Defining Our Place and Space … Choices and Constraints

Whether it is by choice or constraint, we ultimately define what type of community we call home. There are three sets of questions one needs to contemplate when reflecting on past choices, and current and future constraints for their community.

The first set of questions deals with the past choices and/or constraints, that is, why are you here in the first place? Were you born here? Did you move here? Why did you move here? Was it the cost of housing? Was it the community atmosphere? Was it speculation on housing? Was it affordable?

The second set of questions deals with the present constraints. What do you value in your community? What do you need or what would you like to have? An elementary school? Highschool? Sidewalks? Community security? Playground? Regular road clearing? More community events?

The final question set deals with future constraints. What are you prepared to do or give up in order to have the items that you need or would like to see? Would you be prepared to pay more tax? Volunteer your time? Donate money? Become more involved in community organizations? etc.

Upon closer examination of the above three questions, citizens of Langdon need to find the common answers which will allow us to define this place and space we call home. Although it may be a lofty exercise to contemplate and define the world we live in, it is a necessary exercise so that we understand what we like about our community and what we do not like, what we are prepared to change, and what we are prepared to live without.

A solid, well-established area structure plan provides our community a written guide of our common wishes. It is important to ensure that the County and the Province are fully aware of and respect the community’s wishes despite facing the increasing pressures of growth. For any community to grow, it needs more than just housing, it requires commerce. During the last five years, Langdon has seen a fair amount of commercial growth. We have seen some new businesses come and some old ones go, nonetheless, our commercial base is larger than five years ago.

Most of the new businesses that have opened in Langdon have been micro businesses, that is, employing less than 5 employees. While our commercial base consists of only micro and small businesses, defined as 5-50 employees, it serves the convenience function for the citizens of Langdon. Several dining establishments, a couple of gas stations, a garage, a car wash, a drug store, a convenience store, a pet store, a dollar store, a coffee shop, a bakery, and others provide the necessary services for newcomers to relocate and call Langdon home.

Housing has also increased in the community over the last five years, albeit with a small hiatus during the last two years due to the economic downturn. There have been a number of new developments proposed, and projects commenced, namely, Langdon Meadows, Railway Close, Langdon Estates, Leland Business Park, and Hamilton Place. Most developments have followed the current area structure plan, while others have applied and received approval to develop differently than what was intended by the area structure plan. Currently, in Langdon, we have single-family housing, multi-family housing, row housing, duplexes, 1/4 acre lots, 1/2 acre lots, and <1/4 acre lots. The main street has seen a reduction in housing and an increase in commercial properties.

As a member of any community, we must make a trade-off between space v. service. The more services you want, the less space you can have. Services and space are inversely related. To offer the community more services on a cost-effective basis, it is important to limit space. The larger and more space you have or want, the less cost-effective it is to provide the small level of services as it is in a smaller area. However, if you choose to trade off space then you will have access to services.

Unfortunately, if you do not trade-off space and want services, then you usually will need to pay more. So what is the optimal service-space choice for people living in Langdon? What is the balance we want in Langdon between a small community with plenty of space and limited services to a large community with limited space and many services?

For example, suppose each of us lived in a 400 sq ft apartment with 100 apartments per block. One block would be 40,000 sqft (a good-sized warehouse). The cost to deliver services to that one block is much less than if we all live in the same 100 but in separate 400 sq ft houses. The economic fact is that the less space and the more people, the more cost-effective services become and the more likely specialty services and businesses can survive.

To value space over services is the same as valuing privacy over the community. Living on a secluded farm in rural Alberta, the services that you have are limited and can prove to be quite expensive (telephone, power, internet, water, sewer, etc.) in comparison to living in a condo unit in downtown Calgary. If your lifestyle and choice of activity call for privacy and space, then your choice will be reflected as you will choose to live in an open place and value your space and privacy over services and a large community. On the other hand, if your choice of lifestyle and activity requires a large community and an abundance of services, then your choice will be to live in a highly-populated community with limited space and an abundance of convenient services.

By using this framework, we can explore and perhaps start to answer the three questions: why are we here? What do we value? What do we want and/or need? Perhaps most importantly, what are we prepared to give up or do to have it?