Archive for the ‘Letters to the Editor’ Category

Protecting Upton Farm – Letter to the Editor

February 28, 2009

upton-farm-50-per-centProtecting Upton Farm
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published in The Guardian 12 Feb. 2009

Editor:

Re: Feb. 3 ‘N.S. concert promotor awaits P.E.I. plans’. We can feel secure now that Upton Farm is not going to become the site for a noisy major summer concert this year for which we are deeply grateful. In the midst of this long, cold, snowy and blustery winter, this news is like a breath of pure spring air as the news was presented in The Guardian by Gordon McIvor, vice-president of Canada Lands.

However, we are apprehensive about the direction that may be taken about the future status and use of the Upton Farm property, which we understand is to be imminently presented.

Upton Farm is one of the unique and valued treasures of this extraordinary Island, and we must take every positive step to ensure that it will always remain for the present and future generations. The need to protect its natural green space reflecting its flora and fauna and all that lives in it should be recognized for all generations. And in realizing its natural capacities, we should augment it with visually attractive landscaping designs, already initiated by the students in the planting of hundreds of bulbs in the fall of 2008 for our colourful spring enjoyment. An endless potential is inherent in enhancing the rich natural capacity of Upton Farm as well as to deeply respect our many citizens who want to preserve it.

Many of us are acutely aware of the constant struggle on the part of thousands of citizens in Ontario to preserve and conserve the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine.

We can and must do no less than to apply the same rigorous vigil to protect the Upton Farm.

Claude Bell,

Charlottetown

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Join in the effort to save Upton Farm

May 29, 2007

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Charlottetown resident Tim Banks, pictured here with Kirsten Connor of the Upton Farm Preservation Network, shows his support for keeping Upton Farm green.

The Guardian 29.05.07

Working to preserve Upton Farm
Editor:

As congratulations pour in to the Upton Farm Network, please allow me space to share credit for the accomplishments to date with all our network supporters and with the visionary politicians who are working with us to accomplish the goal of keeping the Upton Farm public and green.
It is also time to inform all the thousands of supporters across the Island, that although the start of development has been delayed, there is no firm commitment that it has been cancelled.
City council has requested that Canada Lands withdraw its development application, but an official reply to that has not yet been received.
The legislature of P.E.I. voted unanimously for a resolution to ask the federal government for an 18-month moratorium on any development. Premier Binns has taken personal action, as has Mayor Clifford Lee, by writing letters to Lawrence Cannon, minister responsible for Canada Lands Corporation.
It is most gratifying that the awareness of the pending loss of Upton Farm has created such a large network committed to work to leave the lands public and green. It is particularly appreciated that esteemed organizations such as the P.E.I. Shell Fishers Association and the Women’s Institute, among others, have lent their support.
Under the mandate of Canada Lands Corporation there are opportunities to spearhead and create projects that the community asks for and supports. The challenge now is to work with Canada Lands Corporation to create green infrastructure that would leave all of Upton Farm as an environmental asset in the form of an urban forest and green space for public recreational use and enjoyment for generations to come.    
We ask all Islanders to join in the effort to save Upton Farm by lending support to our elected officials as they continue to engage the federal government and Canada Lands Corporation in  talks and solutions.
Visit our webpage http://www.saveuptonfarm.com to find out how you can lend a personal hand. Let’s not rest until we reach our goal.
Kirsten Connor,
Charlottetown
for the Upton Farm Preservation Network

Citizens, wildlife need intact Upton Farm

April 2, 2007

Citizens, wildlife need intact Upton Farm


The Guardian
April 2, 2007

Editor:

As a person who walks every single day, with my dog as a companion, I have to wonder what would happen to the animals at Upton Farm if it were developed. I don’t mean cows or pigs or horses, the animals that used to live there. I mean the wildlife — foxes, eagles, squirrels, rabbits and birds of all kinds. Go have a listen. Then there are the dogs and their walkers. I have friends with arthritis and heart conditions who are unable some days to hold a leash to walk their dog. Maybe they walk with a cane. They are able to go to the wide open spaces at Upton Farm and get some fresh air and exercise.

We keep hearing that exercise is very important to our health. Folks of all ages and abilities are there walking everyday instead of sitting around or perhaps lining up to visit a medical clinic or the hospital.

City councillors have stated that the city has too much green space now. I fear they suffer from ‘rip ’er down and pave ’er’ mentality. When you look at the attitude of developing this land without any thought of the consequences, it is troubling.

Do we really feel this is a decision that should be made now or left up to our grandchildren or beyond? As the song says, “We gotta stop and look around.”

Please visit our website/blog at http://www.saveuptonfarm.com.

Kathy Kennedy

A Vital Asset Is In Danger

March 29, 2007

upton-farm-50-per-cent2.jpg

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

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.

What a Vision – More Urban Sprawl

March 26, 2007

The Guardian
March 23, 2007

Wow, what a vision – more urban sprawl!

City Council has approved plans by Canada Lands Company (CLC) to take the Upton Farmlands, a piece of publicly owned waterfront property, and place it in the hands of private developers. CLC’s “concept” plan will soon see this precious piece of waterfront property converted into a high density housing and business park development.

Wow, what a vision – more urban sprawl!

Our elected city officials are not the only ones wearing blinders. Our provincial leaders passed up an opportunity to take over ownership of the property and preserve it for public use and enjoyment.

CLC plans to begin construction in a matter of weeks. Before it is too late, as Dr. Nagarajan noted in his guest opinion dated March 13, 2007, the city and the province should reconsider their positions and “hold off developing the Upton Farm” so that Islanders may be properly consulted on the best use for this rare and special piece of public property.

No doubt, given the chance, Islanders will envision a truly fitting public (as opposed to private) use for this 246-acre waterfront property with over 2 km of shoreline on the North River.

Garry Doyle
Charlottetown

Visitor’s View – Don’t Copy Toronto

March 19, 2007

The Guardian

March 19, 2007

Island shouldn’t copy Toronto’s sprawl

Editor: I have the privilege of being a regular visitor to Prince Edward Island and am always grateful for the hospitality and warmth I find during my visits. While my visits have taken me all over the Island, I have spent most of my time in Charlottetown and am very fond of both the city and the surrounding countryside.Like any city, Charlottetown has changed over the past few years and it is always fascinating as a visitor to see what has developed since my last visit. Stores open and close, a new public transit system appears and the city seems to extend outwards every year. All communities need to change and cities must be built for the residents rather than people like me who simply visit and who likely shouldn’t presume to comment on what the people of PEI decide to do.

Having said this, I am saddened to see changes like the demise of the Co-op store on Queen Street and the spread of development outside of the older part of Charlottetown. It almost seems like the stores on Queen Street and in the downtown core, are geared towards tourists — sad for the residents and perhaps unsustainable in the long term. I realize that there has been some in-fill development in the older part of Charlottetown. Hopefully this trend will continue since higher-density housing is likely the best way to ensure a populated central core of the city, relatively inexpensive delivery of services and a renaissance of shops in the downtown actually geared towards the residents. Perhaps there could be a grocery store so that senior citizens living in the city centre aren’t forced to drive, taxi or take transit to the store.

It is my understanding that there is currently a debate in Charlottetown about the fate of the Upton Farm lands. The choice appears to be to make Upton Farm, owned by the Canada Lands Corporation, a designated green space or to develop the lands for mixed-use housing. This is obviously a question that will need to be decided by the people of Charlottetown, but I hope that whatever decision you make, that you will not replicate the mistakes made by cities such as Toronto which allowed for ugly urban sprawl that has resulted in high economic costs and a transit mess that will take us decades to fix.

Margo Fairburn,

Toronto, Ont.

Creating Tomorrow’s Victoria Park

March 16, 2007

 The Guardian

March 16, 2007 

Editor:

I’ve been meaning to write a letter to the editor for some time now on the topic of Upton Farm, but after reading Prof. Nagarajan’s commentary (‘Let’s hold off developing the Upton Farm’, The Guardian, March 13, 2007), my letter is much shorter. His arguments for leaving the Upton Farmlands alone were excellent and I couldn’t agree more. Here are a few more:

In 1873, when 40 acres were set aside as a public park for a population of 7,000, I’m sure there were those who thought it was excessive. We are now closer to 70,000 than 7,000 and I have yet to meet one person who thinks Victoria Park is too large. With ball diamonds, swimming pools, tennis courts, playground equipment, a skateboard park, the track and skating circle, the green space is rapidly shrinking.

The beauty of Upton Farm is not just what is there (rolling hills, trees, fresh water springs, and a mile of waterfront) but what isn’t.

We are the smallest province in Canada. Our land is everything to us and we cannot afford poor planning. People from around the world come here to see the natural beauty that the Island possesses. They come for the landscape, the water, the open spaces and the people. Lack of development is what makes PEI special. We will never be famous for our subdivisions. What we are famous for is a type of serenity that people from cities crave. Overdevelopment, traffic, pollution and crowding will only turn us into one of those places; that people escape from. This decision wil have a substantial impact on the future on Charlottetown. Allowing this development will benefit few, leaving it alone will benefit many. This is our chance to create tomorrow’s Victoria Park.

Heidi Hyndman,
Charlottetown

Let’s hold off developing the Upton Farm

March 13, 2007

Guest Opinion
The Guardian
March 13, 2007

by Dr. Palanisamy Nagarajan

“I think that each town should have a park,” Henry David Thoreau wrote in 1862, while emphasizing the, significance of preserving some portions of nature herself unimpaired, or “rather a primitive forest, of five hundred or thousand acres, either in one body or several —where a stick should never be cut for fuel — nor for the navy, nor to make wagons, but stand and decay for higher uses — a common possession forever, for instruction and recreation.”Perhaps we could consider him as the forerunner of developing the concept of ‘green infrastructure’ and its importance for moving towards sustainable communities.Now, with increasing growth of human activities under the tunnel vision of economic growth and progress, open green space is up for grabs everywhere for the built environment. We tend to over-emphasize the importance of human-made infrastructure, in the form of buildings, roads and utilities, among other things, for the development of modern society. Failure of growing communities to realize the critical importance of green infrastructure — the network of green open space, woodlands, parks and other natural areas that contribute to the dynamism, vitality and sustainability of our communities — is difficult to comprehend.Numerous studies have well documented that open green space in cities beautify neighbourhoods, attract new businesses, retain homeowners or lure new ones, reduce crime, save energy, among other things. The presence of well-developed green infrastructure is considered as an important quality-of-life factor for firms choosing where to locate and for skilled labour force choosing where to live and work. Also, added well-designed green infrastructure facilities, as compared to the conventional human-made grey infrastructure, could be considered as one of the important factors in the promotion of health and well-being of the population.While underscoring the importance of investing in green infrastructure, in January 1999, Maryland Governor Paris Glendening cogently observed: “Just as we must carefully plan for and invest in our human infrastructure — education, health service, care for the elderly and disabled — we must also invest in our green infrastructure.”Rio Local Agenda 21, a seminal document adopted by more than 180 countries at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 1992, forcefully brought to our attention the importance of designing development pathways, striking a delicate balance between environmental protection, social equity and economic development, at the local level leading toward sustainable societies in the 21st century.Bottom-up approach, as opposed to top-down approach, in the decision-making process in achieving the societal goal of sustainability is well recognized.Against this backdrop, one could not ignore some important news items concerning the fate of Upton Farmlands Property, on the western edge of the city, flashing in our media radar screen lately. These are the facts known to us. In June 2001, Canada Lands Company (CLS) received title to the 105-hectare Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Upton Farm property. The CLC already has our city council’s approval to begin the first phase of development for the 105-hectare property.A concerned group of Charlottetown residents has sent a 700-signature petition to Ottawa asking government to leave the Upton Farm as green space. Kirsten Connor, who spearheaded the petition drive, has approached provincial Environment Minister Jamie Ballem to get involved in preserving the Upton Farm as green space. (The Guardian, October 27, 2006). Recently most people who attended a public meeting on the future of the Upton Farmlands Property want the 105-hectare preserved as green space. According to a report in The Guardian of March 1, 2007, “A show of hands indicated they were squarely behind having the area remain park land,” said Charlottetown-Spring Park MLA Wes MacAleer, who hosted the meeting.We are told the first phase of the road work is scheduled to begin this spring, and, to our surprise, some of the streets may be completed by July. The Upton Farm Preservation Network is calling for a freeze on development to allow for the bottom-up approach to decide the future of this farm landscape.

In an era of increasing ecological awareness, one wonders about the fast-track approach in deciding the fate of Upton Farmlands Property. A battery of pertinent questions arises concerning this serious matter. First, how did the City of Charlottetown arrive at the decision to zone the Upton Farmlands Property a comprehensive development area? Did it consult the Upton Farm Preservation Network? If not, why not? If consulted, what was the process of consultation? Did it first decide to develop subdivision there, and thereafter seek consultation? In the first instance, did it consult the stakeholders concerning the alternative uses of this property? Did the immeasurable ecological, economic and social benefits of developing this property as a green infrastructure enter into the decision-making equation?

What is the outcome of the 700-signature petition to Ottawa? What is the role of our provincial government in the development of green infrastructure?

On the whole, in the present context of growing emphasis on ecological, social and economic sustain-ability of our communities, and Rio Local Agenda 21 in achieving these goals, our decision-makers in the City of Charlottetown should put a hold on development of the Upton Farm. Green space is our finite ecological wealth. This wealth belongs to the present and future generations. Once it is transformed into built environment, it is lost forever, with potential consequences. Let us hope all that the decision-makers at all levels would ensure the bottom-up approach in arriving at a fully informed decision.

Dr. Palanisamy Nagarajan is emeritus professor of economics and research associate of the Institute of Island Studies, University of Prince Edward Island.