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GUEST OPINION: Concern for our city

Doug MacArthur, one of the many people who played a part in transforming the Charlottetown waterfront into what it is today, says the city must find a way to reconsider its decision to approve an eight-storey apartment building behind Renaissance Place on Haviland Street.
Doug MacArthur - SaltWire file

Doug MacArthur
Guest opinion

For those who have been fortunate enough to visit European cities, have you noticed how beautiful many of them are, how they attract countless tourists from all over the world, and how proud local residents are of their city. One reason is that hundreds of years ago European planners developed and refined a city planning approach based on "concern for the appearance of the city". To this day, this approach guides urban development and planning in much of Europe.

In the U.S., until the early 20th century, urban planning was largely hit and miss. More recently, the U.S. introduced the concept of "as of right" in its planning procedures. As of right means that a building project can proceed if it meets ALL of the zoning/development requirements on a particular site. Still, in the U.S., a city's mayor and council have final decision-making power.

Throughout much of the world, there is also a concept called participatory planning. The basis for this concept is that the extent to which planning involves public participation reflects the degree of democracy enjoyed in a city or country. Where government is authoritarian, so is planning.

Killam's $30-million, 15 Haviland St., 99-unit project was approved by the city in 17 minutes. As we have argued on our Stop Killam P.E.I. website and Facebook page, the project ignores provisions in the 2012 City Waterfront 30-Year Plan, ignores requirements in the City's 2014 Zoning Bylaws, and suffers from inadequate access/egress issues. Yet, it was approved in 17 minutes. Meanwhile, we also argue the proposed lower Prince Street/Founders Hall seven-storey building has many similar issues.

Right up until today, Mayor Philip Brown has said he is helpless to do anything to reconsider these two projects because the previous mayor and council introduced "as-of-right," and, for a similar reason, he says there can't be any public input into either project. First, as-of-right doesn't apply when a project doesn't meet bylaw requirements. Second, Mayor Brown says he intends to change the bylaw (after these projects proceed!), but he hasn't lifted a finger to change the bylaw since he was elected, and instead on Jan. 6, 2020, he signed a 15 Haviland Development Agreement with Killam that included a clause saying that desired Killam changes to the project particulars could be approved by the city's chief administration officer and would not need to go to council. Does that sound like someone who wants to restore authority and public input in city council?

Just one term in office by the current city administration is damaging our city irreparably, and the damage by these two projects will last 100 years. Meanwhile, how can we as residents and Islanders, have any confidence that this city administration will responsibly address decisions on upcoming projects such as Mount Edward Road/Towers Road and the $80 million or more sports complex?

All Islanders are justifiably proud of our capital city and birthplace of confederation. For 50 years we have been concerned with the appearance of our city and have tried to make wise development decisions, and almost always with opportunity for public input. Mayor Brown has made it clear time and again that he will do nothing to hear our voices or to act on our concerns. I believe it's time for us to stand up and be counted.

Doug MacArthur was actively involved in Charlottetown waterfront development in the 1970s-80s and subsequently played an onsite project management role in development projects in more than 60 countries.


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