Any successful person, or for that matter, any successful community, have at least two things in common. They have a well thought out plan to guide them to a goal, and they are focussed on sticking to the plan knowing it is the roadmap to the goal. The alternative is, to quote Canadian rocker Randy Bachman from his song Any Road, “if you don’t know where you are going any road will take you there”.
I have always been proud of Richmond Hill’s various plans such as our Official Plan, Strategic Plan and Environment Plan. These plans work in a cohesive way to ensure an integrated and efficient spending of resources and an efficient pattern to our community’s population growth over time. These plans ensure our growth areas will be vibrant and functional and the plans also guide growth to areas that will help to protect our established communities. These existing communities are important because they bring character, variety and vibrancy to Richmond Hill.
All of our plans rely on careful study by our professional planning and transportation staff, as well as other City departments and outside agencies like the TRCA and the school boards. The professional staff that inform these plans ensure the maximization of the infrastructure investment that governments make on behalf of citizens. For example, our Official Plan generally directs growth to areas that can be served by transit. It also directs that a percentage of this growth needs to create more affordable forms of housing, and that there will be enough parks and open space around this higher density growth for the new and existing residents to enjoy. No plan is perfect, and we do need to review these plans periodically to refocus them on the goal to be achieved, but generally I believe that Richmond Hill’s goals and the plan to get there are sound.
In recent weeks in Richmond Hill there have been a number of evolving situations that I believe serve as a reminder about the value of respecting policies and plans that have guided us, and continue to guide us to our goal of a vibrant community. There was a recent member motion passed to increase densities from 15 storeys to 37 stories in the Yonge Bernard area that was then just recently rescinded after much public outcry (more on this below). This sudden change in direction from the plan and then sudden change back, illustrates the concerns I have with not respecting a well studied existing plan. Secondly there is currently a proposal by the Provincial Government called Bill 108 that would, among other things, roll back the positive changes made to the old OMB. This would again mean that local planning decisions by local councils may not be well respected when an applicant appeals a development application that is not in keeping with the Official Plan. This regressive proposal will again make it very difficult for municipalities like Richmond Hill to adhere to a cohesive plan.
It is my view that there is an immediate need to review our Official Plan given that it is almost 10 years old and currently due for a review. There is also a need to review the Official Plan in light of new growth directives from the Provincial Government. I would however expect that it would be wise for Council to stay on course until these reviews happen in a comprehensive way rather than approve changes to the plan will cause future problems with any revised plan as a whole.
Our current reality is that we are being asked by the current provincial growth plans to build a city in a Town. However in order for Council to approve smart, well designed growth that is transit oriented and environmentally sustainable, and that maintains the existing vibrant neighbourhoods that give our community its current character, this process must be performed carefully, adhering to a well thought out and researched plan. The alternative is approving one off changes to our current plans such as the 37 storey KDA proposal that will have negative implications well into our future.
One example of a good plan put in place recently is the formation of a Capital Sustainability Steering Committee. I am honoured to be named as the Vice Chair of this committee. This committee is working towards a review of a number of our current plans such as our Recreation Plan, Parks Plan, Information Technology Plan, and our Fire and Emergency Master Plan, to find ways to ensure that Capital Projects involving such items such as roads, new community centres, new parks and improvements to our Fire Service, are built in a fiscally sustainable manner. This committee will report to Council with its findings, and in doing so will help to guide the building and maintenance of our built capital assets into the future. We have some difficult decisions to make in this regard but I believe that it is important to know which is the “best road” to take to arrive at the “destination” for our community.
Ward 4 Councillor Richmond Hill
Banner Photo – Michelle Cheng – Temple of Mirrors (one of the winners in the Richmond Hill Public Library’s 2019 Teen Arts Contest – to view all the winning entries see below in this newsletter)