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EDITORIAL: How high is too high?

Three Rivers Coun. Wayne Spin chats with Montague resident Norm Coffin following a special meeting seeking public input on a proposed 50-unit apartment complex. Council decided to move a vote on re-zoning the parcel of land for the proposed complex to next month after hearing concerns from some residents.
Three Rivers Coun. Wayne Spin chats with Montague resident Norm Coffin following a special meeting seeking public input on a proposed 50-unit apartment complex. Council decided to move a vote on re-zoning the parcel of land for the proposed complex to next month after hearing concerns from some residents. - Mitch MacDonald

The challenges facing rural Prince Edward Island have been well documented.

Population is on the decline.

Development is hard to come by.

Job opportunities are few and far between.

The situation is not unique to the Island. Urbanization is happening across Canada and beyond.

That’s why it’s so startling when rural communities put roadblocks in place when developers want to invest in their communities.

Take Three Rivers, for example.

A developer wants to build a 50-unit apartment building in Montague. The multimillion-dollar investment would not only be a huge economic boost to the newly-formed Three Rivers but all of eastern Prince Edward Island.

This development would bring 50 new families into the community. Those families would shop in local stores, eat in local restaurants, and contribute to the overall economy of the region.

One of the big stumbling blocks to the development is the four-storey building is too high.

Trump Tower in New York may be 58 -storeys.

Purdy’s Wharf in Halifax is 18 storyes.

BDC Place in Charlottetown is seven storeys.

But in Montague, anything more than three storeys is a no-go.

There is a good reason.

The local fire department says it is only equipped to perform rescues for buildings of three storeys or fewer.

RELATED: Three Rivers residents surprised by re-zoning request for four-storey apartment

Certainly, other issues against the building were raised — including the perennial traffic concerns.  

But the issue of height strikes at the very heart of what is wrong with Prince Edward Island.

We need to adapt. We need to be open to change. We need to accommodate development and growth. If people want to build four-storey buildings in Montague, the Town of Three Rivers and the Montague fire department need to invest in its infrastructure, its training and in its equipment to meet that demand.

The situation is not much different in Charlottetown, where tall buildings spread fear in some city residents.

This newspaper closely documented the mindless discussion over the construction of the Holman Grand Hotel in the heart of downtown Charlottetown. The 10-storey boutique hotel is the city’s newest hotel and a true asset to the downtown.

But it wasn’t without its controversary.

There were concerns about fire safety. There were concerns about traffic. Then there was the concern that the massive structure was going to tower over Province House destroying the photo opportunities of the historic chamber.

Really?

None of the concerns were valid.

We have a finite amount of land on this precious Island. If we want to grow and develop as a province, we need these types of developments and we need to be able to grow up in height.

Three Rivers certainly needs to do its homework to ensure fire safety and traffic concerns are addressed. But they must ensure this development goes ahead for the betterment of Three Rivers, Kings County and all of Prince Edward Island.

Municipal leaders across the Island must not be scared of getting too high. Sometimes there is nowhere to go, but up.

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