Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.
This age-old adage can certainly be applied to the challenges facing the Capital Region. Everywhere you look, it seems like municipalities are seeking more land to expand into new horizons.
Growth is good. But parents are well acquainted with the concept of growing pains. In addition to the physical pain that afflicts a toddler’s limbs, there is also the conceptual pain parents go through with having to constantly buy new clothes and be awoken in the middle of the night.
Municipalities face growing pains too. As residential development expands, towns and cities must additionally encourage further commercial development to avoid having an unbalanced residential/commercial tax ratio. In order to make the most of infrastructure, higher densities are encouraged. Density is good for things like water and sewer servicing. It also provides a social benefit by creating more vibrant communities with more eyes on the street.
But not everyone likes density. Density also means smaller lots, smaller driveways and smaller backyards. So the proposal to build a subdivision with medium to high-density buildings is not always met with open arms. In a province as prosperous as Alberta, people take pride in their big backyards and driveways. This is understandable. It’s nice to have a sanctuary not only within your home, but also around it.
But the fact of the matter is we’re running out of land.
And it’s not just Fort Saskatchewan. Several months ago I covered an annexation merit hearing between Beaumont and Leduc County. In that instance, Edmonton was also seeking a portion of the land Beaumont requested.
Closer to home, I know Bruderheim is seeking land from Lamont County and Sturgeon County has expressed opposition to Fort Saskatchewan’s own annexation request. And we can only expect more annexation requests in the near future.
As such, the Capital Region needs to work together to address this growth. Constantly expanding our borders outward is not the solution. City council has showed they are willing to embrace high-density developments such as when they recently approved the ability to apply for a 20-storey residential high-rise. This is a good step forward, or rather upwards.
But that’s just one piece of the puzzle. We’re already starting to see the growing pains some have suggested may come as a result of parking related to secondary suites. I don’t believe council’s decision to ban tandem parking at their Aug. 28 was an effective one. Street parking is unavoidable, and this decision will only make it more challenging to incorporate secondary suites into neighborhoods as lots (and inevitably driveways) shrink smaller.
There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to addressing growth. But we need to acknowledge that we’ll need to make changes to the way we plan our neighbourhoods as well as to our lifestyles. The status quo is not an option if we want to grow smarter and more sustainably. Sacrifices will be made, but it doesn’t have to be such a pain in the (bottle) neck.