Cobourg Needs an Overall Master Plan

At Cobourg Council’s regular meeting on 27 March, retired Urban planner Keith Oliver (not Kent Oliver as shown in Agenda) will once again be presenting his ideas. This time, Keith asks “do we have the tools needed to guide Cobourg’s future growth and development to the benefit of all”. He uses two examples but does not actually spell out what I would say: Cobourg needs an overall Master Plan. There are multiple specific master plans such as for Parks, the Waterfront, Culture and Downtown but no over-riding master plan for the Town that pulls it all together. The Strategic Plan might have been a way to do that but the current plan lacks detail and instead calls for annual “operational plans”.

So far there is no sign of an operational plan for 2024. Council seems pre-occupied with the homeless: there’s no mention of the stalled Harbour rehabilitation; there’s no serious attempt to clear the planning department backlog; there’s talk of doing a better job on financial reserves but no specifics or goals; the Tannery project is going nowhere; there’s no formal goal-setting with public KPIs.

In his presentation, Keith gives two projects as examples: 1) the lost opportunity to use the Brookside Property to create a sustainable neighbourhood – much like that proposed for the Tannery District and 2) the property at 117 Durham street.  Keith has specific ideas for 117 Durham but given the current RFP process, the future of 117 Durham rests with what developers propose.

But Keith has a point: Cobourg needs direction – there should be an overall master plan which residents support and which provides a vision of what the Town should look like. The vision in the current strategic plan is very general: “Welcoming community; thriving town” so Keith suggests a secondary more detailed vision statement. How would we describe our ideal future Town?

Resources

Cobourg Blog Articles

Download Master Plans – pdfs
Hosted on Cobourg Internet or Cobourg Blog

Town Web site Links
Pages that include downloads.  Based on previous experience, there is no guarantee that these links will still be valid a year from now.

NOTE:  This article is NOT about the homeless or crime or drug addicts – please keep comments on topic. In particular: How would we describe our ideal future Town?

Print Article: 

 

31 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Concerned Taxpayer
1 month ago

The RFP package submission deadline for Durham Street /WestFields is die April 19, 2024 with the Town of Cobourg wanting to be shovel readyby July 2024. What is the Town’s process for Community review on this?

Kevin
Reply to  Concerned Taxpayer
1 month ago

The end of July 2024 is 3 months. It takes years to go through all the planning, traffic studies, water management studies, etc. Often once something is approved the planning department comes back with required changes. Even simple things like opening a new business in an existing building require permits with different inspections. This can include plumbing, electrical, health, etc. I would be shocked if it is “shovel ready” by July 2026.

John Mead
2 months ago

Rumour has it the Flemington College wanted to purchase Brookside but then Ottawa announced a large reduction on foreign student Visa 2024 so they are reconsidering their position
just what we need is more youngsters resident in this Town . Cannot our MPs and representatives lobby for an exception on behalf of FC.
That would clear our the Drug tent city at a stroke and avoid this non action by Province and Town Hurry up before another opportunity slips through or fingers!

Sandpiper
2 months ago

Sounds Like Cobourg needs a COMPLETE OVERHAUL
Top down or Bottom us is the Question
Nothing is Working

JimT
Reply to  Sandpiper
2 months ago

“In times of change (such as this one) experience counts as nothing”.

Concerned Cobourg Resident
2 months ago

A “master plan” sounds expensive, extraneous, and suspiciously like how the CCP operates their master plan for China. According to google, “The CCP process is a type of planning that is designed to be very inclusive, culture-and-community-specific, and long term. CCPs range from 25-100 year plans, with high-level goals and a vision that represents the overarching dreams for the community”

Why does Cobourg need more planning, committees and bureaucracy? Short answer we don’t – and what an incredible waste of money. Cobourg residents needs freedom from coercive taxation that just pays for endless social programs NOT EVERYONE NEEDS, and justifies these politicians existence and salaries.

True freedom mean limited government!

Concerned Taxpayer
2 months ago

If there is no money, then spending on expansive, large projects need to be put on hold. A prioritization matrix needs to be established to possibly engage only in (1) small, (1) medium and/ or (1) large project within a budgetary constraint vs. engaging in multiple mega projects and spending money we don’t have.
A little kid even knows that if they only have a loonie they can’t buy a $5 item!

Cobourg taxpayer
2 months ago

As a retired Urban Planner I know that what is required is an Official Plan and Cobourg has one, as required by law. The purpose of an official plan is to guide future growth and development. Then there are zoning bylaws that further guide permitted land uses by area. On top of all that are the numerous master plans listed above. I don’t see the need for an additional overall master plan or an operational plan, an official plan is what every other community has. Most of the operational list above beginning with harbour rehabilitation have not begun as there is no MONEY. The Tannery project is stalled as it is a brownfield and no developer wants to touch it. Nor do I want the town to waste tax money building anything there. The town is attempting to dictate development on Durham Street, let’s see how that goes. As far as Brookside goes let a developer buy and build there as they see fit. regarding tax payer subsidized housing the county is providing rebuilds at Elgin and Darcy to the tune of millions of dollars and now will build the same on the land purchased on Westwood/Kerr. These rebuilds are also Leeds certified.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
2 months ago

To set your mind at ease the Town Planner Anne Taylor Scott just suddenly resigned and the assistant planner is going on Holidays
In respect to the Tannery Lands Most of the Land around the Town Tannery property approx 6 acres , including the Large factory at the north end were SOLD last year October to be exact to a New Industry coming to Cobourg NOTE V 13 had nothing to do with this .and the Town has not acknowledged it Its also said that Fleming College was the successful
bidder on the Brookside property . Rezoning is probably not required as a prudent Buyer would have requested that the Sale from the Province include a Ministerial Order or MZO to permit any future use Thus avoiding years of the Town Planning Dept s RED TAPE program .
So a change of landscape to the east end of Cobourg may be coming .

But what I fail to understand is the Town and the Counties understanding and approach to Affordable housing ITS NOT They take far to long to build , Have Huge Budget Over Runs
pushing the cost per sq. ft . way past any of the limits of anything affordable construction by private builder / developers , only to have the Tax Payers pick up the costs . In fact we are purchasing the home for someone else . this not only applies to the Elgin st project but the Golden Plough as well There are presently 2 Long Term Care facilities battling the town right now and have been for 4 or more yrs and Council probably doesn’t know or care about it .

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Sandpiper
2 months ago

Is there a specific clearly definition of “Affordable” housing ?
Affordable to whom / what level of income and employment etc.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Bill Thompson
2 months ago

I AM NOT SURE WHAT AFFORDABLE IS
ANYMORE ?
But I was told the reason our Property Taxes are so high here in Cobourg — Northumberland is because They ask and we Pay apparently if you live in Cobourg you must be able to Afford it .
But in all reality there are no options in this town any longer where you might find accomodation in line with ones income and Incomes are not going as far as they used to .

cornbread
Reply to  Sandpiper
2 months ago

I don’t know anymore about “affordable”. This am I saw people in at least $35,000 value cars and wearing nice winter coats heading into D’Arcy St. Foodshare building with empty bags in their hands.

Gerry
Reply to  cornbread
2 months ago

So someone who drives a 35-grand car walks into Foodshare, and you assume they are taking the food for themselves instead of perhaps picking up food for a shut-in. This is plausible. I understand the need to think the worst for some; I choose not to.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Gerry
2 months ago

may be we need clarification and Identification If you dont think its for the individuals picking it up Heck they could be stocking their own stores / business with it Wouldn.t be the 1 st time

Bill Thompson
Reply to  cornbread
2 months ago

Picking up food supplies for the homeless ?

Aleta
Reply to  Bill Thompson
2 months ago

I actually asked one of the town planners about this and she said it is geared to each individual’s income–I believe she said only 30% of income should go to residence. I specifically asked if there is a graph/chart etc. and she said no. Not sure what their screening process would be?

Dave
Reply to  Aleta
2 months ago

I am surprised that town planner did not mention the various kinds of housing listed under the affordable category. The main ones that are not private type such as co-op are:
A) As outlined rent-geared-to-income – usually with an income limit of $3000 a month – which includes all income categores – earned, non taxable, benefits, GST
B) Housing with income limits starting point $35,000 – $60,000 – flat rate, reduced rent but more expensive than the RGI
C) Affordable Market Housing – which is 80% of the current market rent housing – least affordable among the categories

Concerned Cobourg Resident
Reply to  Bill Thompson
2 months ago

“Affordable housing” means tax payer subsidized housing.

This means the hardworking citizens who produce stuff have to now give some of their time and money away for free to those people who consume stuff. Sounds like a rip off doesn’t it?

Oh and the best part is the same class of people (politicians) who created this economic problem, now claim they have the answer. Ain’t that a joke…

Bryan
Reply to  Concerned Cobourg Resident
2 months ago

CCR,
You wrote ““Affordable housing” means tax payer subsidized housing.”
In a narrow sense you are correct. County RGI housing is certainly subsidized. An argument can be made that housing such as the Balder apartments (all 3-4 of them) are subsidized by the Town giving DC and fee concessions to encourage Balder to build.

CMHC uses rent equal to 80% (or less) of the area average market rent for a similar unit. Market rent is not new “for rent” It is current “occupied” rent
CMHC also uses the 30% of gross family income metric.

There are housing modes that are not subsidized (such as co-ops), but meet the “affordable” metrics. There is also non-taxpayer subsidized housing such as units owned by charitable organizations.

Dave
Reply to  Bryan
2 months ago

Any Market rent apartments on the private market I have seen are 80% if the current new rental prices.
However Social Services which administers the RGI offers the Market rent ones at probably the rates of overall average as they are less expensive than new builds under the Market Rent category Bryan. Probably 7 years ago a friend inquired about the Market Rents ones offered here in Cobourg by Social Services they were in fact more than what they were paying for a similar private apartment they had rented here in Cobourg 3 years prior to the time of inquiry protected under Landlord Tenant Act.

Michael
Reply to  Sandpiper
2 months ago

How do you know Anne Taylor Scott resigned?

John Draper
Reply to  Michael
2 months ago

I heard the same thing from another reliable source.

Bryan
Reply to  John Draper
2 months ago

The open question then is: did she leave for her own reasons (new job??) or was she asked to leave.
She has been the planning director for 5+ years. Perhaps time to move on to something bigger and better(??)

John Draper
Reply to  Bryan
2 months ago

Per her Linked-in page, she started January 2022 – that’s just over 2 years.

Bryan
Reply to  John Draper
2 months ago

John D,

You are correct.

ATS onboarded about 9 months before the last municipal election. I used 2018 as the the date rather than 2022

My bad

Last edited 2 months ago by Bryan
Mervin
Reply to  Sandpiper
2 months ago

‘Fleming College was the successful bidder on the Brookside property’ – surely this would be a big story by now. Whatever gets the campers out will work for me.

Kevin
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
2 months ago

Official Plan, Master Plan, Strategic Plan. Without clear definitions of what the difference is people, like me, cannot know what is best. Regardless of what type of plan is in place, we need the leadership to follow the plan. The Official Plan is to be updated every 5 years. The 300+ page 2010 plan was last updated in 2018. In a quick look at this plan I read:
“The existing sewer and water servicing infrastructure is generally sufficient to meet the Town’s projected growth.”
I don’t think the sewer part of that statement is true anymore. Was it true in 2018? The water part is not true or there would be no need for a new water tower. Maybe we need to update the Official Plan.
With at least 2 retired urban planners in Cobourg I would hope somebody on council would use their knowledge for the best interests of Cobourg.

Cobourg taxpayer
Reply to  Kevin
2 months ago

When I began my career in Alberta I quickly learned that you can plan all you want but in a capitalist society, which is what I want to live in, profit is what determines what will be built. Also there are ways for a developer to appeal an urban planning decision one of which is the Ontario Municipal Board. A municipality can have land use guidelines in place but if a developer feels they are not conducive to their plans they appeal to the OMB, which in my experience was often successful meaning the municipality had lost control of the planning process. With the massive immigration occurring in Canada and the need for housing certain governments are considering allowing multi family units in what was single family homes. Some may agree with this, but many would not. The question is how much of a nanny state do we want to live in, where the government controls even more then they do now. Do we want the county using taxpayer money to build 100’s of houses? The rebuilds at Elgin are also Leeds certified meaning guidelines have been followed to make the building “green” with say better sealed windows or environmentally friendly building materials which all cost more. Keep in my mind that if the tenant in a taxpayer subsidized house leaves said window open because they either don’t pay for utilities or they don’t care, then window efficiency becomes irrelevant. Without the government that wrote the planning documents having full financial control over development, it becomes near impossible to control what will ultimately be built.

Kevin
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
2 months ago

Good example about leaving energy efficient windows open. I used to be an energy advisor. New houses are built with an HRV to provide fresh air and save energy. Most people, including the people installing them, do not know how to use them properly. This wastes much energy and money. Good planning doesn’t mean anything if the plans are not followed. Either because the people responsible do not understand the plans or do not want to follow them. In the Balder building the windows do not open. It forces tenants to be energy efficient. Yes, “how much of a nanny state do we want to live in”?

Andre
2 months ago

I’d prefer the system of transparent efficient government, responsive elected officials, and involved citizens to the rigid goal of a utopian master plan from above. A system is better than a goal.

Last edited 2 months ago by Andre
Rob
2 months ago

This sounds great…the Town should hire Keith. Looking forward to seeing the presentation! John your assessment regarding the lack of a cohesive and intentional community building plan is spot on. Without such a plan the Town develops in silos, a patchwork town with very low walkability, no sense of community, littered with white elephants (i.e. firefighter museum in a residential neighbourhood) and people left scratching their heads. You get one chance to build a community and effectively utilize the land resources within it (they aren’t making any more land) it needs to be done intelligently, purposefully and sustainably with a vision. The problem for this Council and others that came before it, is that they are stuck working in the organization and not on the organization. The first 16 months of this Council have been among the worst in recent memory and that is very worrisome for the next 30 months however it is possible for them to turn things around but they need to start focusing on things that matter most and add value for taxpayers.