Moncton plans to hold public consultations starting this fall about what kind of development to allow across a broad area covering the northern portion of the municipality.
Consultants hired by the city to prepare a new plan for the Vision Lands offered council an update Tuesday evening on their work.
The Vision Lands cover an undeveloped area of about 1,400 acres of mostly privately owned land between the Trans-Canada Highway and Wheeler Boulevard.
Jim Scott with Trace Planning & Design said online and in-person consultations will take place in the coming months to gather input on types of housing, recreational facilities and park space.
“If we’re designing a community, we want to design in the residents’ eyes what is the most fascinating type of community and something that residents can really get behind and really support,” Scott said during the council meeting Tuesday.
The work is part of an update of a document that forms part of the city’s municipal plan, something that guides what’s allowed to be built and where it can be built.
Much of the Vision Lands area is zoned for low-density dwellings. A staff report to council says that housing demand, the cost associated with the geography and required infrastructure mean landowners generally don’t want to develop it under existing zoning.
“Furthermore, it is not in the interest of the city to develop these lands under the current zoning as this will not allow for the mix and densities of development required to support transit and active modes of transportation,” the report says.
The Vision Lands have previously been described by city staff as one of the last areas prime for development within city limits. However, several residents over the years spoken at council meetings urging the city to protect swaths of the Vision Lands, which include wetlands and waterways.
Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold and Coun. Daniel Bourgeois have called for parts of the Vision Lands to become a new park. Scott’s work includes looking at that idea, but he said the size of the park will be part of community consultations.
“I think in our early discussions with everybody, it’s not going to take the form of a single large area,” Scott said when asked by reporters about the scale of a park.
“It’s probably going to be something with the core environmental value to it, and with fingers that bleed out into the community. So, trail systems and stormwater management systems can be combined as part of the natural environment series of corridors.”
The planning process is being carried out with input from the private property owners, councillors were told.
Coun. Bryan Butler asked whether the consultants are staying on top of who owns the land.
Several large parcels in the Vision Lands have been listed for sale in recent months. A listing for a parcel with a price tag of $8.7 million says the buyer would have the chance to be part of a transformative project that would leave a lasting impact on Moncton’s urban landscape.
Scott told Butler they’re in almost daily contact with the present owners and that it’s inevitable land will change hands.
Planning work to continue in 2024
But the point of the planning underway is to make sure there’s an overall vision of how the parcels develop and link together, he said.
“There’s probably going to be flexibility on residential types and residential densities to some degree,” Scott said.
“But making sure that the transportation networks, the servicing requirements, the park pieces, trails, stormwater management processes and climate change modelling that’s built into the site has to stay as institutionalized in the municipal plan.”
The planning process is expected to continue over the coming year before a recommendation goes to city council for approval.