Highland Park Residents Have Spoken. Will Sean Chu Listen?

Council is set to determine the fate of the Highland Park Golf Course on January 23rd. For residents who hoped for a development plan that reflects the community’s wishes, the developer's proposal isn’t it - which is why the Community Association has asked the Ward 4 Councillor and council to reject it, and instead work towards a plan that reflects community input.

But Sean Chu doesn’t seem to be listening, and instead is preparing to ram through the developer’s proposal with some superficial amendments. Why?

A Better Plan Has Already Been Started

What’s particularly frustrating is a better community-based Transit Oriented Design (TOD) Concept Plan will be ready for council in June, 2017. The basis of this plan began with the Design Charrette in October, which captured and reflected enthusiastic citizen input. 

What makes it better than the developer's proposal? For starters, it responds to residents’ concerns for more open space and better integration with the existing neighborhood and future LRT Station. Here's the Golf Course portion of the plan:

Revised_Charrette_Concept.jpg

More specifically, this better plan recommends 52% of the development be reserved for contiguous open space, a key requirement for a community already lacking in park space. The extra open space would also likely save the cost of relocating two sanitary sewers on the site. The road right of way would decrease overall, and make the central portion a “winding, narrow, low-speed road” more suitable for a park space, pedestrians and cyclists. From the Design Charrette notes:

 Open_Space_Note.jpg

This plan also reduces building heights to mostly 4 and 6 stories, with a maximum height of 8, and reduces the number of units to just over 1900. Again from the Charrette:

Building_Height_Note.jpg

These units would also be concentrated towards the south and east ends of the development, placing most of them within a 10 minute walk of the planned 40th Avenue LRT station, making the development much more transit-oriented then the developer’s proposal.

In short, there is much about this community-based plan that offers a better development. So why doesn’t the Ward 4 Councillor work towards making it even better, and use it as the basis for any future development?

Highland Park Deserves A Plan!

Unfortunately, while Sean Chu supports an Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP) for a community outside his Ward, he has been unwilling to deliver an area plan for any Ward 4 community, including Highland Park.

And if any community is in need of a plan, it’s Highland Park. Once on the “tipping point of poverty”, the community has been left largely on its own to respond to massive change, including: 

  • Constant infill development, even in today’s slow market.
  • A planned McKnight Boulevard widening; demolishing homes and increasing traffic.
  • The controversial Drop Inn Centre application, rejection, and appeal.
  • The transformative Green Line project right along Centre St – the city’s largest project, ever.
  • This Golf Course redevelopment – at some 50 acres, comparable in scale to the East Village.

Frankly, if Sean Chu had listened to residents when they asked for an ARP years ago, the city could have tied these initiatives together, painted a common vision with resident feedback and, ironically, likely saved the developer time, effort and money by starting with clear expectations and context.

Instead, without an overarching plan, the community has had to respond to each issue in isolation and on their own. That’s why residents participated in the Design Charrette in great numbers and enthusiasm, and are now left wondering why the community-based plan that they contributed to is being ignored by their own councillor.

Also being ignored are critical water issues for the site, which are so complicated that a water study is required to sort them out. This water study will not be completed until sometime in 2018. The water issues alone should cause this proposal to be paused, if not rejected outright.

A Better Way Forward

This Golf Course Redevelopment could be much, much better. Highland Park deserves better, and the Community-based TOD Concept Plan is at least a good start. If Sean Chu truly cares what residents think, he would listen to the community, make a motion on Monday to reject the current proposal, work on a better plan to be delivered in June, and provide residents a better future.

How about it Sean? Residents have spoken. Will you listen?

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