Development & Density

[Editor's preface: This blog is dedicated to development & density. Jonathan Lazar has volunteered to initiate and moderate this discussion. Views expressed by Jonathan or any other moderator are their personal views only and not positions taken by the NVCAA, which may or may not decide to have policy prescriptions of its own in the future.

These blogs and posted minutes of in-person meetings will be a reference for voters in the City to consult in order to familiarize themselves with points of view and information that may be posted in support.]

Click on 'Read More' to see Jonanthan's introductory comments.

I am Jonathan Lazar and I am your moderator for this issue.

Here are my personal views on development and density:


1) Development, and, by extension, developers, are not evil. If it weren't for development, none of us would be living here. 


2) Density, too, is not evil. High density (multi family concrete highrises) is, all else being equal, a more efficient land and resource use than low density (singe family homes). 


3) In order to have higher density, though, there must be the proper infrastructure and support services. These include roads, schools, transit, parks, parking, community centres, retail and office space, medical facilities, etc.


4) Roads and transit appear to be the biggest hot buttons now, as it directly affects all of us (for example, schools only directly affect those with children, medical facilities only directly affect those that are sick (or are taking care of them) and/or on need of medical assistance). 


5) There is a process to distribute different levels of density and land use throughout the city, and it is typically governed by an Official Community Plan (OCP). The key is to manage density in concert with the availability of services and amenities, and density should be less than that allowed if those services are not available, not more with the hope that services and amenities will “catch up” to the increased density.


6) I don't believe there is any reason to deviate upwards from the OCP. Upwards deviation seems more the norm than the exception as of late, as developers offer the municipality amenities that really should be provided by the municipality, in exchange for increased density. 


7) When a municipality continuously looks to developers to provide amenities that the municipality should be providing, it speaks to a larger problem of poor fiscal management.


8) The city already receives development cost charges (DCCs), community amenity contributions (CACs) and an increased tax base with higher density, and the municipality still has to raise property taxes every year above the rate of inflation (the portion of my property taxes taxes under direct control of the City increased 85% between 2002 and 2016, while the CPI went up 24%). This is in addition to the municipality getting some of its amenities directly from developers. There is something wrong with the system.

 
9) Adhering to the approved OCP also extinguishes any conflicts of interest that could arise by developer donations to council members, as everything is out in the open, and developers know, or should know, that if they contribute to campaigns (other than those of NVCAA endorsed candidates, of course), it will not change what density is allowed under the OCP.

 

 

These are my initial thoughts. I welcome your comments, suggestions, and ideas.


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  • Thank you Jonathan. As promised, I will add to this as follows:

    1) Development, and, by extension, developers, are not evil. If it weren’t for development, none of us would be living here.
    Agreed.

    2) Density, too, is not evil. High density (multi family concrete highrises) is, all else being equal, a more efficient land and resource use than low density (singe family homes).
    Agreed. I would add that density should only be built if it is subject to strict qualitative standards, to preserve the quality of life in the local neighbourhood. The City can do this by requiring Development Permits based on measurable standards of form and character; for example to preserve sunlight and views for neigbouring properties.

    3) In order to have higher density, though, there must be the proper infrastructure and support services. These include roads, schools, transit, parks, parking, community centres, retail and office space, medical facilities, etc.
    I would add that Council could adopt a policy of only approving new developments after, or at the same time as, infrastructure to serve those developments is funded. Another way to do this is with a policy of phasing new residential development.

    4) Roads and transit appear to be the biggest hot buttons now, as it directly affects all of us (for example, schools only directly affect those with children, medical facilities only directly affect those that are sick (or are taking care of them) and/or on need of medical assistance).

    Agreed, Yes, transit should be linked directly to new residential growth…possibly by getting the developers to pay Development Cost Charges (DCCs) for rapid transit…this would require an amendment to provincial legislation.

    5) There is a process to distribute different levels of density and land use throughout the city, and it is typically governed by an Official Community Plan (OCP). The key is to manage density in concert with the availability of services and amenities, and density should be less than that allowed if those services are not available, not more with the hope that services and amenities will “catch up” to the increased density. I note that the OCP recommends 3 hectares of parkland for every 1000 people. We need to see concrete action to implement this at the same pace as new development… Also, jobs need to keep pace with the growth in the local work force.
    I note that the City has already rezoned enough developments to reach the Metro growth targets to 2040.

    6) I don’t believe there is any reason to deviate upwards from the OCP. Upwards deviation seems more the norm than the exception as of late, as developers offer the municipality amenities that really should be provided by the municipality, in exchange for increased density.
    Agreed. This is related to optics of Council appearing to cater to developers. See # 7, 8, and 9 below.

    7) When a municipality continuously looks to developers to provide amenities that the municipality should be providing, it speaks to a larger problem of poor fiscal management.
    Agreed.

    8) The city already receives development cost charges (DCCs), community amenity contributions (CACs) and an increased tax base with higher density, and the municipality still has to raise property taxes every year above the rate of inflation (the portion of my property taxes under direct control of the City increased 85% between 2002 and 2016, while the CPI went up 24%). This is in addition to the municipality getting some of its amenities directly from developers. There is something wrong with the system.
    Agreed. See above.

    9) Adhering to the approved OCP also extinguishes any conflicts of interest that could arise by developer donations to council members, as everything is out in the open, and developers know, or should know, that if they contribute to campaigns (other than those of NVCAA endorsed candidates, of course), it will not change what density is allowed under the OCP.

    Agreed! This could be an important election issue. I refer back to my comment that the City should focus on the quality of the local environment, which is NOT served by continuously exceeding density limits.

    Here is what the OCP says about Council discretion: “2.2.1 Density Bonuses
    In addition to the OCP Density, at Council’s discretion, higher densities may be permitted up to the OCP Maximum Bonus density, as provided for in the Land Use map (Schedule A in Appendix 1.0) as an incentive to achieve additional public benefits or amenities. The amount of density bonus to be
    considered should reflect the value of the public benefit provided and be consistent with good urban design principles and practice. The City’s Density Bonus and Community Amenity Policy may guide density bonus decisions. Density bonuses are at Council’s absolute discretion. “

    Do we agree with this? This seems like fudging to me.

    -Alex Jamieson, City Planner, retired