Some comments on the draft OP

The town has presented a draft Official Plan (OP) and is asking for comments on it (staff report P2022-23, July 11, 2022). The province requires all municipalities to review OPs every five years and to open them for public viewing and comments, so this is part of a legislated process all councils must follow.

You can read more about our draft OP on the town’s “engage” website. OPs are long, complex, public documents meant to provide guidance on how the community grows and develops, mixed with direction on planning, zoning, conservation, traffic corridors, urban forest, streetscapes, and more. This OP is 143 pages long, but with the attached staff report, it comes to 160 pages. OPs change as the community grows, the demographics shift, and provincial and county legislation impacts them, and may even be amended through a public process between the five-year presentations.

The OP is not the only document that guides growth and change: there are other, more specific reports (such as transportation or water capacity studies) that provide detail to help shape the OP. But the OP (which has to conform to the county’s own growth plans) is the overarching document. I recommend that you download the PDF with the staff report and read it because it affects every resident. You can make comments on it until Aug. 17.

Here are some comments I have submitted to the town about the current draft OP.:

  • The staff report on the draft Official Plan (OP: staff report P2022-23) only mentions traffic calming four (4) times (pages 46, 67, 110, and 135). Appendix A to Report P2022-23 only mentions traffic calming four (4) times as well. These references are only in the most vague form, without any specifics or diagrams. For example, “Provide a well-connected internal road network designed to calm through traffic.” This does not explain what measures are contemplated or how such measures will be implemented, or where. Nor does the OP identify areas where traffic density or speeds are already problematic and should be addressed in priority with traffic calming methods (e.g. four-way stop signs instead of two-way).
  • The Collingwood Transportation Study Update (Aug. 2019) does not mention traffic calming even once. Nor does there appear to be any other document on the town’s website that specifically discusses a plan for traffic calming. Given the continued increase in traffic through town, projected to double within the decade, in particular in residential areas and on designated collector roads, this is a significant oversight.
  • Plans to encourage traffic through residential areas via widened and upgraded collector roads are the sort of vehicle-centric thinking that pervaded urban planning through to the 1980s. Modern thinking is pedestrian-centric, emphasizing walkability and alternate transportation, public spaces over parking spaces, slower speeds, and increased urban forest along boulevards. But the draft OP does not even mention preserving and maintaining trees along boulevards. In fact, the OP does not contain even a single reference to the boulevards which are so important to the town’s character and quality.
  • Boulevards are important for more than aesthetic reasons: they provide a safe barrier between pedestrians and traffic (especially important around schools); they encourage walking; they provide space for trees (thus reducing urban heat effects and providing shade during heat events); they provide space for snow storage in winter. Sixth Street is a prime example of poor, vehicle-centric design where a reduced boulevard on the north side causes problems in winter for snow storage (residents have complained that plows speeding by often throw snow from the road onto the sidewalk and their lawns and even porches).
  • The OP’s section on forest resources (p.20) also fails to address issues about trees along boulevards and in residential areas. There is no policy about maintaining or expanding the treescape within residential areas. A comprehensive tree strategy should be part of the OP, at the very least in an appendix. The Planners’ Guide to Trees in the Urban Landscape (https://www.archdaily.com/800562/the-planners-guide-to-trees-in-the-urban-landscape) recommends among its 12 principles that municipalities “Adopt clear standards for the protection, care, and planting of trees in local plans” and embed them in official plans.
  • Making parking areas around new or rebuilt commercial and retail spaces pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly should also be included in the OP. The current box store and grocery store mall parking lots in Collingwood are NOT properly designed to accommodate bicycle riders or pedestrians and can present serious safety challenges to people because of their egregiously vehicle-centric design. Safety corridors with appropriate hard-surface buffers should be mandatory in such designs. Also, the placement of bicycle racks is far too often an afterthought (many are placed in awkward or inconvenient locations or obstructed by sidewalk displays) and placement should be more properly defined in the OP.
  • The width of future sidewalks connecting major facilities, recreational, and cultural sites should be considered; where possible they should be designed for multiple uses such as bicycles and pedestrians (e.g. the 3m sidewalk on the north side of First St.).
  • Sec. 3.7 says “The Town may develop a Climate Change Action Plan…” and “The Town may prepare reports to monitor the Town’s progress towards climate change…” and “Town may request an assessment demonstrating how the natural hazards are avoided or mitigated.” May is a weak verb that allows the town and its council to avoid commitment. It should be changed to a verb which requires action such as “should” or “must.” But while the OP recognizes climate change may have an impact, it is woefully thin on specifics.
  • There is no definition of what sort of measures and technologies should be explored to deal with the effects of climate change on our built infrastructure, or how often that infrastructure should be monitored for those effects (see https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-slow-bake-of-our-infrastructure/).
  • While 5.6.3.2 says “Utilize best practices and building/landscape techniques to mitigate the impacts of climate change in all public realm and construction activities within or abutting the Shore Lands,” there is no definition of “best practices” or techniques. And why limit this to the Nottawasaga Bay Shore Lands? This should be standard for all areas.
  • While floodplains and flooding are mentioned, I can find nothing to indicate how the town should deal with water levels dropping in Georgian Bay. Do lower levels affect the intake protection area? The outflow of the wastewater treatment plant? The WHPAs? What about the shoreline and natural heritage areas along it? Are there areas in the harbour that are significantly challenged? At what lower level does the town become concerned with the drop?
  • Sec. 6.1.1 lists as a goal “To enhance the Town’s transit system and active transportation network ensuring multiple mobility opportunities, linking significant community facilities, major development areas and public uses…” How does this fit with council’s recent decision to make the public transit system less affordable (by raising the rates) and less accessible (by making it an on-call system)?

I am still reading through it, and may have additional comments in future.

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