Council releases first draft of municipal plan
It’s still a work in progress, but the first draft of a document meant to shape the city of St. John’s was presented to council Wednesday night.
It’s the first municipal plan in 30 years and the most comprehensive document many, if not all, of the current councillors have been a part of.
Coun. Tom Hann, who was integral in making the plan and presented it to council, called it a blueprint for the future. As councillors, he said, they ask what kind of a city they live in and what kind of city the people of St. John’s want.
“I believe this article reflects their ideals.”
Hann didn’t dance around the fact that the document had its challenges.
With St. John’s experiencing unprecedented construction and growth, and yet wanting to hold onto the historical integrity it has, a balance had to be struck, he said.
“Residents want a balance to protect the heritage with appropriate new development, and that’s not a very simple task,” Hann said.
“There’s recognition and respect of the character and the form of existing neighbourhoods and strong regulation and guidelines for the development of neighbourhoods.”
With so many new houses and neighbourhoods going up around the city, Hann recognized how much weight that section of the municipal plan carries.
“Perhaps the most potentially influential section of the document is called quality urban design,” he said.
In listening to what the people want, Hann reflected that residents envision a diverse, accessible, progressive city that leads to healthier living. They’re concerned about urban sprawl and increased density and want amenities, as well as necessities, close by. The municipal plan aims to address the wants and desires of the people while also realizing that sacrifices have to made, Hann said.
While several councillors spoke at the meeting to praise the document — Coun. Bruce Tilley said it was an excellent plan that looked to the future — Coun. David Lane spoke about the importance of using it wisely now that it was on the way to being finished.
“It’s a very broad plan and what it does is it sets principles that we can follow when making decisions,” Lane said. “We propose to develop urban design and guidelines to ensure we build fantastic, sustainable neighbourhoods.”
Implementation means using the plan well, Lane said, and he also complimented the people who put it together on having the forethought to put an implementation plan into the document.
Lane also spoke about the necessity of getting design right the first time. This municipal plan, he said, uses the land and waterways respectfully and optimally.
“It uses the environment as its foundation.”
But what was presented Wednesday night is not a finished product.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” Hann said, adding it would be 2015 before the finalized document was sent to the provincial government for approval.
Over the summer, the document will be online for the public’s input on the first draft. In the fall, there will be a number of information sessions held.
Hann also said that along with the new ideas, there would be some policies from the last municipal plan that still made sense for the city and would be carried over into the new document.