Friday, February 15, 2008

Planning the Planning Committee

Recent political tussles over appointments to the City's Planning Committee would seem now to have resulted in a stalemate between forces that the London Free Press characterizes as wanting either to "support development led by the private sector" or to "wrest some control of growth away from developers." What control of growth would that be? Simply from the Planning Committee's existence as a board to approve, amend or refuse development proposals, it should be fairly obvious that the City already has complete control over growth as much as it chooses to exercise. The Free Press, in other words, is engaging in a little populist revisionism to defend an agenda of stemming growth by councillors Nancy Branscombe, Judy Bryant and Gina Barber. If an apology should be required for any perceived dissatisfaction over growth, shouldn't it be coming from the City instead of developers?

Given the track record of political planning over other projects, the question for Londoners is whether tighter planning of growth could possibly achieve any desirable outcomes, especially if that planning is driven by pseudo-environmentalist dogmas that exclude calculation of the costs and benefits of historic and existing land uses or the impacts of regulation. Non-concepts such as "sustainable growth" are clearly indictments of anti-growth perception of problem and solution.

Up until the election of the notorious Killer Bs to the Planning Committee last year, anti-growth sentiments were generally disregarded in favour of a more pragmatic financial calculation that growth in assessment revenue needed to property tax rate hikes was easier to obtain with horizontal development than with vertical. The net cost or benefit to taxpayers of servicing growth versus absorbing spending increases without accompanying assessment growth revenues is practically impossible to quantify, but if the concern is one of a net cost, surely a more reasonable and equitable solution to more political planning would be that the City relax its claims of control over development in return for ceding those costs to developers. Conversely, if the benefit of planning is assumed to be protection of property owners' control over what they perceive to be desirable or undesirable local development, surely a more precise and efficient solution to the vagaries of political satisfaction would be the creation of simple, unbiased and automatic mechanisms of obtaining majority approval of submitted proposals to property owners within defined radii of new developments proportionate to their size.

As is typical, however, purely political oversight will continue to leave almost no one satisfied.

See also:

Council minutes: micro-seconds of councillor reflection
Stupid cities
"Smart Growth" is just dumb economics by Kim Ainslie


Honey Pot said...

Look what I found on the London Commie site. They are going to have the professional welfare bum and crime promoter, John Clarke speak. City council will probably send Susan Eagle down to give a speech on how to take property from landlords by sleeping with your local newspaper, and the left's thought police.

The London Project for a Participatory Society ~Presents~ 2008 Speaker Series
Submitted by Jeff P. on February 12, 2008 - 2:05pm. Lectures or Info sessions
Start: Feb 22 2008 - 7:00pm
End: Feb 22 2008 - 9:00pm
Central Library - 251 Dundas St. (Stevenson and Hunt Room)

Friday 22 February, 2008, 7-9pm

The first evening of the 2008 LPPS speaker series.

We are thrilled to announce - John Clarke of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and Justin Podur, professor at York University, long time activist and author, will be speaking on our "Right to the City": Taking Back Our City from the developers, landlords and corporations that now dominate decisions that affect us all.

This event is co-sponsored by UWO Public Interest Research Group

Refreshments will be available

Jake said...

Last night on Politically Speaking on Channel 13 had a good debate between Branscomb and Tom Gosnell on urban growth. Tom basically carved her into a little pieces over her "smart growth" mantra.

It's gunna be a fun year at planning committee for sure.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with you, Mapmaster, that "purely political oversight will continue to leave almost no one satisfied",I do not agree that "the net cost or benefit to taxpayers of servicing growth versus absorbing spending increases without accompanying assessment growth revenues is practically impossible to quantify". It seems to me that this is the crux of what should be the debate. These data are readily available. That we do not have this debate in any meaningful form reinforces the power that developers and their paid lobbyists have in determining what might be best for the rest of us.

I know of no-one on Council who is opposed to growth. To try to frame the debate in terms of growth vs. non-growth is not useful to anyone other than those who already have an iron in the fire and seek to convince us that it is a "good thing" that growing without a some kind of plan in place to identify those areas where development sequencing makes "sense" in terms of existing infrastructure capacity, and other perfectly rational criteria. Like the good folks at KeepLondonGrowing, for example.

The literature is quite clear that, without sequenced development, assessment growth and development fees simply do not pay for all the costs of this growth. So, while it might be great fun to slam Planning Committee members for somehow "interfering" in this process, it lacks consistency to then slam the city for spiralling expenditures, some significant part of which is associated with the hard and soft costs of servicing growth areas of the city.

It's also more than a little disingenuous, Mapmaster, to assert that "the City already has complete control over growth as much as it chooses to exercise", when we both know that the Ontario Municipal Board is always keen to jump in and reverse city policies around growth regardless of how broad the support is within the city on a particular policy.

MapMaster said...

As you remind me, I erred on the side of incriminating politicians by neglecting the OMB's oversight of the City's oversight. Nonetheless, because the OMB is appointed politically it remains true that developers obviously do not have control over growth except insofar as they might attempt to influence the decisions of either the City or the OMB… which is fair enough, since they do not have control over what to do with their own property.

I agree that it might be possible to quantify the immediate net costs or benefits to taxpayers of growth, but having spent many hours poring over municipal documents I'm afraid it's still beyond me to even approach the task. I'd very much like to see it done, however, together with a detailed account of methodologies. Nevertheless, I find it difficult to believe that an accurate picture of long-term benefits and costs can really be provided. For example, what are the costs of hanging out a sign to developers that they should not bother to invest in London?

From "Smart Growth" is just dumb economics:

Baechler’s and Bryant’s clarion call is: “growth doesn’t pay for itself.” The B&B twins’ argument goes like this: residential development and growth on London’s suburban fringes is wasteful for the city because the city cannot recoup the infrastructure investment costs in new roads, curbs & gutters, sewers, street lighting and the like. Theirs is a kind of a post-modern argument where growth is really anti-growth.

But the argument suffers.

First, nothing government does “pays” for itself. Government spending is always a net loss for taxpayers. And, notwithstanding the absconded rhetoric of left-wing media commentators, government offers us no monetary return on investment in this spending. There is no ROI.

Indeed, developed nations for decades have decided that they will pay for widely-delivered infrastructure services, because typically most citizens benefit from these works, as sooner or later we all use them. These infrastructure services, in public finance economics theory, are regarded more or less as “pure public goods.”

That’s the economic theory, but let’s address this as a practical issue. We might ask the B&B twins: “Who paid for the services that were installed in and surrounding your suburban homes in north and northwest London before you arrived on the scene?” The answer is: the rest of us. So in the end, our “smart growth” twins have got themselves twisted around on the economics of their assertions; they are really practising dog-in-the-manger economics. They’ve got theirs; newcomers can take the hindmost. But that’s, of course, what socialists do. These folks are not happy unless they are regulating or redistributing other people’s property and wealth.

Let’s move on to the economic damage that the city planning department is pursuing for the same purposes.

In January 2004, in keeping with the “smart growth” strategy, top officials in the department called for a limit on the availability of commercial zoning across the city. They said: the “[r]e-use and reformatting of [vacant commercial floor space and existing malls] … becomes less viable when too much commercial land is supplied in ‘greenfield’ locations.” Translation: we’re going to reduce the flow of zoned commercial land across the city, and we’re going to regulate business proposers into re-developing existing commercial space, notwithstanding the presence of contrary location, price, distribution, transportation and consumer demand in the marketplace. The idea here is to force new commercial developments into old and abandoned commercial space, just so the planners can run around saying they do not have “excess” commercial land supply.

The problem is: this too is bad for economic development. Why? The anticipated answer from commercial development proposers to the city will be: “Go pound salt. We won’t come into London.”

The fundamental problem is these planners are seeking to regulate and in some cases freeze commercial land supply, instead of stimulating demand for it. And on the question of previously used and vacant commercial space, the real solution lies in fiscal incentives going to redevelopers of vacant commercial space -- just like the city recently offered to a London developer of a downtown residential high rise.

Honey Pot said...

oh yeah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Ok the socialist cabal won. The city is not open for business.

Don't worry the message is out all over Canada, that London is anti-economic growth. A nice retirement town, a place to come and hangout until you die.

When the ambassador London scam project put the video out,that was indistinguishable from the Forest Lawn cemetary commercial, the world got the message.

....meanwhile, if we could encourage seniors like this 80 year old guy to retire here, London would be much more interesting.

This video reminds me of pizza man

chairman meow said...

Branscombe kicked Tommy's pimply butt on Politically Speaking last night and the callers backed her up.

The Killer Bees rule and Tommy's a washed-up, freeze-dried-in-the-1950s dinosaur.

Hey, Gosnell says we need to grow to obtain more tax assessment. and revenue.

How come the bigger London gets geographically, the faster the taxes go up?

REASON: Growth doesn't pay for growth. Urban sprawl is bankrupting us.

MapMaster said...

How come the bigger London gets geographically, the faster the taxes go up?

REASON: Growth doesn't pay for growth. Urban sprawl is bankrupting us.

What is stopping investment going to pay for? Or have you heard of investment? Obviously there are costs associated with growth, but how much does growth contribute to costs and revenue, short-term and long-term?

Quite possibly the bigger London gets geographically, the more politicians pander to larger political demands for unnecessary discretionary spending. Over $50 million this year, or over 6 per cent of the City's overall budget, is for debt servicing costs related to the capital expenditures from massive capital projects during the early part of the decade, such as the JLC, Central Library and Covent Garden Market. Surely you don't blame growth for these hundreds of millions of dollars spent?

Honey Pot said...

London definately isn't growing, it is not even stagnant. Nope, London is receding.

That is good news for people who do not understand the importance of economic growth.

With London having nothing to offer young people to stay here and raise their family, that means the the city will suffer.

The message is out there that London is not a business friendly town. The socialist cabal made sure of that.

What growing business wants to take the risk of opening a business in a dead city, that refuses to attract and welcome business?

melvin purple said...

The Killer Bees rule and armchair quarterbacks suck!

Oh and by the way, there's big differences between cancerous (unsustainable) growth, smart growth and no growth.

Who supports no growth? No one I know.

And Ainslie's temper-tantrum column sucked when it was first published a few years ago. Recycling it here doesn't improve it.

Honey Pot said...

Must be true, the drone has spoken.

They have put the message out the city is closed for business.

They act like there is a line up to come set up shop here in London.

Well paying jobs are leaving this city, like water through a sive. A smart city council would be doing whatever it takes to attract business, and make them welcome.

You might like to believe the city's tax base can be sustained by organic fruit stands, and over priced second hand junk shops.

The city is dying from lack of common sense and vision.

eng said...

No, it's dying from lack of a monorail.

Anonymous said...

HP, the best thing that could happen to London is if you left town, as in immediately if not sooner.

Move to your favourite smart city like Otterville or Listowel. There you could whine, snivel and bitch all you wanted. No one buys your baloney around here.

Your incessant whining is about as exciting as a wet fart from a baboon.

Everythinhg you post is the dame. No variety whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

Make that "everything you post is the same."

Anonymous said...

Kimberly Ainslie: "First, nothing government does “pays” for itself. Government spending is always a net loss for taxpayers. And, notwithstanding the absconded rhetoric of left-wing media commentators, government offers us no monetary return on investment in this spending. There is no ROI."

What a tard.

There's no return on investment from government services?

No return on investment from police services, from roads and sewers, from public education, from stable local government.

Pure nonsense. He's a crackpot from the Planet Zero.