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GUEST OPINION: Observations on Charlottetown from the North Shore of P.E.I.

Residents of a Charlottetown neighbourhood bordered by Malpeque Road (pictured) and Lower Malpeque Road say an apartment building project planned for the neighbourhood will exacerbate a problem already present turning left here off Irwin Drive onto Malpeque Road.
Residents of a Charlottetown neighbourhood bordered by Malpeque Road (pictured) and Lower Malpeque Road say an apartment building project planned for the neighbourhood will exacerbate a problem already present turning left here off Irwin Drive onto Malpeque Road.

Gary Walker
Guest opinion


I have “talked the talk” long enough, now I’ve “walked the walk”. We have moved from the “Cradle of Confederation”, or “Cradle of Confusion” to a North Shore community.

I will save comments regarding the exploits of the Department of Transportation for another time. Apparently, I will have lots of time, even after watching the 11 mind-numbing videos they posted on Youtube to explain a “simple intersection”.

Ah, Charlottetown. I will not take a round-about way here. After 36 years I no longer pay taxes to the city, but I do have some observations. First: The role of city council is not to help developers carve up the city, but to represent the citizens who have elected them. Look at poor Towers Road, behind the Charlottetown Mall. The “city limits” do end at The Confederation Trail. Beyond that – all traffic is on Mall property. Developers are hard at work on this mini-street. Underway, one 80-unit apartment building, and another apartment complex as well (originally approved as a community-care facility). All completely legal, and I am not suggesting otherwise. However, we are talking about a very large addition of traffic to this dead-end street. And, now – on the other side of the street, APM has asked for a 300-unit property development. I presume that most residents will have cars – to use on Towers Road, of course. Actually, this development has passed first reading at city council. Unbelievable.

Public works department identified (Towers Road) as an ideal candidate for a pathway for pedestrians and bikers. “As there are number of large projects in this location, the department is recommending holding off on this work”. Why? In most cities it is the developers’ responsibility to provide safe pedestrian passage – not the city’s. And what is the proposed timeframe? Years?

I agree that city council has (had) to clean up the messes made by previous councils, including the biggie – the large subdivision across from Mel’s Liquor/Convenience store onto the extremely busy St. Peter’s Road with only one exit, Bambrick Drive. This is to be rectified, at some point, with – how should I put it – a large circle. As I recall, a previous owner of Mel’s wanted another exit – behind Mel’s, through an area zoned residential. This was successfully fought by the residents and ultimately dropped. As it should have been. Most importantly, though, this set a precedent for future R1 planning.

Now another developer is trying the same tactic — an exit through a quiet residential area on Trainor Street — to allow traffic flow for highway access. No, no and no. The residents of that neighbourhood bought their properties in an R1 Zone and they deserve the “rights and privileges attached thereto” that go with that designation. City council’s first role is not to facilitate development, but to protect its own citizens’ legal rights.

Do city council members walk along streets that will forever be changed by developers and speak to residents, whom they pledged to represent at election time, or simply look at developers’ slick designs, beautifully drawn by professionals? Not another building in sight, project gleaming in the sunlight — no bus stops, no traffic, no homeless people sitting on a bench; no cigarette butts on the ground – always heaven on earth. And, for once COVID-19 helps — small council meetings or video meetings or closed meetings at inconvenient times; a developer’s dream.

City councillors have to be familiar with sites which they are asked to approve: Trainor Street, Towers Road, Bambrick Drive, and all future developments. Do come to today’s streets, and try to get into the traffic flow at “rush hours”. City councillors are voting on proposals they know nothing about. Would they live on these streets?

The city needs development, but not at the price of its character, or the good of its citizens. P.E.I. has often been compared to Ireland; at the rate we are going it will soon look like East Berlin.

Charlottetown city council has not only a legal mandate to plan the city, but also a moral one to its citizens, as elected officials. Otherwise, the city could be run by a couple of lawyers and a CEO. What about the residents – the taxpayers?

The city owes the developers nothing. The citizens, everything. See the wise Aesop’s fables: “The Frogs and the Ox” and “The Goose and the Golden Egg”. Easy to find on the Internet. And in Charlottetown.

Gary Walker is a life-long educator who now lives on the North Shore.

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