Work is about to resume on the effort to define Aldershot’s new Major Transit Station Area (MTSA).
Burlington staff briefed members of Council at a workshop this week. They reported that public engagement will get underway soon with a view toward completion of the plan in 2022. The plan is formally referred to as an Area Specific Plan (ASP).
Work on the area around the GO Station was halted after the last election when Council turned its attention to the downtown. The neighbourhood is comprised generally of the lands 500 to 800 metres around the GO Station. They are ultimately is expected to house a combination of 150 people and jobs per hectare.
“We’re building a brand new mini-city”, commented Mayor Marianne Meed Ward. City Planner Mark Simeoni added that the proposed MTSA will be “very dense”.
Staff made it clear that they are not going back to the beginning and starting all over. They will use the research done in 2017 and 2018 as the starting point for the next round of discussions. They will use the 2018 draft plan.
“The draft precinct plans are the starting point for going forward. It by no means suggests that there won’t be changes”, said Planner Allison Enns.
In fact, there have already been changes. Mayor Meed Ward convinced both the City and Regional Councils to heed her election promise and removed Queen Mary, Clearview and St. Matthew’s Avenues from the MTSA.
2021 proposed boundary for Aldershot MTSA
Enns advised members of Council that staff heard the input from Aldershot residents during the last round of public engagement.
“In Aldershot, feedback focused on adding a sense of place within the existing community including amenities to support local residents such as food stores, incorporating bike paths…… as well as improving boulevards such as Cooke Blvd. Concern about increasing traffic on Plains Road was also a main theme of the feedback, as well as feedback to incorporate mid-rise development along Plains Road and Waterdown Road.”
The reference to food stores caught the attention of Councillor Kelvin Galbraith who is well aware that the desire for more and bigger stores in west Aldershot, particularly a grocery store, is a hot button issue. He wanted some assurance that the City can make it happen at the MTSA.
Enns conceded the need for stores near the GO Station but cautioned that there are difficulties. “We’re always challenged in that cities don’t have control over the exact use that comes into play once we provide retail space. We don’t determine who the tenant of a retail unit is…..We’re going to have to get creative and find ways to make that a given. I think it’s a big challenge”.
Enns reported that the draft plan, as it stands now, has already responded to much of the input received from the public in 2017 and 2018 including: the need to vary the heights of new mid-rise buildings in order to establish a sensitive transition to the nearby low-density neighbourhood, and pushing the tallest buildings (30 storeys) away from Plains Road. She added that the portion of the MTSA that faces Plains Road West should align with the Plains Road Village Vision.
Enns said that the ultimate goal is to create a complete community, “where you can access the things you need within a 15-minute walking distance from where you live”.
She added that once approved the MTSA Area Specific Plan will be a “Protected Major Transit Station Area” meaning that its design is not subject to appeal.
Planning staff will return to Council in June with a formal report on the upcoming public engagement and planning process.
By Rick Craven