So what is ‘Planning’ anyways?
Planning is the ongoing technical, political and social process by which a community defines and acts to attain its preferred quality of life.
Planners aim to achieve the orderly disposition of land and resources and to protect the physical, economic and social health of communities.
A Registered Professional Planner (RPP) is a member of the Ontario Professional Planner’s Institute and has met educational, experiential and ethical standards in relation to their practice.
Sound exciting?...while I realize the description above is perhaps a little lacklustre, I have to admit that after six years at it, I still find planning as exciting and engaging as on day one. We planners have the unique opportunity to make strong intimate and creative ties to the community and to actively work towards protecting and improving the standard of living of local residents. We also must be constantly learning in order to keep up to date with legislation, trends, tools and evolving values and this keeps us from collecting mental cobwebs.
...and the Planning ‘Framework’?
Planners often refer to the Policy Framework/Context for decision making. This generally refers to the hierarchy of legislation, regulations, common law, policy plans, guidelines and standards that apply to community planning activities.
I start off most of my land use application consultation meetings (with both residents and developers) with a brief lesson on the hierarchy of documents which guide us in our land use decisions in Meaford. The following list comprises the ‘nuts and bolts’ of our local system:
Municipality of Meaford Zoning By-law
Municipality of Meaford Site Plan Control By-law
In this hierarchy, each document must be consistent with (or generally conform to) the document above. Also, all municipal decisions must comply with our Official Plan.
In my opinion this system works well because there is a trickle down of key themes and priorities from the Province to local Municipal levels (i.e. efficient land use, healthy environments, healthy economies, etc...). This framework can be a bit rigid however when dealing with innovative land use proposals and so we are constantly evaluating our policies – for example, via the 5 year Official Plan Review – to ensure that they are restrictive enough to provide the direction needed to meet community goals and objectives, while being flexible enough to allow for creativity and innovation. In Meaford we are blessed with an abundance of innovative thinkers, so finding this balance really keeps us on our toes!
Do you have questions about the planning framework or is there other planning jargon you’d like explained? I welcome your suggestions!