Archive for March, 2007

I have good news!

March 31, 2007

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Tucker wants everyone to know that we now have over 300 signatures on our online petition! Our old-fashioned paper petition has over 1,000. Surely an internet petition can do better than that? Spread the word!

Thanks to Jan Rankin-Collie for the great pic of Tucker at Upton Farm.

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Words of Wisdom

March 30, 2007

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When Paul R. Egan signed our online petition, he added the inspiring words that you read above. They are imprinted on Jan Rankin-Collie’s beautiful picture of the Upton Farmlands, taken in autumn 2006. Thank you, Paul and Jan, for reminding us why we are working so hard to preserve this land.

A Vital Asset Is In Danger

March 29, 2007

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The Guardian

March 29, 2007

A vital asset is in danger

Editor: I would like to offer the following comments in response to the letter of Canada Lands Corporation VP Gordon McIvor to The Guardian on Monday, March 26, 2007.

1. Mr. McIvor mentions that his corporation engaged in a process involving government officials and public stakeholders in considering the development of the Upton Farm lands. Unfortunately, he fails to mention that the option of leaving the land as it is was never put on the table for the public to review. Therefore, the entire process has been slanted against the idea of green space.

2. Mr. McIvor’s comment about public input in the CLC process can only be seen as absurd. Obviously, the opinion of the hundreds of citizens that are now seeking to stop the development was not adequately included. The public may not have had a voice before but surely Mr. McIvor can hear the message loud and clear. The citizens of Charlottetown are saying no to this development. There is no reason why public input should be discounted now and our land should not be held hostage by a faulty bureaucratic process.

3. Mr. McIvor’s reference to the CLC plan protecting the existing ecosystem displays a profound lack of environmental understanding. When compared to leaving the entire space as it is, adding a few patches of grass between the houses has almost zero ecological significance. Large natural areas must be preserved to ensure ecosystem integrity. Had CLC actually done an environmental assessment of the property, they might have some knowledge of these considerations.

In sum, I find it very sad in our democratic society that a government agency argues with citizens about what to do with our land. CLC may be presenting this development as a done deal but it is not too late for citizens, through their duly elected officials, to do what is right. An important environmental and cultural asset is in danger of being sacrificed for a subdivision. I urge city and provincial officials to find a way to save this piece of land for the benefit of future generations.

Hans Connor,

Charlottetown

“It will be turned into McSprawl”

March 29, 2007

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The Guardian
March 29, 2007

Look for better ideas for our green spaces

Editor:

Garry Doyle’s letter in the March 23 Guardian (‘Wow, what a vision…’ ) focuses the issue of the future of the Upton Farm’s green space exactly where it belongs: in the public eye.

I thought with the amalgamation of the smaller communities into a greater Charlottetown there would be some advantages for all. All I have seen until this move is increased taxes in the amalgamated communities. Now what I will see is that this wonderful waterfront property along the North River will be turned into McSprawl.

Surely in this day of heightened environmental awareness the default position of government has to be something other than private commercial development for existing green space.

I agree strongly with Mr. Doyle and with Dr. Nagarajan that this development plan be put in abeyance until Islanders can be consulted properly on the use of what is now public land. There have to be better stewardship ideas for green spaces than commercial development.

Darragh Mogan,
Charlottetown

Photo Credit:

Ann MacNeill “Sees the Moment” Photography

“The land belongs to people of Canada:” DeBlois

March 28, 2007

Tom DeBlois, the Charlottetown candidate for Conservative Party of Canada, released the following statement to the press on March 26, 2007. Thank you, Mr. DeBlois for your support and your efforts to protect this property for future generations of Canadians.

CHARLOTTETOWN – Tom DeBlois, Charlottetown candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada, announced today that as he goes door-to-door, he is hearing a lot of concern expressed by residents about the move to sell and develop the Upton Farm property and what this decision would mean for the local area and the province.

“This is a golden opportunity to preserve this area as important green space, and that is the position I will support as your Member of Parliament,” said DeBlois.

DeBlois said he firmly believes the land belongs to the people of Canada and should be utilized in a manner that benefits as many people as possible.

“The previous federal government passed the land to the Canada Lands Company in 2001 as a way to avoid accountability for the decisions being made. Frankly, it is the responsibility of a Member of Parliament to involve the community in such important issues and take a stand,” said DeBlois.

Decisions made now will impact the land and area for generations to come because once green space is lost it cannot be recovered. DeBlois added that while housing is important, such development should not be the only focus as we strive to build a city that will be of pride to our children. As a business person, DeBlois said he knows the value of development, but he also appreciates the significance of maintaining important resources such as parks and viewscapes.DeBlois said there is rich heritage associated with the property, and he believes there is tremendous potential to preserve it in a manner that benefits the local area.“This is the area you first see when you enter our city. It encompasses over a mile of our coastline. I have signed the petition. I support efforts to preserve the land. I will proudly carry the petition to Ottawa and fight for preservation of Upton Farm,” said DeBlois.

-30-

For further information contact:

Tom DeBlois, Candidate for the

Conservative Party of Canada

(902) 628-2319

Our Reply to Mr. McIvor

March 27, 2007

This is our reply to Mr. McIvor’s letter. It was submitted to The Guardian for publication on March 27, 2007.

To the Editor:

I noted with interest the opinion piece by Gordon McIvor of Canada Lands Company concerning the development of the Upton Farmlands (“Upton Farm: it’ll offer enjoyable public green space,” The Guardian, March 26, 2007).

Mr. MacIvor puts great emphasis on CLC’s supposed consultation with the residents of Charlottetown on the fate of this 246-acre area of publicly-owned greenspace, which borders the North River and straddles the highway at the western gateway to the city.He mentions a design “charette,” which is an urban planning buzzword, basically meaning a visioning exercise. What he does not mention is that of the two visioning exercises done, one was conducted by Dalhousie University’s School of Architecture in Halifax; the other, while done in Charlottetown, had a majority of participants from Moncton, Toronto and Vancouver. Neither group actually walked the property, since the visioning exercises were held in February 2003 and there was a deep layer of snow on the ground at the time. As a matter of fact, the Dalhousie group never even visited the property and the Charlottetown group merely “viewed it from the perimeter.” So much for familiarity with the land and community input.

Mr. McIvor says the results of these visioning studies were presented to the public in 2003 at public meetings. Those meetings were held on July 10 and 16, 2003, the middle of summer holiday season. On July 19, 2003, Charlottetown resident Lloyd B. MacLeod wrote in a letter to The Guardian: “How many people attended this particular public input session? Not too many. When I left at about 8:15 p.m. there were several Canada Lands staff, two city councillors and the city planner and no more than five or six private citizens . . . ”  Given the dates of the meetings, a low turnout of residents is not surprising. So much for community input.

Mr. McIvor refers to the Upton Farm Advisory Group. This was a committee whose members were hand-picked by CLC. While it was composed of six respected citizens, there was no representation from the health, recreation or environment sectors. Its mandate, set by CLC, was to create a set of guiding principles for the development of the property. The option to keep the property as greenspace was never part of the mandate given this committee.

Mr. McIvor refers to two more public meetings after the master plan for the property was presented. A quick perusal of the minutes of these meetings (available on the City of Charlottetown website) will reveal that the public input was overwhelmingly negative to the development plans. Indeed, Mayor Clifford Lee himself was quoted in the Guardian in April 2005 as saying he wanted the traffic concerns engendered by a 350-unit subdivision solved before Council would approve the development. That led to the second public meeting held in June 2005. At that meeting, the results of a traffic study, done by a company contracted by CLC and paid for by CLC, indicated that a development composed of 350 new housing units would have no appreciable effect on traffic in the area. This result, understandably, was met by disbelief and protest by the residents and ultimately led to the creation of the Upton Farmlands Preservation Network.

Mr. McIvor refers to the significant greenspace that will be left for the residents of Charlottetown to enjoy after the development of the Upton Farmlands.First of all, plans are not even in place for the property north of the highway, so I’m not sure if he is aware how much greenspace will be left. Secondly, what has been presented as a “concept plan” for the Maypoint subdivision on the south side of the highway featuring a public square and a 23-metre walking trail along the river, is exactly that, a “concept.” Local real estate agents will tell you that what will be put on that property will be what the market demands. The resulting product can be devastating to the existing neighbourhood, as was discovered in Ottawa, where CLC redeveloped a significant piece of property known as the Rideau Veterans’ Lands.

This is from a story printed Nov. 30, 2005 in the Ottawa Citizen:

“The community is stunned and disappointed . . . CLC was really good to talk and discuss points with,” [Peter Hume, Ottawa City Councillor] says. “The real problem is that when they sold the land, they had no design control over the developer . . . ”

Another quote:

“[The] past president of the Faircrest Heights residents’ association, says area residents are ‘appalled’ at the result. “Things tend to get compromised along the way,” he says. “The builder and CLC are always looking for ways to increase their return. What you agree to in the beginning is a lot better than what you can expect to get at the other end.”

The Citizen article also points out that the people running CLC come primarily from real estate backgrounds. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but it can colour how one views a piece of property. The CLC is in the business of “optimizing” the value of the properties it is selling for the federal government. In its opinion that means selling the land for development, not keeping it as greenspace.

However, despite being in the same business, Mr. McIvor does not appear too concerned about the interests of local real estate developers. There are right now 273 building lots with infrastructure in place ready to be built on in the Winsloe-West Royalty area, the same area in which the Upton Farmlands are located. What impact adding a 350-unit housing development into this already overcrowded real estate market will have on the owners of these properties does not merit comment in Mr. McIvor’s opinion piece.

Thus, while Mr. McIvor may be correct in saying there was consultation, upon closer examination the so-called consultation clearly resembles a process that was designed to arrive at a pre-determined conclusion. Otherwise, why would CLC have chosen to consult in the middle of the summer when Islanders are busy and preoccupied? Why did CLC choose mostly off-Island individuals who likely have never even set foot on the land to craft the vision for the property?

Mr. McIvor is not fooling anyone. CLC is in the business of making money and it is by no coincidence that it has orchestrated a process that serves its mandate. Selling off publicly-owned greenspace piece by piece to developers will certainly make CLC and its business partners money, likely a lot of money, but it does nothing to serve the interests of Islanders.

This quote, I believe, sums up CLC’s corporate ethos. It is taken from a 2002 Market Analysis done for the company by Baker Consulting, and refers to the Upton Farmlands property: “While the city [of Charlottetown] or province [of P.E.I.] would unquestionably be interested in the property at low cost/no cost . . . this would not be financially attractive to CLC.”

Anyone desiring more information about this issue is invited to check out http://www.saveuptonfarm.com.

CLC’s Mr. McIvor Writes to the Guardian

March 27, 2007

Gordon McIvor is the vice-president, strategic acquisitions, Public and Government Affairs, Canada Lands Company.

This is the text of his opinion piece, which ran in the Guardian on March 26, 2007:

Upton Farm: it’ll offer
enjoyable public green space

By Gordon McIvor

COMMENTARY

Canada Lands Company CLC Limited (CLC) would like to take the opportunity to respond to recent letters to the editor concerning the development of the Upton Farm.

Before discussing the particular details of the planned development, there has been reference made to the process by which CLC received its approvals including a reference to a “fast track approach”. This was indeed not the case. CLC acquired this property in 2001 at which time CLC met with various city and provincial officials as well as stakeholder groups to outline CLC’s development process and discuss possible land uses.

CLC continued with its development activities for the next three years. This included undertaking a design charette to create several visions for the property. These visions were presented to the public in 2003 at two open houses where CLC received valued input from the public. Notices for these open houses were advertised in The Guardian and were open to all members of the public. During the balance of 2003 and 2004, these visions were also presented to a wide range of stakeholders with further public input received.

CLC then took an additional step of creating the Upton Advisory Group, which was comprised of six individuals from the community, with three being residents from adjacent neighbourhoods, along with one individual from CLC. This group met on a regular basis in 2004 and 2005 and formed eight “guiding principles” for the Upton Farm development. The principles were used by CLC and its planners to develop a master plan for the property. This plan was presented to the public at two open houses, both of which were advertised in The Guardian. The plan was then submitted to the city on March 8, 2006, with a public meeting hosted by the city on April 5, 2006, with a follow-up public meeting June 15, 2006.

The public meetings were well attended with strong representation made from the public. At no time was there discussion on stopping the development to keep it as an open space. Subsequently, the plan was approved by city council on July 10, 2006. Further to all of the open houses and public meetings, CLC has had an open-door policy by which any member of the public was welcome to come to our offices and discuss the planning work underway.

Recently, there have been concerns regarding the development of the Upton Farm as presented in letters to the editor regarding the green/open space. CLC has made this a priority in its planning from the outset. To this end, CLC’s plan includes a significant number of features:

– A significant public space along the entirety of CLC property along the North River. This space which will be developed into a walking trail is 23 metres wide and will connect to the city’s trail system found on the adjacent Beach Grove property.

– A green gateway park on both sides of the Trans-Canada Highway signifying and enhancing the entrance to the City of Charlottetown.

– A neighbourhood public square patterned after the four public squares that are found in the city. This square will be used for a variety of passive recreational and cultural events.

– Protection of the existing ecosystem in particular the hedgerow and tree stand clusters found on the property.

With the above noted features, which all surpass the city’s green space requirements, CLC strongly believes that when the development is complete, the Upton Farm will have some of the most enjoyable, well-designed and used public green space in Charlottetown.

The City of Charlottetown has a plan for the orderly development of the community as a whole. This involves looking ahead at not only park space but also land development.

CLC believes that the approved plan will follow the successful developments that CLC has created across the country, which provide for sustainable development, environmental stewardship, and a quality of lifestyle opportunity. In closing, CLC’s door is always open and I would encourage any interested citizen to drop by and view and discuss the plans for the property.

Gordon Mclvor is vice president, strategic acquisitions, Public and Government Affairs, Canada Lands

Thank You, Senator Downe!

March 26, 2007

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No environmental assessment? WHY NOT?

March 26, 2007

The location of the Upton Farmland property [click on “Pictures” on the right hand panel of this page to see location] leads one to ask the question: what effect will the development of this property have on the thriving oyster fishery in the North River Estuary? 

 The answer is NOBODY KNOWS.

Canada Lands Company,  the Crown Corporation marketing the land for the federal government, is NOT required by the federal government to do an environmental assessment prior to selling the land.

However, under section 3.8 of the Charlottetown Official Plan, the City of Charlottetown could have demanded, at the very least, that an environmental impact statement be prepared prior to development:

 “3. Our policy shall be to require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for any new development which, in the City’s judgment, could have a significant environmental impact on the land, water, or air (including noise).”

City Council did NOT ask for an EIS.

Are you surprised? So were we!

And this isn’t the first time taxpayers were taken unaware by this kind of news. Check out what the people of Richmond, BC, encountered when they asked if an environmental assessment had been done on CLC property there. Don’t you think taxpayers deserve better than this?

http://www.richmond-news.com/issues05/121105/news/121105nn7.html

Did you know…

March 26, 2007
  • …that the concept plan approved by Charlottetown City Council for the Maypoint subdivision on the Upton Farmlands is exactly that — a CONCEPT plan? Did you know that real estate market demands will decide ultimately what will appear on that property? (for a picture of the concept plan, please click on “Pictures” in the right panel of this page).
  • …that the traffic study used to determine Charlottetown City Council’s approval of the Maypoint subdivision was done by a company chosen by the Canada Lands Company and the study was paid for by the CLC. [CLC is the federal Crown Corporation responsible for selling the Upton Farmlands to the highest bidder.]
  • …that the option of leaving the Upton Farmlands totally as greenspace was never given to the Upton Farm Advisory Group? [This group was the citizens’ panel  chosen by the CLC to give community input on the potential uses of this property.]
  • …that there were no representatives from the areas of the environment, recreation or health chosen by the CLC to be members of the Upton Farm Advisory Group?

Is this the right process to determine the best use of this land?