Last night, Guelph City Council approved the last of three phases of a comprehensive review of our official plan. The official plan guides decision making about the future development of our community.
The work took 5 years. Why so long? There has been an unprecedented amount of change in provincial planning legislation along with a remarkable of body of work that the City undertook over the last 5 to 10 years to fulfil a commitment to strong city building. The inspiration for the City’s work traces its roots back to the principles developed by the community during the SmartGuelph consultation in 2002.
At the heart of the official plan is the concept of sustainability.
There is no easy blueprint for sustainability and the growth of populations around the world, coupled with our collective consumption of resources, continues to threaten the sustainability of the planet.
However, in Guelph we are taking steps in the right direction.
The City invokes a comprehensive and inclusive approach to understanding sustainability. During the SmartGuelph consultations, we spoke frequently of the triple bottom line – recognizing environmental, economic and social pillars. In more recent years, culture has increasingly been added as a fourth pillar.
Today, the Community Wellbeing Initiative contemplates eight domains that offer a further evolution in our understanding of sustainability and what it might mean to be a well and resilient community.
Our official plan reflects this approach to sustainability. As a consequence, it addresses such things as environmental protection (e.g. water, energy, biodiversity, and natural areas), employment lands, social housing and the protection of heritage and more.
The new official plan does not fix us. It is, at the end of the day, a land use planning tool. It does not fix the planet and we still have much to learn to fulfil our aspirations to be a sustainable urban centre.
Yet city staff have done a remarkable job to bring us to this point in our history as a community. Staff in Planning Services have led the initiative but it has engaged many service areas whether it was Transit Services and the Transit Growth Strategy, Community and Social Services and the Parks, Recreation and Culture Master Plan, or Engineering, Water and Waste Water Services and the many infrastructure master plans that were completed. It was an integrated team effort and the results show for Guelph.