– Report from Rob Tarulli, Planning & Development Chair, Belgravia Community League. Thank you, Rob.
Over the past few months, the City of Edmonton has approached both the Belgravia and McKernan Community Leagues about a proposed Transit Oriented Development (TOD). TODs are means of creating “complete communities”.
In other words, they are way of enabling communities to meet the needs of a broad range of people by providing ready access to amenities, recreation and transportation services. TODs work best when there is a critical mass of people within the immediate vicinity of a transit station. In general terms, this may mean putting policy in place that encourages increased density and mixed use developments within a limited radius of existing transit hubs. The end goal is to create vibrant, pedestrian focused neighbourhoods.
Recently, the City of Edmonton has developed guidelines to direct TOD development throughout our city. The document outlines a number of different TOD types based on the scale and character of the neighbourhoods they are being proposed for. Because Belgravia is a neighbourhood comprised mainly of single family dwellings, the type of development proposed for our community is in keeping with the existing urban fabric. What is clear from the proposal is that increasing density in our community will not mean putting up highrises and towers. The proposal looks at rezoning the area within approximately 400 meters around the current McKernan/Belgravia LRT station. In many cases, this may mean changing the current RF1 zoning (Single Detached Residential) to RF3 (Low Density / Duplex).
In general, many of the people within our community agree that some level of increased density within Belgravia is favorably. Moderately increasing density within walking distance to the LRT has been shown to increase the use of public transit, create a sense of place and encourage mixed-use development. Who wouldn’t want to have more accessible amenities available within walking distance to our homes? This is increasingly important to those wishing to continue living in their homes as they age. Imagine being able to walk to the bakery for a fresh loaf of bread or perhaps pickup a bottle of wine to serve with dinner on your way home from work. Imagine being able to walk to the dentist for an appointment or meeting a friend for lunch at a bistro before taking the train downtown for a show. Moderate increases in density encourages the types of pedestrian traffic required for these types of amenities to succeed.
Issues and Concerns Being Addressed with the City of Edmonton
That said, there are a number of important interventions that need to take place in order for a strong TOD to form. As you are well aware, our neighborhood has had to make more than its fair share of concessions over the past decade. We’ve had to endure road widening, traffic congestion, commuter short cutting and parking issues, just to name a few.
When the City approached the Board about their plans for a TOD, we made it clear that we’d like to see a very convincing proposal; one that was not simply “good enough” for Edmonton but indeed, world-class. Over the past few months, we’ve heard from various people about their concerns regarding the potential for large tracts of low quality rental housing to develop as a result of changes to the existing zoning with the TOD target area. We’ve brought this to the attention of both the external TOD consultant (Urban Strategies Inc.) and the City of Edmonton.
The Belgravia Community League Board will continue to push for guidelines that encourage high quality infill projects that preserve the family centered character of our community. The Board also believes that new infill projects should complement the existing urban morphology. This to say that new infill projects should have a positive impact on adjacent properties and stay within the current confines of the existing building patterns. We are also aware that high quality, family-focused development does not occur without some degree of guidance and input from the community. Prescriptive design guidelines of new development within the target area and small lot subdivision are both ways the City can influence the type of new infill in our neighbourhood. Design guidelines help ensure that the character, size, orientation of buildings and construction materials meet requirements put forth by our community. Small lot subdivision is also an effective intervention for the promotion of family friendly housing. It encourages developers to build two single-detached houses on a standard 50’ wide lot. Typically, single family dwellings tend to maintain the block face (urban typology) and scale of the existing street while meeting the objectives of the City of Edmonton’s Municipal Development Plan.
Opportunities to Voice Your Opinion
The City of Edmonton held their first TOD public consultation workshop on November 22nd. Although the event was well attended, it is important that you remain involved in the overall discussion. Over the next year, the City will continue to collect information about the needs and wants of those who live and work in our community. Public consultation events will be advertised in our newsletter as well as on our website.
If you wish to review the material presented at the November 22nd workshop, please visit: http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/urban_planning_and_design/mckernan-belgravia-station-area-plan.aspx
If you have further questions about TOD’s in general or wish to discuss the City’s plan further, please contact:
Michael Strong, Principal planner, City of Edmonton
Sara McCartney, Planner