Monday, January 03, 2011

Where's the Bakery?

Local politics is mostly about land use planning. Height, density, setbacks, residents agitated about the potential of “low-rental” housing intruding on their lifestyles and impacting their property values and so on….

But I’ve mentioned this before, haven’t I?

When I was a Councillor I found this land use planning stuff kind of complicated though. The reports were rather like those instructions for putting together the kid’s Christmas presents in that, while the salient points were repeated so as even the thickest reader could understand them, they always seemed sort of back to front to this dim-witted decision maker.

I was at the Royal Bank at New Street and Walkers Line (Burlington Ontario) recently and I had a planning flashback. It went like this:

On a Tuesday night some time in the mid-nineties the Planning and Development Committee was looking at a rezoning for the north west corner of this intersection. I recall that a Sunoco station had occupied the site for many years prior. It was a long meeting and following in the time honoured tradition of municipal politicians I was asking dumb questions – really dumb questions.

What exactly is Neighbourhood Commercial, I wanted to know?

The Planner’s answer had to do with building something small scale that would be used by those living on the nearby streets. A small bakery was mentioned, with reference to the sweet smell of baking bread being carried on the breeze over Rothsay Place and other adjoining streets. And while the ward councillor had concerns about odours I had visions of Old Mr. Jones strolling down to the bakery to get a Danish to go with his morning coffee or perhaps some trifle for an after dinner treat. It seemed…well, quite neighbourly.

The approved uses also included drive throughs which seemed to run counter to the idyllic friendly neighbourhood use notion put forward by the planner.

My recollection is that I persuaded my colleagues to support a recommendation that staff develop some sort of policy for drive through approvals. I don’t remember what, if anything, came of that staff direction.

Here is a picture of what became of that site. One large bank office, with a drive though in the middle of an over sized parking lot.

No bakery, but RBC puts out cookies with coffee sometimes.

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