Letter to Coun. Henderson, Mayor Fontana, and other members of council

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I just sent this letter off to all Councillors, but addressed primarily to Councillor Henderson and Mayor Fontana. Feel free to read it yourself. I assure you it isn’t all doom and gloom, but rather some more practical thoughts on the big developments going to City Council this evening.

Councillor Henderson, Mayor Fontana, and other esteemed Councillors,

I know that you have already seen a deluge of comments on several proposed developments that, to my knowledge, will all be brought to City Council later today. I’m going to do my best to share some pragmatic thoughts on three.

1. Wonderland Rd S & Wharncliffe Rd S – Extension of Wonderland Rd S and Southdale Rd W commercial area.

It is simply too soon to approve York Development’s plan for this area. With the Southwest Area Plan under heavy scrutiny and before the OMB, approving this plan now sends a message to other developers that due process means nothing to the City of London. It also ignores much of the feedback the City has received during the ReThink London process, and the public participation meetings that have provided feedback for the Transportation Master Plan and Downtown Master Plan currently in circulation.

I appreciate that London’s unemployment rate remains stubbornly high following the global recession, but far smarter people than I have pointed out again and again that retail jobs do not lead to prosperity. I would also like to see the City leave some money in its coffers, rather than spending it fighting a needless legal battle.

2. Dingman Drive & Wellington Rd S proposed development.

I have misgivings of this development, but the ultimate success or failure of this development is clearly up to PenEquity, the organizations that choose to locate there, and whether consumers choose to patronize this location. My primary concerns come down to two things:

a) The lack of transit outside of rush hour service (please reference the schedule for the 30 Newbold bus).

b) The PEC’s approval of removing a 4.2 hectare woodlot that, by all accounts, has been deemed environmentally significant.

Coun. Henderson, I note you expressed great appreciation for trees during one PEC meeting last week, but then voted in favour of allowing PenEquity to clear this woodlot. This strikes me as extremely odd in the Forest City, and that we really must push to protect woodlots deemed environmentally significant when possible. I don’t see why PenEquity cannot simply build around the woodlot, and ultimately I hope the development is referred back to staff to work with PenEquity on a new site plan.

However, if it’s true (as I have heard) that PenEquity doesn’t even own the lot in question at this point, perhaps it would be more prudent to encourage PenEquity to acquire an existing parcel of land in desperate need of redevelopment? For example, London Mall at the corner of Wonderland Rd N and Oxford St W. This would also fall in line with ReThink London and the Transportation Master Plan. Please give that some thought.

3. Fincore Development in SoHo.

I am actually quite happy with this development! I know that Fincore has some issues to work out with adjoining property owners, but overall I think this is a development I would like to see go through, with a few notes:

  • The City needs to do what it can to make sure it actually happens, like institute a clause in the land sale contract stating that, if Fincore does not begin development within a specified period of time, then the property is to be returned to its original owner (including the City and Upper Thames River Conservation Authority).
  • Ensure the general public has equal, or better access, to the waterfront after building is complete.

I thank you for your time and diligence on this matter. And for the record, I don’t feel a replica Eiffel Tower would do much for the City on its own, or without the Downtown Master Plan, Transportation Master Plan, Cultural Prosperity Plan, and the entirety of ReThink London comint to fruition. :) Besides, the Eiffel Tower’s been done. We would need something unique!

Derek E. Silva

UPDATE: As of 2:53pm, both Councillors Denise Brown (Ward 11) and Joni Baechler (Ward 5) have responded thanking me for my comments, and Ms. Brown and I have had a short back-and-forth about the changing attitudes amongst young people with regards to driver’s license acquisition and car ownership (dropping fast!). As I said on Twitter, acknowledgement goes a long way.

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  • Victoria White

    Hello Derek,

    And thank you for this post. If I may, I would like to weigh in on the Pen Equity “Gateway London” project proposed for Dingman Drive. The Glanworth Community Association is opposed to this development. We submitted our objections to it during the public comment period in December 2012 and we attended the public participation meeting on June 18, 2013.

    First, all Londoners need to know that if Council approves this project tonight without enforcing
    the city’s Land Use policy — which clearly states that when a woodland is evaluated as “significant” (and it HAS been evaluated as such by Pen Equity’s own Subject Land Status Report!) — they will be defying city Policy.

    The next step in this process MUST be the prerequisite Environmental Impact Study. This is not up for debate. It is policy. We have a sitting Mayor who is showing egregious contempt for Policy in order to ram a project through Council just because he wants to see it happen.

    Second, we want to tell Londoners that we were at the Planning Committee meeting on the 18th
    and both the city’s Planning Department and the city’s Environmental and Ecological Planning Advisory Committee (EEPAC) appealed eloquently to Pen Equity’s claim to being “innovative” by calling upon them to “innovatively” modify their site plans in order to retain and accommodate the significant woodland, because commerce and the environment can actually harmoniously co-exist if done right. In other words, city planners and ecologists were prepared to meet Pen Equity halfway.

    Pen Equity refused to budge. They want to build their complex the way they want it and to hell with what city policy dictates or what Londoners want or need.

    So we ask Londoners, should our Council bend tonight to accommodate this form of corporate bullying? Because in essence Pen Equity knows that it is appealing to a city starved for good news about employment and they are dangling an enticing carrot — the promise of a 1,000 jobs — before our eyes. These 1,000 or so jobs are merely projections, however, not hard data. And they are based most likely on full occupancy of the complex — and sadly we already know how many storefronts are sitting empty in London, ON.

    If your readers are as enraged about this issue as we are, then we urge them to contact their Councillors before it goes to a vote. Email, tweet – whatever you need to do.

    Glanworth is part of London and we want what is best for London too, and that does not include unwarranted urban sprawl into the annexed areas of the city at the cost of the downtown core. Let’s make the historic city centre vibrant and thriving again and let’s leave the significant woodlands and prime agricultural land within our boundaries alone.

    Thanks for the “air time”!

    Victoria White
    (President, Glanworth Community Association)

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