OCP Public Hearing – Tail wagging the dog?

Following is the submission from Linda Heese, City resident, at the OCP Public Hearing:

OCP Public Hearing Input – March 3, 2015

Mayor Mussatto and Council

There are a lot of areas of concern that I have with this version of the OCP. Underlying most of these is that the density increases compared to the last plan of 2002 are too large and the increase is making everything more UNAFFORDABLE and causing financial problems for the residents of our City and for our City finances.

The density shown in this plan has increased in varying amounts in almost every neighbourhood. As soon as developers hear that more density will be allowed, they are willing to pay more for a property, tear down what is there and build to the absolute maximum. There is already a feeding frenzy based on the Draft plan! In single family areas it is driving prices up so people who just want to buy a house, as is and live there, cannot afford it. In the medium and high density areas developers request and receive ever more height and density – and proceed to build large concrete towers with small units at high prices these towers are the most expensive housing that can be built! therefore they are the most expensive to buy or rent! Anything but affordable. People who used to live here can no longer afford it!

We have a situation that the tail is wagging the dog – the developers are telling the City what they will build – not the City saying what is needed! People in our community are looking for reasonable sized units – both young people starting families and older people downsizing from single family homes. Where are the units that these people can own or rent? They are not interested in 700 square feet in high-rise towers. They are looking for smaller complexes with 2 bedrooms or more – built in the most economical way possible – no parking excavations that take a year and cost huge money that adds to the final price. Where is the plan to incent the development we need? Why are we agreeing to tower after tower? Who are we building these for? There are units in many of these towers that have never been sold. Others are being resold at a loss. Dozens/hundreds are for rent. Why are we agreeing to and incenting more? Why are we not attracting developers to build what is needed?

On the City financial side I have huge concerns about our densification policy. This increased density is costing all of us tax payers more and big increases are on the way. Page 77 of 78 of the OCP shows the allocation of City Funds – Fire & Police Services, Water, Sewer, Garbage, Recycling, Recreation Centres, Parks, Library and City Hall staff – take 89% of our tax budget. The high-rises such as the one at 161 East Keith that has just been approved – will have 93 units almost all at 650-800 sq. feet. Each unit needs all these services – if they pay $1,800 per year in taxes – that would total about $170,000 a year for the whole building – that only covers the salary of a couple of additional people like firefighters or police. Who pays for all the other services?? We have dozens of these towers. If densification is working so wonderfully, where is the pot of money they are bringing in to replace Harry Jerome? Or to build the sewage treatment plant? We are bankrupting our community by following this strategy. The only ones making money are the developers who sell the high floors for millions of dollars AND take the profits out of our City – probably even out of Canada!

We need to reduce the heights and densities back to the 2002 plan and stop the feeding frenzy. We need to work out where townhouses and row houses can be built – for how much and by whom. We have to stop spending on non-essential projects and save for the major projects that are upon us.

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