Charting our course

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.

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About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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2 Comments on “Charting our course”

  1. dstm Says:

    To The Mayor (and city staff)
    It must be incredible frustrating to deal with dissenting individuals/groups who come out of the woodwork at the last minute and claim “nobody told me”
    I see this phenomenon repeatedly and I wonder if anything can be done that is realistic.
    Could we have a city staff member visit each and every household and grab the householder by the collar and while shaking them say..”do you know about ‘x’ and a decision on ‘x’ will be made next week. Well no. But assault / intimidation charges aside it seems that is what it would take to respond to the “nobody told me” malaise.

    Seems to me listening to the Council meeting on Tues we have a case in point. The river advisory cte (seemingly) has had lots (adequate) warning that the issue was coming and by its own minutes / agenda has chosen to invoke the “nobody told me” defense accompanied by singing and dancing outside city hall.
    Granted the OPA 39 and 42 and 48 (???) is confusing but naively i assumed the river cte was informed (process-wise) and politically as well as environmentally astute. My bad…apparently.
    Forgive me but I can’t help being a tad cynical / skeptical here.
    I Know the basis behind the “nobody told me” plea but it seems this particular assault on city process (and that is what it is) has to be politically motivated by J Gordon and the NDP to further their profile as 1) opposition to anything 2) guardians of all thing “good”.
    Well on Tuesday I saw our Mayor and city staff defend the process with clarity and alacrity.
    Also saw them (Mayor and staff) wasting a tremendous amount of time and energy defending their decision from gratuitous, thoughtless and lazy argument posed by a few individuals only interested in partisan (Yes NDP) self interest .
    Thank you Mayor and Counsel (at some of you) for standing steadfastly for process and principle.

  2. Dave Sills Says:

    It is really disappointing to see someone so against the idea of citizens participating in their local democratic government.

    Just to correct a couple of errors and misleading statements:

    1) I’m not sure who was saying ‘nobody told me’ at the last minute, as you say. The initial meeting that led to the Living Rivers and Greenways Action Group was back in mid April. There was a realization at that time, and for some long before, that there were potential problems with OPA 48. Staff were contacted, letters to the editor were written, councillors were contacted. It all came to a head at the June 5th Council meeting. I suppose if you weren’t paying attention it might seem that concerned citizens came out of the woodwork on June 5th, but that is not the case.

    2) I believe that City staff are responsible for adding items to the agenda of committees like the River Systems Advisory Committee. For some reason, staff chose not to put OPA 48 on the RSAC’s very busy agenda. There has to be some responsibility on the part of staff and Council to brief and get feedback from the very committee that was assembled to provide important input on river systems policy. In my opinion, there was a clear breach of process and best practices here. Perhaps the Mayor could comment on why there was not a greater effort to brief and get comments from RSAC.

    3) It is the job of the Mayor and Council to thoroughly examine all staff recommendations, and it is the job of staff to respond to concerns – if you believe this is a ‘waste of time’ then you do not understand how local government works.

    4) To call the concerns of citizens that took the time to present delegations to Council on June 5th ‘gratuitous, thoughtless and lazy argument’ is just plain silly. Did you actually listen to these delegations? Some delegates had spent many hours reviewing the proposed OP amendments. I dare say that they spent more time on this than some councillors. This was done in the greater interest of the community due to concerns about Guelph’s greatest natural asset – it’s river system. I’m surprised that the Mayor would allow such criticism of citizen input to pass unchallenged on her blog.

    I doubt I have changed your mind on any of this, but hopefully others reading this may see your comments in a different light.

    Dave Sills

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