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Opinion: Get your hipwaders, the wave is coming

By Mike Williscraft

People in Lincoln who think they are seeing development pressure now have not seen anything yet.

The tidal wave of building has come around the lake from Burlington, crushed Stoney Creek and completely changed the look and feel for much of Grimsby – with more to come.

For Lincoln to feel and see what Grimsby is getting right now will take another 10-15 years.

Grimsby will be built out by then or final “open” spaces will be committed to late planning stages. At that point, in-fill mania will take over the town more than now.

Lincoln’s bonfire of development is just getting lit. Residents are paying attention. I have heard from several of them – some regular “commentators” but most are regular folk just concerned about what may be coming down the pipe in their neighbourhood.

And rightfully so!

I can tell you now, it won’t be pretty and it won’t be what you want.

Twenty years ago Grimsby councillors looked at Stoney Creek and laughed, lauding their community for its look and feel. Now, the Winston Road planning disaster is Stoney Creek.

To be clear, as I have noted many times, municipalies’ hands are collectively tied and residents’ wants and needs get washed away by the flow of intensification washing over their community. The rules are set to downtown Toronto standards and the rest of Ontario gets to eat it.

So, when you plan to attend a meeting and rail on council, choose carefully what council can actually do something about.

There are also many lessons for Lincoln to learn about what NOT to do.

First and foremost, have some intestinal fortitude.

Some members of Grimsby council are completely willing to listen to one set of “experts” (see paid consultants) to adopt an opinion which greases the track for buildings too high, consistently short-sighted parking deficiencies, compromised height issues and neighbourhood compatibility problems.

If your council is not willing to push back on developers, you’re toast.

If you hear truly stupid comments like, “We need to push this through. Mr. X has waited long enough”, be prepared to see a 19-storey condo next to your house.

Some Grimsby councillors actually think because a project has been in the works for a year or two, it should be approved. Duration of an application should not be on the table for project approval.

Where Lincoln is different from Grimsby is the diversity of areas where they will see major projects. Like all municipalities in the Golden Horseshoe, Greenbelt has capped where things can be done.

In Beamsville, Ontario Street will be a major commercial/condo corridor – dare I say it – similar to Winston Road in Grimsby. And that is how it should be. Yes, that’s right, it is how the community should be developed. It’s good planning.

But, what Lincoln can do that Grimsby did not, is pay attention to all planning principles.

Parking, parking, parking.

That is number one as it affects so many elements of the new build properties themselves but also the surrounding areas. When you are grossly underserviced for parking your commercial tenants cannot get space for their clients and residents can’t get space to park when they come home.

Height can be an issue, of course, as can density. All can be managed, BUT you have to have a council that will stand up and be prepared to negotiate (fight is not the right word) for the community they serve.

Development has gotten too adversarial.

These companies are not bad (although some definitely do play well with others in the sandbox). Most times, they are simply playing by the rules they are given. Various councils develop a reputation for who waves the green flag and says “come do what you want”, while others push back, get concessions and end up with a build much more in line with community standards.

It will all be a key election issue in 2022. In Grimsby, it will be more of a damage done debate, while Lincoln residents will want to hear from candidates who are ready to establish a line they don’t want to be crossed.

And don’t think West Lincoln is being forgotten about. They think they’re laughing with skyrocketing home values and steady growth. I mentioned to candidates prior to 2018’s election, they should look at well-planned hi-rise development NOW to preserve parkland and greenspace. So far that has not happened and in 50 years they will wish they had because the same wave hitting Grimsby and coming to Lincoln will envelope Smithville as well in 20-30 years.

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