Last night at Public Planning council had before us close to 500 pages of what are known as the discussion papers on themed focused areas for the Official Plan review.
As I said at the table, our Official Plan is the most important document that our – or any – municipality has. It sets out the terms by which we can protect our environment, protect our heritage, and protect our rights as a municipality to ensure that we develop our Town in a way that meets the expectations and overall vision for our community.
There’s a lot work left to go in developing our OP update; last nights discussion was just the first in a series of presentations, public meetings, and Council discussions. Given its importance as a forward planning tool, it is imperative that we as a Town develop the policies within the OP that will speak to the issues that we, as a community, feel are important to us all.
As residents know, when it comes to growth, the Province has mandated growth targets for each Region, and in turn, the Region has growth targets for each municipality. To ensure our community is not faced with overdevelopment, we need to implement policy measures within our OP – including the maintenance of our height restrictions – that enable us to better ensure that whatever growth that occurs is appropriate for our community.
The environment is another area that is very important to our Town; from protecting our green space to increasing our tree canopy, the OP process is an opportunity for the Town to set policies that will allow us to have better mechanisms to protect our environment and natural heritage.
Similarly, the protection of our built heritage has always been significant to our residents and business owners. Any policy updates we make should include the tools necessary to ensure the ongoing protection of heritage in Aurora.
The update of our Official Plan is not like other town policy updates; it’s not a tweak here or there. This policy document outlines the framework that will set the stage for planning in our town from 2021 to 2051.
We need to take time to do this right. We need to develop a balanced approach to growth planning. A strong, well thought-out Official Plan, that clearly sets the terms and conditions for planning in Aurora, better positions our municipality to defend our vision for our community against the inevitable challenges we will face through appeals. (I will save the discussion about appeals and the Ontario Land Tribunal for another post)
The OP review process is a lengthy one; we don’t not expect to see approval until late 2022.
But I want to reiterate, this is exactly what we need to do. Take the time to do it right and ensure that at the end of this process, our Official Plan is a true reflection of our community’s vision for Aurora.