Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Neighbourhood For Charleswood

Charleswood Forest Area - 23 Homes

The City's Favoured Option

Presently Forest and Dumping Ground
Charleswood is a strange neighbourhood with developed and undeveloped land scattered throughout. Some areas are sometimes reserved for future roads such as the lands along Haney Street. Other land is awkwardly situated or awaits a unique infill proposal or neighbourhood plan.

In and around Varsity View Community Club, many houses were constructed from around 1997 and for about ten plus years after into new subdivision Bloomer Crescent. Prior to building, the land was brush and fingers of forest extending into Charleswood.

While many deer roam the area, the land was and has been a dumping ground of trash. Walk down any one of the trails in and find an old sofa or lumber just strewn about. The dirty little secret of the brush areas in Charleswood is that they are often not just pristine forests and meadows but potential places to step on a nail.

At some point in a very dry season, we are going to lose a large section of forest and possibly homes as they fall to fire. The Assiniboine Forest was badly ravaged by a wind storm about five or six years ago. There is quite a lot of deadfall and leaves and the fingers extend into several neighbourhoods.  It is a disaster waiting to happen.

Now this doesn't mean we should pave the whole thing as a safety measure. However, it doesn't mean that every stand of trees needs to be a park.

Charleswood has always been a bit of a different bird with ditches and a lack of concrete roads. However, in recent years, there has been a move to improve older housing stock and to infill where possible. The density has increased incrementally.

For those drivers commuting down Laxdal Road between Roblin and Grant, there has been some new developments. A very tiny bungalow near Varsity View Community Club was torn down. There are still many 1940s and 1950s houses scattered around the neighbourhood, some with no basements and with little prospect save for developing the land. It is hard to believe that some of them are even still standing.

Laxdal Road, knocked down and ready for a house
It is the rare occasion that you see something salvageable from some of these houses as many didn't even seem built to a particular code. One house on Elmhurst was lovingly restored but it was a long process and appeared driven by passion of the work rather than sound economics.

However, back to Laxdal Road...it is a very well used street for a variety of reasons. The corner of Laxdal and Grant has a traffic light and is home to Royal Elementary School, Charleswood Shopping Centre, a bus park and ride and a number of daycares. It is a busy place and drivers use it to move from Roblin to Grant and vice versa.

In addition to the tiny bungalow knocked down this past summer, we have seen a zoning sign go up on the west side of Laxdal between Parkin and Grant. It has already been vandalized so it might not be clear what is going up. I am here to report it is 23 or 24 homes between Bramble Drive and Laxdal Road.

From the air it looks like this:

Scrub forest between Bramble and Laxdal
I have walked through these woods many a time and emerged at Geraldine off of Bramble. The houses on Bramble were built all through the 1980s.

At some point, it was probably planned for houses in the area between as Geradine dead ends right at the forest.

City officials have okayed one of the plans presented by the developer. It is for two roads accessing the some infill development. Geraldine Drive would pass from Bramble to Laxdal Road giving fire and emergency vehicles two points of entry and exit.

Now, I am in favour of the development. I see no reason to preserve this particular isolated area of forest. It has been a dumping ground for decades, the trails are not particularly noteworthy and it is not connected to Assiniboine Forest save for the deer who roam the streets around Varsity View taking particular delight in gardens.

To be frank, we have enough on our hands preserving the bulk of Assiniboine Forest. It is 287 acres of mainly aspen trees with various extension of wood and brush beyond that. There are few places anywhere in the world that have incorporated an urban forest in their city.

The city is not losing precious green space approving this deal. It is gaining density (albeit just a little bit with bungalows) and a new tax base from land that sat fallow.

Royal School's future is more solid with families choosing to live nearby. The bus route on Grant will be better used with students using it to travel to nearby junior and high schools.

It is a good use of the land.

I have no idea what the houses will look like. Suffice to say that it is difficult to find character homes without a lot of money having to be spent. Let's hope they are attractive in their own way due to the people living in them.

My only concern will be traffic. My personal view is that if Geraldine goes through from Laxdal to Bramble that many people will use Laxdal as an entry and exit route to the homes beyond Bramble.

Why? Well, the reason is the traffic lights. It is easier to turn at the lights than it is at Bramble where a bus might be in the curb lane near the school or a car is tailgating you. I see driver's making the choice to just turn on the street with the light.

The city may have to deal with  a lot more traffic on the street and a line up of cars turning left onto Geraldine.

Still, this is not enough to say no to this deal. I say go ahead with it but remember to follow up with the driver habits that may follow.


Anonymous said...

An infill development was planned for the same area in the 1990s but was rejected due to NIMBYism. Proposal and rejection is lurking around the city website somewhere.

Anonymous said...

When are Lots going on Sale?

Anonymous said...

Clearly John is not from Charleswood and does not know or has experienced its beauty.Many people who live in this neighborhood will tell you how nice it is to walk about and have all this open land that is not tarnished but filling it sub-division homes that are built fast and not well made. The fact that they want to put those kinds of homes in Charleswood is garbage. I enjoy having the wildlife in my neighborhood and I believe that using that land to built homes will take away from what makes Charleswood, Charleswood. The last thing anyone wants is for Charleswood to look like linden woods.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I lived on Batchelor Avenue just north of Geraldine Crescent back in the 1970's. The reason why we and other homeowners in the area rejected an infill development back then, was because the NDP government at that time wanted to build a Manitoba Housing development. It was felt that a Manitoba Housing development was not in keeping with the single family dwellings in the area.