Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Finalizing Major Planning Elements

You will recall that last week I described some of the unprecedented infrastructure improvements that Pelham will enjoy over the next year.

This week, I would like to outline two of the major Planning elements we will complete over the next year.

Community Improvement Plan Designation & Design Guidelines:
While improving public infrastructure of a Downtown, what can a Town do to improve private elements like facades or signs? We can use a “Community Improvement Plan” (CIP) and Design Guidelines.

You see, under the Ontario Planning Act, a “CIP” allows a municipality to establish a certain geographic area that can receive special treatment. Focused on Fonthill’s and Fenwick’s Downtown cores, our Town’s special treatment might include grants or loans, an incremental tax increase plan, or exemptions.

For example, a municipality may offer matching grants (to a certain level) to businesses that fix-up their building façades. Or a Town may encourage improvements by exempting any Development Charges.

The Design Guidelines steer new developments or improvements to a certain vision. For example, should all the façades have a similar look-and-feel? What should be the long-term visions for the downtowns?

I understand from staff that you should expect a public meeting about the Community Improvement Plan in November, with a final report to Committee and Council in December/January. The Design Guidelines should come to Committee and Council in late November.

These policies should dramatically help to improve Pelham’s downtowns through partnerships and shared vision.

Official Plan:
Are you like my children’s dentist that loves playing SimCity? A computer program that starts off with empty land, SimCity allows you to build and position all public infrastructure like roads, hospitals, libraries, parks, power plants, and dumps. You can also designate housing, commercial, and industrial areas.

In real life, we build a Town through a planning document called an Official Plan (OP). The OP sets policies and locations for things like commercial development, agricultural lands, residential developments, and downtowns.

In process for several years, the Town last updated the OP in 1987. Over the last five years, however, Provincial and Regional policies (like the Greenbelt Plan, the Places to Grow Act, the Provincial Policy Statement, and the Regional Growth Plan) have impeded progress by dramatically changing the foundational rules.

I understand, however, that we are getting close to an updated Official Plan for Pelham; staff is planning a public meeting this fall and Council could enact a plan in early 2010.

These visionary planning documents will guide any and all future developments in Pelham.