Political Analyst and Observer, Bill Longworth's, Weekly "Eye on City Hall" Columns, as published in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada's Oshawa Central Newspaper

Monday, August 30, 2010

Some Visions for the "Greening" of Oshawa

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and unfiltered opinion
Bill Longworth, City Hall Reporter
August 30, 2010

There is widespread concern that the world is being paved, that scarce resources are being wasted, and that pollution is in danger of destroying this world as a habitable place.

Thus the worldwide growth of the “Green” movement with growing political power in most developed corners of the world. This growth, of course, is representation of a growing public recognition and endorsement of the problem.

Unfortunately most governments are far behind the people in recognizing the problems and now have to wake up and take action before destruction occurs beyond repair.

We can never bring back those bits of heritage we demolish, those fields of green we pave, those oceans of water we use as a waste dump, the air we breathe after spewing with chemical and waste particulate matter---purposely it seems, almost like some decongestant, without knowledge or apparent concern of the health impact it has.

Thus governments spend multimillions of our tax dollars on a giant incinerator on our Oshawa doorstep because no one else wanted it. Our residential footprint is growing ever steadily now reaching almost to Hwy #7 and from our Eastern Townline all the way to Toronto. Roads are being constructed to taking ever increasing populations of commuters to Toronto while traffic jams have idling cars spewing more pollutants into the atmosphere. Our city government is blowing up city buildings like council chambers and city hall “A wing to construct bigger monuments to themselves. Gone are heritage buildings like Rundle House which was important enough to be featured on a city brochure, “Historic Walking Tours of the Oshawa Downtown,” and the Civic, the house of Bobby Orr, and the world that was, is nothing more now than memories.

Just when will the madness end? The only thing we’ll have left will be images like The Thomas Bouckley collection of historical photos, samples of which always hang in the back hallway of the McLaughlin Art Gallery.

All of this destruction everywhere will have an effect, not only on the physical health of humankind, but also on the mental and emotional health of people.

We have an increasing crime and mental illness problem worldwide with heinous unexplainable crimes appearing in the news too frequently.

Has anyone wondered whether some of this is occurring because many humans are challenged by difficulty living in a world that just seems to be spinning too fast; a world where noise, speed, flashing colour, and a burgeoning inventory of ever-changing and short-lived products seems a stimulus revving up every physical and mental activity of the human body?

Everything just seems to be moving too fast agitating every human function. Everything is out of control...and it’s all affecting the human condition!

We need to look after our world. We need old time places and healthy and natural places where we can slow down our metabolism, appreciate our past, collect our thoughts, and unwind from the hustle and bustle that surrounds us everywhere in this modern world.

The time is now for governments at every level to recognize the problems and plan for a sensible world ahead. This is the reason for the growth of the green movement worldwide.

To help preserve our environment, to improve our quality of life, and help to save the world, I have some suggestions.

In Oshawa, we do have attractive well-treed and natural river valleys and walking paths, a high potential lakefront that I wrote about Aug. 16, in my article, “Big League or Bush League,” which you might read, some nice parks and flower gardens and boulevard tree plantings, but we do have a problem of planning with some of the rapid residential growth taking place north of Taunton---too many congested “cookie cutter” houses packed on uninspired subdivision streets which seem overflowing with parked automobiles and too lacking in open areas.

This type of uninspired housing is starting to encroach on the many historic hamlets we are blessed to have in Durham Region.

Just as the Province of Ontario legislated a greenbelt area that provided a buffer separating urbanization zones and protecting the Oak Ridges Moraine, I believe that Durham Region should revise its official plan to provide for buffer zones around the many Durham Region Hamlets like Columbus, Raglan, Ashburn, Leskard, Whitevale, etc. We must protect these historic places from being absorbed by subdivision encroachment. During the 1990’s, almost 50% of Ontario’s municipalities vanished through amalgamation. Buffer zones would protect a way of life and prevent these once-independent and historic hamlets from disappearing through subdivision or industrial encroachments or beneath the wrecking ball.

The common thought that bigger is better is a feeling that often permeates our thoughts. While women often know that the best things often come in small packages, this is a thought that has never entered our heads when we look at housing, and so the residential footprint continues to explode outward invading our best farmland.

To counteract this bigger is better attitude, as Mayor of Oshawa, I’d work to get some vacant land adjoining UOIT rezoned as a “special student housing zone,” where, we’d allow developers and investors to build creative prototype experimental housing with various high land-use intensification forms to complement Oshawa’s growing reputation as a high tech place with a high tech university.

In Tokyo, for example, where land is very scarce and costly, micro housing is becoming common as architects, builders, and planners construct housing on as little as 300 sq ft of land. The idea is to use the space to be minimalist and functional while still including the necessities and as much luxury and visual space as possible. The room and facilities are strategically placed enabling the occupants to have all the modern convenience in a small space.

The experimentation and construction of some forms of micro housing and modular housing and other creative housing prototypes here could showcase a new housing mindset for Canada and showcase the high tech, creative, and visionary thinking and leadership we have right here in Oshawa.

Who knows, “The Shwa,” may present a positive rather than a negative visual to the world---It may represent innovative, visionary, creative “out of the box” thinking---Shwa thinking, Shwa thoughts, Shwa leadership---you get the idea!

In terms of energy conservation, Oshawa could become a national leader in promoting whole subdivisions with solar electrical, solar water heating, and geothermal heat. This could be encouraged with an amendment to our development “lot levy” schedule of charges.

Cheaper development fees on energy saving subdivisions would provide incentives to developers to invest and cheap home energy costs would also provide extra incentive for buyers even at premium prices. Of course, my promise of annual 3% tax cuts until our average taxation reaches that of the GTA would also help market these, and all homes.

In terms of naturalization of our creek valleys, I’d stop all beaver culls in our creeks and flood retention ponds and allow natural biodiversity to flourish there. There are automatic water level maintenance systems and emergency pond draining systems that can be installed, where needed, to avoid flood damage. The beaver are willing to work for free to beautify the lands they inhabit, whereas it would cost millions of taxpayer dollars to do the same thing by human labour.

In terms of greening, I’d want the city to experiment with some natural wildflower and low maintenance shubbery boulevards to not only naturalize the beauty but also to decrease costs of grass cutting.

I’d also encourage the construction of community vegetable gardens in every part of Oshawa.

Oshawa has suffered from a lack of creative and visionary leadership and they seem to fall into every “pot hole” problem possible, resulting in frequent ridicule in the national press.

We have the “Shwa reputation” and city politicians are doing nothing to correct the image. They’re like canoeists alarmed by the sound of rushing water who keep paddling with increasing vigour towards the falls.

As your new mayor, we will have a new kind of creative and visionary leadership, a new vigour to renew this city, and a dynamic and inspired effort to make Oshawa the place you will be proud to call home.

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

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