Thursday, December 2, 2010

Giveth and taketh

On the Forum Page of today's SP (Dec. 2/10) there is an an article by Catherine Ford of Troy Media regarding urban sprawl in Calgary. The new mayor has dropped the gauntlet for developers in Calgary. In essence the Mayor stated that the developers, not the city, will pay all infrastructure costs in new areas. Needless to say the developers are not happy as it may curb their quest for urban sprawl.

Saskatoon has, and I expect continues to, levy these costs to new areas being developed. When a new area is being developed the infrastructure costs are incorporated into the cost of a lot and when the city sells the lots it recovers those costs, with a small premium, and uses those monies for the next development.

Included in the article is the tax breaks that have given to developers, and the subsequent home owners, for "enhanced" amenities.

It would seem that on one hand an attempt is being made to curb the sprawl by increasing costs, and on the other hand to encourage it with tax or other incentives.

Saskatoon seems to have half of this right, that being recovering at least some of the cost of the infrastructure. It needs to work on the second half, that being the incentives.

The writer also refers to the 'whining' by these new neighbourhoods for "police stations and fire halls and schools and all of the other urban niceties." I disagree with her on the police/fire services but take her point on the schools and other civic niceties. We have schools in older adjoining neighbourhoods that are under-utilized to which school boards could transport students rather than investing in new facilities. Perhaps swimming pools, branch libraries and recreational civic facilities should be fully financed by the sprawlers. Add large taxes to the gigantic parking lots of the big box malls that service the sprawl and eat up valuable land, yet pay relatively little for the existence.

I guess the discussion should be is Saskatoon growing to the point that we need to plan for boroughs?


  1. Interesting thoughts...The inner city still has unpaved sidewalks or none at all and no civic centre...They should bulldoze the shacks from Ave a to h and start rebuilding.

  2. Civic Mistress;
    I think Anon 12:01 misunderstood when you said "that we need to plan for boroughs?". I think he/she thought you meant burros and their statement proves we have no shortage of "ASSES" here!

  3. "Add large taxes to the gigantic parking lots of the big box malls that service the sprawl and eat up valuable land, yet pay relatively little for the existence."

    The reason the sprawl exists on the outer edges of the city (Stonebridge, Blairmore, etc.) is precisely because the land there was NOT valuable. There was nothing there, and so it was more affordable to start from scratch than, as the above commenter put it, to bulldoze shacks between Aves A through H.

    The developers' sprawl is the reason the land is valuable today ... because they added value. They created years of guaranteed additional tax revenue, and all the city has to do is add in some infrastructure. Should they be punished for that?

    If you really want to encourage inner city development, instead of increasing the tax structure where developers actually add value to suburban lands, why not go the other way? Instead of creating yet another disincentive to growth, create a new incentive: reduce restrictions on inner city development.

    Property tax reductions are one part of this, but more important would be to reduce the restrictions on zoning.

    Riversdale, for example, could benefit from opening up the zoning to entail all non-industrial property usage for a certain period of time. The city wouldn't dictate what could be built where; that would be left to the property owner to develop as they see fit. I would predict that the neighbourhood would be developed in short order. It might be messy, and probably not suitable to everyone's ideal, but no one would be able to deny a there would be new life there.

    The Lenore Swystyn's of the world probably wouldn't like the massive increase in development in a core city neighbourhood, but then again I don't see private investors building grocery stores there either.

    Again, the key to building up the inner city is addressing the restrictions to growth in the inner city, not punishing those who are creating wealth in the suburbs.

  4. Dear Anon 12:01. I know it must be heard to see with your head stuck so far up your ass, but please take a look around Riversdale some time these last few and maybe you won't look like such an ignorant ass.

    I'm a young professional married to another young professional who lives in one of those 'shacks', except for our shack is really great house that has been fantastically renovated and I can say with complete certainty that on every block from ave c through to ave h there are other young professional is great renovated character homes or new modern infills that would probably be a bit miffed if you bulldozed their humble 'shacks'. Some of these are even doctors and lawyers, but's riversdale so we must all be skids in falling apart houses. Keep spreading that word, it'll keep the neighbourhood interesting and full of good people!

  5. oops hard...not heard!

  6. Bulldozing the shacks is referring to the slum landlord and cat lady type properties with crumbling basements, full of mold and mice feces....Families are forced to live in these homes. There are many in the inner city. Many of us have lived here for years. Time for the inner city to be cleaned up. Glad to see they are finally expanding the Friendship Inn = there are many hungry children.

  7. If the "years of guaranteed additional tax revenue" does not pay for the added infrastructure in a timely manner, there is a problem. Making it more expensive to develop sprawl that benefits one party -- the developer -- is not "punishment." It is fiscal prudence.

    I do agree that we need to open the inner city up for development by relaxing certain zoning restrictions. Doing so would increase diversity, enliven neighborhoods, and slow urban decay.


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