By Dawn Sloane
The problem with the school review is that in HRM’s case it is killing established communities by forcing children to go to schools outside of their neighbourhoods which then cause the deterioration of walkable sustainable communities/ neighbourhoods. As the typical amenities are closed down or relocated, neighbourhoods lose their uniqueness, pride, and functionality. Families move and communities deteriorate, crime become rampant, and other businesses and or amenities move.
Communities suffer when the wrong choices are made with respect to the closing of community amenities. Children no longer walk to school= obesity. Eyes on the street= the feeling of being in an unsafe environment = crime. The more people move out of the established neighbourhoods the more it costs us all in taxes (to pay for the relocation of amenities and the price of new infrastructure such as sewer and water).
Our water bills are going up because of this “shift”, deferred maintenance to our infrastructure is occurring which means we are going to see an increase to water bills (as stated on the news last night) that will not even come close to the $$$$ required to keep the system to a optimum working conditions.
We need to plan properly. HRM has allowed for leapfrog development ( spot development outside of the serviced area which requires the basic services – police, fire, snow removal etc) which has made our growth uncontrollable. HRM by Design tried to remedy this but Council was weak and didn’t take the really necessary steps to curb the leapfrogging.
Moreover, if the correct housing developments and affordable ( a sliding scale affordable housing) was enacted, people could live within the serviceable area which would decrease the infrastructure costs, allow for the existing amenities to be utilized to their capacity ( money saving) and allow for the local businesses to thrive as the population would use the local shops in a walkable community scenario.
The other issue is the amount of money HRM gives to the developers to build the services HRM will take over after the development is concluded – otherwise known as capital cost contributions. HRM needs to revise this policy and adopt the policies Harry Kitchen and Enid Slack proposed to HRM which stated that Developers need to start adding a % of the infrastructure cost to each house built outside of the serviced area. We as existing taxpayers should not be subsiding new growth that perpetuates the closure of schools, decline of neighbourhoods, and the loss of community.
HRM Council needs to learn the word NO and to revise the planning documents so we can rebuild our urban environment so we aren’t wasting money on services that are too spread out to provide at a reasonable rate.
It’s really just common sense. You cannot expect an elastic to stretch beyond its capacity and not break. Our elastic (HRM coffers) is starting to fray and deteriorate. The breaking point is nigh! Look at all the money being spent on transit and new overpasses, while our older areas are not being maintained properly.
Are people using transit? No. Only a certain sector, yet HRM build overpasses, underpasses to aid the pressure of new development. Are people using transit? No. Only a certain sector, yet HRM builds overpasses, underpasses to aid the pressure of new development and the almighty vehicle… typically one person vehicles. Planning our region and using the fund for infrastructure properly should be the catalyst to change, but I fear there are too many fingers in the pot.
If the greater good is not seen as the objective, then we will continue to spiral out of control… taxes, infrastructure costs ( for maintenance and for new) will increase and this wonderful place will drive people to other municipalities that are more affordable.