Snappy video hides the loss of the Official Plan review leader; Gummo turns in his security pass.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  December 7, 2012   – Today the city launched a video called “We’re Growing in Place” to help educate and engage residents about its Official Plan review project.  The video has a nice upbeat piece of music that Councillor Taylor expects to be whistling along to for the next few weeks.

The video exceeds anything the city has posted in the past and was done by True Essence Media.  Keep that name in mind if you want something truly creative.  Kudos to whoever at planning chose these people.

Alan Gummo, Manager of Policy and Research

That’s the good news; the bad news is that the planner who has headed up the Official Plan Review, Alan Gummo is leaving his post.  Gummo brought a different set of lenses with him and we were beginning to see a much different approach to the reviewing of an Official Plan (OP), something the city has to do every five years but something that is often done rather poorly in many municipalities.

The word “disappointing” was used by one senior city hall staffer when asked to comment on Gummo’s departure.  Nothing was said about where Gummo is going or why he chose to leave at this time.  Tough lick for Burlington; Gummo was going to do a superb job.

The purpose of the video is to let the community know what the Official Plan is; why it matters and to encourage public participation. The video features interview clips with Burlington residents, inspiring imagery and digital animation.

It’s sometimes difficult to get people to tell you what they think.  The city’s Planning Department went into the community and posed very specific questions: what do you think about?  Here are some of the responses.

An Official Plan is a statutory document required by the province that describes a city’s land-use strategy over the next 20 years.  It addresses the location and form of new housing, industry, offices and shops as well as anticipated needs for infrastructure.

Planning staff put together charts and posters to advise, educate and inform the public. An Official Plan review isn’t a sexy subject but it deserves more attention than it is getting.

An Official Plan has to adhere to a number of provincial Policy Statements and sets out the vision, the direction we want to grow in.  Zoning by-laws are the rules that the city uses to create and allow the growth that is set out in the vision.

The zoning by laws, and there are more than you want to know, are in place to reflect the Official Plan.  Zoning by laws get changed.  There is an H zone, it stands for hold – it’s a place holder.

Many people get severely upset when they see a zoning by law being changed; they are supposed to be changed to reflect the changing nature of the city.  Our planner, Bruce Krushelnicki, surprisingly, has all his hair and it isn’t solidly grey yet – it should be with the pounding he often has to take at city council committee and public meetings.

Planners asked what people wanted to see in their Official Plan – not sure this is what they expected.  Guess one has to be careful what they expect.

Planning isn’t all that complex but it does have some fundamental rules that apply and as Krushelnicki points out again and again: the Official Plan trumps everything locally.  The bylaws are put in place so that builders and developers can do their work within the Official Plan.

But time after time people appear at Council to speak against a change that is taking place without fully understanding the relationship between the Official Plan, which goes through a continual process of amendments and the zoning levels applied to every blessed square inch of the city.

Krushelnicki hired Alan Gummo to oversee the OP review; the two go back some distance.  The decision to leave that review of the Official Plan at this stage can only be seen as a disappointment and a loss to the city.  We were in the process of seeing a significantly different approach to the review.

Burlington has a very smart planner; a lot of people don’t agree with Bruce Krushelnicki, usually because he has chosen not to see things their way, but for the most part , he is fair, direct, honest and passionate about what he does.  He tends to get beat up by just about every delegation that appears before council.

He’s urbane, actually speaks Latin and would probably love it if the rest of the world used the language as well.  He also knows the best tailor in town.

Krushelnicki knows when and how to delegate, both at the most formal level and at the staff level.  This province has a number of young planners who spent time in a Krushelnicki session (they are often more like seminars) learning how planning is done.

Kirk Koster, founder of BurlingtonGreen, looks over parts of the current Official Plan. It’s not exactly bed time reading.

Gummo was to take the city through an Official Plan Review the likes of which this city has never seen before.  He assembled a team of young people who would bring an open, fresh look to new ideas and approaches.  Gummo found upon doing a thorough  review of the Official Plan that the word neighbourhood never appears in the document.   The word is a major part of the city’s Strategic Plan.  Gummo realized that there was a serious disconnect and arranged for a special council workshop to look at just what we meant by neighbourhoods.  It was an interesting exercise and shed fresh light on how we see neighbourhoods.  With Gummo turning in his security pass the city has lost a mind that was going to do it differently. Andrea Smith is serving as Acting Manager of Policy and Research

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