What are the trends in development and land use?

From PlanSJ documentation: Saint John has a long development history rooted in ship building, trade, commerce and housing. What began as a compact and densely populated city, Saint John has become a large and sprawling municipality spread over some 315km2 Early land use policies were set out in the 1946 Master Plan of the Municipality of the City and County of Saint John, which focused on a variety of development issues including slum clearances and new housing, traffic circulation, industrial and commercial facilities, and municipal services and amenities. The Master Plan led to many of the City’s developments such as the Courtenay Bay Causeway and the Harbour Bridge.

The 1973 Comprehensive Community Plan provided an updated policy framework to help guide development and growth. The Plan anticipated a rapidly growing regional population that would reach about 265,000 by the end of the 20th century. In addition to continued improvements to infrastructure and municipal services and amenities, the Plan envisioned three major development centres concentrated in the central core and westerly and easterly parts of the City.

The last ten years has witnessed development plans that grew out of continued investment interest in the Uptown. Many recent projects to transform the City’s central waterfront have attempted to re-imagine some of the City’s industrial lands for new uses, including the Cruise Ship Terminal BUilding, the Lantic Sugar Refinery site and the former Coast Guard site, among others. In spite of the recent successes in the City’s Uptown, the pressures of residential and commercial decentralization continue.

Previous residential development policies encouraged the development of municipal services and discouraged the development of private well and septic systems. The City’s cost sharing program provided a grant to developers for piping material and installation. Other development policies supported development that increased the share of regional housing within the City’s boundaries. Many current practices offset the cost of providing municipal infrastructure resulting in low density residential sprawl.

There are no current residential policies that target the redevelopment or upgrading of existing built up areas. Programs were in place to encourage residential infill development, as well as encourage improvements to the upper floors of buildings in the urban core, but most were phased out by the mid- 1990s.

Since 1996, a total of 1,918 residential building permits have been issued. The majority of residential development (83%) continues to be single-family and semidetached dwellings. Some increases to row housing and apartment development have been seen over the decade. Hawever, in contrast to other communities, the proportion of permits issued for single-family dwelling development has dropped from a high of 95% (2004) to 89% (2008), reflecting the demographic shift to smaller households.

While comprising only 5% of the City’s land base, 42% of residents live in the urban core. Another 40% of the population lives in the City’s suburban neighbourhoods (which comprise 19% of the land base) and 18% live in rural settlement areas (which account for 76% of Saint John’s land base).

Land use designations vary greatly among each of the three subareas. Residential and mixed-use designations comprise almost 50% of lands in the urban core. Similarly, residential designations account for half of all lands in the suburban neighbourhoods, with low-density suburban/rural residential uses accounting for the single-largest land use designation in the subarea. The rural settlement areas, not surprisingly, are dominated by open space.

On the citywide level, land uses can be divided into the following categories: rural (27%); residential (26%); parks (22%); industrial, pits and quarries, transportation and utilities (22%); and business, commercial and mixed- use (3%). In terms of major land use categories, industrial uses make up approximately one-quarter of the City’s land base (although much of the designated industrial lands sit vacant). Another 25% of the land base is designated for rural uses, much of which is undeveloped.

Proportionally speaking, industrial designations are the most prevalent in the urban core at 28% of its land base. They constitute 17% and 22% of the suburban neighbourhoods and rural settlement areas respedively. Large discrepancies exist for lands designated for park space. Park lands comprise one quarter (24%) of the rural settlement areas, 17% of suburban neighbourhoods and only 8% of the urban core. Park lands in the urban core account for only 1.5% of all designated park space in the City, but are some of the most intensely used recreational spaces in the City.

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