Community planning is a process for local government to engage their citizens and others in order to establish a vision, goals and policies for achieving social, economic and environmental sustainability.
Community planning can be undertaken using the
approaches outlined in the Local Government Act or by using a variety of non-legislative planning
methods. They can be directed at the community as a whole, specific neighbourhoods and
individual properties. They can also be directed at particular sectors such as economic
development, social development, housing, parks, or environmental management.
One of the key documents which help to plan a community and to guide decisions of elected officials and local government staff is the Official Community Plan (OCP). The OCP is a planning document which describes the vision for the community for a five-year period or more.
The OCP must be developed in consultation with the people, organizations and
authorities which will be affected by the plan. It usually identifies areas that can be
used for commercial, residential, agricultural and industrial uses as well as schools,
roads, sensitive environmental areas, parks, infrastructure such as water and sewer and
other services. In addition, the OCP can include social planning policies relating to
the social needs, well-being and development of the community.
In addition to creating OCP’s, local governments can undertake community planning by
adopting land use regulation bylaws in relation to such things as
signs, landscaping, parking and drainage. On a broader scale,
regional planning can be
undertaken to address strategic or regional issues which cross municipal and regional
district boundaries. The formal tool which can be used for this purpose is the
regional growth strategy although there are
other regional planning tools available as well such
as inter-jurisdictional agreements.
Residents and other interested parties play an important role in deciding how their community will develop by making their views know to the local government. The development of plans and bylaws usually provides opportunities for public consultation through public hearings or other means. In addition, local governments can receive recommendations from residents and others about land use planning issues by creating an Advisory Planning Commission. In addition, tools such as the Community Infrastructure Planning Decision Support Tool can assist during community planning, as they enable local governments to determine the long-term lifecycle costs of alternate development scenarios.