Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Monaghan, Part One: Henry Clarke - Friend or Foe of Sustainability?

Jack Doris and Henry Clarke have represented Monaghan Ward on city council for as long as most of us can remember. Doris sat on council for an astonishing forty years. He was mayor back in the early 90s. Doris finally decided to retire this year, leaving a spot open. Jocasta Boone, Don Vassiliadis, Jeff Westlake and David Edgerton are the candidates to join Clarke at the table. We’ll look at their campaigns in the next post. But first, let’s examine Clarke, the incumbent who seems a sure bet for re-election, and think about Monaghan Ward, already home to the worst excesses of suburban sprawl in Peterborough.

Monaghan Ward is Peterborough’s largest ward by population, with about 18,000 people living west of Monaghan Road and north of Clonsilla/Lansdowne. The center of the ward is the hospital, and it’s ringed by unremitting suburban residential areas, with little in the way of commerce or industry. The Kawartha Heights neighbourhood is a textbook example of car-dependent planning. So are the ward’s two biggest schools, James Strath and Crestwood, both of which lie on the west side of Brealey Road – just outside the city’s boundary – forcing almost everyone who works or studies there to drive or bus

Aside from the hospital, the ward’s most valuable and noteworthy feature is Jackson Park – not just the area around the pond, but the whole forested ravine, creek, and marsh, all the way out to Brealey. 

You’d think that it would be time to diversify the ward. But what’s in store? More single-family houses -- by the thousands

The areas immediately south and north of the park are under immediate development pressure. A car-dependent subdivision known as Jackson Meadows “conservation community” is being built on Parkhill by Parkview Homes, run by local developers Paul Dietrich and Steve McLaren.   

Dietrich and McLaren were among the largest funders of the 2010 campaign, coughing up nearly $7000 between them. They each made the maximum $750 contribution to the campaigns of Bob Hall, Andrew Beamer, Dean Pappas and Dan McWilliams, and Dietrich threw another $750 to Len Vass. Their Parkview Homes website is clearly using Jackson Park as the main selling point of these west-end retreats – even as they encroach on the watershed and put more cars on the road. 

Across the road is the last agricultural land in the city, slated to be turned into a massive subdivision by Melody Homes, the same York Region millionaires who are looking to build the even-bigger Lily Lake subdivision on the north side of the creek. The Melody Homes problem has been discussed in several previous posts

The Lily Lake subdivision is especially egregious – it contradicts current planning principles and was rushed through days before the new provincial guidelines by city councillors, many of whose 2010 campaigns received funding from the owners of Melody Homes. This unjustified north-end sprawl got through a council that included Henry Clarke. It's currently being appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board, even while being used by pro-Parkway councillors as an excuse to chew up Jackson Park for a $40 million bridge.

After 17 years, it's evident that Clarke sets the standard for other councillors. Over 4000 Monaghan Ward residents voted for Clarke in 2010, far and away the highest vote total on council, yet he spent only $2000 on his campaign, less than any other elected councillor, and accepted no corporate contributions. The 62-year-old executive with Quaker has plenty of experience with managing big operations, negotiating agreements, and communicating effectively

His website lays out all the issues clearly and in-depth, together with his positions on them. In his Cogeco video speech, Clarke emphasizes his policy on returning messages: “Everyone gets a response.”  He’s helped to organize Earth Day cleanups, establish Homegrown Homes to serve lower-income families, and develop our Urban Forestry policy. He admits that we have an employment problem, and wants to make deals to develop new industrial areas just outside city limits, but with services provided by the city. He voted against the Jackson Park bridge. 

Meadow pathway from Medical Drive to bridge site
On the other hand, Clarke has flip-flopped on the Parkway extension itself. Back at the turn of the century, Clarke stated that the Parkway trail should be made into a linear park. He and Doris were against the bridge from the start – but then they approved the outrageously expensive Medical Drive, which was envisioned as the approach to the bridge. What were they thinking?

Now Clarke defends building the southern portion of the extension connecting Clonsilla to Medical Drive, even though it will pave over some of the only greenspace left in Monaghan Ward that isn’t lawn or golf course. Worse, he defends the Parkway extension through Northcrest on dubious grounds. “The north end of the city cannot be laid out for schools, shops, parks, and homes without knowing where the streets are to run,” writes Clarke. 

Come again? Has Clarke not noticed that all the schools and significant commercial areas that are going to be built in Northcrest already have been? And that he himself helped council approve all the new subdivisions that will fit? 

About the Lily Lake planning fiasco, Clarke is silent. He approved this massive new subdivision north of Jackson Park. Yet on his FAQ page, Clarke claims he’s reading books titled Walkable City and Suburban Nation, and he cites “reducing dependence on the automobile” as part of his vision for the city. 

Trees to be demolished for the Jackson Park bridge
Really? So why did Clarke support the two biggest blows to sustainability in Peterborough  – the Parkway and the Lily Lake development – just this past year? 

The Social Planning Council all-candidates meeting goes down at the Evinrude Center this Thursday, Oct. 16, from 6:30 to 8:30. 

Clarke should be there. Will anybody ask him to explain why he talks sustainability but votes for sprawl?

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