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The town next door


Dear Leader
Staff member
You've all heard me talk about the built environment and commercial mix along the major traffic corridor in "the town next door." The environment over there may have an imapct on what's built in the small, mostly undeveloped town where I work; I mention it in this thread.

I've described what I politely call a "mechanical commercial" strip. However, I thought you might be interested in seeing the corridor in the legendary "town next door." The following aren't examples of the worst of that strip ... it's typical development a few miles from the town where I work.

Is it possible, even with very strict architectural regulations, to have a nice commercial area along the same street as this, or is our destiny something that isn't so desirable? The planners in that town are quite aware of the situation, and they're struggling to fix things. Short of tearing it all out and starting from scratch, can such a strip turn around?

(For those outside of the United States and Canada, a disclaimer -- this isn't typical North American suburbia. Every metro area, however, seems to have corridor where all the "heavy commercial" uses are concentrated -- RV dealers, industrial truck dealers, heavy equipment rental, and so on. Such areas are usually the most "aesthetically challenged" parts of the region, except in the most progressive municipalities.)


Oooh! Pretty! Makes me want to move there.

Well, We have some separation between us and the next towns over (7-8 miles east or west) so it may not be a great comparison. But I think we have done a much better job in recent years of demanding a higher standard with regard to building design, parking lots, landscaping and signage. They still seem to allow what we would have, say, five years ago. We've heard a lot of complaints from some some of the people, but others have been willing, and eaven favorable to doing a better job. The issue seems to be consistency. "As long as the next guy has to follow the same rules." Residents have been very positive in their assessment of the higher standards.

So I guess the approach I would use is to get the community and plan board to decide on some standards. When one of these uses comes along, tell them "We are City A, not City B. You are welcome to come to our community, but don't expect to get approval for what they are building over there. You need to meet our standards."

One of the things we have done is to meet with developers at the start of a project, whether just a commercial lot or a subdivision. We tell them what to expect, critique, and suggest changes to the plans. Sometimes this will go on for several meetings. The result, though, is that by the time it gets to the plan board it can usually be accepted with little objection.


Dan, you are lucky that your council and some residents don't want the "town next door" to be the lot next door.

Where I live and work the community wants this type of development as many think it shows prosperity and will attract people to live here.

Ah, the #########, 20 years behind the times and proud of it.

Names have been changed to protect both the guilty (#########) and the innocent (me).


I admit that some of those uses have to go somewhere and if the market demands....

But boy what a little landscaping and sign regulation could do.


And further...

Michael Stumpf wrote:
When one of these uses comes along, tell them "We are City A, not City B. You are welcome to come to our community, but don't expect to get approval for what they are building over there. You need to meet our standards."

I used to tell them, "Well, we were planning on annexing that area, but we didn't have a large enough supply of flamethrowers and dynamite."


Hey Donk, it must be a Canadian thing - to aspire to be like the giant elephant to the south.

Our town (in southern Alberta) views this (and any development, for that matter) as desirable. Shouts of "Bring it on!!!" & "Can't stand in the way of progress!!! " are echoed daily in the hallowed chambers of council.

It does make for relatively easy development permit approvals - little time wasted on good design, landscaping, signage, or pesky aesthetics.

We are fast on the road to creating our own Worst Street.

On the up side - subtle cues suggesting what might be - placed strategically in front of the decision-makers is starting to make inroads.

Educate, Educate, Educate. In fact, I think I'll leave a few of Dan's pictures lying about.

Repo Man

Yikes...I really enjoyed the RV Dinosaur!

I would say start small. Get the coucil to change the sign ordinance. That will improve it greatly over time. The place I work enacted a new sign ordinance in 1991 with a 10-year grandfather period. The results are amazing. It took 10 years, but looking at the old pictures compared to the new ones, the change is dramatic. The process speeds up if there is high business turnover in the area. Landscaping regs. could also go a long way...curb and gutter too.

If I can get the before and after pics, I will post them.