The construction of the Trans Canada Highway Bypass is a chance not only to re-think the current highway corridor that will become Main Street but also an opportunity to consider new highway-related development. The Bypass project will move the highway corridor to the north. Access to the new highway will be strictly limited.
Access from Cornwall to the new Trans Canada will come via Cornwall Road, which extends as Route 19 to the South Shore. Cornwall Road, as we’ve discussed, also crosses Main Street. The most obvious development opportunity will be at the interchange itself, where lands visible from the highway will have obvious potential for land uses that rely on exposure to highway traffic such as service stations, motels, and fast food outlets. Lands approaching the highway on adjacent sections of Cornwall Road, furthermore, have potential for car dealerships, furniture stores, and similar businesses selling larger goods to which shoppers normally travel by car. Another possibility is light industrial and warehouse uses, particularly businesses that receive inputs and move products by road and will benefit from quick access to the highway.
Some contacts who we have interviewed have suggested that vacant lands accessible from Cornwall Road should make attractive residential locations. For residents, proximity to the highway offers much the same benefits as to industrial and warehouse operations: commuters can get easily to the highway via which they can get to jobs in Charlottetown or other centres. Attractive residential development will however require careful planning to mitigate the noise and other impacts of the highway as well as issues of compatibility with highway-oriented businesses.
Effective planning for future development related to the new highway requires consideration of both the positive factors that will draw development and the negative effects that must be mitigated. Broadly, the issues are not particularly complicated. The interchange itself is unlikely to draw residential development and is a premium location for the business types noted. Gas stations and similar uses will undoubtedly outbid other businesses for land directly on the interchange. Residential uses will also benefit from separation from the highway right-of-way. General traffic, particularly trucks, generates noise that is detrimental to residential environments.
These priorities suggest a layering of zones with highway commercial uses accommodated at the interchange, industrial or heavy commercial uses abutting the highway right-of-way, and residential development separated sufficiently from the highway that commercial uses will absorb noise and other effects associated with highway traffic. Ekistics’ Main Street Spatial Plan proposes that the C1 (General Commercial) Zone that applies to the current Trans Canada corridor should be renamed the Highway Commercial Zone and applied to the new limited access Trans Canada corridor. Ekistics also proposes adding a new M2 (Business Park) Zone for the Town’s business park at W B. MacPhail Drive, which could be applied to lands near the interchange and elsewhere in the new highway corridor:
The business park zone permits malls for small business, service shops, light industry, etc., manufacturing and assembly plants, warehouse, wholesale, and distribution operations and facilities, business and professional offices, IT operations and call centres, retail commercial shops, box stores, and the like, accessory commercial uses, restaurants and cafeterias, and accessory buildings.Ekistics, Main Street Spatial Plan, p. 50
As the picture of Exit 5 in Windsor, NS, above, illustrates, it can be challenging to maintain a coordinated appearance in such areas where multiple businesses compete for the attention of highway drivers.
The area around the new interchange in Cornwall is also currently unserviced. The Town’s Water and Sewer Utility plans to extend underground services to Jake Drive on Cornwall Road as part of a road re-surfacing project to be undertaken this summer. Utility staff say that the new well field they are planning to develop at the western edge of the town will be well-located to reach the upper portion of Cornwall Road and should provide more than sufficient supply. They are also confident that dredging of the Town’s sewage lagoon on the North River will create ample capacity for wastewater that will be generated. On the other hand, they also stated that further extension of services in Cornwall Road (i.e., water and sewer pipes) will depend of the willingness of developers to fund the additional infrastructure.
In the short-run, on-site services may have to be relied on for new development. If that is the case, residential development will have to be lower density and commercial uses with large water demands and wastewater disposals needs, such as motels, may have to wait. Official Plan policy and zoning requirements will have to recognize this possibility and, perhaps, provide for onsite and serviced development, as well as the implications of staging development that may well begin at low densities and intensify when services become available.