The City of Estevan has released its proposed official community plan, and now it is seeking the public’s feedback on the comprehensive document, which is nearly 100 pages in length.
City council passed first reading for a bylaw for the community plan at the Jan. 13 meeting, the first step needed for the document, known as Our Estevan, to be passed.
Discussions of the official community plan started in the spring of 2018, with the city seeking public feedback on a number of different components associated with the plan through surveys. More than 1,200 responses were received in 2018 and 2019, providing the city with what it believes is a good cross-section of opinions.
“The Our Estevan program is the result of extensive consultation and dialogue with residents, businesses, government agencies and other stakeholders,” wrote Richard Neufeld, who is the city’s manager of land development services.
Two open houses also took place in an effort to receive feedback on draft policy directions that were developed to reflect the views offered through public engagement.
Throughout the process, the city also communicated with various departments and levels of government.
The official community plan includes a comprehensive land use policy framework to help guide the city into the next decade.
“Our Estevan provides a detailed set of land use policy for issues as diverse as the natural environment and hazard planning, core areas such as parks and recreation, residential, commercial and industrial development, inter-governmental and inter-municipal planning, and the provision of utility services,” wrote Neufeld.
Upon adoption of the official community plan, it is anticipated that the city’s first neighbourhood plan will be approved, according to the plan and the city’s community engagement bylaw.
The plan also includes a framework to monitor the progress made on each of the initiatives that are highlighted within the document in the form of an annual report to council.
It also has policy directions regarding achieving economic security through a diverse local and regional economy built upon an industrial hub and service centre; the protection and stewardship of the natural environment; a transparent and responsible land use decision making system which balances the needs of individuals with the public interest; efficient use of land; infrastructure and other resources in managing the city while accommodate growth and land use charges; a framework for inter-municipal co-operation on land use decisions that are of importance to the RM of Estevan; and the provision of housing for a diverse range of needs.
The plan also covers everything from land use patterns and community identity, to tourism and future growth and expansion of the community.
Planning directions cover such topics as community identity, residential development, housing standards, low density housing, in-fill developments, including some King Street, residential parks, medium density housing, high-density housing, generational housing that would be mostly used by seniors, mixed-use developments and density bonusing.
It also has plans for commercial developments, which includes the central business district, arterial commercial properties, neighbourhood commercial, midtown commercial properties, shopping centres, and professional buildings. And it looks at industrial areas within the city limits, and how the city can have sufficient land for development of industrial businesses.
There is also a plan for cultural facilities, parks and recreation, transportation and city roadways.
A general review of the plan in 2025 is recommended so that any new issues or opportunities can be addressed. A comprehensive review is recommended to be completed in 2030
Speaking at the council meeting on Jan. 13, Councillor Shelly Veroba said it was a very well put together document. Council has discussed it before at previous meetings, and at open houses last year.
“I have read over it twice and I think it looks great,” said Veroba.
Neufeld said the document turned out pretty well, and he is looking forward to another round of consultations.
The official community plan requires four consecutive weeks of advertising for a public hearing. Additional time is also required for referrals to government agencies and for the ability to prepare amendments as might be required.
A possible public hearing date would be at the regular council meeting on March 16, allowing for a 30-day comment period prior to the initiation of a four-week advertising period in advance of the public hearing.
“This is one of those unique bylaws that the advertising for a public hearing has to be a full 28 days long,” said Neufeld.
Normally council could have approved the bylaw at its February meeting.
Open houses are also scheduled to happen on Jan. 29 and Feb. 11 at city hall.