Ajax Mayor Decries Political Economy of Sprawl

By Ben Bull
Published May 15, 2009

There is hope. The Mayor of Ajax, of all people, recently weighed in on the Sprawl debate by articulating some of the challenges facing local municipalities, and critisizing the soon-to-be approved region of Durham's sprawl-friendly growth plan.

For developers, construction on the urban fringe is based on an intoxicating formula that rivals the best Chianti.

Low land-acquisition costs with freshly increased planning permissions create exponential increases in land value. Large land parcels are ripe for new subdivisions. Economies of scale for construction make suburban sprawl an enticing business model. There are few public objections as few people live there.


[L]ocal planning approvals that make these dreams possible are decidedly influenced by the very same developers. In a series of studies, professor Robert McDermid of York University points out that corporate financial contributions from the development industry dominate election financing in the rapidly growing 905 region. For example, Roehampton Farms (a Runnymede/Tribute partnership) spent $45,000 in election contributions in the four most populous municipalities in Durham.

Of the Durham model, Mayor Steve Parish goes on to explain:

"Growing Durham" is Durham Region's attempt to implement Places to Grow. With a deadline of June 16 to be sent to the province for approval, Durham's vision includes redesignating 7,000 acres of prime agricultural land for new urban areas. This includes 3,000 acres in northeast Pickering for a new settlement roughly the size of the town of Orangeville - jeopardizing the headwaters area of the Carruthers Creek and with no real connection to anything.

Roehampton is a primary owner of land in the proposed northeast Pickering development. Could it be that Roehampton's election contributions are influencing this outcome?

There are many barriers to adapting a sustainable growth stragetgy. But it's nice to no that at least one city Mayor is calling his compatriots to account and sitting on the right side of the discussion.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.

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By Hopeful (registered) | Posted May 16, 2009 at 00:29:06

Hear, hear! Even those in the most impacted zones are starting to realize the emperor is a (well-moneyed) nudist. Halton has said thanks but no thanks to sprawl that costs them money and Parish is stating the obvious as well. This means we have to be even more vigilant in Hamilton. After all, the toxic waste will land where it's least resisted.

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