Monday, November 30, 2009

Halton Does Copenhagen!

We're all very excited here in Halton that two of our Young Liberals have been selected as youth delegates to the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

Ashley Bigda and Matt Juniper were recently featured in the local papers, and now they have their very own blog to share their adventures with us:

Halton Does Copenhagen

Drop in and say hi! Or better yet, come on down to their "Clean, Green, & Prosperous" event on Wednesday night here in Milton, where you can talk to them about what you would like to see accomplished at the conference.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

From Town to City: Milton's Infill and Intensification Plan

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to participate in the second of two public meetings discussing plans to increase development and population density in central Milton - otherwise known as 'Infill and Intensification'.

The Province has mandated that, in order to accommodate increasing populations and to avoid sprawl into agricultural areas, that certain towns increase the population density of their built-up areas to reach (in the case of Milton) a minimum of 200 people + jobs per hectare by 2031.

In practical terms, this means allowing for taller buildings, and developing 'brownfields' and underutilized spaces. The plan has resulted in predictable resistance from some members of the community who are envisioning crops of high-rise condo towers springing up in the downtown core, but the reality, thankfully, is much less terrifying.

To start with, the area where they are talking about doing most of this development could definitely use a facelift. I remember when we first came to Milton 15 years ago to look for a house, the first impression we had driving west along Main Street was of a dingy, haphazard collection of industrial units, strip malls, vacant lots - even an abandoned paint factory. The paint factory was torn down a few years later, but the sizeable lot it sat on remains an empty eyesore.

When the Loblaw's Supercentre and the attendant retail complex was built a few years ago at the corner of Main and Thompson, it was literally in the middle of nowhere. But with the residential developments now fully established to the east and southeast of town, the continued existence of this industrial wasteland between 'old' and 'new' Milton has become even more detrimental to the integrity of the town.

Filling that gap with high density housing and retail will (hopefully) create a larger, continuous downtown centre that will be accessible, walkable, and integrated with the older and newer parts of Milton. Additionally, increasing population densities in an area which, fortuitously, includes the GO Station will make in-town, commuter and intra-regional transit far more efficient and cost effective.

Concerns were raised about the loss of parking space at the GO station, but apparently there are several plans in the works that should make that less of a problem. In addition to making it easier to walk or bike to the station, there are plans to add two new stations at Trafalgar and at Tremaine which should ease the pressure on the downtown Milton station considerably. Also, at some point the line is going to be extended west. This should help a lot because a significant percentage of people using the Milton GO station are actually from Guelph, Cambridge and Kitchener.

Other interesting plans in the works include:
- moving the GO parking lot to south of the tracks, leaving the Main St. frontage for retail and apartments / condominiums.

- extending Main St. to Trafalgar, giving access to the 401 and the future GO station there, thus relieving traffic congestion downtown.

- incorporating a park / trail corridor parallelling Main Street to the north, thus allowing an alternate east-west route for pedestrians and cyclists.

- additional intensification to the west of the historic downtown core to create a western 'gateway' into both the old and new downtown areas.

I'm personally pretty excited by all this. Short of stuffing the whole town into a time machine and sending it back 20 years, I see this approach as being the best way of counteracting the sprawling, uncontrolled, unbalanced residential development that has been going on for the past decade, and transitioning Milton from a medium-sized town to a small city.

It's a shame they couldn't have done the infill first, but it is what it is.

(There's lots more information about the Town's plan on their website.)