Archive for March, 2012

Royal Oaks And Moncton High School.

I am on record, repeatedly I believe as being against the movement of Moncton High out to the Royal Oaks development. My personal preference has always to rebuild on the present location keeping the heritage of the existing facade while building an improved interior to bring the school up to todays standards.

My issues with Royal Oaks are numerous. The distance, lack of facilities within walking distance, lack of municipal bus service, cost of infrastructure upgrades, the list could go on for a while.

So the question is why does the province insist on building there? Part of the answer to me appears not to be payoffs and backroom deals like are talked about. It is far more benign and yet far more problematic.

The province to my understanding was involved in financing this project and as a stakeholder if the company went under they could get stuck with a white elephant golf course that no one can make profitable and a housing project that no one can seem to make work. The solution in the provinces mind is to build the school there and try to attract additional home buyers through that angle. The hope being that they will not get stuck with this project if it goes bust for a second time.

It won’t work. The homes are not priced for the average buyer and for some reason the golf course is not the attraction it was expected to be. The reason for that was identified a few years ago however the fix is expensive and unappealing to any of the stakeholders.

The fix to making the golf course more appealing is to redesign the course. The design put in place by the original designer does not attract people and history is starting to show that this is the same for all of this designer’s courses in Canada. We need to get a new designer who has designed courses in Canada that have been profitable and we need to start a complete rebuild of this project. Unfortunately the cost is far in excess of what the builders, or anyone else, wants to pay but it is likely the only way this project is going to become profitable. Putting the school out there will do nothing more then be a Band-Aid that will prove quickly to not be able to mend the damage that has already been done on the location.

To the province, To the developer, Fix the real problem, the golf course design. Don’t drag this school into this fight.

To the City of Moncton. Grow a backbone, Stand up, Make it exceedingly clear that not only will we not approve the rezoning but we will also not approve the construction permits either. Make it clear we will make every effort in our legal ability to make sure within our city the province will operate by our rules not continually dump projects where they feel like it and constantly messing up our municipal plan that is in place.

If the Mayor and the Councillors of this fine city are unwilling to stand up to the province then perhaps it is time for them to stand down, they have obviously lost their passion for the city they are trying to serve.

The new municipal action plan that sets out a plan for the future of how the province is run at the municipal and rural levels has huge holes.

Amongst the hugest are the fact that the areas involved include to wide a range of residence types from rural farm houses to high density urban dwellings, from farms to industrial parks and everything in between. 

To meet the needs of a municipality you need a local council to deal with this and to meet the needs of a rural area you need a council that specifically deals with this type of area.

The ideal solution to this i believe would be to use the present county lines as well as the municipal lines in the province to create various levels of council.

  1. An elected council (paid council) for each county excluding all communities over a specific size.
  2. Each ward or riding in the council would have an elected volunteer council to discuss riding specific initiatives, to be chaired by elected county councillor for the riding.
  3. Each council would have the full responsibility for all services standardly operated by a municipality (funded by a combination of taxes and provincial grant)
  4. All roads would be the responsibility of the county.
  5. County council as well as all municipal mayors will meet once per month to discuss shared services. (municipal mayors maintain full autonomy for their municipality

By using this set of rules while strengthening the powers of municipal councils we would have all rural areas as well as all municipalities covered by a local council to help cover local decisions. This enables those living in rural areas to have more control over the direction their region takes on various developments as well as on services.

The minister for local governance Bruce Fitch released a new local governance plan recently.

There are many points and I have tried to go over it as closely as I could.

The goals themselves, in some parts are good.

  1. equitable funding
  2. sharing services

However some issues really bother me.

  1. economic development on a regional basis (areas far to large to be effective)
  2. committees are responsible for regional planning
  3. committees are responsible for local planning for LSDs

these last three items are what i will discuss at the moment.

Economic development plans that cover regions that involve drastically different types of systems are quite concerning.  For example an economic development plan for Moncton might work fairly well for Dieppe and Riverview however what concerns me is this plan is not so effective in say Memramcook which would need an economic development plan more suited to their area and specific needs and strengths.

Committees being involved in local planning for LSDs would imply that cities would have a say in the rural planning for LSDs and that concerns me because what does a city know about rural life and needs. As well what right do they really have to have this control.

Committees being involved in regional planning could force plans like PlanMoncton to redevelop their plans simply because the committee may believe for example that the plan should include a stronger push to spread out the residents and bring services closer to the city border while the Plan calls for keeping new developments inside a specific boundary and developing a denser population base. What right does a group from outside the city have telling a city how to run it’s business.

Changes to the property tax system that would allow for monthly payments instead of lump sum payments is a good plan, so would the idea that areas keep their entire property tax which does not actually happen in municipalities.

There are certain things that do need to be looked at.

  1. All representatives on regional committees need to be elected by the area they represent (absolutely no appointees)
  2. These positions need to be paid to take into account the amount of time people must put into running these plans
  3. groups need to be designed so large municipalities and rural areas are not part of the same areas. These areas are not in any way similar and do not have anything similar to the same needs.
  4. every effort must be taken to make sure that in the effort to download costs onto the areas responsible for them that tax rates are not put so high that they push individuals from rural areas to cities just because the cost of living in rural areas has become to high.

These plans do seem to be not well prepared. They do seem to focus on convincing rural areas to amalgamate and they seem to be based on the belief that every area in the province is identical when they each have different issues and strengths.

The plan has its good points but it does seem to be heavily weighted towards its bad points and those points are bad not only to municipalities but to rural areas as well.