Misplaced fear grips Stratford suburbanites

While it is always common to see neighbours complaining about new residential developments that propose to bring new people to the neighbourhood, this recent case in Stratford takes the cake for me. The proposal involves the development of 42 upscale townhouses and single-detached dwellings along Romeo Street in the city's north east.  The lands are just north of McCarthy Road on the east side of Romeo Street and were once home to a children's theme park that closed decades ago.

This area is covered by the city's North East Secondary Plan which was approved back in 2007 when I was on council.  The neighbours who are complaining reside in a development called North Pointe - this was a contentious part of the plan, as it resulted in a forest being cut down to make way for new homes.

Of course, this is where it gets interesting, as the residents of North Pointe are now upset that a new residential development is going to be plunked down beside their homes.  This is the typical response of many who move to the suburbs - they want the life of the city with the view of the country.   Yet, without a hint of irony, they complain when a new development that plans to offer the same life to another set of buyers proposes to envelope their homes and cut-off their views.

Given that the proposed development is generally of the same density, they decided their route of attack would be stormwater controls and loss of a natural area.  Admittedly, these are two arguments that I would usually listen to - after all, preserving natural areas and ensuring proper stormwater controls are two issues I always championed on council.  When it comes to stormwater, this was really addressed by the overall plan for the area - stormwater controls were developed to address all future development in the city's north east, including the proposed development.

The second issue, loss of natural space, though is a tough one to sell - first off, I don't have any sympathy for someone who wants to preserve natural space when it's convenient for them, when the very home they bought resulted in a forest being cut down; secondly, the development will have minimal impact on the remaining natural areas, as they are mainly within the floodplain where no development is permitted anyway.

I think the most interesting aspect of this entire story though is that former City Councillor and Chair of the Planning and Heritage Committee, Kathy Rae, was one of the residents who complained about the proposed development.  The irony here is that former Councillor Rae was the one who led the development of the North East Secondary Plan, so she would have known from day one the proposed future uses of the property in question.  She would have also known that stormwater issues had already addressed.  I have the utmost respect for former Councillor Rae and she was always someone you could count on at council to take a big picture view of the issue; however, in this situation, it shows just how short-sighted people become when it comes to the neighbourhood.  Never mind, of course, that she originally voted against creating the exact development she ended up moving into years later.

Yet, despite the opposition, council took the bigger view on this issue, and approved the application.  Good for them.  Too bad they didn't do the same for the proposed development down the road adjacent to the River Garden Inn.  Can't win them all I suppose.