A sad day for nature

(Featured image taken on 10 JUNE, 2021, by Don R.)

Background

The first inkling the public received that a residential development was in the works for this area was in May 2019, through a CBC article whose source was likely Tim Banks: “Killam to buy 50% interest in Charlottetown Mall”.

Killam REIT’s first quarter report issued on 1 May 2019 stated: Killam is pleased to announce that it has agreed to purchase a 50% interest in the Charlottetown Mall, located in Charlottetown, PE, from RioCan REIT at a purchase price of $23.7 million for an all cash yield of 6.69%. This stabilized, grocery-anchored, enclosed mall is a 352,448 square foot retail complex and is the dominant shopping centre in Prince Edward Island. It is located on 32 acres in the heart of Prince Edward Island’s busiest retail node with future multi-family development opportunities of up to 300 units. The retail portion of the property will continue to be managed by RioCan after closing, with the future residential project being managed by Killam. This purchase will establish Killam’s second joint venture with RioCan REIT and the acquisition is expected to close on May 17, 2019.

Nothing more was heard about the development opportunity until August 2020, when a number of building blocks were already in place for the Planning Board to officially review APMʼs rezoning application for a field on the other side of the Confederation Trail.

What discussions took place between May 2019 and early 2020 to tempt Killam and/or Mr Banks to move those 300 units from the Mall (a built environment) across the Confederation Trail and onto a tree-filled green field (a natural environment)?

When development supersedes all else

APM President/CEO Tim Banks bears no respect for rules, regulations, or bylaws. With his Sherwood Crossing development under appeal before IRAC (P.E.Island Regulatory & Appeals Commission), and no development permit in hand, he has the temerity to send a bulldozer to rip up trees and clear the ground during full nesting season.

Why?

Aside from needlessly destroying shrubs and trees, how much wildlife was killed or injured on that day? People have seen hawks, chipmunks, snakes, and songbirds in this area.

Without a development permit, what right did Mr Banks have to send a bulldozer to clear a section of the land? Was it an act of defiance?

Will City officials order Mr Banks to remove his sign?

JUNE 8, 2021: Towers Road, north view (photo credit: Don R.)

8 June 2021 (Towers Road facing north)

Nature paved over

Written by Barbara Dylla, Charlottetown (published in The Guardian on 4 September 2020)

I have many concerns regarding APM MacLean’s proposed “North of Towers” development. One of them is the loss of the remaining natural areas within City boundaries. Greenfield land plays a critical role not only in conserving biodiversity and providing climate change mitigation benefits, but also has a positive effect on the fundamental quality of life in our communities.

It is no secret that natural habitat destruction and fragmentation are leading causes of biodiversity loss. Many urban jurisdictions have been using the green infrastructure concept, which is an interconnected network of natural areas that provides wildlife habitat, flood protection, cleaner air, and cleaner water.

Incidentally, does the public know that at least two new roads will bisect the Confederation Trail? While other cities upgrade the safety of their active transportation infrastructure, Charlottetown accepts proposals that degrade a marvelous multipurpose trail within its municipal boundaries.

I support denser mixed-used housing projects, but not at the expense of natural areas being needlessly paved over in favour of market-priced housing and automobility. Sustainable design practices incorporate more effective and efficient land use, along with alternative energy and energy conservation techniques. We have a valuable but limited ‘window of opportunity’ to design an urban environment that is optimized to deal with a warming world and committed to the betterment of the community. 

Why is the City not pushing to adopt more stringent, energy-efficient, and space-efficient building regulations that truly take Charlottetown into the 21st century and beyond?

Charlottetown’s dwindling natural assets

Four freshwater streams travel through green space, industry, and densely populated neighbourhoods to empty into the Charlottetown Harbour. They make up part of the Hillsborough River complex – a heritage river with great cultural and natural significance for Islanders. While some of the upper reaches have been buried over the course of the City’s development, 9.5 km of freshwater stream habitat in Ellen’s, Wright’s, Hermitage, and Hazard Creeks remained in 2015.

In August 2015, City Council formally accepted the Brook Trout Conservation and Protection Plan through resolution during its public meeting. 

The five-year management plan includes five goals. Objective 3.1, under Goal 3 “Protect water quantity in Ellen’s, Wright’s and Hermitage Creeks”, states:

Work with the City and province to develop long-term protection for remaining green space in headwater areas of all three creeks. As the City grows, there will be increasing pressure to develop the farmland that remains in the headwaters of Ellen’s, Wright’s and Hermitage Creeks. Ultimately there will be a reduction in groundwater discharge to the three City streams, lowering stream levels and limiting habitat. There is a need for a long-term vision for green space preservation similar to that seen in larger Canadian cities like Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton where streams, ravines and riparian margins are permanently protected from development.

Red circle: planned developments

Map of known locations for storm-water discharges to Ellen’s Creek showing 5831 m3 at 10 mm rainfall, the second highest on the map:

Red circle: planned developments

More good news in December 2020: “The City of Charlottetown has partnered with the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI) to develop its own natural asset inventory. The inventory will include a list of natural assets such as wetlands, streams, fields, and forests, and outline the boundaries of the City’s assets.”

The not-so-good news:

In April 2021, the City hosted a public meeting to present its “West Royalty Commercial Area Traffic Plan”, the new road network intended to accommodate future planned developments surrounding the very lands City Council had accepted to protect through the Brook Trout Conservation and Protection Plan. And even if the City completes the natural asset inventory, by how much will that inventory be reduced if the anticipated developments occur?

The Future Conditions 2041 image is striking not only because of the massive area covered by projected developments, but also because of the surfaces representing parking lots, the shopping mall, strip malls, and mega-stores. The narrow green belt is all that is left of the natural land bordering the creek (riparian zone).

Why, for instance, is the City not encouraging developers to use the built environment? Other cities have been reducing their parking minimum requirements or redeveloping parking lots and existing buildings. Charlottetown would benefit from both options, as would Charlottetowners, Islanders, and visitors.

If you care about the protection and preservation of our natural green spaces and freshwater streams, please let your councillor know. Or leave a comment. Thank you.


Related post: The Value of Natural Assets (3 May 2021)

The value of natural assets

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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.

UPDATE (2): St Peters Road/Angus Dr

On April 5, I wrote a post explaining the Planning Board’s role in the planning and development process; and that the Board’s meeting agenda on April 6 would include the St Peters Road rezoning application.

Citizens may appreciate the fact that the meetings are live-streamed and archived. The major drawback is that viewers are unable to see the presentations (except when Cisco Webex is used), leaving them in the dark as to what those in the room are seeing. What is the City waiting for to upgrade its video technology?

Planning Board meeting: April 6

Despite that drawback, the Planning Board video-recording (go to minute 35:20) is well worth listening to, if only because it demonstrates once again that residents’ comments are trivialized. In a presentation and discussion that lasts 23 minutes, a scant minute (37:15–37:58) is devoted to listing the objections of “mainly area residents”. No mention is made of their suggestions, however.

So when the entire discussion is focussed on traffic, when the concluding sentence by the planner is “we feel that in the interest of the public, this is the best option” (40:55), when the objective is clearly to accommodate a retail business’s expansion (letʼs call it what it is), when public money is being used to construct a vehicle-only-friendly roundabout to enable that expansion, it is clear that both the Province and the City are less than willing to consider viable alternatives in favour of the people living in the community.

Call to action

If you want the City of Charlottetown and the Provincial Government to start thinking about the people who live here instead of the vehicles driving through, please write to your councillor, the mayor, your MLA, and Premier King (see Links for contact information).

Regular Meeting of Council: April 12

The Planning Board’s recommendation to proceed with the rezoning application will be discussed at the Regular Meeting of Council on Monday, April 12 (starts at 5 p.m.). At time of writing, the Monthly Council Meeting package has not been made public.


Meeting moments of interest
→ 39:00 : Planner describing “mitigative measures” and “safety issue”
→ 43:35 : Exchange between Councillor McCabe and Planning Board Chair Duffy
→ 50:20 : Exchange between Coun. McCabe and Planner about Mel’s further expansion in future
→ 51:18 : Manager of Planning Mr Forbes on provincial control of St Peters Road
→ 52:10 : Coun. McCabe question “How many times has this application been before Council?”
→ 53:22 : Planning Board Chair Duffy and the “Fairness Factor”
→ 55:20 : Manager of Planning Mr Forbes and the “complicated traffic-related issue”

P.S. Heavens to Betsy, if I had a dollar for every time someone in Planning or Council said: “I’m not a traffic engineer” !

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?