Sunday, April 01, 2007

Community growth possibilities

Last Thursday our community held the latest in a series of community dialogue meetings to help the city discern a path for its future. This one was on Smart Growth. At my discussion table we briefly puzzled over the definition of infill. I thought there was more to it than a brief pooling of our knowledge came up with (though it was fine for the moment).

Today I was moseying around the Web site for the community of Whistler, B.C., Canada, reading what they're doing to move toward a more sustainable community (while preparing to host the winter Olympic games in 2010!). Et voila, I found a great definition of infill! ...along with a concise, excellent list of the benefits.
A common feature in the evolution of communities of all sizes, infill refers to the incremental addition of new, renovated or adapted buildings within existing developed areas.

The benefits of infill housing include more efficient use of land, infrastructure and services; increased diversity of housing types especially smaller, more affordable units; and reduced pressure to develop previously unsettled areas that offer important ecological and/or recreational values.

~ Whistler, B.C.: Housing Authority Supports Infill Housing
My Web path went like this:

Now I'm about to explore the separate Web site for the Whistler 2020 plan. I'm very curious!

Our community dialogue meeting focused on three different scenarios, from lightly managed growth with no willingness by property owners or developers to pay appropriately for infrastructure including water, to moderately managed growth with a willingness to pay for what's needed, to highly managed growth with perhaps a situation where there's not enough housing. We discussed pros and cons of each (and the limitations of the scenarios!), and the community values each reveals.

We had a developer, conservationists and environmentalists, and other folks across the spectrum at our table. The developer held his own when the vocal participants were complaining about development. Interestingly we all seemed to agree on the importance of water supply and quality issues, infrastructure cost sharing, and green space (though wild vs. tamed/landscaped was not discussed!).

At the end of the evening we agreed that our community will remain split and entrenched in differences unless we can find common ground with both the pro- and anti-growth folks. We agreed that many of the managed growth or smart growth ideas seem to be where we can meet.

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