With the horror unleashed in the Gulf of Mexico - we all need to envision a healthier sustainable future. Time is crucial. Sprawl in our cities is the result of an oil dependent addiction.
VICTORY FOR LOCAL DEMOCRACY THREATENED
Friday, May 28, 2010
With the horror unleashed in the Gulf of Mexico - we all need to envision a healthier sustainable future. Time is crucial. Sprawl in our cities is the result of an oil dependent addiction.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
From the online environmental magazine www.grist.org there is an article "10 ways to kick the offshore-oil habit".
A key element of the City-adopted version of OPA 10 is the concept of “healthy interaction and balance” between and among what Council envisions to be a three-node commercial structure. From east to west, then, the regional-serving commercial structure of Stratford is composed of the existing Ontario Street East Commercial Area, the Downtown Core itself and the West End Commercial Area. Mr. Goldberg and the other experts supporting the Avonwood proposal reject completely the concept of a balanced 3-node commercial structure along an east-west axis. As noted, Avonwood sees a 2-node commercial structure – one part is centered on the current Ontario Street East Commercial Area and the second on the Downtown Core. ...
Again, the evidence from the parties represents two diametrically opposed visions of appropriate land use planning policy. The Goldberg Version of OPA 10 reacts to what may be termed the imperative of the marketplace. Confirming the land use planning opinions of Messrs. Clarkson and Goldberg, Avonwood’s retail market expert witness, Mr. Parsons, told the Board that the Ontario Street East Commercial Area exists primarily because it’s where the market determined it should be. ...
The Board was told that the City-adopted OPA 10, on the other hand, takes a pro-active approach to development applications. It directs development (most especially commercial retail) to where Council has determined it will best serve the
public interest, which is consistent with the policy-led approach to land use planning advocated by the PPS (Part 1, Preamble). The City’s expert witnesses contend that the Ontario Street East Commercial Area has succeeded as a shopping area because shopping centres and large format stores were permitted to develop there during the
past few decades, which has been an era of unprecedented growth in disposable income and automobile ownership. ...
After consideration of all the evidence, I find that the City-adopted OPA 10 will protect the planned function of the Downtown Core by limiting the amount of lands designated to commercial retail development in the Ontario Street East Commercial Area to what currently exists. This has been Council’s policy for decades. The Board was told that the result of this policy direction has been the preservation of downtown Stratford, one of the few smaller city centres that have managed to survive the changes in contemporary shopping practices including the introduction in the past 10 years of “power centres” composed of multiple large format retail stores.
I find that the language of the Goldberg Version of OPA 10 provides little direction as to Council’s intent vis-à-vis the planned function of the Downtown Core than does the City-adopted version of OPA 10. Adherence to policies that protect the planned function of the Downtown Core is essential to the long-term prosperity of the City and therefore worthy of whatever protection or assistance can reasonably be afforded (as required by PPS policies 1.7.1.b and 1.7.1.f). In my view, and in the view of the vast majority of the participants and lay witnesses who testified before this Board,
anything that risks the health of the Shakespeare Festival – including threats to the City’s image as “the Festival City” – must therefore be avoided. After consideration of the information made available to it and clearly mindful of the local insights of its constituent members, Council has determined that a large format department store use on the Avonwood lands poses considerable risk to the planned function of the Downtown Core and thus considerable risk to the Festival itself and has endorsed policies that protect the planned function of the Downtown Core. I find on the evidence that this City policy represents good planning.
Mr. Butler also testified that it is a key principle of land use planning in Ontario that industrial lands should only be allowed to be removed from a municipal inventory under what the 1993 Official Plan describes as “substantive or extenuating” circumstances. ... Mr. Butler testified that preserving industrial land for future industrial uses makes a far greater
contribution to the overall long term well-being of a community than does Mr. Clarkson’s approach, which in Mr. Butler’s opinion, only offers reduced potential for land use conflict with existing residential. ...
After consideration of the evidence and the submissions of Council, I find that the Goldberg Version of OPA 10 does not further the intent of the 1993 Official Plan and is not consistent with the policies of the PPS. I find, on the other hand, that the Sorensen version of OPA 10 furthers the intent of the 1993 Official Plan and is consistent with the provisions of the PPS specifying a “policy-led” approach to planning.
Second: the City-adopted version of OPA 10 recommends a policy-led approach to commercial retail planning. It would, for example, direct new large format retail to the West End Commercial Area. The Goldberg Version of OPA 10, on the other hand, suggests a market-centred or application-driven approach to planning for future retail commercial development in the City. ...
The land use planning witness retained by the CCC, Mr. Butler, expressed deep concern with Mr. Goldberg’s recommended cautious, application-driven approach as it would apply to the Ontario Street East Commercial Area and particularly to the Avonwood lands. He contended that if the Goldberg version of OPA 10 were approved, there would be no effective means of controlling the loss of the several remaining smaller parcels of industrial land on the Avonwood site within the City limits to commercial uses and of discouraging speculation in the Industrial Area (including the F.A.G. and Samsonite plants) along the south side of Ontario Street east of Romeo Street. ...
With respect to the second key concern, the Board finds Mr. Butler’s evidence more persuasive than that of either Mr. Clarkson or Mr. Dragicevic. In Mr. Butler’s opinion, industrial-type jobs create wealth in a community, whereas retail jobs are only
created where wealth already exists. In my view, this takes on added significance when considered in light of Stratford’s motto, “industry and arts”. This view was also put forward in evidence by one of the participants, Ms L. Walker-Fitzpatrick.
The Goldberg Version of OPA 10 differed significantly in several key areas from the Sorensen version. For example, the Goldberg Version of OPA 10 promotes two rather than three nodes of commercial retail development along Highways 7 & 8 – the Downtown Core and the Ontario Street East Commercial Area. It also does not prohibit commercial development of the Avonwood lands but rather recommends a “cautious” approach to the re-designation of all non-commercial lands in all of Stratford.
In addition to its submission that the data on which the Sorensen-version of OPA 10 is based were flawed (see Objection 1 above), Avonwood took issue with the inclusion of what it described as ‘emotive” words in the Sorensen version. In particular, the use of the term “eroded” in section 6.2 was cited, viz, “the relative prominence of the Downtown Core has been eroded over recent years.” Avonwood further alleges that the words “relative decline” in section 6.2, Goals and Objectives (ii): “…to reverse the relative decline in the retail sector (of the Downtown Core)…” were used to stir up strong reactions in the reader. Avonwood suggested that Mr. Goldberg’s use of “less emotional” words in his version of OPA 10 is “more helpful” to an applicant attempting to determine Council’s thinking regarding land use in certain areas of Stratford. Mr. Sorensen disagreed with this assessment, confirming to the Board in cross-examination that the words he used exactly describe the conditions he saw. After consideration of all the evidence on this question, I find that the words chosen by Mr. Sorensen in his recommended version of OPA 10 are appropriate. I therefore reject the submission of counsel for Avonwood in this regard.
The Board was told by many witnesses – both the expert and lay witnesses – that Wal-Mart Canada Corp.is not an ordinary retailer. It is one that has an immediate impact on any market area it enters. It was the evidence of both the City’s expert witnesses and Mr. Butler, a qualified land use planner testifying on behalf of the CCC, that if a Walmart store were permitted to locate on the Avonwood lands, other large format retail stores would insist on locating nearby. Mr. Butler told me that in these circumstances it would be difficult, if not impossible, to stop them. Testifying in support of the Avonwood proposal, Mr. Parsons did not attempt to dispute this judgement, stating merely that in his opinion, the West End Commercial Area was not an appropriate location for regional-serving, large format retail stores (such as a Walmart store).
After considering all the evidence, I find that Avonwood’s attempt to persuade the Board that the locational preferences of any developer or retailer – even a major developer like Avonwood or a major retailer like Wal-Mart Canada Corp. – should take precedence over the City’s planning policies is inconsistent with the policy-led planning approach instituted by the Province and endorsed by Council in both the 1993 Official Plan and OPA 10.
Mr. Annand expressed his professional opinion that an Ontario Street East commercial Area location has greater potential for the recapture of the household shopping dollars that he indicated are currently leaving Stratford for centres like Kitchener-Waterloo and Woodstock, than would a West End Commercial Area location (Exhibit 53, page 27, conclusion vi). Mr. Annand told the Board that his research shows that people generally prefer to do all the weekly family shopping in one location if at all possible. The Kitchener-Waterloo area’s Sunrise Centre on Highways 7 & 8, with its new large format Walmart store, was used as an example of such an attractive one-stop shopping destination. The Avonwood lands represent, he testified, an opportunity for the Ontario Street East Commercial Area to develop into a shopping destination in the order of the Sunrise Centre.
Although much was made by Mr. Annand and Avonwood’s land use planning witnesses (Messrs. Clarkson and Goldberg) on the benefits of an east end over a west end location with respect to recapturing retail dollar outflow, beyond some travel time estimates (Exhibit 152) prepared by Mr. Clarkson that in the end only succeeded in showing that no place in Stratford is less than 10 minutes drive from anyplace else, no data were presented to me that would justify Avonwood’s contention. The Board was told by Avonwood’s witnesses that regardless of travel distances, the main point is that Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which Avonwood suggested is the world’s most successful retailer, is the best arbiter of what is a suitable location for one of its stores. And, for its proposed Stratford store, Wal-Mart Canada Corp. has selected Avonwood’s east end site. As noted above, no one from Wal-Mart Canada Corp. was called as a witness and as a consequence this evidence was not tested by cross-examination.
The City and Avonwood’s planning witnesses differed in their view of the land use implications of an east end versus a west end location. Avonwood’s land use planner – Mr. Clarkson, whose views were supported by Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Parsons –stated that it is “bad land use planning” to try to force a retailer to go where it does not want to go and where the community is not prepared for it to go. Mr. Sorensen contended that the West End Commercial Area has been planned for space extensive and large format retail uses since at least 1993 with the adoption of the City’s 1993 Official Plan, then re-confirmed with the adoption of OPA 10, and that this is good planning in the context of the City. ... With respect to the recapture of shopping dollars now spent outside Stratford by City residents: Messrs. Annand and Parsons were of the opinion that an Ontario Street East Commercial Area location is preferable to a location in the West End Commercial Area for the recapture of outflow dollars. However, no evidence was presented by Avonwood to support the testimony of Mr. Annand and Mr. Parsons. The City’s witness, Mr. Dee, on the other hand said that the east end and west end locations would be equally effective in recapturing outflow dollars. After considering the testimony of all the witnesses on this question, I preferred the opinion of the City’s witness since I was not given any hard evidence that showed any difference in the capability of either the west end or the east end to recapture outflow dollars.
Avonwood’s first objection to OPA 10 is that market data on which OPA 10 is based are flawed. Avonwood submitted that since the major retail policy initiatives of OPA 10 flow directly from (the recommendations of) the CNS 2002 and it is flawed, OPA 10 is itself flawed and should not be approved by the Board. ...
Counsel for the City did not agree that the CNS 2002 was in any way flawed and pointed out the lengthy process by which it was reviewed before being adopted by Council. They also pointed out that Council waited almost five years before adopting OPA 10.During that period, updated data about retail store vacancies in the Downtown Core and information about commercial retail in the City as a whole came available and were used to measure the validity and applicability of the data collected in 2000 for the CNS 2002. I was also told that during this period both the overall thrust as well as the specific policies of the Sorensen-prepared version of OPA 10 were subjected to rigorous analysis and close examination, and were found to be fundamentally sound. ...
I find on the evidence then that the City-adopted OPA 10 is not “flawed” as submitted by Avonwood.
In my view, the City-Adopted OPA 10 clarifies the City’s intent to protect the planned function of the Downtown Core. After reviewing the policies of the 1993 Official Plan in light of the City-adopted OPA 10, the evidence of all the witnesses, and the submissions of counsel, I find that a large format department store on the subject lands threatens the planned function of the Downtown Core and that it does not represent good planning.
The term ‘discourage” as used in sections 6.2, 6.4.2, 6.5 and 15.1.11 of the 1993 Official Plan expresses Council’s policy that large format retail development should not take place on lands designated for industrial uses. I am of the view that this policy, which antedates the earliest of the Avonwood applications, represents good planning. ...
Testifying in support of the Avonwood applications, both Mr. Annand and Mr. Goldberg told the Board that the term, “discourage” allows an action to continue along the selected path but denotes caution. Mr. Stein, counsel for the CCC, argued to the contrary. He submitted that the word “discourage” denotes “prohibition”. ...
In my view, the proposed new phraseology makes unmistakably clear what “discourage” in the 1993 Official Plan was not only intended to mean, but in fact does mean. As noted above, I find the phrase used to be a linguistic progression or evolution and a clarification of the City’s intent as expressed in the 1993 Official Plan. I accept the submission of counsel for the CCC that the new phraseology does not change the City’s policies contained in the 1993 Official Plan but does clarifies them.
Having regard to all the evidence and the provisions of the 1993 Official Plan including section 6.5, I adopt the evidence of the City and CCC planning witnesses on this point that the introduction of the retail uses proposed by Avonwood into the designated industrial area would reduce the potential attractiveness of the Romeo Industrial Park for future industrial users and would lead to other applications being made for the conversion of nearby lands within the Industrial Area to retail commercial uses. Accordingly, I find that the planned function of the Industrial Area is likely to be adversely affected if Avonwood’s applications are allowed.
After consideration of all the evidence, I find that the Avonwood proposal poses a threat to sustainable tourism in Stratford, in large part because of the demonstrated fragility of the specialty retail and high end restaurant businesses in the Downtown Core, and is therefore not consistent with PPS policy 1.7.1 (g). I am of the view that sustainable tourism development in the City would be at serious risk of being eroded if the Avonwood proposal were to be accepted. (PPS is Provincial Policy Statement)
Testimony of the Participants
Several important points were made by the participants in their evidence.They are all, with the exception of Mr. L. Ryan, residents of Stratford.Mr. Ryan stated his support of the Avonwood appeals.The others spoke in opposition to the Avonwood appeals.Residents of the City in opposition to the Avonwood appeals expressed their view that the success of the Shakespearean Festival and the Downtown Core are inextricably linked – “as goes the one, so goes the other” as one witness put it. According to this group, locating a large format retail store, such as a Walmart store, in the West End Commercial Area (rather than on the Avonwood lands in the east end Industrial Area of the City) would help achieve the planned objective of City Council for what the City’s expert witnesses described as a three-node retail structure balanced along an east/west axis. This structure would, they contended, have the least impact on the economic health of the Downtown Core. All members of this group agreed that the protection of the Downtown Core is a priority. They perceived that another large format retail store located near the existing retailers in the Ontario Street East Commercial Area would be a threat to the Downtown Core.They also testified that since the City’s motto connotes the dual pillars on which Stratford is built – industry and the arts - the removal of any land from the industrial inventory for use as a commercial retail shopping centre would be contrary to the City’s mission and a threat to its attractiveness as a centre for clean industry, which could result in a loss of well-paid industrial jobs.
A sincere thank you to Mr. Colin Hefferon for his wise and considered decision. The photo here is a view from the OMB offices in Toronto. Note the small building under the shadow of the skyscrapers. The geography of Stratford is so very different. With Mr. Hefferon's intelligent opinion, Stratford will be able to better protect what makes this small city of diverse economic activities - Industry, Arts and Culture, Agriculture - remain strong and unique.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Building should have a stone or Victorian style facing as a minimum.
Perhaps entrance should be grand and reflect a theatre entrance, bright
lights, marque, red carpet.
submitted by Debra Ann March
If the store could be nearer to the centre of town than has been discussed, that would -- if it were the kind of place I am visualizing -- be a benefit and would avoid sprawl.
The store will sell a fair amount of Canadian-made merchandise, not only things made in China and such places, and it will showcase this Canadian merchandise.
Its manager will have Stratford\'s interests at heart at least as much as those of the corporation\'s head office.
But I still oppose the prospect of having a foreign-owned store, with its proceeds going across the border, becoming such a big player in a community which has comparatively few big retail and hotel chains doing business in it. Nothing that I can realistically visualize would be an asset to our community as it now is and as we hope to see it become.
I\'ll go away and dream, and send in more suggestions later.
submitted by M.B.
Stratford is one of the most unique and creative cities in Canada, blessed with a rich artistic heritage, steeped in culture and tradition, and boasting a downtown that can be held up as a shining example of what 21st century cities across North America are striving to create. In a time when urban sprawl and suburban big box stores have left our formerly vibrant downtowns struggling to hold on to some vestige of retail business, Stratford stands alone as a beacon of hope.
There is no model for a Wal-Mart that could accurately reflect the artistry and creativity that define downtown Stratford and its population. Don't even try to define it.
Living in Windsor, I know what urban sprawl can accomplish. Don't let big box banality ruin this unique example of Canadian urban success!
Barbara Pierce Marshall
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
"I think it speaks volumes to the many years of hard work and to the sound planning of city staff, our lawyers and our experts through public consultations. And I think it speaks well of Stratford's future development."
Mathieson said he felt it was significant for the decision that the city did not rush through the OPA 10 policy adopted by council and that the city went through a public consultation process and had professional studies done to come to "a very sound decision."
The cost to the municipality in defending its planning policies before the OMB is about $800,000, but Mathieson said the city can ask for its costs to be reimbursed by Avonwood if, after a review of the board's decision, there is justifiable merit in law or precedent.
"I'm very proud of not only our staff but our legal team and their experts. They represent some of the best minds in planning, commercial needs and transportation development," he said. "They gave good, solid advice that will put the city on strong footing for future development."
Mathieson said if the developer and Wal-Mart decide to appeal the decision they will first have to seek leave to appeal before the Ontario Divisional Court and will have to convince the judge there was a significant error made at the OMB hearing.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
There are two potential appeal routes from any decision of the OMB.
1. Request to review under s. 43 * of the OMB Act: It must be filed within 30 days, absent special circumstances.
2. Appeal to the Divisional Court, with leave of the Court, on a question of law (i.e. pure legal issue). The motion must be served within 15 days of the decision.
Needless to say, whether either route is viable in any particular case depends on the circumstances and the decision itself.
"After weighing all the facts and the arguments of opposing counsel, I find that the
Avonwood do not conform either to the planning policies set out in the 1993 Official Plan
or with the progression or evolution of these policies in OPA 10 and that these policies
represent good planning. Furthermore, it is my view that Avonwood’s proposals are
neither in the public interest nor represent good planning.
The Board therefore dismisses Avonwood’s appeals against the decision of City
Council refusing its applications for amendments to the 1993 Official Plan and to Zoning
By-law 201-2000. The Board also dismisses the Avonwood appeal (other than the part
of the Tanurb appeal referred to below) against the decision of Council to adopt OPA
10, and approves OPA 10 as modified in accordance with the 2008 and 2009
modifications as shown in Exhibit 183 (Attachment “1”)."
Excerpt from OMB decision
Monday, May 17, 2010
The next season - the sixth was announced last week at Factory 163 by Music Director, Jerome David Summers:
and Executive Director; John David Sterne:
Saturday, May 15, 2010
We know and understand our own community.
* Solar hot water for stores need.
*Preferred parking for energy efficient vehicles.
*Free community space for performances, clubs, community groups - Zehrs does this.
*Analysis of buildings in Stratford for unique local architecture - features incorporated into design.