Are you familiar with the BBC series From Lark Rise to Candleford? It’s about life in two neighboring places in the late 19th century—one a poor rural village called Lark Rise where life is a struggle, and tother being a more prosperous town called Candleford.
They are 8-miles apart with a muddy track the only “road” to get to Lark Rise. The reason I ask, other than the fact that my wife and I enjoy the series (we detest modern Hollywood storytelling with guns, drugs, car chases, murders, superheroes, bombs and so forth), is I took this picture on the weekend from our home theater screen of Lark Rise—
I realized with a start that such an affordable village could never be built today with all the modern zoning, official plan and site plan rules that are in place. #WhatAShame
So, this got me to thinking—maybe the city I live in (or for that matter any town) should, instead of trying to reform their rules, which seems impossible to do without fomenting a (non-violent) revolution and overthrowing the current powers-that-be/turfing out the entire civil service and the consulting industry that has grown around it to support such a perverted process and land use system, take on the responsibility to do all the required studies and the humongous costs associated with them so we can get back to creating a) livable places and b) affordable homes.
Given the enormous cost of (for example) complying with site plan requirements (estimated by me and my planner at $121,000+) so my family can build a $135,000, 542 sq ft bunkie next to our barndominium workshop for one of our daughters to live in, there is NO POSSIBILITY of doing such a project unless you are a dumb rich dude with money to burn. But if you have to spend $121,000 on a site plan application and studies, you might as well build a 8,000 sq ft McMansion instead, right? So much for affordable housing.
What I am thinking of is this: A city or town creates facilitator positions and office… facilitators are tasked with guiding important projects through city and state or province requirements, whether it is a mega project like a 1 million sq ft fulfillment center or a tiny bunkie like we want to construct. In the former case, speed matters most. In the latter circumstance, cost matters more so facilitators would have a budget for studies/consultants etc.
There would be a process to apply to a facilitator office for acceptance to their program.
In addition, there would be a “parallel” process—every time an Official Plan or Master Plan review is conducted by a city or town, landowners could also apply to have their properties reviewed and rezoned at city or town cost.
This actually happened a few weeks ago—a client of mine is buying a 20+ acre site in a small town zoned CH, highway commercial. It allows mini warehousing (mini storage) but incongruously does not permit larger warehousing. My client has a lead on a use—for a large scale warehouse use—which is currently not permitted.
However, the local planner (at her initiative!) offered to include a request from my client to amend their Official Plan during their ongoing review at no cost to my client! So, it does happen (occasionally).
If we don’t find a way to make cities and towns more adaptable, especially in a pandemic or post-pandemic society and now a world at war too where everything is changing around us at lightspeed and, for example, where lots of young people (and not so young) want a simpler life—smaller places, more affordable homes, a live-work condition, we will end up with a horrible result—more homelessness, more people working themselves to death trying to put a roof over their heads and bread on their tables. What do you think?
Title image source: 663highland – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8011205.
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