Back on June 17, HRM held the only town hall style Q&A on the proposed amendments to the Regional Plan. The Regional Plan has been in place for five years, and it was a time to make what some frame as minor adjustments to help assist the 25 year plan to continue forward.
While we are a mere 5 years into the plan, there is concern and on some level a valid one that growth targets are not being met. Presently, the targets are as follows:
1. 25% of new housing starts in Regional Centre,
2. 50% in the suburbs and
3. 25% in the rural areas of HRM is estimated to save
4. $670 million over the current pattern of development.
In the first five years, the targets proposed were not met with still a large amount of housing starts occurring outside the Regional Centre. I support the plan in terms of its mandate and we need a strong regional plan to truly guide or city and to allow controlled growth. The positive I see is that with the regional plan we have development actually occurring within the regional centre, where for years it was a ghost town. That is not to suggest, it is perfect but it provides a moderately better framework than what existed before: which was at best haphazard and ineffective
However, I have concerns with the piecemeal approach we are seeing. For example in Dartmouth we still are under the Dartmouth Municipal Planning Strategy and/or Downtown Dartmouth Municipal Planning Strategy. Furthermore, while I believe in the benefit of green belting/blue belting across our region there are other key changes we need to make to support the regional plan. Presently, we lack a strong public transit system which is truly undermining the targets set for new housing starts in the regional centre. If we look to our community of Dartmouth, we are witnessing many great housing starts but they are based on appealing to a high income demographic that will undoubtedly bring more single use vehicles into the regional centre. This is counter to the intent of the regional plan, as until we get serious about truly modernizing our road network and integrating an effective public transit model.
In reality, well we need the regional plan; it is only piece that is providing a framework and vision. The Centre Plan and HRMbyDesign is the how. The other piece of the “How” is true public consultation during this whole process, not in just the initial development. While, I respect and value staff involvement and expertise in the above mentioned projects: it is the public who equally have value to contribute. The sheer fact that HRM only held one town hall on the Regional Plan update is appalling, coupled with the fact that public houses were, until dismay from residents, only held within the regional centre and suburban areas, little attention was paid to more rural areas.
At the end of the day, what I believe we need to do is maintain the vision but we as a region must immediately turn our focus to improve the how we will achieve this vision for HRM.
You can view info on the Regional Plan here
Read Our HRM Alliance's response here