NS: Smart Growth and Environment Focus of Downtown Lecture Tonight

DHBC's 10th Anniversary Carmichael Lecture to talk about managing urban sprawl

Peter Clarke, The Daily Business Buzz

[HALIFAX, NS] - There are many arguments for and against the expanding urban sprawl of the Halifax Regional Municipality – it can’t be stopped and development is good but there are always unintended side effects.

Tonight is the 10th Anniversary Carmichael Lecture put on by the Downtown Halifax Business Commission in partnership with the Ecology Action Centre where guest speakers David Donnelly and Bruce Lourie from Toronto will speak about managing the urban sprawl and their experiences with the issue in Ontario and on how urban growth can affect the environment.

The expansive sprawl can deplete farmable land, natural resources and environments and can lead to an increase in pollution in both air and water said Donnelly, an environmental layer and an advocate for smart growth in Canada.

“Halifax has a bit of a unique situation because it hasn’t lost and won’t lose thousands of acres of farm land,” said Donnelly.

He said Halifax does have three issues facing it however: he said the traffic congestion is comparable to Toronto in terms of commute times for people, the natural core surrounding Halifax has been “cut to shreds” and that a significant amount of jobs are migrating out of the city and into surrounding suburban areas.

“Halifax should be scared out of its wits that the tide is going out on its downtown,” he said.

He added that in Ontario, the provincial government had to legislate against sprawl with its Places to Grow Act which required by law a 60 – 40 split between sprawl expansion and adding to density of a central area.

“If Halifax doesn’t follow suit, it could end up being the Detroit Michigan of the Eastern Seaboard,” he said.

While the effect the legislation has had on Toronto’s downtown itself isn’t very notable, it has had a greater impact on the smaller satellite communities in the Greater Toronto Area such as Vaughn.

Donnelly and his co-speaker Lourie were both instrumental in creating the “greenbelt” in Toronto. Greenbelts are essentially boundaries and limits on development that keep natural spaces within cities and around them and essentially put an invisible wall around and urban area to encourage density development as opposed to sprawling.

To improve its downtown, Donnelly says Halifax has a few advantages that some other cities don’t: He said it is a unique city in that it’s the only game in town with no similar cities in close proximity. It also has an underdeveloped waterfront and downtown that could bolster the city’s fortunes if developed right.

One big step for Donnelly though would be an adjustment to the taxes – it is universally true across many cities that taxes are very high in the downtown area for both residents and businesses.

“It hurts me to say but if I was advising a client on where to set up a business I would be sorely tempted and probably bound to recommend a suburban area,” he said

One local group would like to see Halifax develop what it already has before it continues expanding.

“It cuts into green space - threatening sensitive areas and ecosystems,” said Jen Powley, sustainable transportation coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre.

The EAC is advocating for smart development.

“We would like to see developments not cutting into new areas,” she said.

New developments require lots of extra resources such as new water and sewer systems, secondary streets and power connections, while meanwhile she said there are 23 vacant lots in the downtown area which she thinks would be a much better use of building materials.

Carmichael Lecture is happening tonight at the Westin Hotel on Barrington Street from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. The event is free of charge and open to public on a first-come, first-served basis.

Along with managing Halifax’s urban sprawl Donnelly and Lourie will touch on other topics such as the architecture of green belts – their functions and policies.


The Daily Business Buzz: http://www.ns.dailybusinessbuzz.ca/Provincial-News/2011-05-12/article-2499763/NS%3A-Smart-growth-and-evironment-focus-of-downtown-lecture-tonight/1?newsletterid=203&date=2011-05-12-06

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