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City worried LRT, intensification may catch neighbours off guard

By Ryan Flanagan
Kitchener Post staff

Light rail transit stops are coming to 13 Kitchener locations by 2017, but city councillors are concerned it might take just as long for those living nearby to realize it.

“Inevitably, there will be people, after the fact, when the first intensification project goes up, saying ‘Why didn’t anybody tell us this could happen?’” said Ward 2 Coun. Berry Vrbanovic during a Monday meeting designed to bring city councillors up to speed on planning efforts for areas near LRT stations.

While it’s the Region of Waterloo that is building the LRT and the stations themselves, city planners are beginning to look at what they want areas around the stations to look like.

The first step is to determine exactly which areas will be covered under the project. Planners are using a general guideline of anything within 800 metres of an LRT station, but will modify that based on established communities and properties that might cut through the 800-metre boundary.

Once the areas have been chosen, they’ll focus in on what the neighbourhoods could look like as far as 50 years into the future, after streetscaping and land-use intensification.

“Every single area isn’t going to redevelop with wonderful, sustainable mixed-use condos and retail overnight,” said city planner Brandon Sloan.

“It may happen over time, and it’s OK if some of it doesn’t happen, but we need to set a blueprint for how we want it to happen for the best benefit of our city.”

Ward 9 Coun. Frank Etherington questioned whether intensification options were still in the city’s hands, given “speculative action” and developers purchasing properties near the proposed stations.

“Cedar and Charles (streets) is already happening. The kind of development we’re talking about is already in the wings to happen around that area,” he said.

But communication was the bigger issue, as several councillors said they’d like to see meetings held with each affected neighbourhood sooner rather than later, to minimize surprises for the public in 2017 and beyond.

“Maybe for this kind of situation and these dramatic changes to neighbourhoods, we need to step up our communication process much sooner,” said Ward 4 Coun. Yvonne Fernandes.

“We’ve got to do more in the way of communication,” said Etherington.

“We’ve got to get out there and clock people over the head.”

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