Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Anticipated population increase prompts Smiths Falls to update Official Plan

Smiths Falls will undergo an Official Plan update after Dillon Consulting was awarded the contract. The last time the OP was updated was in 2014 and came into play two years later after the ministry approved it. Pictured are the Centennial Park fountains. – Laurie Weir photo

A new Official Plan update is in the works for the Town of Smiths Falls.

A recommendation to award the contract to create the update was brought to council on May 13. The cost of the update is just under $250,000, and was awarded to Dillon Consulting.

“Long range planning is one of the most important things a municipality can do, which informs every decision we make,” said Karl Grenke, planning manager for the Town of Smiths Falls.

The town’s current OP was created 10 years ago and put into full force after the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing approval in 2016.

“The OP is a functional and highly relevant policy document that has served the town well, however does not accommodate the rate of growth we now expect to see by the end of the current planning horizon (2034) and needs to be updated to meet evolving community needs and economic conditions,” Grenke stated in his report.

“An Official Plan is a foundational building block for a municipality, providing a policy-based framework that expresses the community’s vision for how it will evolve, where it will grow, and broadly, what the community will look like over the planning horizon. The Official Plan also implements provincial planning direction.”

A Lands Needs Study was created last spring and discovered the town’s urban serviced area will need to expand to accommodate an anticipated 3,600 new residents by 2046. Additional land will also need to be dedicated to industrial and institutional development over the same horizon. The study confirmed the need to undertake long-range growth planning and will form a foundational basis for the upcoming work, which will dictate where the new growth should go and how it should be planned.

Public participation discovered key components like the downtown revitalization, housing, environmental sustainability, community spaces and quality of life, and transportation and connectivity.

Opportunity areas for “significant new development” included the Gallipeau Centre frame lands, the rural end of Lorne Street, vacant lands between Ferguson and Ferrara Drive, and the Mazie and Cornelia corridor.

Grenke said they look at the OP every five to 10 years to keep it on track, or to see if that “track needs to change,” as the town has reached just over 9,200 residents in 2021 – up from 8,780 in 2016.

The time has come now to reassess as they have met growth targets quicker than anticipated.
Council supported the staff recommendation.

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