Tonight Council gave second reading approval to our Municipal Development Plan. After considerable debate it’s more or less finished, subject to approval from the Capital Region Board, followed by third reading in May or June.
We debated the restriction on gravel mining in the river valley, which was upheld in a close vote. The Kanata Metis gravel put proposal is still free to come forward on its own merits and will get its day in front of Council.
We also debated growth allocation between suburban and established areas, and density targets, which picks up on a conversation I blogged about previously concerning development trajectory in our city. On this, I proposed a small but significant shift in language that the 25% target for infill vs. suburban growth is now a minimum, not an aspiration, which was approved unanimously.
It came time to speak to the main document and this is more or less what I said tonight:
I sought this seat to be part of this work and I am proud of most of this plan.
I am proud of the entrenchment of the link between planning and transportation; that most crucial link between what we build and where, and how we move about our city.
I am proud that we are so clearly committed to providing meaningful alternatives to car reliance with transit – especially LRT – and with better facilities for active transportation.
I am proud that we’ve (hopefully) put to rest the question of mining and land speculation in our river valley.
I am proud that we’ve joined cities around the world in acknowledging food and urban agriculture as key considerations in our planning.
I’m most proud of the policies we added designed to make medium-density living actually work for families with children. City council has already moved in this direction with the approval of Strathearn Heights rezoning and a smaller development in Pleasantview, each with a significant proportion of units on the ground level with sufficient space and amenities to support families with children. However, I believe that until projects like these, and other smaller land-efficient infill projects like brownstones and stacked townhouses are actually built, most Edmontonians will continue to choose detached homes, large yards and the automobile-dependant lifestyle that accompanies the business-as-usual pattern of development.
So the question is whether this shift toward walkable, mixed-use, medium density, transit-enabled development will occur and, if so, when? In other words: will a market shift occur any time soon? The city, the region, the province, the industry and – ultimately – homebuyers will all shape the answer to these questions.
The trajectory of development may not be entirely within Council’s control, but our challenge for the 10 year life of this plan is to adhere to the best principles embedded within it, such that these next 10 years mark the /transition/ to our vision for that compact city, that efficient city, that vibrant city and that less unsustainable, and hopefully – one day – that sustainable community we envision.
My concern with this plan has always been with the business-as-usual assumptions about growth over the next 30 years.
However, I have a great deal of hope that the shift can occur within the next 10 years – that shift can come with LRT; it can come with a change in our values around the ecological impacts of our lifestyle; it can come with a change in the cost of hydrocarbons and/or the cost of emissions resulting from burning those same hydrocarbons. I just don’t see the business-as-usual assumptions lasting for the 30 years.
Three months ago I called this plan “The Way we Sprawl” but it honestly contains the potential for two outcomes: sprawl is one outcome, yes, but the other possible outcome is a maturity beyond that.
The difference is a question of will.
With diligence in implementation on the part of the city, with innovation from industry, and with the will and cooperation of citizens and homebuyers, this plan can live up to its potential and become known more optimistically as “The Way we Grow Up.”
This attitude does require a measure of faith that our will will be strong, and a measure of faith that change pressures from citizens, from homebuyers, and economic shifts will make change we can respond to resiliently – and not timidly – under this plan, which I will support.