On Wednesday, February 17th, the City of Calgary’s Standing Policy Committee on Land Use, Planning and Transportation met at Old City Hall to discuss implementation strategies for Plan It!, the City’s new Municipal Draft Plan and Transportation Plan. This was a public hearing and members of the public were free to comment on the topic at hand.
What is a Standing Policy Committee (SPC), anyway? According to the City of Calgary, an SPC is responsible for policy formulation, and for decision making within existing Council policy. A Chair is appointed from among the aldermen, and chairmanships of the Standing Policy Committees run for a maximum of one year at a time, except for special instances. Any Member of Council can serve as Chairman for any Standing Policy Committee once during the 3-year term commencing October. Alderman Colley-Urquhart is the Chair of this particular SPC.
So the action got underway at 9:30am, at which time the agenda was shifted around so they could look at Plan It! implementation first thing in the morning. What do we mean by the implementation being undertaken? Plan It! was passed this September. Council recommended that an implementation committee be set up to create a framework for sustainment of Plan It! and smooth implementation starting on April 1st, 2010, when Plan It! comes into effect. The implementation committee is as follows:
-2 members of Council
-2 Industry Stakeholders
-2 Administration Representatives
-2 Community Stakeholders
Everyone who spoke that morning – from the aldermen reviewing the implementation strategies to the public commenting on the outcome – expressed their appreciation of the implementation committee’s hard work in making a sustainment plan come together.
Their sustainment strategy has been divided up into short, medium and long term targets. They’re advocating the creation of User Guide to “outline working protocols for implementation”. This was well-received by all parties. Michael Flynn, of the UDI, spoke favourably of the User Guide and requested that it be ready by April. According to Administration, the Guide is already underway. Flynn also suggested that case studies be included in the Guide, to better illustrate potential real-life applications of Plan It! I think that makes a lot of sense.
One interesting thing brought up by Alderman MacIver and a couple of other speakers was the idea of an “urban lab”: if we are looking sixty years into the future, why not track the progress of certain projects and judge their success? That too, is a great idea. However, I would like to see them bear in mind that we already have a massive urban lab on our hands, that is the Calgary that we have today. Perhaps we could look to analyse the success of past and current modes of planning and see if that is an optimally beneficial way for us to build and plan as a city.
Bob Morrison, speaking as a citizen, questioned the reliance on “unprecedented growth” of economic activity when moving forward on planning in a city that is notorious for economic rollercoasters. He also suggested that the final form of Plan It! would cost more than earlier incarnations and that this cost, borne by the taxpayer, ought to be carefully monitored. As a taxpayer, he is not interested in paying for additional infrastructure to accommodate a sprawling physical form.
I am going to leave it at that, except to urge anybody reading this to take a peek at some SPC agendas or some Subdivision Development and Appeal Board (SDAB) agendas and head on down to the rectilinear chambers under Old City Hall, where the coffee is for committee members only and the security guards are super friendly. It can be really boring and everyone present knows that, but they are all there in support of their particular agenda item and it’s kind of fun to be bored with a bunch of other people who care about Calgary or are being paid to care. There are some good coffee shops in the area, it’s always lovely to be on Stephen Avenue, and if you emerge at lunchtime, the street preacher at the hot dog stand near the Central Library will bestow the love of the Lord upon ye! Pass the mustard.
Calgary Planning Commission: