Make Regional Plan stick to its targets

As the debate over the re-draft of Halifax Regional Municipality’s Regional Plan quickens, some have suggested a war is brewing among our different geographic areas. As one urban, one suburban and one rural resident respectively, we know that nothing could be further from the truth. This city is of one mind.

People choose to live in different parts of HRM because of who they are or what they want. Some live where they do because of family or roots. Others, because of work, or the environment, or available amenities. This diversity of residence is one of the things that makes HRM such an amazing place to live. But regardless of where we choose to live, we all want totally similar, totally basic things: better municipal services, lower taxes, a lower cost of living, more greenspace and less traffic.

These common objectives can be achieved if our Regional Plan would live up to its promise and simply concentrate more growth in our suburban and rural growth centres and in our urban core. Encouraging denser, mixed-use, people-centred neighbourhoods can provide us with the communities we all desire, while preserving the lifestyle and landscape options we all want. The recent Stantec report on HRM growth scenarios proves that concentrating growth could save us up to $3 billion over the next 18 years, and we could reduce traffic and get more greenspace, too. It could so easily be a win-win-win. Recent polls show 76 per cent of us want the plan’s stated growth targets achieved, and 86 per cent of us approve of using greenbelting to get there. It seems that everybody is on the same page.

Well, almost everybody. The latest draft of the revised plan, despite widespread opposition, has opted to give us more of the same. Missed growth targets. Encroachments on our urban reserves. Extending water and sewer and facilitating development where we quite clearly have agreed it is not to go.

This should be a call to arms, an opportunity for the people of HRM to stand up and take charge. Our Regional Plan needs us to call now for the realization of our common vision. There is no rural-urban schism. The real story is our unanimity. We know what we want. The Our HRM Alliance (www.ourhrmalliance.ca), representing every sector of our economy and demographic, has proposed clear solutions. It’s time for every one of us to join the dialogue.

A better HRM is within our grasp for all residents, urban, suburban and rural. Let’s make it happen.

Walter Regan, president of the Sackville Rivers Association, lives in Lower Sackville. Derek Simon, a lawyer with Burchell’s, lives in HRM’s urban core. Geoff Le Boutillier serves on HRM’s Community Design Advisory Board and lives in Head of St. Margaret’s Bay.

By WALTER REGAN, DEREK SIMON and GEOFF LE BOUTILLIER