Okotoks: Town to create new vision for community’s future

By: By Jessica Patterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 29, 2014 06:00 am

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The Town of Okotoks will spend $100,000 over the next two years to draw up a new plan to ensure holds onto its sustainable principles as it grows into the future.

Councillors approved the funding at their regular meeting on Monday afternoon to write a new Community Vision and Sustainability Plan would to guide continued and resilient development of a sustainable community. The plan will also give direction as the Town works on new municipal development, capital and business plans. The plan also aims to focus on smart growth, mobility and sustainable corporation.

Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson said a new plan is needed after the former 30,000 population cap was dropped in 2012.

“What was appropriate in 1998 isn’t necessarily appropriate any more,” he said. “The only thing in my opinion that’s changed would be the finite growth model, which is no longer part of it.”

Funding for the plan would come out of the future development reserve, and cost approximately $50,000 each year in 2014 and 2015.

Okotoks’ original sustainability plan, passed in 1998, was cutting edge for the time, weaving community development and sustainability principles including environmental stewardship, fiscal responsibility, economic vitality and social conscience.

The four pillars of sustainability that the old plan was based on – environmental stewardship, community safety and wellbeing, economic opportunity and fiscal responsibility – are still goals to strive for, he says.

Coun. Carrie Fischer says that the $100,000 price tag for the two-year process seems steep. For that cost, she said her expectations for the plan are high.

“There are so many components of visioning that have to go into this, the land-use bylaw, the municipal development plan, and so many different things that will go into this, that you’re not going to get it for $20 at Walmart,” she said. “It seems high, but it’s probably justifiable.”

Fischer also points out that as a sustainable community, Okotoks does some things right and it needs to look to the future.

“Lets keep leading,” Fischer said. “Lets not fall back on the old plan and praise ourselves for something we did 10 years ago.”

If Okotoks bills itself as an environmentally responsible community, she believes it’s necessary to have sidewalks on both sides of the streets to create a more walkable environment.

“I know it’s expensive, but it’s something we have to do,” said Fischer. “If we have moms walking with strollers or seniors in wheelchairs, you can’t expect them to be walking on grass or on the roads to get to the crosswalk to get to the sidewalks. So, we have to make that a priority.”

Another sustainable priority Fisher would like to see for the future is a green bin for people to give people an alternative to putting food waste in the garbage.

“Why don’t Okotokians have green bins for organics and composting?” she asked. “They’re fantastic. What I’m hearing is that we don’t have a facility for that in Southern Alberta. And, the question becomes how do we get it? Lets make it happen.”

The vision coun. Matt Rockley has for Okotoks’ future is to create a complete community, with public amenities, services, employment, recreational and retail opportunities.

He called for neighbourhoods with retail, services, recreation and other amenities within walking distance.

“Now we’re at a stage where we need to shift our focus to complete neighbourhoods, having a mix of land uses within each neighbourhood,” said Rockley.

Rockley would also like to see Okotoks in the future have a focus on walkability and promoting active forms of transportation, such as biking.

As Okotoks expands beyond it’s current size, Rockley is looking into environmental stewardship for the 21st century.

“The next big vision that I’ve held all along, is that we need to be the role model for sustainable development,” he said. “Residents have a real interest in environmentally friendly initiatives, and we’ve had a lot of success in that, in the past. Society has caught up with us in that regard, and we need to lead the charge even further.”

Rockley also believes that sustainability need not only apply to residential development.

“We have a large industrial land base currently, and I think there’s a big opportunity to do something new and innovative,” he said. “In terms of green energy, green buildings or an overall environmental slant, like industries that can benefit by locating close to one another.”

As the Town works to draw up a new Community Vision and Sustainability plan, the process will involve stakeholder groups, town committees, and the general citizenry’s input. In coming months and weeks, the Town will engage in community consultation with residential, commercial and institutional sectors, appointing committees and bylaws, gathering information from all interested parties.

“We see this as an ideal opportunity to begin a community-wide dialogue,” said Rick Quail, Okotoks town manager. “There is a need to dialogue with our citizens about what they want their community to look like in 10, 20 and 50 years.”


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