I’ve been asked my thoughts on the proposed development of the industrial lands near Nanticoke, which would see the zoning changed to residential. I will explain my thought process, and my answer to this very important question.
Let me begin by explaining my criteria for making major decisions, and how it applies to this situation. When it comes to making major life decisions, I consider how the choice will affect my life, as well as that of my wife and children. I look at whether it will have a positive, negative or no impact on the people who count on me. I seek counsel from those I trust to make good decisions. I also look at the long-term impacts on future generations (including my future grandchildren, and their children).
In the case of the industrial land, I see an immediate benefit for the county in the way of tax revenue. That pretty much ends the benefits in my estimation. The downsides? Losing industrial land, locating a community right beside a major industrial site, as well as the potential negative impacts on the industry itself (one of which has stated this might jeopardise their business in the entire province!) This would result in a loss of jobs, and the ancillary services that rely upon the steelmaking industry.
Secondly, I would ask how does this affect the rest of the county? How does it benefit the residents of Attercliffe Village? Cheapside? Rainham Centre? What does this mean to the communities of Jarvis, Hagersville, Calendonia, Dunnville? I don’t see a benefit to the small business owners, or to the homeowners, retirees or students. It would provide more high priced housing in an area that ensures everyone has to have a vehicle to get their needs met. It would ensure a high tax rate on these new developments, that is out of line with the taxes paid by the rest of the county. Ask the homeowners in some of the new developments in Caledonia about their property taxes.
How does it benefit future generations? The development provides housing for people in a time of scarcity. The problem? It doesn’t provide much of a sense of community. It’s another geographically isolated island of housing. The families will most likely not feel connected to the rest of the county.
During all of this, our small towns stagnate, and more stores close up. Why? People who get into their car to go shopping are unlikely to drive to any of our small towns to shop. Their lives are lived outside of the community, and their spending will take place there too (for the most part). There is nothing to keep their kids in the area, as there is nothing for them to do, and no sense of connection to the place other than it being the house they lived in when they were growing up.
What are the solutions? Stop the development of massive suburbs. Protect our farmland, and keep the industrial land for industry. Invest in our existing communities. Work toward revitalising our small towns by providing more housing options that are within walking distance of the downtown cores. Support the development of rental units, or even new construction of three or four storey apartment buildings. There are some great examples to be seen in other communities. Preserve the heritage look of the streets, and build appropriate, affordable, attainable housing options. People who can walk, roll, or bicycle their way to get their needs met will do so. This allows for people with mobility issues to live more independently. Our seniors can remain active in the communities where they spent their lives. More customers means more business, and more opportunity for new businesses. We should support making secondary suites easier for people to set up, keeping safety regulations in place. This would allow more people to remain in our communities. It would be more like the communities we had when I was a child in the seventies. All the stores were busy: no vacant storefronts. People shopped locally because they had everything they needed here. Business owners frequently owned their own building, and had apartments above. It was in their best interest to keep the building in good repair because it was theirs too. Now, we have long distance building owners who often treat the property as nothing but an investment, and they don’t care about the tenants as long as the cheques keep coming in.
To sum things up, I feel we could do more for residents of Haldimand by supporting our existing communities, existing business, and existing residents. We can then provide more opportunities for our youth to work, and to make connections with their neighbours. I am open to learning more about the nuance of the situation, and have an open mind to learning and growing in my views. This will be a sustainable way to ensure that everyone benefits from development, not just a select few.