public transportation improvements would you like to see in the next two years?

A fine example of citizen engagement

I chanced upon this article a few days ago. It highlights the way in which concerned individuals can unite and present their requests to their local government for transparency in governance processes and procedures.

Despite the pandemic, citizens deserve open, transparent government. 

Coalition of citizens, associations and nonprofits

Full text below:

Commentary: New year resolution: a transparent Sonoma County Board of SupervisorsMar 19, 2021

Editor’s Note: The following was a letter sent to the Board of Supervisors by a coalition of citizens, associations and nonprofits in early January, and recently shared with us.

We are writing to you because we are gravely concerned that the Sonoma County Board of Supervisor (BoS) appears to be moving toward less transparency rather than inclusion.

To begin addressing the issue, we respectfully request:

1) The Board of Supervisors form a Transparency Committee to ensure ease of public access to county documents, information, departments and the internet. This is particularly needed in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic; the board give direction to staff that public access is not to be unduly limited due to the pandemic; the board make its processes transparent and public friendly, as is required by law.

2) That all agenda items and key issues coming before the Board be made available to all board members at the same time they are provided to the chair; that preliminary agenda topics be available and posted with accurate descriptions on the county website and, where requested, available via the U.S Postal Service.

3) That the Ad Hoc Committee work of the board be recognized and open to the public. Ad Hoc Committees should have an expiration date when established, and have their single purpose described. They cannot be perpetual committees under the Brown Act.

4) That the Local Coastal Plan update, planning ordinance updates, and any consideration of major changes in the processes of the county (e.g. changes in terms of the chair) be postponed until public meetings are allowed. There appears to be no urgency that would require a Zoom update, recognizing that public input is necessary to make informed public decisions.

Despite the pandemic, citizens deserve open, transparent government.

The Santa Rosa City Council in December voted to approve a transparent government proposal that has labored through subcommittee and council consideration for six years. The impetus was mass public demonstrations against the shooting of teenager Andy Lopez by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy. The Council recognized that openness in government makes for a happier, more informed citizenry and better decision making.

On Dec. 6, on short notice, an agenda item was placed on the Board of Supervisors’ agenda proposing that board chairs be elected for two years instead of one, beginning when the incoming chairperson begins their term. This proposal could have been approved before supervisor-elect Chris Coursey would take his seat. Thanks to Executive Officer Sheryl Bratton, the move was tabled until supervisor Coursey could join his colleagues and participate in a decision that will affect our future governance structure.

Traditionally, board members have each served one-year terms as chair of the board. The chairperson ran meetings and tended to ceremonial duties. Now, however, the chairperson has the power to select, or not, agenda items for weekly meetings. This limits the opportunity for an individual supervisor to agendize items concerning their own district, or in many instances, be aware of agenda Items in advance.

Rotation of the chair and vice chair promotes leadership, transparency, legitimacy, and helpful transitions into new leadership. It also provides representation for all five districts in a five-year cycle. Perhaps it would be wise to first research other counties that use the two-year chair system. We have been able to identify only California Charter Counties that have two-year chairmanships at this time.

Hopefully, this recent effort to instate a two-year chair term is not part of a new board ethic that limits publicly available information or input. There are, however, other instances where public input appears to be more limited than under prior boards:

Meetings categorized as “ad hoc” — small, focused meetings on specific topics not requiring disclosure — are used to “streamline” a process or provide greater efficiency, but have created a closed system that shuts out the public.

For example, after work done by an ad hoc committee, the BoS on Dec. 9 approved what many believe to be looser environmental regulations for Vineyard and Orchard Site Development (VESCO). Driven by increasing problems from storm events, VESCO was established to limit erosion impacts of hillside vineyard or orchard development and other environmental infractions through environmental performance standards.

Unlike interaction with industry leaders, outreach and engagement with downstream neighbors, environmental groups and agency representatives was limited to one pre-pandemic “stakeholder” meeting.

“Technical difficulties” may explain limitations for citizens attempting to make public comment during this era of Zoom, but it was problematic that several industry representatives were able to make statements in favor of the VESCO amendments, while a number of other speakers were unable to be recognized.

Similarly, replacing the General Manager (GM) of the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (AOSD) was initially an item on the board’s consent calendar for their sole consideration and approval. It was only after public outcry that the process was opened to public input. This concern regarding leadership comes in part because funding for the AOSD relies on a favorable ballot vote of the people.

A supervisor was recently cited for conflict of interest by concerned citizens for his role in promoting cannabis industry interests. He had been involved in undisclosed meetings with industry lobbyists. The Board of Supervisors will soon be considering extensive changes to the cannabis ordinance making full citizen involvement timely and part of the legally established process for government decision-making.

Our Local Coastal Plan (LCP) Update has been crafted by Permit Sonoma without what was formerly routine public access to staff. All past Coastal Plan Updates have had Citizen Advisory Groups and planned citizen input. The county now states the intention to hold Zoom “workshops” for the public on select LCP topics. It should be noted that many citizens, especially in remote areas along the coast, may not have the technical capacity to participate.

Additionally, basic access to county business is limited by certain processes, such as not releasing the BoS meeting agendas and supporting packets until the Friday before Monday or Tuesday hearings. That leaves little time for the public to research, digest and prepare for participation.

While staff reports and recommendations are to be submitted to the chair four weeks in advance, only the chair sees the preliminary agenda. Other supervisors may not know key issues until the end of the week before a Monday or Tuesday hearing. All supervisors should have access to the agenda and preliminary information at the same time, as part of their preparation for the meeting/hearing. The county website has poor navigation and no site map — even when documents are updated and available, they may be impossible to find. BOS-written minutes often take months to appear, so that it’s hard to find the result of board votes.

All of these internalized obstacles to public participation are exacerbated by the pandemic. Meetings are held privately, electronically. Public documents are unavailable for perusal without an appointment and are sometimes simply unavailable despite the public’s legal rights. It is increasingly necessary to access information that was once readily available via requests through a Public Records Act.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased limitations to the county’s important functions and decisions at a time when concerns about government are heightened. While recognizing that business must continue during the pandemic, the county should work doubly hard to ensure public access.

Thank you for considering the ways the County of Sonoma can improve transparency in governances process and procedures, even as we battle pandemic conditions.

We all benefit from open government. Please do not hesitate to reach out for our support and collaboration.

Sincerely,
(List of signatories)

Taming Traffic

Yesterdayʼs public meeting to present a rezoning application that will involve a new roundabout to be built by the Province is a perfect example of both the Provinceʼs and the City of Charlottetownʼs car bias, which promotes more roads and roundabouts at the expense of other transportation solutions. “Efficiency of moving traffic”, “province is making major upgrades”, “create a much safer situation for vehicles” are all car-biased expressions that leave out the people factor.

Do we value moving cars fast? Do we value saving lives? Do we value new transportation options? Do we value the people in these neighbourhoods, or do we value the people passing though? What kind of city do we want to build? 

It is time for the Province and the City of Charlottetown to de-prioritize the automobile in their transportation funding allocations, to charge drivers the full cost of their bad habit, and to use the revenue to properly fund integrated public and active transportation systems.

Demand for and use of private cars is growing worldwide, contributing to major challenges like poor air quality, traffic injuries, and climate change, especially in places experiencing rapid urbanization. Population growth and uptake of vehicles, coupled with inefficient public transportation and land use planning, make traffic a complex problem to manage. While many city leaders recognize that traffic is a problem, they too often focus on road expansions and new highways as the solutions. Not only can this make congestion worse through induced demand, but it does little to address the many other negative impacts of driving.

Instead, cities must consider traffic reduction strategies that prioritize people and well-being and that require drivers to consider environmental and societal costs in addition to internal costs when choosing to drive.
Excerpt from Taming Traffic Executive Summary ©2021

March 23, 2021: Public Meeting

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at 7:00 p.m.
Courtyard, The Rodd Royalty, 14 Capital Drive
(Also accessible via Videoconference (Webex) and live stream at www.charlottetown.ca/video)

Two items are on the agenda for this Public Meeting, at which citizens have the opportunity to listen to the Planning Department’s report, and comment on or ask questions about the proposed rezoning applications. This post focusses on the first item.

Angus Drive (Lot 40) & 413 St. Peters Road


“The current application has come forward because the Province is undertaking major upgrades to St.Peters Road in the Summer of 2021. Those upgrades include construction of a roundabout at the location of Angus Drive, Hanmac Avenue and St Peters Road.

“The proposed roundabout will alleviate issues with access from Angus Drive and will keep traffic flowing as opposed to waiting to make left or right turns at this intersection. The proposed access driveway from Mel’s to Angus Drive will also create a much safer situation for customers leaving or entering the site. Currently, residents that live north of Mel’s and St.Peters Road have to go down to St.Peters Road to get to Mel’s site. Once this access goes in and the roundabout is constructed, residents to the north of Mel’s will be able to turn into Mel’s site and not have to enter on to St. Peters Road. That will create a much safer situation.”
Source: Monthly Meeting Package (March 8, 2021)

What’s wrong with this proposal?

  1. “Mayor Brown asked Mr. Yeo if the construction for the roundabout along St. Peters Road and Angus Drive will begin this year. Mr. Yeo responded that tenders were closed last Thursday and construction for the roundabout and road widening along St. Peters Road is anticipated to begin in May and be completed around August or September of 2021.” 
  2. “There are still negotiations with property owners, but the project will move ahead as planned.”
  3. “Councillor McCabe asked if changing the designation from mature neighbourhood to the village centre allow further commercial development on the property. Councillor Duffy responded that this application is only a request to proceed to public meeting.”

Why is a public meeting called when the project is going ahead anyway?

This City Council still believes—as does the Province—that cars are the best way to get around, when they are in fact virtually the only way to get around, because so little money is invested in connected public and active transportation; that more roads are needed to reduce congestion; and that pedestrians and cyclists can be accommodated through added-on, second-rate infrastructure.

City Council declared a Climate Emergency in 2019. Building more roads for more cars that produce direct emissions, including smog-forming pollutants (such as nitrogen oxides), other pollutants harmful to human health, and greenhouse gases (GHGs), primarily carbon dioxide, is the very opposite of the sustainable community design and urban planning that a municipality should be striving to achieve in 2021!

Will the 15 Haviland flawed approval process be repeated at 199 Grafton?

Author: Doug MacArthur
Posted with author’s permission. Original on Future of Charlottetown FaceBook page on Friday, March 19, 2021.

Watch video recording (50 minutes) https://www.youtube.com/c/CityofCharlottetown/videos

On Monday, March 22, a very important Design Review Board meeting is being held regarding APM’s proposed 84-unit apartment building to be built in the Polyclinic parking lot. Citizens need to have much more information and input than happened in the 15 Haviland case. Already, there is reason for concern.

Design Review is the City committee which approved 15 Haviland Street, 99-unit, project in 17 minutes, including the developer’s [APM] presentation. There was then no recourse allowed by the Mayor for any public input by the community or even City Council. Our only 15 Haviland recourse is for an IRAC appeal which will be launched if/when the City issues a Development Permit. The Polyclinic 84 unit seems to be embarking on a similar rushed approval process. 

Several days ago, the City announced that the Design Review Board would meet about 199 Grafton on March 22. Not until Friday, March 19, did the Design Reviewer provide his technical report, and that Reviewer is the same New Brunswick architect who was paid $1500 to review APM’s $30-million 15 Haviland proposal. He was supportive of 15 Haviland, while highly regarded architects called it an urban design disaster and a box on top of a bunker on Charlottetown’s beautiful waterfront.

Late Friday afternoon, March 19, the City provided the meeting package for the noon, Monday, March 22 meeting. In the meeting package, APM asks that the Design Review Board process the necessary variances and the Development Agreement concurrently. It is clear that the developer wants this approval fast-tracked, although it is not expected to be approved at Monday’s meeting because there are so many issues with the project. These issues need to be fully resolved before any Development Agreement is entertained. Following are some of the many issues.

In the meeting package, APM refers to the project as “affordable” housing in nine instances, but nowhere in the package does it state how many of the units will actually be affordable housing. Will it be all 84 units or only a few token units to help get the project approved as per 15 Haviland? On February 16, in a CBC article about the proposed Polyclinic project, when asked about the number of affordable housing units, Tim Banks stated “it’s difficult to determine exactly how many of the units will fall into the affordable housing category.” That’s not good enough. This Polyclinic parking lot is an ideal location for bona fide affordable housing, but the exact number needs to be known before any consideration should be given to significant variances in this 500 Lot Area.

As to the variances required, there are many as the Design Reviewer acknowledges when he says “..it is clear that there are several variances required prior to obtaining a Development Agreement including frontages, setbacks, step backs, heights, Clark Street.” In fact, APM’s plans call for building right up to the edge of Clark Street, which borders the proposed project for 428 feet.

All told, this appears to be another case, as per 15 Haviland, of overbuilding a site and not respecting the scale or other physical aspects of the neighbourhood. In the meeting package, APM says that because it has “identified no significant commonality or distinction surrounding the area, the design for the proposed building adapted to what we feel is appropriate for this site.”

There are various other issues related to this proposed project which need to be addressed, and this scrutiny should begin at Monday’s Design Review meeting. Two of the key Design Review members are the Mayor and the ward Councillor for that area. For 15 Haviland, they both were wearing APM hardhats. We hope they will better represent our community’s interests on Monday and as this project proceeds through a thorough due diligence and public input process.

Source: Design Review Package – March 22, 2021

City of Charlottetown Meeting Calendar

Knowing what is happening at City Hall is as easy as looking at the Meeting Calendar.

Here are the three simple steps:

  1. Go to https://www.charlottetown.ca
  2. Select MAYOR & COUNCIL
  3. Select Meeting Calendar under COUNCIL MEETINGS

Here’s what the March 2021 meeting calendar looks like:

Click on any of the meetings shown in blue for more information, such as time of meeting, location, agenda, and meeting package (if available).

Most meetings are held on a regular basis every month, are streamed live and then archived on the City’s YouTube channel.

A Special Meeting of Council, however, can be called at the Mayor’s or the Chief Administration Officer’s (CAO) request as little as 24 hours in advance, according to the Municipal Government Act (2017).


Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you.

How well is our city really doing?

City to conduct Citizen Satisfaction Survey

Recently posted under News and Notices on the City of Charlottetown’s Web site: “Charlottetown City Council will commission MDB Insight to conduct the first ever Charlottetown Citizen Satisfaction Survey, in an effort to gauge City residents’ satisfaction with the handling of priority issues within the City.”

The Strong Towns Strength Test

Strong Towns is a North American non-profit organization that helps individuals and municipalities learn about and adopt a radically new way of thinking about the way we build our world.

In 2016, they developed a ten-question Strong Towns Strength Test, which is still valid today.

Based on those ten questions, how successful do you think the City of Charlottetown is today?

Why New Charlottetown Project?

Over

My inspiration for the name came from the New Georgia Project, a non-partisan civic engagement organization dedicated to increasing voter registration.

My aim is to encourage Charlottetowners to become more active citizens, create a sense of the larger community we live in, and let the Mayor and City Council know that our voices count in plans and projects that affect our city.

Political scientists describe our system of voting every few years but otherwise leaving everything up to government as weak democracy. In a weak democracy, citizens have no role, no real part in decision-making between elections.

Charles Dobson, 25 Nov 2003 | TheTyee.ca

The next municipal election is in 2022. Let us raise our voices, let us connect with each other, and let us be instrumental in creating a positive social environment by transforming the way in which our city is run.