The Town of Huntsville is reviewing its Official Plan, the far-reaching document that it refers to when deciding how to manage land use over a 20-year period, and it wants to hear the opinions of as many residents as possible.
According to the town’s website, the Official Plan helps to determine:
- where new housing, industry, offices and shops will be located;
- what services like roads, watermains, sewers, parks, and schools will be needed;
- when, and in what order, parts of your community will grow;
- how to preserve and enhance cultural, historical and recreational services and amenities; and
- outline community improvement initiatives.
The review is currently in Phase 1 which includes public visioning workshops, pop-up sessions, a public questionnaire, and a prioritization workshop.
Community input to this process is absolutely critical to its success.Andrea Bourrie, Senior Planning Director, MMM Group
Chris Marshall, Manager of Policy Planning & Sustainability encourages all residents, particularly those who weren’t able to attend recent workshops, to complete the questionnaire online or pick up a copy at the library, the Canada Summit Centre or town hall. “This is the first step in a year-long process and we’re looking forward to getting everyone’s input.”
A handful of local residents recently attended two visioning workshops, facilitated by consultants from MMM Group, on October 16 in Utterson and Huntsville to provide input on what should be included in the plan.
“It’s difficult to establish a vision without input from the people who live here,” said Gregory Bender, Senior Planner/Project Manager, Planning & Environmental Design at MMM Group. “It helps us to get a snapshot of what you think the community should look like in 20 years.”
Not everything can be planned for, conceded Bender. “An official plan is an evolving, fluid document. It’s our best guess at the time.”
Members of the public in attendance at the workshops discussed five vision themes – environment, heritage, growth, quality of life, and character – in breakout sessions and provided a summary to the larger group. MMM Group will compile the results of the workshops and questionnaires to create a list of goals and objectives. They will then return to the community in November (on a date to be announced later) to request public input a second time in prioritization workshops.
“We need to have a good sense of the words, images and themes that this community feels are important for your vision of the future,” added Bourrie. “When we talk about vision, it’s aspirational. It’s what do you want the community to be in the future, 20 years out. That vision is foundational for the work that will happen (to revise the Official Plan) over the next year.”
That Huntsville is growing and changing is recognized in the existing vision “but there is a very clear emphasis on that growth and change being orderly and sustainable,” said Bourrie. “There is also a strong commitment to quality of life. People choose to live in Huntsville and the greater Huntsville area for a reason, and a lot of that has to do with quality of life and heritage and a sense of community.” The plan review and revision process aims to determine how much of the existing plan is still valid and what needs to be added or modified. It also takes into account the extensive Unity Plan process that was completed in 2012.
A final vision report will be presented to Council in December after which the review team will begin Phase 2 – conducting background work to support recommended changes to the plan.
Details about the Official Plan Review process are available on the Town of Huntsville website. The Phase 1 questionnaire can be completed until October 30 online, or pick up a copy at Huntsville Public Library, the Canada Summit Centre, or Town Hall.
The review process is required every five years under the Planning Act and Huntsville’s plan must be compliant with both provincial policy and the District of Muskoka’s Official Plan. The town’s current Official Plan was created in 2006.