Citizens Brainstorm the Path to Good Growth in Guelph

On Thursday night, a group of about 50 people took part in the Good Growth Guelph town hall at City Hall. The event, which was really more a working group, drew many different types of people including activists, teachers, architects, developers, various business people and a even couple of city councillors. The intent: to collaborate on the ways and types of growth they want to see in the Royal City before a council meeting at the end of the month on the subject, and before public comment is due at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs by the end of October.

The areas of discussion were water; climate change; culture and community; agriculture; neighbourhoods and homes; jobs, employments and business; and infrastructure, policing, transit and waste management. The nearly five dozen people in attendance were organized into small groups where they discussed how they’d like to see those areas developed as Guelph grows by another 50,000 people by the middle of the century. Here’s some of what came out of those discussions in point form, so of which came up multiple times among the various groups…

  • The end of suburbia, we can end sprawl if we design it properly; growth doesn’t pay for itself
  • We need to find a sector like how Kitchener-Waterloo has the tech sector
  • The new plaza at the corner of Wellington and Gordon, an example how space sometimes doesn’t seem designed with density in mind. Baby boomers and Generation X aren’t looking for places with a lot of space, but they also don’t want to feel cramped. As long as everyone wants to live in 700 square feet, it’s good.
  • Need to spend more on developing rental properties to attract the “right kind of people,” meaning
  • Young accomplished professionals with disposable income.
  • Everyone that comes here is used to a great transit system, but ours “sucks”
  • What do we like about living in Guelph and how can we continue doing that plus growth, is the question
  • Where is the equivalent of Riverside Park in the south end, the creation of park space is something that’s asked for with any new development, but the requirements have been reduced to the minimum
  • There are beautiful neighbourhoods in Victoria B.C. that are decimated by people building new towers and lowering the quality of life in the area for others.
  • One developer would never approve a building permit if said building weren’t capable of being off the grid, he said.
  • Mass migration could radically change the Places to Grow numbers, something like a fire somewhere causing thousand of people to be evacuated and resettled in the GTA and Southwestern Ontario.
  • Water resources. Have there been any studies done about how much water there is available, and how much water each person needs for their lifetime?
  • Originally, Guelph has looking at growing to 191,000, but we didn’t have the water capacity for that. The City talked the Province down to 167,000 because the city didn’t want a pipeline to Lake Erie for water.
  • A lot unhealthy kids that don’t have access to green space that they’re able to enjoy.
  • Praise for the south end trail system, a planned amenity.
  • Concentration of employment land like the Hanlon Creek Business Park forces everyone to commute. The priority should be on mixed use zones, places where you live, work, shop and play reduce driving, maybe even reducing biking since people can walk.
  • How does healthcare factor in? More than one hospital or smaller clinics
    Urban farming, chickens and growing fruits and vegetables.
  • Province can help with education, there are schools apparently that sit half-empty.
  • The Ontario Municipal Board needs to be abolished or overhauled. Richmond Hill won a case today to preserve a green space, but it was in court for years.
  • Do we want to come up with good ideas that will be overturned by the OMB or out-of-town developers? The average municipality is no match for a developer that’s had 20 to 30 years of experience
  • Reid Heritage Homes has net zero development, there are no qualifiers for net zero
  • We need to redevelop the 70s and 80s housingin town. They weren’t built to last, and we need to be more dense; Victoria road from Eramosa to York is a good example.
  • Current ratio is 60 per cent green development, 40 per cent brownfield development. The plan is to have that reversed, and but there may be a fight on that.
  • Inclusionary zoning has developers build a certain percentage of affordable housing with new developments, but not with separate entrance for the poorer people (as what happened with one development in London.
  • Guelph has more people that commute in than commute out, so we need to take advantage of regional economy.
  • No parking garages, underground parking preferred.
  • The plaza on the corner of Victoria and Eramosa only has two businesses in it now, why not redevelop?
  • “Light industry” and small businesses need to be focus
  • Why can’t communities take it upon themselves to have higher standards?
  • We need to avoid high-rise, and can’t build more single detatched or duplex, so go with middle ground and 3-4 storey walk-ups
  • We need a recycle or “freecycle” hub, the City should also have a say on packaging
  • Need more hydrating stations in parks, need to find ways to recharge the aquifer
  • We need to make communities walkable, bike friendly and safe. There’s a walkability score that takes amenities into consideration, how far are you from services, green space, etc.
  • Encourage bottom-up solutions for water, transportation, etc. and the system doesn’t seem to be doing that right now. City of Guelph, the Grand River Conservation Authority and the OMB not encouraging it.
  • Would like to see more people oriented focus, instead of a car focused society.
  • Where can you go to sit and have a lunch in Pergola Commons, for example? Your car?
  • How can you make people feel welcome? How can you help them grow? Maybe this is as far as we can go as a town, BUT we should decide that. Might also need to think like big cities, which are made up of villages or burroughs within that city.
  • Need to keep the level of services that we have, and we need to work at maintaining them.
  • Intensification is threat to heritage buildings, the canopy and landscapes. We need to save the best of the past and re-adapt it for the future.
  • The City needs to invest in transit to make it attractive to people and get them out of cars. There’s a fear of some councillors that more transit investment will mean raising taxes.

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