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

Eng.: Yes. You are one of the benefitting property owners who will be assessed for the project.
Resident: You must be kidding me. I have a nice quiet neighbourhood street today. My kids play in the yard and it is safe. I can walk across the street to the grocery store, or up the street to the restaurant, and it is safe. To make it safer, you are going to flatten, widen, and straighten the street and add two more lanes of fast-moving cars. This is done because of traffic projections – because we want new growth in the tax subsidy area on the edge of town. And while my neighbourhood crumbles and my home drops in value, you are going to assess me, too.

I felt bad for her. She truly didnʼt get it.

Eng.: Iʼm sorry. But the traffic projections require a four-lane street for safety reasons. We must follow the standard.

This conversation is a composite of many conversations Iʼve participated in during my years of working as a civil engineer and urban planner for cities across Minnesota. The thoughts and words I attribute to myself in this dialogue are all ones Iʼve believed or expressed at one point or another during my career.

For many years, I believed that my education, training, and licence gave me superior insight into how cities work. I believed that I was uniquely positioned to know what was best for society – at least when it came to transportation.

I believed that the optimal approach to city building was reflected in the codes and standards that had been developed by others in my profession and that adhering to them was the only responsible approach an ethical person could take.

I believed that the straighter, flatter, and wider we could make a street, the safer it would become, and that requiring clear zones free of obstacles on each side was a critical component of public safety.

I believed that the speed people drove reflected their own level of responsibility or recklessness, that my designs had no influence on traffic speed, and that the only real way to address speeding was through police enforcement and public awareness campaigns.

I believed that automobile crashes, and the frequent incapacitations and deaths that accompanied them, were random events mostly caused by driver error, that the best thing I could do to reduce human suffering was too strive to continually improve our transportation systems to higher and higher standards.

I believed that I could use models and simulations to predict future traffic flows and that I had an innate sense for how drivers would respond to the designs that I and other engineers put in place.

I believed that Level of Service and other measurements of traffic efficiency were strongly correlated with economic success and that the potential for increased jobs, growth, and economic development were all directly tied to the free flow of automobile traffic.

I believed that government transportation programs, public debt financing of infrastructure projects, and local tax subsidies for development were all responsible options taken in response to the private marketplace and that government leadership was reinforcing the natural outcomes being expressed in a market-based economic system.

Most of all, I believed that my efforts to plan, design, and engineer transportation systems were a service to society, that I was part of creating a prosperous America that could be shared by everyone, and that the only real impediments to success were a lack of funding and the political courage needed to stand up to naysayers.

In all these beliefs and more, I was wrong. Utterly and shamefully wrong.

What follows here [in the book] is my confession, along with my insights and recommendations for making things better by using a Strong Towns approach to transportation.

More on this topic:

The PEI Public Library Service had ordered a copy of the book and holds can be placed at this time.

TITLE:               Confessions of a Recovering Engineer
AUTHOR:         Charles L. Marohn, Jr.
ISBN:                 978-1-119-69929-3
Published:         September 8, 2021
PAGES:               272
PUBLISHER:    John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

It is also available for purchase as an e-book.

A recent book review on the Urban Cycling Institute site asks and answers the question: “Who might be interested in this book? It is especially enlightening for people that feel frustrated about the design of their own street or the mobility system as a whole.”

A lengthier and more detailed book review in The Bulwark, entitled “All Roads Lead to Roads”, concludes that if you read Confessions, you’ll no longer be able to ignore the professions and systems that Marohn methodically exposes.

Report an error, or send a question or comment by e-mail to:
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Posted: Dec 16, 2021 7:01 AM AT | Last Updated: December 17, 2021 3:15 PM AT

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 …

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A conversation between an engineer and a home-owner – Part 4/7

One of the frequent justifications for making the roadway improvements is a tragic incident, especially a death. While those cases often seem random, they form a powerful justification for doing an improvement project, especially where you can tap into available federal or state funding. Multiple incidents can even create a sense of urgency. Since there is a seemingly endless list of roads that need improvement, prioritizing by death rate or accident rate can almost seem natural.

That wasnʼt the case here. We were proactively making the improvements to this street to make it safer – to bring it up to an acceptable standard in a way that would ultimately save lives. We werenʼt waiting for the accident rate to rise; we were getting out in front of that. It gave me a feeling of satisfaction in my work.

Eng.: This street is not safe because it does not meet the standard.
Resident: So, today cars drive slowly and it is safe, but you want to flatten the street, straighten the street, widen the street, and remove all of the trees so that cars can drive fast? Only afterwards will you post a speed limit so that cars will slow down? And you say this is safer?

It was a clever recitation, but while the woman with whom I was speaking was clearly sharp-witted, she lacked the background knowledge and understanding that allowed her to grasp the situation fully. I would try one last time to enlighten her.

Eng.: Yes, it will meet the standard. And please understand that there are high traffic projections for this street.
Resident: What do you mean by a high traffic projection?
Eng.: We project that a lot of cars will use this street in the coming years.

Weʼve all been on roads that lack capacity, where the traffic was at a standstill. From the perspective of the traffic engineer, this is an absolute failure. We even give it a grade of F.

Traffic engineers use a scale to measure “level of service” that runs from A, for “free flow condition” where all the traffic is moving unhindered, to F, where the flow of traffic breaks down and travel times are unpredictable.

Cities spend a great deal of time and resources analyzing and projecting traffic patterns. For this project, our models suggested a large increase in traffic, something that would create congestion and reduce traffic flow to Level of Service D – or potentially worse. All of the improvements underway were a proactive attempt to avoid bottlenecks and keep traffic flowing. We were being proactive with this project and I was proud of that.

Resident: Why would a lot of cars drive down this street? It is a small narrow street where you have to drive slow.

Now we were getting somewhere. Now she was asking the right questions – the ones that explains exactly why this project was so important. And I could surely sympathize with her not understanding what was coming. She hadnʼt seen the models my colleagues and I had put together. She wasnʼt the expert working on this every day. I felt a renewed sense of optimism. We were making progress.

Eng.: That is why we have to improve the street – to meet the standard.
Resident: Wonʼt thatʼs just encourage more people to drive?
Eng.: We have anticipated that, and we are adding two more lanes to handle the additional cars.

That insight was not received in the way that I anticipated. There was an uncomfortable period of silence – the kind where the person expected to speak is too startled to do so. Her eyes widened and she stared at me, not blinking.

Resident: You are adding two more lanes?
Eng.: Yes.
Resident: For cars?
Eng.: Yes. An additional two lanes will allow the street to meet the standard.

I looked down at my feet. I wasnʼt sure how to react to this conversation. It was clear that the woman with whom I was speaking was upset, but certainly she didnʼt want traffic congestion in front of her home. I bet sheʼd be the first one calling City Hall if she was stuck in traffic every day at a Level of Service F.

I just needed to help her understand what was already so clear to me. Yes, she might have to give up some trees and a little bit of her front yard, but she didnʼt want things to be safe? Didnʼt she want the road to work for everyone? She spoken next.

Resident: Let me see if I understand. You are projecting a high volume of traffic where there is none today and then building a street to handle this traffic. Arenʼt you just encouraging more people to drive?
Eng.: No. We are anticipating a lot of growth and need to make this improvement to handle the growth.

While Iʼm an engineer, Iʼm really into growth business. All of us who work for the City are in the growth business in one way or another. New growth is how we get the money we need to fix the streets, pay for police officers and firefighters, keep the library open, and all of the other things that taxpayers say they want. Growth is how people get jobs. Itʼs the unifying focus that we more or less all seem to agree on.

To be continued …

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A conversation between an engineer and a home-owner – Part 3/7

Most people seem to want to progress. They show up at public meetings and demand all of the conveniences that come with driving. They want it, that is, until it impacts them directly. Then progress must be stopped. Then they all turn into environmentalists. Iʼve seen it many times. She seemed to fit the profile, especially with her next question.

Resident: So, you are going to remove the trees from the clear zone to improve safety?
Eng.: Yes. Exactly.
Resident: How big is the clear zone?

I took a deep breath and looked down.

Eng.: The clear zone is 25 feet on each side of the street.
Resident: Twenty-five feet! That is my entire front yard!

I wasnʼt going to compromise on safety. I had a code of ethics demanding that I put the welfare of the general public ahead of concerns like this. I had worked years to get my licence, and I wasnʼt about to risk it by not following the design standard.

Plus, the firm that I work for high professional liability insurance, which I knew was expensive. We live in a litigious society. There was no way that I was going to be bullied into doing something irresponsible – something that threatened my client or my firm, let alone the people who would drive along this road.

Eng.: Iʼm sorry, but the standard requires that for the road to be safe, all obstacles must be removed from the clear zone.
Resident: Do you understand that my children play in this clear zone?
Eng.: I would not recommend that. It would not be safe.
Resident: But it is safe today. I thought you were doing this project to improve safety. How is the street safer if my children canʼt go outside?

I was having a conversation with this woman at the request of the mayor. She was one of his constituents. I knew that my job was to listen her and answer her questions, but it was also to demonstrate that the city had performed due diligence on the project. If she showed up at a future council meeting complaining about her kids not being able to go outside to play, she was less likely to be taken seriously if everyone knew that I had personally met with her, answered her questions, and seen her property firsthand. Iʼm the professional and, after being on site and meeting with her, I can confidently say that nothing unique is happening with her property, regardless of what she might suggest at a public hearing.

Eng.: Building the street to meet the standard will enhance safety by allowing cars to flow more smoothly.
Resident: More smoothly. The cars will just drive faster, will they not?

By statute in my state, the city is not able to enforce any speed limit lower than thirty 30 mph (50 k/hr). There are exceptions, but those require extensive studies and proof that there is some unique circumstance justifying the lower speed limit. We werenʼt going through that effort here. The city didnʼt have the budget for such a study and, even if they did, there were no special circumstances that would justify doing so.

Once the street was built, if there was a reason to believe that 30 mph (50 k/hr) was the wrong speed, I could do a speed study and make that determination. Such a study would involve monitoring the speed that traffic was naturally flowing, which my experience suggested was unlikely to be less than 30 mph (50 k/hr). She should be careful what she wishes because a speed study is more likely to result in a higher speed limit than a lower one.

Eng.: We will post a speed limit after we do a speed study and determine the same speed for the street.
Resident: But cars drive slow now. Slow is the safe speed through my neighbourhood where my children are playing in my yard. How does it improve safety to have a drag strip out my front door?
Eng.: It will increase safety because traffic will flow more smoothly. That is the standard.

At this point, the two of us had cycled through all of the typical objections that people bring up to oppose such projects. We had started with a friendly line of inquiry and eventually proceeded all the way to unresolvable acrimony. I had done everything that had been asked of me, and I was thinking it was time to move on.

She was not ready to let things go, however, and I started to sense this conversation would get very emotional before we were done. Her next words reinforced my uneasiness.

Resident: I am not aware of anyone being killed in an accident on the street, and I have lived here for thirty years. Are you aware of anyone being killed?
Eng.: No, Iʼm not.

I tried not to roll my eyes or sound like the teenager I was just a few years earlier.

Resident: I am not even aware of any accidents that have occurred on this street. Are you aware of any accidents?
Eng.: No, Iʼm not.
Resident: Then why do you say that the street is not safe today?

To be continued …

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A conversation between an engineer and a home-owner – Part 2/7

If there was one single thing motivating me on this project, it was the desire to make this street safer.

Eng.: It means the grade and alignment of the street do not meet the standard, and so we are going to fix that.
Resident: What is the standard?

My understanding of safety in this situation comes from accepted industry practice. Engineers have books of codes and standards that outline all aspects of safe design, from how wide to make a street to where to put the signs. I not only had access to these texts, I had been trained in how to interpret them properly.

I recognized that my role in this interaction was to simplify all of the complicated factors that go into designing a street – all of the institutional knowledge of my profession – into something that a layperson could understand.

Eng.: Basically, the streets must be relatively flat and straight.
Resident: So youʼre going to make the street flat and straight?
Eng.: Yes.
Resident: How does that improve safety?

My ability to stay friendly and professional here was important. The woman to whom I was speaking hadnʼt sat through the traffic engineering courses that I had taken – the ones that taught me the history of roadway design. She didnʼt know the horrible death rates of the early automobile era — the time before engineers established modern best practices.

She didnʼt have the training and the background that I had, including access to all of the code books and standards that my profession has developed over decades. She hadnʼt done the continuing education, sat around the table with my fellow engineers hearing details about how bad decisions lead to bad outcomes, and sometimes even death. I forced a half smile and went on.

Eng.: It will allow cars to navigate more smoothly, which makes it safer.
Resident: I donʼt understand.

In traffic engineering, randomness is the enemy of safety. The more variables that we can remove, the more the driver can predict what is going to happen and the safer things become. For the driver, a road that is straight is safer than one with a lot of curves. A road that is flat is safer than one with a lot of hills.

It was difficult for me to explain something so self-evident, so I tried to expand the conversation to an aspect of design that would hopefully be easier to grasp – someplace where we could develop a common understanding and build to more complicated concepts.

Eng.: Along with fixing deficiencies with the grade and the alignment, we will be widening the driving lanes.
Resident: What will that do?
Eng.: It will improve safety.
Resident: How does widening the lanes improve safety?

Okay, this was getting frustrating. It is a little too obvious that wide lanes are safer than narrow lanes. Anyone who has tried to drive down a narrow street, having been forced to slow way down to avoid hitting things, knows that having more space gives the driver a higher safety margin. This was Road Design 101 – the most basic of concepts. I was starting to think that this woman, despite her friendliness, just didnʼt want to get it.

Eng.: Along with fixing the deficiencies in the grade and the alignment, it will allow traffic to flow more smoothly.
Resident: What do you mean by allowing the traffic to flow more smoothly? How does that improve safety?
Eng.: Cars will be able to move without worrying about hitting things, so it will be safer. That is why we are also expanding the clear zone.

Resident: What do you mean by expanding the clear zone?

Having a clear zone on each side of the roadway is another one of these basic design concepts universally understood to improve safety. If a car goes careening off the road surface, all that kinetic energy needs to be dissipated. We donʼt want the car to be brought to an abrupt stop by hitting an obstacle; we want the process of slowing down to happen more gradually.

All traffic engineers have heard the story of a driver losing control, the car going off the road and hitting an obstacle that should never have been there, with tragedy being the predictable result. Establishing an area on each side of the road that is clear of obstacles increases the chance that people will walk away from such an incident. I was taught to insist on it. No compromises with safety.

Eng.: We will be removing obstacles from the clear zone to improve safety.
Resident: What is the clear zone?
Eng.: It is the area on each side of the street that we need to keep clear of obstacles in case cars go off the road.
Resident: What kind of obstacles?
Eng.: Mostly trees

I steadied myself because I have been in this situation before and knew what was coming. We were standing in a yard full of trees, many of which were going to be cut down. I knew she wasnʼt going to like that. It seemed a selfish reaction to me.

To be continued …

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A conversation between an engineer and a home-owner – Part 1/7

The book Confessions of a Recovering Engineer by Charles L. Marohn, Jr., is about streets, roads, and transportation.

Because the PEI Public Library Service does not yet have a copy of the book available (it is on order), and not everyone will buy it, the Introduction: Conversation with an Engineer is being replicated here in instalments.

Eng.: Hello, Iʼm the project engineer. I heard you have a concern about the street improvements we have planned for your neighbourhood.

I was feeling nervous about going out to speak with her, so I had no reason to believe that this would go poorly. I extended a hand as she stepped out of her door and into the front yard. We had a firm but friendly handshake, and she gave me a smile.

I was the project engineer, and this was my job. I needed to be able to speak with the public, if I was going to advance in my chosen profession. I have been on many such visits with other more senior engineers, watching and learning from how they handled sensitive interactions like this. Now it was my turn. I waited for her to speak next.

Resident: Yes, I heard that you are planning to improve my street. What will this mean for my neighbourhood?

Perfect. I had anticipated this question, of course, and I knew exactly how to answer it. This is the reason why I was here. My confidence growing, I responded.

Eng.: We plan to correct deficiencies in the grade as well as deficiencies in the curvature of the existing alignment. We also plan to enhance the clear zone in order to bring the street up to an acceptable and safe standard.

She gave me an odd look, like I was speaking a foreign language.

Resident: So, you are going to make the street safer?
Eng.: Yes, of course.
Resident: How are you going to make the street safer?

Civil engineering is a four-year program, although most of my peers took five to earn their degree. The four-year pace is rigorous, while the coursework is deeply technical. Upon graduation, an engineer wishing to be licenced will take a grueling eight-hour test called the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (FEE), after which they become an Engineer in Training (EIT).

The path to licensure requires the EIT to work for four years in an apprentice capacity under the direct supervision of a licenced engineer. This is a time to go beyond the theory and become knowledgeable in the standards and practices of the profession. After four years of gaining wisdom through working, and only with the support of another licenced engineer, an EIT becomes eligible to take the licencing exam and become a Professional Engineer (PE).

I attained my degree in four years. I passed the FEE on my first try. I had done my four years working as an EIT for some distinguished engineers, and I passed my licencing exam on my first attempt.

I stood in this yard, adjacent to a street I have been asked to design, as a licenced PE – the proud steward of wisdom that, in some respects, dated all the way back to the ancient Romans, Greeks, and beyond. This might be my first solo project, but I was confident because I knew what I was talking about.

Eng.: Well, first we are going to correct deficiencies in the grade and in the alignment.
Resident: What does that mean?

Safety is the primary responsibility of any licenced engineer. There really isnʼt a close second. Itʼs written in our code of ethics. Itʼs embedded into our design processes. Safety is the reason why this state requires a licence to practice engineering. Itʼs why the city hired my firm for this job. Itʼs why I was standing there.

To be continued …

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BOOK: Confessions of a Recovering Engineer

Confessions of a Recovering Engineer by Charles L. Marohn, Jr., is about streets, roads, and transportation.

The book’s Web site home-page briefly introduces the author:

Drawing on his decades of experience as a professional engineer and planner, he explains why the conventional approach to traffic engineering is making people less safe, bankrupting towns and cities, destroying the fabric of communities, and actually worsening the problems (like congestion) engineers set out to solve.

He also talks about how transportation can be fixed—and why fixing it will involve not just engineers, but local residents and officials who have become effective and empowered advocates, connected with others to make real change.

Even though the author focuses primarily on laws and examples from the United States, virtually every chapter is equally relevant to Canadian cities, large and small.

The bookʼs introduction

Because the PEI Public Library Service does not yet have a copy of the book available (it is on order), and not everyone will buy it, the Introduction: Conversation with an Engineer is being replicated here in instalments.

Throughout the entire book, the author uses clear, descriptive, and expressive language that makes it easy and interesting to read.

In the introduction, he cleverly illustrates — through a composite conversation with a home-owner —how the underlying values of our transportation system are not human values, but values unique to a profession.

This is how it starts:

Eng.: Hello, Iʼm the project engineer. I heard you have a concern about the street improvements we have planned for your neighbourhood.

To be continued …

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Disturbing Facts About Killam/APM’s 
Sherwood Crossing Development Project (2)

Is the use of public funds justified?

In a series of unrelated steps, a majority of City councillors voted in favour of allocating public funds between 2020 and 2021 as follows:

  • $650,000 to build a new public road to connect Towers Road with Spencer Drive (Special Meeting of Council, 6 Feb. 2020, vote 6–0). This “public” road is part of the Charlottetown Mall parking lot; the mall is now wholly owned by Killam REIT and Tim Banksʼs Pan American Properties.
  • An additional $69,000 to perform a comprehensive traffic study of undeveloped lands adjacent to the main retail area of Charlottetown (Special Meeting of Council, 19 Mar. 2020, vote 9–0)
  • $550,000 to fund the purchase of two properties (241 and 245 Mount Edward Rd), which border Killam/RioCan/APM’s proposed Sherwood Crossing property, to make way for the Spencer Drive extension (which will cross Confederation Trail). In addition, the City’s Public Works Department will act as property manager for a two-year period [involving, at the least, maintenance costs]. (Monthly Meeting of Council, 8 Feb. 2021, vote 6–3).
  • An as-yet unknown amount for the future construction of the Spencer Drive extension to Mount Edward Road, of which a portion of the land is on the Killam/RioCan property and thus might be subject to sections 45.2.1. and 45.2.3. in the Zoning & Development Bylaw.

The Development Agreement drawn up for Pan American Properties, whose president is Tim Banks, includes the following clauses:

2.4. The Developer shall enter into a Roads and Services Agreement for the portion of public road to connect this development to Spencer Drive.

2.5. The developer shall deed to the City the future public road corridor as shown on the north boundary of the Master Plan at no cost to the City prior to the issuance of any building and development permits. Notwithstanding any existing or future by-law of the City, the City acknowledges that the Developer shall not be responsible to contribute to the cost of development of any public street to be constructed on the public road corridor, other than the portion referred to in Clause 2.4. hereof, unless the Developer creates an access to such public street from the property.

2.7. If subdivision approval is sought, then a final plan(s) of subdivision must be approved by the City and each individual lot must have frontage on a public street.

It therefore appears that City Council approved well over $1 million in public money for costs in and around Sherwood Crossing, some of which, by definition, seem to have been the developer’s responsibility.

The land owner is Killam Properties Inc, based in Halifax, an out-of-province Real Estate Investment Trust [REITs own, operate, or finance income-generating real estate], which already enjoys preferential financial/tax treatment.  Tim Banks is a founding member of Killam. Moreover, by including “affordable” units, Killam benefits from the province’s Affordable Housing Development Program, which provides forgivable loans of $45,000 per unit, with the loan forgiveness period ranging from 15 to 25 years. 

November 2020

CBC PEI: As for the project having to fall in line with the master traffic plan, Banks isnʼt worried. “There will be nothing in there that will surprise us,” he said.

THE GUARDIAN: There will also be a road built that links the neighbourhoods of Sherwood and West Royalty through a public link road. The road would connect Ash Drive, at Mount Edward Road, with Spencer Drive, taking some of the traffic pressure off Towers Road. “The new road network has provisions for a sidewalk and a biking lane and provides for a future link to other lands in the immediate area,” Banks said.

While there might have been nothing in the City’s transportation master plan to surprise Mr Banks, a Killam REIT director and owner/CEO of APM Construction, there certainly is plenty to cause anxiety to residents living in surrounding neighbourhoods.

It is fully in the interest of the public and the residents living in any community to be informed about any and all changes that may affect their quality of life in one, three, or even ten years from now.


1. The IRAC hearing LA21001 Don Read v. City of Charlottetown, held on 31 May 2021, is still awaiting a decision. The reasons for the appeal lies in the failure to fulfill Condition 1 out of the five conditions set forth by Council to approve the development.
Condition 1 requires that the Cityʼs [final] Traffic Master Plan (TMP) confirm that the development does not conflict with the proposed site plan.

2. Appeal LA21021 – Douglas MacArthur v. City of Charlottetown was received by IRAC on 15 September 2021.

The appeal was filed in the event the Request for Reconsideration submitted to the City was rejected.

City Council will vote on the Planning Boardʼs recommendation to reject Mr MacArthurʼs Request for Reconsideration (same reasons as the IRAC appeal) at the Regular Meeting of Council on Monday, November 8, 2021.

Mr MacArthur bases his appeal on Section 24 (3) of the Planning Act Absence of Approval. He states: “The land in question is also currently the subject of an IRAC rezoning appeal, hence there was absence of approvel for the necessary zoning of the land at the time (Aug.26) the site and foundation permits were approved by City Council. In short, the permits were approved even though the land in question did not have the necessary zoning in place to accommodate the proposed development and permit activity.”

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Posted: Nov 06, 2021, 7:50 AM AT | Last Updated: Nov 08, 8:36 PM AT

Update (9): St Peters Rd/Angus Dr

After an initial 8-1 vote in April to reject the resolution for Mel’s Convenience store/gas station owner Dan MacIsaacʼs rezoning application, several councillors did an about-face and voted to rescind that resolution at a Special Meeting of Council on Monday, 28 June 2021 (video-recording starts here), with a 6–3 vote. This means that Mr MacIsaac’s Request for Reconsideration was accepted and a new, slightly modified, resolution for the rezoning application was approved, and passed first reading the same evening.

The two most vocal speakers at this Special Council meeting were Councillors Mitchell Tweel (speaking for the residents of the Angus Drive neighbourhood) and Terry Bernard (speaking in favour of the roundabout).


  1. Councillor Mitchell Tweel raised a Point of Order to question the validity and legality of the June 23 public meeting: If the applicant for the Request for Reconsideration was Mel’s Convenience owner Dan MacIsaac, why was the Province (Stephen Yeo) at the meeting and why was he allowed to make a presentation about the $20-million St Peters Road project?
  2. Before allowing lawyer David Hooley to respond to Tweel’s Point of Order, Mayor Brown put Planner Laurel Thompson on the spot by asking her to justify Yeoʼs presence at the public meeting.
  3. Lawyer David Hooley responded to Tweelʼs question about the legality of the public meeting without really answering it, with Mayor Brown interjecting rather aggressively several times.
  4. Councillor Terry Bernard brought up “the importance of the roundabout (as explained by the Province), and that was new information” (hence Council accepting the Request for Reconsideration). He also asked for clarification about a resident who called his integrity into question during the public meeting because of a letter he had written to inform his constituents about the roundabout without mentioning the rezoning application.
  5. Lawyer David Hooley stood again to give a legal opinion on the letter written by Bernard, and certain remarks made by Councillor Mike Duffy, both of whom were subject to disqualification from a vote on the Request for Reconsideration by being in a conflict of interest, according to information provided by Angus Drive resident Patty Good at the June 22 public meeting. Hooley’s response: “In our opionion, these two individuals are not disqualified from participating in this process… The acid test is councillors need to maintain an open mind until they get to the final decision… You are also required to not prejudge, and I did not see any evidence of prejudgement in the letter, I did not see any evidence of prejudgement in Counc. Duffyʼs remarks… In our opinion, they are not in conflict…” [= Two votes in favour of Dan MacIsaacʼs rezoning application].
  6. Councillor Greg Rivard (also the Chair of the Protective and Emergency Services Standing Committee) said he spoke with someone at the Fire Department about various scenarios concerning emergency services, and how the presence or absence of a roundabout would affect their response time. In a court of law, this would be considered hearsay. In any case, the opinion or expertise of the Fire Department was not sought for this rezoning application.
  7. Councillor Julie McCabe responded to Rivardʼs concern by saying that he made some good points but it really is a provincial issue, one that the Province should be thinking about.
  8. With talk about safety on St Peters Road, Councillor Tweel asked why no one had considered the safety of the residents living on Angus Drive (and Short Street), residents who had been, time and again, against this rezoning application.
  9. A fifteen-minute back and forth between Councillors Bernard and Tweel ensued, who were obviously in disagreement with each otherʼs points of view [Mayor Brownʼs subtle agreement heard at 1:43:02 while Bernard spoke].
  10. Councillor Bob Doiron voiced his opinion that other options surely must exist that would eliminate the need for vehicles arriving/departing Melʼs from using Angus Drive.
  11. Tweel agreed with Doiron and questioned why the City didn’t do its own due diligence to solicit a couple of engineers to ask them to …, and without getting to the end of his question, the Mayor jumped right in and said “It’s not our road [St Peters].” To which Tweel replied: “That’s right it’s not our road, itʼs two separate issues, and that’s how the residents feel.”
  12. Mayor Brown repeated again that the resolution states “… in order to facilitate road upgrades” without specifying what those upgrades are. Planner Laurel Thompson reiterated that safety is the primary reason for the new access road.

It appears to be quite evident that the Province (in the person of Chief Engineer Stephen Yeo) designed the roundabout at Angus Drive to accommodate Dan MacIsaac’s desire for an additional access route to his business (Melʼs Convenience store).

Because, why else would the provincial chief engineer state that there is no other option but to have an exit and entrance on Angus Drive — precisely where Mr MacIsaac has his lots that heʼs been wanting to consolidate to expand his business — otherwise the roundabout cannot be constructed?

Second reading of the rezoning application resolution is scheduled to take place at another Special Meeting of Council on Monday, July 5, 2021 (agenda, which also includes the item Marshfield annexation). The second reading is a formality. Once passed, the final recourse for the Angus Drive residents would be to file an appeal with IRAC by no later than 21 days following Councilʼs approval.

Recent goings-on at City Hall

June 7: Special Meeting of Council

  1. Who bears the brunt of road resurfacing costs?

Moved by Councillor Terry MacLeod, Seconded by Councillor Mike Duffy
That, as per the conditions of the Tender for “2021 Street Resurfacing”, the submission of Island Construction Ltd. in the amount of $1,650,356.25 (plus all applicable taxes) be accepted,
And that, the Capital Budget for Street Resurfacing be increased by $555,387.50 to cover all the costs of Asphalt testing services, line painting and street resurfacing.

Video-recording: starts at 7:21

A 2016 blog post entitled Vehicle Weight vs Road Damage Levels states: “For the one dollar’s worth of damage that a car does to a road, a bicycle, travelling the same distance on the same road, would perpetrate $0.0005862 worth of damage.”

A 2021 blog post entitled Road Damage Fees and Profit asks: “Been on a road lately and noticed how absolutely busted it was? Have you also noticed how vehicles today are far larger than in the past? These two things go together because vehicle weight is the main factor that determines road damage.” The writer also corrects the chart used in the 2016 blog post, because even though vehicle weight is important, even more so is axle loading.

2. Plans for a year-round Victoria Park Roadway active transportation lane

Moved by Councillor Terry MacLeod, Seconded by Councillor Mike Duffy
That, as per the conditions of the Request for Proposal on “Engineering Services 2 –Victoria Park Roadway and Active Transportation Corridor”, the submission of EXP, in the amount of $41,482.00 (plus all applicable taxes) be accepted. It was noted that this proposal did not go throughthe Parks & Recreation Committee; therefore, it was moved by Councillor Bernard and seconded by Councillor Ramsay that the motion be deferred so the P&R Committee can review the matter.

Video-recording: starts at 10:15

The good news: The City is exploring to have the active transportation corridor available year-round on the Victoria Park Roadway. But this is still in the planning stages, with Public Works Manager Scott Adams stating the goal will be present to three options to present to Council and the public for future planning.

The bad news: One of the options could be fitting in two car lanes, a bike lane, and maintaining the parking within the existing footprint (Scott Adams). It was rather mind-boggling to hear Counc. MacLeod say: “I think that our job is to try and present active transporation in all forms, right, whether itʼs walking, biking, or whether itʼs in the car, itʼs all shared services, right, and why shut off one any more than the other, right… ”

3. In whose pockets does the money from Affordable Housing Incentives really wind up in the end?

Mayor Brown welcomed Robert Zilke, Planning Development Officer, to the meeting and asked him to begin his presentation (27:55 worth listening to!).
Mr. Zilke noted that in September 2018, Council approved an Affordable Housing Incentive Program which outlines policy objectives and initiatives that the City would undertake to incentivize affordable housing in the community. Staff recently reviewed the current program and is recommending the following amendments:
– This Program is valid if and/or when the City’s vacancy rate as determined by CMHC’s Quarterly Market Survey1 is less than 3%.
– Property Tax incentive on all new affordable housing units is decreased from 20 years to 10 years:
90% municipal property tax in years 1-2
75% municipal property tax in years 3-4
60% municipal property tax in years 5-6
45% municipal property tax in Year 7-8
30% municipal property tax in Year 9-10
Mr. Zilke further noted that there are no changes to Zoning & Development By-law Incentives which include bonus density, parking requirement reduction and building permit fees exemptions.
There was discussion related to the 3% vacancy rate. Some Members indicated the threshold should be higher, between 3–5%.
It was stressed that the City does have an important role to play in the process for affordable housing; however, most of the financial support for affordable programs comes from the federal and provincial governments.
Mr. Zilke was thanked for his presentation and left the meeting at 6:38 PM.
Council to provide the CAO (Chief Administrative Officer Peter Kelly) with further direction in relation to the proposed 3% vacancy rate.

Video-recording: starts at 19:55

CAO Peter Kelly reminded Council that the current incentive program offers a property tax exemption of up to 100% for a period of up to 20 years. The City has approved the 144 housing units under this program and will therefore forego $4 million in taxes over those 20 years (and permit fees of $152,000). He concluded: “… and weʼre trying to go forward, Your Worship, being more realistic and affordable for the City”.

1 Does he mean the information found on CMHCʼs Housing Market Information Portal or the Rental Market Survey Data ? Either way, the most recent data is from October 2020, that is, at least nine months old at this time.

Tonight, starting at 7 PM, is the second public meeting for the Angus Drive/St Peters Rd roadworks. Watch live stream online.

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