Plotting the future

Dave Bartlett
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St. John's city skyline is shown from the St. John's harbour viewpoint. The city is looking for public input on planning through public consultations in the new year. Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

What do you want the city of St. John's to look like 10 years from now?

That's one of the questions people will be asked when the city starts holding public consultations about a new municipal plan in the new year.

At a city planning committee meeting last week, director of planning Cliff Johnston handed out a document that plots the steps needed before a new plan can be developed and adopted. There's also a timeline to make sure the process stays on track.

Johnston cautioned councillors at the meeting the plan must be completed within 18 months or risk losing the momentum garnered from the public meetings, which should begin in late January or early February.

While the provincial Urban and Rural Planning Act requires a municipality to hold public consultations when developing a new plan, all councillors at last week's meeting stressed the process needs to be as transparent, open and inclusive to the public as possible.

According to the document Johnston presented, a municipal plan is council's "officially adopted set of policies on how land in a community should be used and developed."

The framework document says a plan deals with zoning, where new services such as roads and water mains need to be built to accommodate growth, which parts of the city will grow before others, and provide a legal basis for zoning regulations such as lot size and building height restrictions.

Johnston said much of the empirical information the city needs to start work on the plan is already available, and the review can be largely conducted in-house.

The first step is for staff to write a background report which would be completed early in the new year and be made available to the public before consultations begin.

While that's going on, an advisory group will be formed to co-ordinate the rest of the process.

Johnston recommended the advisory committee be five to seven members and include representation from the business community, community groups, the construction industry, Memorial University, housing advocates and general citizens.

Many wanted to expand that group to include a voice for youth, seniors, those with disabilities and the arts community, among others.

But Johnston cautioned against making the advisory group too large so it stays on focus.

In late January, the city plans to hold a mayor's symposium to introduce the current municipal plan and outline the rest of the process towards a new one.

From February to May of next year, a number of additional public forums will be held on city-wide issues, as well as several neighbourhood specific forums to deal with issues specific to areas of the city.

Some of these neighbourhood meetings will be based on current ward boundaries, while other areas such as the downtown will have a dedicated meeting.

The city also plans to use social media to engage people who can't or don't want to come to public meetings to get as much input from people as possible.

A draft of the new plan will then be compiled by city staff over next summer, with more public meetings to discuss that draft scheduled for September and October 2012.

A final draft should be completed before next Christmas.

The provincial Department of Municipal Affairs will then weigh in on the plan in early 2013 and once it gives the green light, council will the vote to adopt the draft plan.

From there, an independent commissioner will conduct a final public meeting and prepare a report on people's opinions and possible concerns.

The commissioner will then write and present a report to council before it takes a final vote to adopt the new municipal plan. That should happen in March or April 2013.

While provincial regulations state a town or city must review its municipal plan every five years, St. John's defered its review of the 2003 plan in March 2008 until the province had completed its regional plan for the Northeast Avalon.

However, council voted in May of this year to rescind that decision and to begin work on a new plan, as it's still unclear when the province will complete its regional plan.

Organizations: Department of Municipal Affairs

Geographic location: St. John's, Northeast Avalon

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Recent comments

  • Tman
    November 22, 2011 - 05:04

    St John's could look something like San Francisco, with a mix of modern, award winning architecture and heritage homes and buildings. But then it would take intelligence to plan.

  • Ray
    November 21, 2011 - 21:24

    Noone can talk!! You keep voting the same council. What a JOKE!!!

  • mj
    November 21, 2011 - 12:10

    Clear the sidewalks!

  • Jason
    November 21, 2011 - 10:12

    People should be more interested in municipal politics and developing a St. John's that is a better place to live for everyone - in particular with more affordable housing, better public transit and city services. Unfortunately, stories about crime will probably get more attention from the general public.

  • Joe B.
    November 21, 2011 - 09:39

    It is scary to see the city delay the development of the new municipal plan in 2008. We are in such a mess. Then to learn that this new plan will not be ready until sometime in 2013. This is indicative of how inept this current council really is and as a result we as tax payers are suffering. We have lost significant development projects downtown because of heritage and dinasaur thinking only to have our taxes continue to climb and our services and infrastructure fall down. Big projects and big coporate taxes would help but this crowd is too busy daying nay to progress becasue of height restrictions. If you want to view the city go to Signal Hill. The South Side Hills need to be cleaned up. get rid of the tank farm, build a bridge and roar to it and develope it. What a view from there, and height would not be an issue. Imagine hotels and office towers with a view of the city on one side and the ocean on the other. No though our crowd at city hall has no vision.

  • bman
    November 21, 2011 - 08:50

    Get rid of Duff, Oleary and the the rest of the backward thinkers and artsy fartsy crowd and maybe we might just have a city for the 21st century! It's time to move forward, If you want the city to look like a tv set of Coronation St, fine, move to Britain. This is St. John's in Canada, it's time to act like it.

    • W McLean
      November 21, 2011 - 12:36

      Similarly, if you want the city to look like Edmonton, fine, move to Edmonton. Right?

  • The Economist
    November 21, 2011 - 08:20

    I don't know if they would consider it part of this plan, but it would be nice if the St. John's Council would get it's debt under control before the Province has to take it over and start managing it like Avondale.

  • Turry from town
    November 21, 2011 - 08:15

    The city boundaries should expand to include Mt.Pearl and urban Paradise. They are not stand alone communities and depend on the infastructure of St.John's for their population to go to work in the city or pedal their wares to make a living.Residents of St.John's are paying for the whole region.Enough is enough,amalgamate and move on,or toll the major roads leading into St.John's.

    • It will never happen
      November 21, 2011 - 11:29

      Visit Edmonton, Alberta and tell the communities of Leduc, Sherwood Park and St. Albert to do the same thing - amalgamate and you can probably count using the second hand on your watch just how fast you get a boot in the rear.

    • W McLean
      November 21, 2011 - 13:29

      IWNH, the current city of Edmonton itself is the product of amalgamations of the original Edmonton with Strathcona, Calder, Beverly, Jasper Place, etc.

    • Nah
      November 22, 2011 - 07:24

      In response to Turdy, Amalgamation has been shown to be nothing more than a potential trainwreck for the outlying communities, just ask your city manager. Now go back to sleep.

  • Kent
    November 21, 2011 - 07:04

    I would like to see a little ore thought put unto street design. Stavanger Dr is a nightmare to get out of on Saturday afternoons. Also, many busy streets do not have right turning lanes and traffic needlessly backs up behind cars making right turns. Prince Philip Parkway is an example of this. There are right turns in the West-bound lanes near the MUN residences that should have their own right-turning lane on the Parkway. Instead traffic in a 70 km/hr zone is brought tot a stand-still by people turning right. The section of the parkway between Allandale and the Clinche Crescent should have one long continuous right turn lane. Cars turning right onto to University Ave are also a hazard. Also the there is no left turn lane at the top of Allandale / Ridge Rd intersection. Traffic backs up behind people turning left to get tot he Outer Ring Rd, as well as those turning left to go down Allandale. I can't believe City planners could not have anticipated these problems.

  • Steve
    November 21, 2011 - 06:55

    The first change that is desperately needed for 30 years is a different City Council, starting with Shannie and her so-called 'Heritage Committee'. St. John's burned down about 100 years ago, 100 years is not heritage--especially with the firetraps and rat trap slum like conditions of a lot of Shannie's ideal St. John's.

    • Steve
      November 21, 2011 - 11:50

      Secondly, instead of building more subdivisions on top of fertile farmland and natural water drainage areas, build upwards until you get a handle on how to build. It seems that a lot (if not most) subdivisions are built with little to no consideration for water and sewage. Then there are the subdivisions literally built on bog land--people, caveat emptor, houses weigh a lot hence there is a natural settling of the base that occurs over the first few years. This settling is far more pronounced on softer ground, so think of where you're buying a house before you shell out $200.000 plus.