Infill development rejected, must be election time in Stratford

Reading today's Stratford Beacon Herald I was actually surprised to read that council had axed a proposed six-storey apartment development at the corner of Delamere and Romeo in Stratford. Sure the neighbours were upset with the usual list of complaints - "I like density (just not close to my house);" "Apartments are ugly (compared to my house);" "An apartment will lower my property values (as opposed to the real estate bubble doing it for me)."  But the development made sense - it was at a major intersection, made use of vacant land and would provide new apartment units for the community's aging population.

The proposed development was to take place on a portion of a parking lot that services the River Garden Inn.  It has been a parking lot for as long as I remember and single-family homes have sprung up around it, replacing what was once farmland.  The location made sense - after all, building an apartment at the intersection of an arterial and collector road is one of the best locations for such a development.  And, quite frankly, given that it is a parking lot and its location within an expanding city, it will probably be developed in the future anyway.

Yes, the design was probably tough to get over, as these proposals in smaller towns and cities typically are.  However, design is always something you can work with and improve via the site plan process.  You never get what you want, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and trusting design to councillors and bureaucrats is always a crap-shoot, but it has to be better than living beside a parking lot?

I guess I'll never understand the Stratford fascination with parking lots - people really seem to like them in Stratford.  Just like neighbours in this neighbourhood complained to save the parking lot next door from being turned into something more useful, citizens from all over Stratford complained a number of years ago about another multi-storey development on a parking lot downtown.  Some even complained the city was taking away their "historical" parking lot.  That proposal, oddly by the same developer, was also denied.

So while the city's planning department recommended approval, council unanimously voted to kill the project.   The neighbours were happy of course.  Their wild accusations validated and acknowledged.  Whether this goes to the Ontario Municipal Board - as this decision highlights once again the need for such a body - is any one's guess.  My view would be that the proposed development would have a good chance of winning; however, maybe the developer will learn to love the parking lot and the lower taxes he'll continue to pay on that piece of property.

One thing is certain though, this is yet another sign that it is municipal election season.  After all, why else would councillors reject an application based on such sound planning principles?  Or, maybe this is democracy in action - you know, democracy, where people act in the short-term interest of getting re-elected, rather than the long-term interest of the community.