Friday, March 6, 2009

My Two Cents on the Boyne Survey: Part 1

After explaining why I never go to those public consultation meetings in my last post, I decided to go to one of those public consultation meetings tonight. Just to check it out.

The project in question was the Boyne Survey / Education Village development, which is to extend across the south of town from James Snow Parkway to the far side of Tremaine, and all the way down to Brittania Road. The area involved is larger than the entire town of Milton was when I first moved here fifteen years ago.

This was the second public consultation meeting, so we are well enough along in the process that the issues discussed were more a matter of how rather than whether the subdivision was to be built. Still, it was an interesting exercise, and the folks running the show did indeed seem interested in what we had to say.

Before going to the meeting, I took a drive around some of the new developments to check out the good, the bad and the ugly. In this way, I had a better idea of what some of the features being discussed actually looked like in a new development setting.

This is what they call 'Mixed Use Retail'. These are made to be similar to traditional storefronts with apartments above and parking in the back, and are a welcome change from the now ubiquitous 'big box' retail development. The problem with this particular one on Holly Ave. is that it's only on one side of the street. Maybe they just haven't gotten to the other side.

This is a bad retail / residential design. This retail complex includes the only grocery store in the area, and yet it's about as unwelcoming to the surrounding houses as it can get because all the stores have their backs to the street. You could walk into the complex between the buildings, but it really doesn't look like they want you to. They want you to drive in off of Thompson like a good little commuter.

This is what they call a 'community park'. It's a nice idea - a central gathering place with a roundabout and houses facing onto it. I went to a Christmas tree lighting there once. Only two problems: it's huge (almost as big as the Milton Fairgrounds), and there's pretty much nothing in it but grass, saplings, and a couple of wooden structures at either end for the mayor to stand on and flip a switch.

This is one of the two buildings that comprise New Life Church. They sit on a huge lot which is, as you can see in the background, completely cut off from the surrounding houses by a fence.

This is an interesting and different approach to townhouse design, again emulating older urban plans with garages in the back facing onto an alley. But the scale is wrong. It doesn't look like an alley - it looks like a street.

The issue of scale is something that came up more than once in our discussions, and I think it may hold the key to the fundamental difference between new developments and older ones. Driving through Hawthorne Village and (worse) the Sherwood Survey, I noticed that almost everything is bigger than where I live. The houses are bigger, of course. The streets are wider. The parks are bigger. The stores and parking lots are bigger. About the only things that are smaller are the house lots and the trees.

The result is a certain... wrongness... that is difficult to quantify or even really complain about. After all, if a park is good, a really really big park is better, right? Except that it'll take you ten shadeless, featureless minutes to get from one side to the other, so screw it - let's drive.

I'll tell you more about what we talked about at the meeting tomorrow.

1 comment:

Rockinon said...

You know what might be smaller? Some of the dining room dimensions. I've lived in a couple of small '20s homes and both had roomier dining rooms than many new, suburban residences.

Oh, nice blog. It makes me want to visit Milton and take some pictures myself.