Proposed Amendment to Official Plan and Zoning Bylaws
Summary of Key Points
- The proposed development, if approved, will accelerate outmigration from Windsor’s core.
- Population projections by the Ministry of Finance and the Erie St. Clair LHIN published in 2016 in fact contradict the long term population projections used in the Lauzon Parkway EA.
- The Sandwich South land is expected to accommodate 14,000 residents, representing 47% of Essex County’s predicted long term population growth, contradicting the language and goals of Ontario’s Provincial Planning Policy.
- Our community’s senior population is increasing significantly in proportion to the total population and we need compact community design to enable more seniors to age in place.
- Smart Growth strategies and the anticipated tailing off of Canada’s housing boom favour medium and high density, rather than more low density housing.
- The hollowing out of Windsor’s core needs to be brought under control rather than planning even more outward expansion.
- Windsor’s 2010 Brownfield Redevelopment Strategy identifies 559 acres of brownfield land and justifies the economic advantages of redeveloping such land, rather than using greenfield land to accommodate anticipated future needs.
- An economic impact analysis is needed to quantify the effect of the proposed transfer of 4,000 direct and indirect jobs out of Windsor’s core.
- The proposal builds on mid- and late twentieth century development practices, instead of aligning itself with Canada’s federal and provincial climate change goals and land use planning strategies.
- The stated goal of 3,096 surface parking spaces is a product of outdated thinking that ignores environmental stewardship, rather than developing in a manner that facilitates effective strategies to reduce the overall need for parking.
1. Non-Contiguous Development
The proposed development, if approved, will accelerate outmigration from Windsor’s core.
The 2007 Draft Official Plan amendment sequences the development of the Sandwich South land differently than currently proposed. The red area, originally proposed as a residential neighbourhood in the diagram to the right, was to be developed before the yellow area.
The result of this change in sequencing, if approved, would be to “leapfrog” over agricultural land in order to accommodate hospital development, rather than developing the land organically over time to meet realistic population growth needs.
This interactive map illustrates very effectively how and where the existing hole in Windsor’s urban doughnut expanded between 2006 and 2011.
2. Population Growth Expectations
Population projections by the Ministry of Finance and the Erie St. Clair LHIN published in 2016 in fact contradict the long term population projections used in the Lauzon Parkway EA.
According to the 2014 Lauzon Parkway Improvements Class EA Study (page 110):
The 2011 census showed Windsor’s actual population was 210,891, representing a 2.6% decline from 216,473 residents in 2006. The 2011 data point is thus off by 8,807 residents, an error of 4% (Essex County as a whole also shrank in this period, with declines registered in Tecumseh and Amherstburg).
An admission of the discrepancy is buried in the footnote on the previous page, ascribing it to the timing of the preparation of the model in 2011.
Analyses dated 2016 show that population growth is stagnant. Importantly, they cast considerable doubt on the older, more optimistic City of Windsor predictions.
The graph to the right illustrates the gap between census data and Lauzon Parkway EA population growth expectations through 2031.
The Ministry of Finance provides year on year statistical population projections that extend 10 years further than the Windsor data.
These predict an increase of just 30,000 residents through 2041 (7.5%) for the entire region of Essex County.
Similarly, the Erie St. Clair LHIN’s own data predicts a total increase of just 20,000 residents through 2041 (3.2%) for the entire region under its jurisdiction:
The 2016 census results are not expected to be released before 2017.
3. Provincial Planning Policy
The Sandwich South land is expected to accommodate 14,000 residents, representing 47% of Essex County’s predicted long term population growth, contradicting the language and goals of Ontario’s Provincial Planning Policy.
The 2014 Provincial Planning Policy (PPS) states:
There is no evidence that future needs have been exhausted through intensification, redevelopment or development of Windsor’s six designated growth areas. On the contrary, the Lauzon Parkway EA notes:
With regards to the hospital project specifically, the Pre-Capital Submission, as early as 2009, predetermined a 50-60 acre greenfield site:
There is no indication that a brownfield redevelopment opportunity, potentially on a smaller urban site, was ever considered as an alternative to developing an agricultural area, a key PPS requirement.
As regards intensification opportunities, it should be noted that these were offered by the top-scoring shortlisted site and one other highly ranked site under the RFP process.
Both are located within Windsor’s existing development districts (the magenta areas):
Finally, the PPS refers to a need to demonstrate infrastructure and public service facilities. There is currently no hydro service to this area as required under the hospital RFP. While the Lauzon Parkway Environmental Assessment includes County Road 42, the needs of Concession 9 have not been investigated. The public information display boards provided no information on infrastructure. Ms. Walkey, the Stantec representative, confirmed it was a detail that was not being presented at the open house.
This means there is little or no public insight into the adequacy of the infrastructure and public service facilities, how much these will cost, or how they are expected to be paid for.
4. Aging in Place
Our community’s senior population is increasing significantly in proportion to the total population and we need compact community design to enable more seniors to age in place.
The regional Population and Housing Projections 2006-2031 report (page 4) identifies seniors, the most significant users of hospital services, as the region’s largest growth demographic:
On page 10 we read that:
Ontario’s Action Plan for Seniors reinforces the need for accessible support infrastructure to meet the demands of an aging community:
This points to the need for higher density development within established neighbourhoods, rather than continued urban sprawl, which is socially isolating for seniors and makes it more expensive and more difficult, especially those who are mobility impaired, to access healthcare services that are outside their neighbourhood.
5. Smart Growth
Smart Growth strategies and the anticipated tailing off of Canada’s housing boom favour medium and high density, rather than more low density housing.
The yellow area in Stantec’s chart from the Open House shows a sizable portion of the area under consideration devoted to low density residential housing:
It is true that there is now less room for expansion to Riverside’s east end (the largest of Windsor’s 6 magenta secondary plans shown on the previous page), which has seen an extended multi-year development streak.
Yet, there is increasing evidence that Canada’s housing boom is tapering off, which means future housing demand, especially in light of our regional stagnant population growth as described above, should largely be met through the supply of existing housing stock, rather than new construction.
In addition, the Ontario Smart Growth Network, an initiative of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, promotes complete, compact communities. Its goals are contrary to the anticipated effects of developing the Sandwich South land.
- Vacant Windsor
Vacant Windsor is a citizens group that formed in 2015 to draw attention to, and quantify, the empty and abandoned properties in Windsor.
What the approximately 700 crowd-sourced entries reveal is eye-opening. It proves that Windsor has a serious problem with underutilized land throughout its established neighbourhoods.
While most of the properties are much smaller than needed for a new hospital, they serve as a warning that further urban sprawl will only exacerbate Windsor’s problems. New homes on the outskirts encourage outmigration, diluting resources available to maintain all of the city’s wards. There is a tendency to “follow the money” when planning infrastructure upgrades and municipal amenities, putting even more pressure on already hollowing-out neighbourhoods.
The project also identifies several large industrial sites, or potential consolidated sites, with the capacity to accommodate a new hospital closer to Windsor’s core.
There is plenty of opportunity for intensification and brownfield redevelopment within Windsor’s urban core; what is lacking to date is the insight and leadership to ensure it takes precedence over greenfield construction.
5. Brownfield Redevelopment StrategyWindsor’s 2010 Brownfield Redevelopment Strategy identifies 559 acres of brownfield land and justifies the economic advantages of redeveloping such land, rather than using greenfield land to accommodate anticipated future needs.
6. Community AnchorAn economic impact analysis is needed to quantify the effect of the proposed transfer of 4,000 direct and indirect jobs out of Windsor’s core.
Hospitals have been community anchors as long as communities have had hospitals. Institutional zoning for the proposed hospital on the Sandwich South land must be considered in conjunction with the cost to the community of the planned loss of two century-old anchors in Windsor’s core.
More than 4,000 people depend on Windsor Regional Hospital for their livelihood. It is the region’s second largest employer. Healthcare satellites planned for the Ouellette and Grace sites are day facilities and will both be significantly smaller than the existing structures where Met and Ouellette campuses currently stand.
An economic impact analysis quantifying the effects of the proposed move does not appear to have been performed. A study is needed to ask:
- physicians whether they are likely to move their offices, and
- all hospital workers and other residents who live close to the hospitals today whether they are likely to move in order to be closer to the proposed new hospital site,
7. Climate ChangeThe proposal builds on mid- and late twentieth century development practices, instead of aligning itself with Canada’s federal and provincial climate change goals and land use planning strategies.
Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan calls for prioritization of climate change mitigation, sustainable transportation management, compact, walkable urban design, and preserving Ontario’s farmland and natural areas.
While the proposed Secondary Plan amendment contains features like walkability and bicycle paths, the distance from Windsor’s core, as well as from all the other County municipalities, makes it unlikely that many hospital staff, patients or other visitors will use active transportation to access the hospital.
The proposal includes the preservation of some natural areas, while removing a significant amount of productive farmland from the existing inventory.
According to the Climate Change Action Plan:
Over time, fighting climate change requires a shift in how we live, work and move. The plan provides choice: it gives consumers and businesses the tools to change their behaviours and reduce their carbon footprints. It provides businesses with certainty and stability. It promotes the innovation that will propel Ontario's transition to a low-carbon economy and create good jobs for Ontarians. And it will preserve and protect our natural environment for future generations to enjoy.
- Surface Parking
Stantec’s chart from the Open House illustrates how much acreage is devoted to surface parking on the proposed 60 acre hospital site:
The 2009 Pre-Capital Submission established copious parking as a primary goal. As already noted on page 5, parking structure creation was not considered to be an option:
“It is recommended that a site of 50 to 60 acres be provided, allowing adequate space for future expansion and regeneration of the facility, and providing space for on-grade parking without resorting to an expensive parking garage.”
The RFP awarded the greatest number of points for a site with capacity for 3,096 surface parking spaces.
The distance of the proposed hospital from Windsor’s established neighbourhoods will necessitate more parking infrastructure than a location that is closer to neighbourhoods with greater population density.
The further the aggregate distance travelled by hospital users, the less likely it is that they will use alternative forms of transportation, like public transit, cycling or walking, to access the new hospital.
Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan, in the section on municipal land use planning, is one of many resources recognizing that extensive parking is a barrier to developing complete, compact communities that embrace active forms of transportation.