Town locks in future vision
Okotoks: Feedback will help guide future plans
Wednesday, Jan 28, 2015 01:08 pm
After three months of soul searching, Okotoks has a new vision that will guide it well into the future.
The community visioning process wrapped up in December with a final open house for residents to provide input on the work the Town’s hired consultants had done since September.
Through a process of open houses, engagement sessions, and online tools, the consultants gathered thousands of comments and formed them into various themes and principles. The final vision statement was approved by council on Jan. 12.
Coun. Tanya Thorn said overall she was impressed with the levels of engagement within the community, and thought they did a great job collecting useful feedback.
“I really do believe at the core they got those pieces of what the vision for our community is long term,” she said. “I thought the engagement process they did was great, they did a really good job of getting out and into our community where people are instead of that traditional you come to us… I think that was really effective.”
Through the feedback the consultant were able to come up with the final community vision for Okotoks, which reads:
“The Town of Okotoks is resilient, where people, businesses, ideas and sense of community thrive. Grounded by the Sheep River valley and supported by thoughtful planning and design, a strong local economy and a vibrant civic culture, Okotoks offers exceptional quality of life at every stage of life. Respect for each other and the natural environment makes Okotoks home.”
Okotoks sustainability coordinator Dawn Smith said each aspect in the vision emerged directly from what residents had to say.
“The words have a lot of meaning to different people and can be interpreted the way individuals wish to interpret them but they're pretty open,” she said. “A lot of people expressed that The people are the valuable asset, so that was really important to have in there, and the of course business and economic development was a strong focus as well.”
Throughout the various public engagement activities, three core questions were asked to residents: what do you value about Okotoks? What would you change? And what do you want for the future?
Smith said through the responses they were able to interpret the answers and work them into the core values that represent Okotoks and its residents.
“The Sheep River Valley was a fundamental concept that was expressed, not only from a geographical perspective, but also as kind of the concept as being the heart of the community,” Smith said. “A strong comment that a lot of residents mentioned that they'd like us to be a leader in sustainability and environmental stewardship and technological advances, so that was all kind of expressed through these words.”
Smith said the entire purpose of the vision is to help guide future plans, so they can all be based off of the same principles and values that were taken directly from the residents.
“We need to set these principles… they're all very important and thinking about them as we move forward in every plan we develop, this is really the guiding place as we grow how are we going to grow, what are we going to physically look like?” she said. “A lot of people might have a hard time getting their head around it because they're just statements, what does that really mean? What are we doing with that?”
Smith said that the coming plans, such as the Sustainable Community Plan, will begin to narrow down focuses and get closer to actual implementation strategies for the future.
“It’s a long range plan. It will flush out setting targets for each of those themes - so mobility, education, affordable housing, all those concepts, it doesn't tell us how we do it though,” Smith explained. “The (sustainability) plan will say ‘we want this percentage of affordable housing by this date.’ There are plans that come out of the sustainability plan that are more actionable with implementation strategies, So there's lots of steps still to come.”
But Smith said overall they had an overwhelming amount of feedback from residents and are planning to hold on to it for future use in more specific plans. She said one of the biggest challenges was taking that information and channeling it into a broader overarching vision.
“Someone may jut say we want a waterslide, there's much more behind that,” she said. “So trying to develop "what does that mean to them?' that means activity for them for children at the pool, recreation focused, youth focused, so there's much more behind people's statements.”
But Smith noted that all of the comments are being kept for use during future more detail oriented plans, such as the recreation master plan where residents who continually asked for things such as a pool will see that more clearly reflected.
“We wont forget it, we have all those individual comments that will also go into those implementation plans later on,” she said. “It's a valuable asset on different levels.”
Coun. Thorn said she’s eager to move forward onto the next steps and put everything in action.
“It's great to talk about those great big motherhood statements - these are the things that are important to us - but how are we going to make sure that that all happens?” she asked. “Obviously all of that then effects our capital plans and our budgeting so that’s kind of that next step, but this gives us those guiding principles for where we're going as a community.”