There is hope. The Mayor of Ajax, of all people, recently weighed in on the Sprawl debate by articulating some of the challenges facing local municipalities, and critisizing the soon-to-be approved region of Durham's sprawl-friendly growth plan.
For developers, construction on the urban fringe is based on an intoxicating formula that rivals the best Chianti.
Low land-acquisition costs with freshly increased planning permissions create exponential increases in land value. Large land parcels are ripe for new subdivisions. Economies of scale for construction make suburban sprawl an enticing business model. There are few public objections as few people live there.
[L]ocal planning approvals that make these dreams possible are decidedly influenced by the very same developers. In a series of studies, professor Robert McDermid of York University points out that corporate financial contributions from the development industry dominate election financing in the rapidly growing 905 region. For example, Roehampton Farms (a Runnymede/Tribute partnership) spent $45,000 in election contributions in the four most populous municipalities in Durham.
Of the Durham model, Mayor Steve Parish goes on to explain:
"Growing Durham" is Durham Region's attempt to implement Places to Grow. With a deadline of June 16 to be sent to the province for approval, Durham's vision includes redesignating 7,000 acres of prime agricultural land for new urban areas. This includes 3,000 acres in northeast Pickering for a new settlement roughly the size of the town of Orangeville - jeopardizing the headwaters area of the Carruthers Creek and with no real connection to anything.
Roehampton is a primary owner of land in the proposed northeast Pickering development. Could it be that Roehampton's election contributions are influencing this outcome?
There are many barriers to adapting a sustainable growth stragetgy. But it's nice to no that at least one city Mayor is calling his compatriots to account and sitting on the right side of the discussion.
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