The rules governing Winnipeg’s growth are rigged in favour of growth and against the city’s ability to pay its bills. The city is like a drunk who keeps ordering refills, hoping someone will be found to pay the tab. But unlike the drunk’s pals, Winnipeg’s taxpayers must pay up or face the consequences.
The neglect of the public interest is evident throughout our system of urban development. In Winnipeg – and, unfortunately, in many other North American cities – the development of new areas of the city is governed by the proposals of developers, not by the public interest. Developers have a responsibility to their shareholders to make proposals that maximize their bottom line. It’s up to the city to ensure that the proposals that are accepted are in the public interest.
A minimal definition of the public interest would be that development be phased to minimize the burden it imposes on the public purse. If we were serious about governing land use appropriately, that could mean many things, but at the least it would mean that city infrastructure and services were extended to places that produce significant tax revenues. What we have done instead is to extend infrastructure wherever a developer wants it, even if that means extending it across vast green fields, which produce minimal tax revenue. Let’s take a look at an example of what that means in practice, with help from Google Earth.
Shoppers Drug Mart in Osborne Village is expanding, crowding out its neighbours, a Vietnamese restaurant and a popular video rental store. The expansion will turn the entire ground floor of the new building into a pharmacy. Some cosmetic touches planned for the front of the building will fail to conceal the fact that three separate businesses at street level will be replaced by one.
In other words, diversity at street level will be replaced by uniformity. That’s what Jane Jacobs – a Torontonian who set the world of city planning on its ear – would be saying if she were still with us. In her classic Death and Life of Great American Cities, she argued…
Posted in City politics, City Politics: Issues, What's wrong with the way our communities are governed, Winnipeg politics, Winnipeg: Growth and development
Tagged Board of Adjustment, capitalism, Corydon Village, destruction of diversity, developers' political clout, diversity, free markets, land developers, Osborne Village
In previous posts, I’ve called attention to the bait and switch, whereby developers and public servants persuade our political representatives to go along with development proposals by offering what appears to be a huge public benefit for a small public investment. This is the bait. Once the politicians have been lured into a commitment, the switch takes place: The price to the public purse rises progressively, while the benefit is lowered.
In both Canada and the United States, we have largely left urban growth issues to local governments, and many local governments have failed to manage them. Many will never succeed because local councils are not, in general, able effectively to resist development interests. Continue reading
In both Canada and the United States, we have largely left urban growth issues to local governments, and many local governments have failed to manage them. Many will never succeed because local councils are not, in general, able effectively to resist development interests.
As a result, the growth of our cities is, in practice, primarily responsive to the interests of developers. These interests are frequently at odds with the considerations that bear on preservation of the environment, maintenance of agriculture, an efficient infrastructure network and a transportation system that serves the population as a whole.
Therefore, in a series of posts on the multi-level governance of land use I’ve argued that:
• In urban growth policy, unlike many other policy domains, too much local control is a recipe for bad policy.
Posted in City politics, Multi-level governance, Researchers' corner, Urban growth and development, What's wrong with the way our communities are governed
Tagged case studies, developers' political clout, global issue, international comparisons, major metropolitan areas, national issue, urban sprawl, urbanizing municipalities