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Council right to disallow urban sprawl

By: Letter to the Editor

 | Dec 18, 2013 - 12:31 PM |
Is it bad planning to allow more and smaller rural lots outside the city’s living area?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have whatever we wanted whenever we wanted it? But by living in a community, we sometimes have to accept what is best for everyone and not just our own interests.

For instance, I might want to put my septic field bed on one part of my land, but to protect my neighbour’s well water, I may be told to put it further away. Or I might want to open up a car repair shop in my garage, but since it’s in a residential area, I wouldn’t be allowed to.

Good urban planning looks at appropriate land uses, past mistakes in land use and ensures that problems and high costs in the future are averted for the good of all residents in a city.

Wherever we live, there are rules that balance our rights with the rights of our neighbours, and individual gain with overall gain. It’s not communism. It’s good planning.

And that brings us to a decision city council will be voting on next Tuesday. Specifically, they will vote on whether to recommend change to the Official Plan, our planning guide, to allow land owners the option to sever their rural land into more and smaller lots than is currently allowed.

The city has more than enough lots available for future growth in the living area, as well as plenty of rural lots so neither future growth nor freedom of choice to live out of town are reasons for this possible change.

Some rural landowners understandably want to make a profit from their land. But what does good planning say about this type of extra rural growth? Is it sustainable for a city like ours which is already spread across such a large area?

The argument is often made that rural lots bring in taxes, but cost the city little to nothing in services. But that’s simply not the case. Studies have shown that new taxes collected from these rural lots do not pay for the extra costs to provide service.

And while a city has a duty to provide a certain level of service to its residents, it may not be able to unless it passes the extra costs on to all of its citizens.

Are you willing to give up some of your services or pay more in taxes to add to the surplus of rural lots? I doubt many Sudburians would agree to this in light of current deficits already seen in infrastructure funding.

All levels of government are having trouble keeping up with infrastructure costs and we should not knowingly create this added burden.

It’s difficult to have to tell someone they can’t make thousands more dollars from the sale of their land, but it’s even more difficult to cut back on basic services.

Council has a duty to all of us to make sustainable decisions. That far outweighs the individual gain of a few landowners.

Add in considerations about food security and supporting local farmers, and the proposal makes even less sense. Lost in the news clips are the (quieter) voices of farmers and other rural residents opposed to fragmenting rural land. Time to put the politics aside and have a compassionate, unifying and forward-looking community conversation on this issue.

Lilly Noble
Co-Chair,
Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury

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