Sunday, July 6, 2008

Garth on Sprawl

Our much maligned, beleaguered and beset MP Garth Turner managed to sum up many of the issues of urban sprawl on his blog today, with particular focus on the situation here in Milton. He even led with this shot of Mattamy's assembly line house factory:

I'm sorry, that just creeps me out.

Turner covers most of the bases, although he doesn't go so far as to present any concrete solutions. I suspect that there aren't many from a federal perspective. My response was as follows:

I got my first up-close look at where my new neighbours are living while (coincidentally) distributing Garth Turner fliers over the past few weeks.

Several things struck me:

1) In the two and a half or so hours I spent pounding the pavement, I saw exactly two other people using the sidewalks - one walking a dog, and another handing out newspapers.

2) The reason for this may be the fact that there is absolutely no shade to be found. Anywhere.

3) The second development I walked through wasn't bad, but the houses in first one (which was only a year old) all had peeling paint, heaved up paving and crumbling concrete on their steps and porches.

There are many, many things wrong with suburbia, particularly in its current, "insta-house" incarnation. Garth has covered most of them, but one thing we all have to remember is that the people living there aren't the enemy.

Too often in Milton I've heard disparaging, marginally racist comments made about "those people" who have suddenly invaded our town, as if somehow they are to blame for the mess. In fact, not only are they the victims in all this, they are actually responsible for the only upside in this whole fiasco: added racial and cultural diversity in Milton.

Hell, I can actually buy some decent East Indian junk food now!

By all means, blame the developers, although they are only doing what corporations do - maximizing profits. Even better, blame the municipal politicians who, seduced by the siren song of millions in added property taxes and development fees, have rubber stamped every single development application that has crossed their desks with the sole caveat that there be at least one Big Box complex for every eight square kilometres of McHouses.

The fact that they have suddenly realized that all the development fees they've been charging don't begin to cover the costs of servicing these developments, and in fact come too late to help anyone for years after they move in, elicits exactly zero sympathy from me.

And yet, they keep handing out those permits like candy and continue to leave all the fussy business of urban planning to corporations whose sole purpose is to squeeze as many high-priced, low-cost houses as they can into hundreds of undervalued acres of former farmland that we may never, ever get back.

They should all be run out of town on a rail.

1 comment:

Raja123 said...

I absolutely agree sprawl is completely out of control.

I live in Brampton's new housing developments and there is little to no feeling of any real community. There is no focal point to the community, there are no libraries, community centres or places to go to nearby. It's completely an automobile dependant environment. WOrst of all city planners don't care. Parks, trails and the enviornment are second only to houses. Homes have little front yards and backyard, so no trees can be grown on them at all. It's absolutely disgusting, and I honestly hate what suburbia has become.

Honestly, I do like suburban development but only if its done with a mixed density scheme as was the case in my former community of Malton, Missisauga or in most places in Toronto. My former community was a lively, thriving place for low- to middle-income individuals with all amenties in walking distance. The place I use to live defined me and meant something important. The issue with the new suburban developments is that there is no concept of small well-knit communities any more.

Any ways, here's my conclusion - we need politicans to stop this, I think its absolutely nothing less than treason if these types of communities continue to be built. Generations in the future will be affected by the poor decisions of the "communities" that were built. We need a national mandate to encourage cities to be more dense, and above all to have visions. E.g. its no surprise the 401 has 16lanes in some places, someone had the vision to save space for the future. Same should go with public transportation (Especially LRT), someone should do the same.