Will new Hamilton townhouses in Wakefield, QC be green?

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by admin on September 2, 2009

By Gary Martin

Re: Mark Burgess’ Aug. 26 article about the old Hamilton Motors property in Wakefield.

First, I understand that the McGarry family has a long history of community involvement in the area. Further, I commend Brian McGarry for planning townhouses on the site. Denser development is easier to service with water and sewers and better for getting people out of their cars. The old Hamilton site is also “brownfield” development, a term that refers to abandoned industrial land that may be contaminated. It makes the initial costs more expensive, but it is good urban planning to clean up Hamilton’s and use it. As gas prices climb back up, people (like my sweetie and I) who live in the boondocks and would one day like to live in the village, are watching this with great interest.

I have some questions though. The photo shows a large excavator knocking down what I thought was a perfectly sound structure. Was the “wreckage” trucked off to an over-flowing landfill? There are dozens of people in the area who are expert salvagers and who would have been delighted to dismantle the building for a fraction of the cost of landfilling it. With a few advertisements and a week of extra insurance on the property, Mr. McGarry could have saved perhaps thousands of dollars.

Equally importantly, useable construction material was mangled, trucked somewhere and dumped. Now new material must be made to replace it. At each step, carbon and other pollutants were released into the atmosphere. Building and buildings are the single largest contributer to climate change. I invite Mr. McGarry and the Municipality of La Peche to consider this uncomfortable fact very carefully as you plan and build new developments. Please explore more sustainable practices.

Burgess’ article says that Mr. McGarry’s plans are to build “six to eight townhouses,” and “he’s considering having some commercial use on the main levels.” Burgess quotes Mr. McGarry as saying “…we’ll build some units, put up a sign, see what the interest is and continue as demand warrants.” Then Burgess remarks that “the sale is still conditional upon it [the site] passing environmental inspections.” A little later Burgess quotes Clarence Hamilton saying “other offers for the property had been rejected because they didn’t fit the village picture.” Finally, Burgess writes that Mr. McGarry has had positive feedback from the municipality about the development, and that Mr. McGarry claims that it “will be a pleasant addition to the village.”

First, does Mr. McGarry actually own this property? If the sale is contingent upon an environmental assessment, who OK’ed the demolition of the existing building? Second, does Mr. McGarry have a plan? And has the plan been approved by the municipality, a body that is currently developing a new PPU? Seems to me the municipality and the village might be interested in seeing firm plans for a large, prime and very conspicuous piece of property in the centre of the village. After all, Wakefielders are fussy about who builds what where, and the McGarries have a history of openness and community spirit. My bottom line is that we as builders of buildings and communities must consider the environment, and the people in that environment, in all aspects of urban planning.

Gary Martin is a student of green building living in Masham.