Highway of Opportunities

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.

Exit 5 on Highway 101 in Windsor, Nova Scotia, illustrates many of the land uses likely to be drawn to a highway interchange. In the foreground are a service station, a Tim Horton’s, and an A & W. The road up the hill is a business park with tire stores, a motorcycle dealer, and warehouse uses. Not in the picture but located on the other side of the interchange are more fast food outlets, a grocery store, a recently built motel, access to a hospital, and the County’s exhibition grounds. Like the planned exit to Cornwall from the Trans Canada Bypass, the interchange is also a critical entry point to the town.

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.

Changing the Route

With the construction of the new Trans Canada bypass, traffic will be directed away from the current Trans Canada Highway corridor through the Town of Cornwall. The highway has had a very important role in the development of Cornwall. Most of the commercial development within the community fronts on the highway. Motels, fast food outlets, and similar businesses oriented to drawing the business of passing motorists are the mainstays of Cornwall’s business community.

In its current role as a critical section of the Trans Canada Highway in PEI, Main Street has evolved as a place for people in cars not people on the street ( Ekistics Plan+Design, Main Street Spatial Plan, p. 59).

On completion of the Bypass this fall, the current Trans Canada will become Main Street. The Bypass runs to the north of the current corridor. It rejoins the current Trans Canada route at York Point Road before crossing the North River Causeway to Charlottetown. An interchange is currently being completed where Cornwall Road intersects with the Bypass. Cornwall Road, furthermore, meets Meadowbank Road (Route 19) at Main Street via a realigned Scott Street so that traffic from the South Shore can smoothly reach the interchange.

With the Bypass carrying traffic to and from areas to the west of Cornwall and the Cornwall Road/Route 19 access to the new interchange directing traffic from the south to the Bypass, vehicle traffic passing through the new Main Street will be significantly reduced. Businesses can no longer rely on drawing the eyes of drivers with opportunities to gas up, grab food, or stay overnight. On the other hand, reduced volumes moving more slowly should create opportunities for new businesses, particularly with the elimination of restrictions on access to the road and the creation of a more comfortable environment for pedestrians.

The planning and landscape design firm Ekistics Plan+Design is well known across Atlantic Canada for concept designs for commercial streets as well as for many other types of development. Ekistics planners have created an ambitious and well-illustrated vision for Cornwall’s new Main Street. Ekistics’ Main Street Spatial Plan envisions a pedestrian-oriented street featuring a cycling path running its entire length. The core area of Main Street beginning just past Heatherway Drive and extending to Hyde Creek is to be lined with four to six-storey mixed use buildings. Each building will be required to have commercial uses at the ground level to create interest for walkers shopping, strolling, or looking for a place to stop for a cup of coffee.

A key objective of our consultation process was to present Ekistics’ ideas for Main Street for public consideration. Their plan contains detailed recommendations for policy changes in the Town’s Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw to implement the objectives established in their Spatial Plan. These include a new commercial zone that will require buildings in what Ekistics has labelled the “Mixed Use Village Centre” to have the following features:

  • Be more than one-storey high
  • Be no more than six storeys high, except on properties abutting residential uses, where the maximum height shall be four storeys
  • Abut the sidewalk/street line up to three stories and be setback from the street above three storeys
  • Have commercial uses only on the ground floor
  • Have all parking located behind the building.

The environment that Ekistics is seeking is clearly urban, albeit in the context of a medium-sized town. Many towns similar in size to Cornwall that have developed in a more traditional pattern have similar building typologies with storefronts at the street line and apartments above, allowing that six-storey buildings are not typical.

Ekistics’ is recommending zoning to encourage mixed-use (commercial and residential) buildings between four and six storeys tall in the core area of Main Street from Heatherway Drive to Hyde Creek (Ekistics, Main Street Spatial Plan, p. 94)

These streets are interesting places to walk where pedestrians can look in shop windows to see products that may interest them, services they may need, or places to sit, drink, eat, and talk. Residents in second and third-floor apartments provide a ready supply of customers that is normally augmented by others from adjacent residential neighbourhoods. Ekistics estimates that 600 dwelling units can be added on Main Street and proposes adjacent subdivision development in areas flanking Main Street from which residents can easily walk or bike to the commercial area. The 600 dwelling units can reasonably be expected to house more than 1,000 people. We would guess existing residents in neighbourhoods on either side of Main Street plus new neighbourhoods on substantial vacant tracts near Main Street, will add at least 2,000 more. That (more than 3,000 people) is the population of a good-sized town.

Citizens attending our consultation meetings appeared to view Ekistics’ general vision for Main Street positively. An active, pedestrian-friendly community core would be an attractive feature for the town. Two key questions were nevertheless raised. One was whether the street can succeed without a more active effort to accommodate automobiles. The second was whether developers will be comfortable to build only commercial space on the first floor of their buildings.

In response to the first issue, it is clear that some adaptation to a less automobile-focused commercial environment is essential. The Bypass is complete and vehicle traffic on Main Street will be severely reduced when it comes into operation in this Fall. The new Main Street will be dependent on local vehicle traffic and foot traffic that it can draw from within acceptable walking distance (i.e., approximately 500 metres for most people). Ekistics’ solution to this challenge is to concentrate population on and around Main Street as we’ve described. They recognize that customers in automobiles will continue to be an important component of the market and have provided for parking. They recognize, however, that the pedestrian experience is primary and streetfront interest is critical to maintaining the engagement of walkers.

As I have long ago experience conducting pedestrians surveys in Downtown Halifax, I fully endorse the thinking behind Ekistics’ recommendations. Counts collected by surveys I managed in the early 1980s clearly showed that pedestrians followed paths that exposed them to interesting commercial spaces. Numbers were much higher on commercial streets where walkers could look in windows at merchandise and people. Breaks in commercial frontage for parking, buildings setback significantly from the street, or even for parks inevitably diminished the number of passing pedestrians. In those locations, volumes shifted to the more interesting side of the street or to routes that carried walkers to alternative, interesting commercial areas. As a result of what we learned from those studies, we adopted regulations similar to the standards Ekistics is recommending for Cornwall that required commercial uses at the ground level on Spring Garden Road, which reinforced its established position as Downtown Halifax’s leading pedestrian street. Argyle Street, which was at best a secondary route at the time blossomed as a commercial corridor with the realization that it was drawing pedestrians as a route between Spring Garden Road and the shopping centre in Scotia Square.

Halifax’s popular Spring Garden Road has many of the features that Ekistics is recommending to be developed on Cornwall’s Main Street.

Cornwall, obviously, is not as complex as Downtown Halifax. Main Street is currently the only commercial street in the town, and it has many substantial breaks in its commercial frontage. Ekistics plan is to create a more pedestrian-oriented environment in a 1.1-kilometre section of Main Street. The concern expressed by several participants in our consultation process is whether developers will have the confidence in Ekistics concept to commit to building an entire floor of commercial space at the ground floor. While most are confident that apartments are leasable in the current Charlottetown area market, where there have been frequent media reports of housing shortages, many are doubtful that the market for commercial space will be as robust.

While we have responded that the Village Core area is a fairly confined area extended for the equivalent of about five city blocks, some flexibility is probably desirable provided the basic objective of ensuring streetfront interest is maintained. We are consequently considering a more flexible approach. One feature may well be to tie the amount of commercial development to the potential height of the building. A full floor of commercial space might only be required if the building is four or more storeys high. The requirement could be reduced to 50% for a three-storey building and 25% if only two storeys are built. Another suggestion was to consider a provision in the Zoning Bylaw that would allow Council to consider a reduction in the required commercial floor space area if the commercial space could not be leased after a good faith effort by the owner. Obviously, vacant commercial space will not be an asset to the town any more than it will benefit the building owner.

Success in repositioning Main Street is going to be critical to the future of Cornwall. As part of the Trans Canada, the street has been the commercial lifeblood of the town and has shaped the image of the community. The construction of the Bypass will allow Cornwall residents to redefine the street as a community centre with not only a unique shopping and residential district but also a new “Village Commons” featuring a more accessible Town Hall and APM Centre and Active Transportation links in terms of the proposed Cycleway and Hyde Creek Greenway to improve connectivity to other areas of the community.

Ready to Grow

Consultation Week is over. I have met with Council, and twice with interested members of the public. I’ve also interviewed several Town department heads and several property owners with development interests. Last night, I presented the results of this consultation focusing on the issues and opportunities that have been identified in the course of my time in Cornwall.

I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with ideas. I planned to write an article here after each meeting but I’ve been stalled by the volume of issues to discuss.The main source of information was the two public meetings. At the sessions, Stantec presented posters summarizing the Official Plan and Zoning and Subdivision (Development) Bylaw Review process and the some of the issues it will address. I also made two PowerPoint presentations. The first dealt with much the same content as the posters with the objective of informing participants in the first meeting of the purpose of the review and stimulating discussion of additional issues and possibilities for the town. The second summarized input from the preceding evening to elicit further comment from meeting participants.

We would have liked more attendees at both sessions, but discussion was good in both cases. At the first meeting on Tuesday night, roughly 20 attendees spoke until shortly after 9:00 pm and shared many thoughts about the growth in Cornwall, future development, and challenges that the Official Plan and Bylaw could address. The following evening about ten community members provided feedback on our summary of findings.

In most respects, the dominant issue is the recent upsurge of growth in Cornwall. Our analysis completed before this week found that Cornwall has grown strongly but moderately since the 2001 Census, adding 1,105 residents over the 15-year period (25.0% increase). This results in a moderate projection of population increase over the next 20 years as the town’s population ages and the number of children present in Cornwall declines.

In the past three years, however, the number of dwelling units for which the Town has issued building permits has roughly tripled. While a count of the additional population will not be available until the next Census of Canada in 2021, the recent surge suggests that the town’s population will exceed our projection in 2021. If the increased activity is sustained over the long-term, it could result in more than 1,200 dwelling units than our projection and a population of 8,611 as opposed to 5,650.

Dwelling units approved by the Town of Cornwall have surged since 2016. From 2009 through 2016, the Town averaged 53 approved units per year. in the past three years, the average has jumped to 138.


If the recent increase in dwelling unit approvals is sustained, it could result in 1,314 more units than expected by 2036, which would equates to a population of 8,611 (60% increase from 2016).

Several recent changes suggest the increase in development activity may be the “new normal” for Cornwall. Certainly, the completion of the Trans Canada Bypass will have an influence. It is likely a key factor in the town’s current boom. The project has freed up land in the current Trans Canada corridor, which will become Main Street and added value to lands with access to the bypass. In addition, Cornwall is benefiting from the general increase of population in PEI resulting from the Province’s initiative to increase immigration, the growth of Queens County and the Charlottetown area relative to the rest of the Island, and, possibly, the declining availability of developable land in the Town of Stratford, which has been the leader in municipal growth in Queens and PEI since its establishment in 1996.

Cornwall continues to have large areas of undeveloped land much of which is in very attractive areas either overlooking water or attractive farmlands. Much of Cornwall is also developed at low densities leaving opportunities for infill and redevelopment. The town’s new Main Street, in particular, is a major opportunity for redevelopment and residential intensification as outlined in Ekistics’ Main Street Spatial Plan. With improved access to Charlottetown via the new Bypass, the Town has every reason to expect increased interest from developers and builders.

Surging growth in Cornwall has multiple implications. To begin with, the character of the town is clearly changing. The current Official Plan emphasizes the mix of urban and rural lands within the town, which is still very apparent. The core of the town is becoming more intensively developed and the Main Street Plan calls for an even denser, more urban core with buildings up to six storeys. Three and four-storey apartment structures are already commonplace in the community, so it is not a major departure, but our meetings have generated a healthy debate concerning the ability of Main Street to support compulsory commercial space on the ground floor of each building and the realism of de-emphasizing automobile access.

There are also infrastructure concerns. Two sewage lagoons treat wastewater generated in the town. The lagoon at North River serves the northeastern portion of the town. Serviced areas form Madison Heights south send their sewage to the lagoon in Hyde Park. Utility staff believe both lagoons are at roughly 70% of their capacity but told us that capacity can be increased by dredging sludge from both lagoons. Work is underway to prepare for dredging, which should create increase capacity sufficiently to accommodate foreseeable growth.

Current growth is increasing pressure on the Town’s water and wastewater infrastructure but work is underway to dredge sewage lagoons such as the North River lagoon shown here and to develop an additional wellfield to augment the Town’s water supply.

The Town’s water supply is currently drawn from two large wellfields at East Wilshire and Northgate, as well as single well in Madison Heights. Staff with the Town’s Utility have roughly estimated these sources can support 800 more households with Cornwall. A new wellfield is planned for development to the north of Main Street at the western edge of the Town Limits and it should provide adequate water for 30 years of reasonable growth.

Water pressure is also a concern for satisfactory domestic use and for fire protection. Several limited areas in higher elevations within Cornwall have less than desirable water pressure. More extensive areas with older narrower water pipe do not have adequate fireflow. These areas have four-inch pipe where six-inch pipe is desirable. In the Main Street area, commercial land uses require additional volume for fire protection. In those areas, current six-inch pipes should be replaced by 12-inch pipe, particularly if the vision of a Main Street lined by taller mixed-use building is to be pursued.

Attendees at our meetings expressed support for continued growth in Cornwall. The challenges of accommodating that growth are significant but manageable. The development of Main Street will clearly be a critical consideration and received substantial consideration in our discussions with community members. Our next article will tackle the issue in more depth, addressing some important comments received through the consultation process.

What are We Dealing With?

While the core of a municipal plan is policies to guide land use and development, the overall objective is to improve the environment in which residents live. In the words provided to us by the Town, the Official Plan and Zoning and Subdivision Bylaw should ensure “a culturally and socially healthy community .”

The goals and objectives contained in Cornwall’s current (2014) Official Plan reflect the breadth of considerations that the planning process should address:

General

  • To preserve the unique rural/urban character of Cornwall.
  • To foster a civic environment which provides a sense of safety and stability while offering opportunities for human enrichment and economic growth.
  • To build a common sense of pride and ownership of the Town.
  • To encourage new, innovative and economical housing forms.

Social

  • To foster the creation and maintenance of a safe, efficient, stable and visually appealing residential environment.
  • To foster social interaction and healthy lifestyles for all residents of the Town.
  • To provide a range of housing opportunities to meet various socio-economic needs.
  • To place increased emphasis on the special needs of seniors, youth, and the mentally and physically challenged, including emphasis on care services, health programs, afford ability, inclusion, cultural diversity and accessibility.

Economic

  • To protect and enhance the long term viability of farming in the Town.
  • To create expanded opportunities for commercial and light industrial development in keeping with the Town’s development policy.
  • To increase the Town’s assessment base.
  • To maintain affordable and competitive property tax rates and utility rates for all Cornwall property owners.
  • To expand local employment opportunities.

Physical

  • To encourage the development and maintenance of safe and efficient pedestrian, cycling, public transit, vehicular and other circulation systems in the Town.
  • To encourage and act on opportunities to develop elements of a future Main Street (Jessie Street and Business Park to Meadowbank Road) along the current Trans Canada Highway.
  • To maintain cost-effective, high quality and environmentally sound central water supply and sanitary waste collection and treatment services which accommodate the present and future needs of the Town.
  • To manage storm water run-off in a safe and cost-effective manner.To establish a plan for future development which maximizes efficiency and minimizes land use conflicts.
  • To ensure an adequate supply of land to accommodate the projected needs of various land uses within the period of the Plan.
  • To establish a schedule of fees for permits and other services.

Environmental

  • To protect the quality and supply of groundwater and surface water resources in the Town.
  • To protect and enhance significant natural areas in the Town.
  • To create and maintain opportunities for our residents to experience nature first hand.

To deliver on these goals and objectives, furthermore, the Official Plan should coordinate the activities of municipal departments. It is a framework for municipal operations and a guide for prioritizing capital investments.

The scope of the Official Plan, in other words, is broad. Plan policies address nearly every aspect of the community. The Plan and Bylaw Review is an opportunity for residents and others with an interest in Cornwall to influence the direction of the community in terms of its size and growth, density, form, appearance, amenities, character, culture, and services. The revised Plan and Bylaw, once approved by the Province of PEI, will shape Cornwall for five years.

Our goal during Consultation Week is to gather as many concerns, ideas, and hopes as our contacts can identify for us. Tonight’s public meeting (Tuesday, June 11) beginning at 7:00 pm at the Cornwall Civic Centre is an opportunity to have a say. Watch this site for an article on its results and plan to attend tomorrow’s meeting at the Civic Centre to hear our response to the issues raised and have a second opportunity to build our list of issues to address.

The Main Issue?

The TransCanada Highway is being realigned to pass north of the Town of Cornwall. The current highway route doubles as Cornwall’s primary commercial roadway. Highway realignment is an opportunity to re-think the appearance and role of the street.

Changes to Cornwall’s Main Street as a result of the TransCanada Highway realignment project are a key issue to be addressed by the Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw review. Fortunately, the consulting firm Ekistics Planning and Design has studied the change in depth on behalf of the Town. In July 2018, as part of work commissioned by the Town, Ekistics held a business owners workshop and a public workshop, and interviewed a variety of stakeholders. They also conducted a public questionnaire survey. In October, they hosted an open house to present the draft plan.

The Main Street Plan is a substantial 122-page document that cannot be easily summarized here. The paragraph leading off the subsection titled “Guiding Vision & Principles,” (p. 72) however, gives a good overview of the Plan’s vision for a new Main Street that will:

… see it transformed from a fast-moving conduit for vehicles into a destination onto itself for walkers, vehicles and cyclists. This goal is in keeping with the Complete Streets goals which are now being implemented across North America in large cities and small towns. The vision is to make Main Street a sage corridor for most of transportation, to enhance the parks along its length creating destinations for residents and tourists, to create an integrated and complete open space network around the town and using Main Street as a backbone to the trail, and to significantly increase the housing options along the corridor.

Ekistics states that the residents they consulted envisioned a stronger commercial core better connected to parks and recreation facilities, and the Town’s Active Transportation network (i.e., trails and cycling paths). Among additional principles for redevelopment of the street, Ekistics emphasizes construction of new buildings on the street line, structures from 3 to 6 storeys high with commercial uses at the ground level, development of 600 residential units within 200 metres of Main Street, and development of an open space master plan for the town.

The plan is to shift Main Street from the highway commercial character encouraged by its role as a critical section of PEI’s main highway corridor to a more traditional downtown area frequented by pedestrians and cyclists, as well as automobile drivers from within the community. Storefronts abutting the sidewalk allow users of the street to see merchandise and services as they walk past stores. Mixing residential with commercial in the area will provide a strong base of customers for businesses. Creating a walkable street that many residents can live on or next to will be ideal for young adults and older residents who cannot afford or are unable to use a car, as well as for individuals of any age who want the convenience of living close to stores, services, and amenities within the town.

The Complete Streets concept referenced in the Main Street Plan vision is a new design approach aimed at restoring a more traditional balance among street users . It recognizes that the priority given to automobiles in street design has been excessive and equal consideration needs to be given to safe access for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. While Complete Streets accommodate automobiles, equal consideration is given to provisions for pedestrians and bicyclists, to transit stops, and to safe street crossing. Argyle Street in Halifax, which Ekistics designed with assistance from Stantec on detailed design and construction is a good example of a completed Complete Street that has had a catalyzing effect on its community.

The key physical features of Ekistics’ Main Street Plan are illustrated by the their Framework Plan, which appears on pp. 74 and 75 of the document. The Framework Plan provides for densely developed shops and services designated as the “Mixed Use Commercial Core.” They plan also calls for the development of a bikeway to run the length of Main Street and continued improvement of recreation and community facilities that are already well-established in the corridor but, in some cases, are awkward to access because of  current restrictions on connecting roadways and driveways to the limited access highway.

A Cycleway runs through the western half of the Main Street area, which begins at the Terry Fox Centre, where the Eliot River Elementary School and Terry Fox Sports Complex provide an anchor for Active Transportation links, and incorporates the densely developed Mixed Use Village Core from which it continues to the Village Commons where new residential and commercial development will be built to complement the Town Hall and APM Centre.
The Cycleway continues through the eastern section of Main Street connecting to the Town’s current Industrial Park site, lands Ekistics has designate for future residential development, and an area for additional commercial development, including Big Box development near the causeway across the North River.

The plan is to shift Main Street from the highway commercial character encouraged by its role as a critical section of PEI’s main highway corridor to a more traditional downtown area frequented by pedestrians and cyclists, as well as automobile drivers. Storefronts abutting the sidewalk will allow users of the street to see merchandise and services as they walk. Mixing residential with commercial in the area will provide a strong base of customers for businesses. Creating a walkable street that many residents can live on or next to will be ideal for young adults and older residents who cannot afford or are unable to use a car, as well as for individuals of any age who want the convenience of living close to stores, services, and amenities within the town.

The initiatives in the Main Street Plan will be implemented through effort and investment from the Town and businesses. The Official Plan and Zoning and Subdivision Bylaw, however, provide the framework for these actions. Ekistics has helpfully provided a list of recommended Plan and Bylaw changes on pp. 108 to 111 of their Main Street Plan. Their recommendations are too detailed to reproduce here but the suggested changes to the Official Plan include designating a “Main Street growth corridor,” providing for a wider range of housing types, detailed specifications for new commercial structures, and developing an integrated transportation plan to facilitate all modes of transportation within the area. Proposed Bylaw amendments include renaming the current General Commercial Zone that applies to the existing TransCanada corridor as the Highway Commercial Zone to be applied to the new TransCanada alignment. For the new Main Street, Ekistics proposes a new Mixed Use Commercial Zone that will, among other things, prohibit parking between buildings and street sidewalks and buildings of only one-storey, while permitting structures up to six storeys high, except on properties abutting residential structures, which they recommend limiting to four storeys.

Ekistics’ sees a denser, taller, and more urbane streetscape. A critical objective of the current planning process will be to obtain public input on this concept before adopting the Plan and Bylaw modifications that Ekistics has recommended.

Time to Talk?

From Monday, June 10, through Thursday, June 13, Stantec and the Town of Cornwall will conduct what we call a “Community Plan Week” featuring public meetings on on Tuesday, June 11, and Wednesday, June 12, open to all interested members of the public.

The core of any planning process is public engagement. Successful plans address community interests and needs, and reflect the aspirations of residents. Determining the issues to be addressed and the objectives to pursue requires effective consultation of citizens.

Our consultation program will be multi-pronged but focused. Experience and best practices suggest stakeholders are diverse, have different interests and needs, and respond differently to various tools and techniques. We also believe strongly that there are benefits in rapid turnaround. It saves our time, minimizes the burden of consultation on citizens, and enhances the transparency of the planning process.

This website is one aspect of the process. It provides all residents who have Internet access with a single point to obtain information on the Official Plan and Subdivision and Zoning (Development) Bylaw process. We trust that it is providing an overview of the project and a one-stop source to find background information, read project announcements, and monitor project progress.

Direct consultation with the public is more critical though. From Monday, June 10, through Thursday, June 13, Stantec and the Town of Cornwall will conduct what we call a “Community Plan Week” in which Stantec’s consultant will meet with Cornwall Town Council and the public. Meetings and events during the four-day week are planned to unfold as follows:

Monday, June 10: Council Start-up and Consultation

  • Meeting with the Town Council to discuss:
    • How has the current (2014) Official Plan worked?
    • What priorities should be taken into account in addition to adaptation of the current TransCanada Highway corridor?
    • Are there specific issues/challenges that have arisen under the current Official Plan that need to be addressed and corrected?
  • Expand preliminary list of issues

Tuesday, June 11: Issues Identification

  • Daytime Research
    • Consultants interview Town of Cornwall staff involved in development and delivery of recreation, public works, and other municipal services
    • Stakeholder Interviews with individuals identified to Stantec by the Town and/or who indicate an interest in meeting with Stantec’s consultant
  • Evening Community Meeting 1
    • Present display materials summarizing the Plan and Bylaw Review process and issues it may address
    • Formal presentation by Stantec on the Review process and issues of interest
    • Community input (ideas, comments, and questions from community members attending)

Wednesday, June 12: Community Review

  • Stantec to summarize issues identified through Community Meeting 1 and propose potential changes to the Official Pan and Bylaw to respond
  • Post summary online
  • Evening Community Meeting 2
    • Stantec to present summary of input received through Community Meeting 1
    • Review and discuss proposed amendments, hear suggestions for additional amendments if any
    • Identify additional issues that may not have been raised at Community Meeting 1.

Thursday, June 13: Report to Council

  • Prepare summary of potential amendments to Official Plan, and Zoning and Subdivision (Development) Control Bylaw
  • Review with Town staff and make any necessary adjustments
  • Present summary of proposed amendments to the Official Plan, and Zoning and Subdivision Control Bylaw to Council.
Display materials will be provided to explain the Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw Review process and provide information concerning some of the leading issues it may address .

During our four days in Cornwall, we look forward to building on our current research into the Cornwall’s growth and development. As our previous post demonstrates, we have taken a good look at the Town’s demographic and housing trends. Our next post will deal with research completed by Ekistics concerning the potential transformation of Main Street made possible by the re-routing of the TransCanada Highway.

During the Community Plan Week, we will look forward to interviewing community leaders and influencers, and exchanging ideas with all interested citizens concerning the challenges facing Cornwall and the opportunities to make it a better place to live and work. In addition to demographic change and the critical implications of the new highway route, community members may want to share experiences with improvements to their own homes or businesses, the development of their neighbourhoods, the performance of Town services, and the availability of opportunities such as recreation services and programs.

The scope of the Official Plan and the Zoning and Subdivision (Development) Bylaw is broad. The two documents govern all aspects of development in Cornwall including the overall vision for the town’s future. Community Plan Week is a focused opportunity to express concerns and advocate ideas. By the end of the week, we expect to have a good handle on leading issues to be addressed by the Plan and Bylaw Review.

We will use that information as the basis for re-drafting the documents over the summer. As our Events page indicates our intention is to have draft Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw documents ready to present to the public and Cornwall Town Council in September. At that point, we expect to have further meetings and consultations to assess the proposed documents leading into their formal consideration for approval by Town Council.

How’s Cornwall Doing?

The Town of Cornwall was created in 1995 through the amalgamation of the incorporated communities of Cornwall, Eliot River, and North River. The year after amalgamation, the Census of Canada found 4,291 residents in the new town, up 5.9% from the combined population of the separate municipal units at the preceding census in 1991.

The town has continued to grow steadily since. Population grew by 2.9% immediately after amalgamation to 2001. From 2001 to 2006 it again increase by 5.9% and between 2006 and 2011 it surged by 10.5%. The rate of increase dropped, however, between 2011 and 2016 to 3.6%. Stantec projected the populations for 2021 to 2036 shown in the following figure. The projection, which is based on continuation of trends experienced during the 2001 to 2016 period, suggests Cornwall will continue to grow but at declining rates, until its population falls back slightly at the end of the period between 2031 and 2036. 

Cornwall’s population growth has kept pace with the overall growth of Queens County

As the figure also illustrates, changes in Queens County have shaped Cornwall’s population growth. The town’s steady growth closely tracks the overall increase in the county. The town has increased its share of population in the county slightly, going from 6.2% in 2001 to 6.5% in 2016. We expect it will continue to grow at a very similar pace to Queens County, although we anticipate the county will continue to grow modestly through 2036.

Like most Canadian communities, Cornwall has an aging population. The number of children is decreasing while the senior population is increasing dramatically

A key reason that we expect the rate of population growth in both Queens and Cornwall to decline is the aging local population. This is the most common reason for population decline across Canada and is much more influential in rural areas than in towns like Cornwall. Nevertheless, we can expect the number of children in Cornwall to decrease in the future and the number of elderly residents to increase steadily. Not only will this eventually lead to fewer residents, it will have immediate effects on many features of the town such as school enrollments and participation in certain types of recreation activities. It may also create pressures for more suitable housing types for senior residents, and additional development to ensure the population base required to support existing infrastructure.

The shift in housing demand is already apparent.  The number of housing units in Cornwall classified as “Other Attached” (i.e., low-rise apartments, duplex and semi units, rowhouses) increased by 145 (38.5% or from 20.5% to 25.6% of the town’s housing stock) between 2011 and 2016. We anticipate continued additions of these units to the community.

The number of attached housing units in Cornwall increased dramatically between 2011 and 2016

We are however limited in our ability to project future local housing demand because the lack of historical housing data of the type shown in the table to the left from which to estimate trends. Data suggest that older residents are more interested in apartments and attached units but the tendency may not be fully expressed in a community like Cornwall where these types of units have note been available in the past.

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