Aurora needs to grow “out”, Aurora council needs to “grow up”

Urban_sprawl

Is anyone else concerned to read that Aurora’s population is projected to explode to 70,000 by 2031?
That’s almost a 50% increase in population in less than 20 years, and averages out to an increase in population of 1,000 people per year.

Try and get your head around that if you can.  It is epic.

It shows complete lack of foresight and all the while is being presented as inevitable.

It is monumentally stupid. But hey, at least they are holding public forums so you can go an offer your input to the inevitable process..

There was a very short but interesting article in the Thursday edition of the Mayora Banner humorously titled “Maintain charm, residents urge town”, you can read it here:  http://www.yorkregion.com/News/Aurora/article/101708

I found the title as absurd as Sandra Humfryes claim that: 

“while the town has gotten bigger, it hasn’t lost that small town feel.”

Really?   It has been a long, long time since Aurora was a small town.
With a population of over 50,000 Aurora is kidding itself if it believes it is not a bedroom community, or that surrounding communities view as anything but.

This is not to say that Aurora does not have a vibrant and positive community, it does. 
But any “small town feel” was lost back in the mid 1990’s when developing of the east side of town spiked ripping up prime farm land and dropping in rows of cardboard houses and big box stores. 

That “small town feel” became a key marketing feature for Aurora to hook newcomers. 
I liken it to the same artist renderings that developers used to showcase their new houses. 
Surrounded by trees with no other houses in site.  It is quaint, ideal…small town….Welcome Home.

Then of course the unwitting homeowner is handed the keys to the final product months later which is 5″ away from another house on either side with no trees anywhere.  Instead the names of the trees have been honored by adorning street signs.  The sign that says “Welcome to Aurora” could easily say “Welcome to Middle America”, or “Welcome to Mediocrity”

“Small town charm” slipped through this towns fingers and it isn’t the only thing Aurora seems to have lost in the process.  Also M.I.A. is  land. 

The last of our greenspace is being dug up for development this year, another monumental achievement for the environment on our behalf.  I’m sure that a medal, plaque or photo-op is being planned to mark this accomplishment.  Great work EAC!

The focus on urban planning in Aurora has shifted away from growing out, to growing up, and a new buzz- word being used to describe this shift is “intensification”.

If this really is the “mother of all plans” critical to our towns future and mandated to be done every five years why is this council dragging its feet?

If the last plan was conducted in 2003, 5 years would make the renewal date 2008.
It’s 2010 and we won’t even see a draft until middle of the year?  Something doesn’t add up here.

Infrastructure for a population explosion of this magnitude would need to have started 10-15 years ago.

Think about the logistical nightmare of trying to facilitate services for another 20,000 residents.

1.) Water.  In Aurora there are 3 things in life that are inevitable: death, taxes, and waterbans.
We currently buy water from the Town of Newmarket, when once Aurora was a very water rich town.
How is it envisioned that we will be able to meet the increased demand for supply and treatment of all this water?

2.) Power.  Aurora unwittingly sold off its local power outfit.  Residents have had smart meters installed and time-of-use rates introduced because we do not generate as much power as we consume. 

What is being planned to deal with this increased load on the grid and how will it impact citizens in terms of increase costings and.or denial of service/brownouts?

3.) Schools.  Closing a public school like Wells st due to low enrollment when facing a population boom as projected seems exceptionally short sighted, no?  Or is it the expectation that all of these students will be enrolled in Private/Catholic schools?

4.) Traffic.  Aurora is not 30 minutes outside of Toronto, not even by train. 
If you want an average it is 1hr. 

With an increase in population of 20,000 more people moving around our town, regardless of growth elsewhere what will that time grow to?  1hr 20minutes, 1hr 40minutes?  The attractiveness of being a bedroom community to Toronto will find a tipping point and loose its appeal.

A parking lot for Go transit commuters only serves to meet the needs of capacity for the current population, it does nothing to serve such an increase.

5.) Jobs.  I am adamant about Aurora being a bedroom community.
The article outlines only 20,000 jobs in a town of 50,000.
Only a percentage of those jobs are held by citizens of our town, so we can safely say that our economy is not sustainable and that the majority of us commute to and from our place of work.

Now entering 2010 I wonder if the # of jobs has increased, decreased or leveled out.  What effect has all the huffing and puffing over our town’s economic development actually netted us?
We’ve seen an economic downturn, massive layoffs at Magna.  This needs to be figured into the big picture of economic sustainability.  I really question how one arrives at a projection of 34,000 jobs by 2031, and what the breakdown by industry is.

Are we creating jobs in new industries, or old industries.  Are we replacing full time jobs with part-time ones.  Are apples being counted as oranges?

What are the artist renderings for an Aurora with a population of 70,000?
What possibility is there for “small town charm” in a city poised on embracing high-density housing?
What, if any, will remain of Aurora’s historic downtown core?  Or will a walk down the “promenade” be like walking through yet another strip mall?

With all of these issues why exactly is this growth being touted as inevitable?

Growing out seems like the path of least resistance, and the only way to hold onto the town we have.
Why should Aurora have to bend over and accept this unprecedented quota from the province?
Why are the same people that pride themselves on preserving our town’s heritage not jumping up and screaming to divert some of this growth to neighboring municipalities, or work with them to expand our towns boundaries outwards to the east or west to accomplish this growth in a reasonable fashion.

I heard that Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi” on the radio last week, and with the recent completion of both the Go Parking lot, and BestBuy big-box store in Aurora it seemed to eerily parallel what is unfolding here in Aurora:

They took all the trees
Put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Isn’t the reason we hire competent urban planners so as to avoid the whole “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” dilema?  Nowadays it seems like its gone, and its inevitable.

At the end of the day there’s big money to be had in development, and not so much in preservation and community building.

I guess it will come as no surprise which side of the fence our mayor and the G.O.S. will be on as this master plan unfolds.

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