Monday, February 24, 2014

Dear Mayor and Council: Don't Destroy the Regional Plan

I have written before on Regional Planning issues in HRM.  Draft 4 of the Regional Plan is going before regional council for first reading on Tuesday, and a number of councillors have indicate their intent to seek significant amendments to the Plan.  Below is a brief open letter to Mayor and Council explaining why I think this is a bad idea. Please consider contacting the Mayor and your councillor as well.

Dear Mayor and Councillors,

As you know first reading of Draft 4 of the revised regional plan is to come before council tomorrow. I understand that some councilors plan to advance a number of amendments to the draft Plan, which include amendments to:

- have part of the Purcell’s Cove backlands re-designated from Urban Reserve to Rural Commuter;
- re-designate the entire Urban Reserve in Cherry Brook to Urban Settlement; and
- make sewer and water boundaries overlap;

Draft 4 of the Regional Plan is the result of over two years of extensive public consultation and committee work through the RP+5 process. While it is not perfect, it is a step forward from the original regional plan, and balances a number of competing interests, while making sure the Municipality is on a path to financial and environmental sustainability. The public feedback through the RP+5 Process has generally been supportive of the changes contained in Draft 4.

The proposed amendments are not minor amendments. In fact, they represent a complete abandonment of the underlying principles of the plan, including directed growth. This change of direction is being brought to council at the absolute last minute, with no meaningful public input. The proposed changes were never consulted on, and in fact fly in the face of what residents asked for in the RP+5 process.

These amendments would essentially abandon the concept of directing growth to our urban and rural growth centres in favour of allowing growth in areas where it will be expensive for the HRM to provide services. It would allow for development of areas that the community has clearly identified as wanting to preserve, such as the Purcells Cove backlands. They would represent a giant step backwards, not just from Draft 4 of the Plan, but from the 2006 Plan. To make such a significant change in direction at the last minute and contrary to public input would do irreversible damage to the public confidence in municipal decision-making processes like RP+5.

I urge you to vote against these amendments. Let us move forward with the plan the people have asked for.


Derek Simon

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