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Living in Collingwood; A Community Plan

Posted by Sherry Rioux on June 17, 2009

The last week has been heavy with learning as I’ve attended a number of meetings and seminars.

One featured a speaker from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) who spent a couple of hours educating a room full of REALTORS® about the property valuation process and governing legislation.  Another meeting featured Don Mathieson, the Mayor of Stratford as the guest speaker.  He was outstanding and inspiring as he told the story of how his community attracted a university through a public-private sector partnership of astounding cooperation and potential.  But it was the last meeting that really, really got me excited.

Robert Voigt is a Community Planner with the Town of Collingwood and he’s been charged with the task of developing Urban Design Standards for the community.  Before you gloss over, let me tell you that his work is of huge importance to your life.

I think that one of the things citizens of Collingwood and the Georgian Triangle struggle with is the growth pressures that arrived about a decade ago.  Our communities are growing and changing before our very eyes.  How we move about town, what we see, how we feel and our sense of place have all changed or been challenged.  As politicians changed, so did the directions of growth depending on the feelings of a majority of those 9 people sitting around the council table.  It would appear that is about to change.

Today, the town has committed to developing Urban Design Standards, not guidelines, that will become by-laws governing the future form of development in Collingwood.  At the same time, Collingwood has an existing Official Plan, a Strategic Plan,  a Sustainable Community Plan and soon a complete community plan to begin integrating all of these elements into a better decision making model and process.   If you have some time, it really is interesting to read through these links and they give great insight into the direction the town and area are heading.

But back to Robert and his project.  In his presentation, he said dozens of things that made my heart sing.  As the original chairperson of Collingwood’s Vision 2020 committee, I have a deeply felt interest in the way we will evolve and Robert’s work is a direct reflection of what people expressed during the visioning process almost a decade ago.  He talked about things like the height of buildings, the width of streets and the things make a town auto dependent verus pedestrian friendly.  With a few strokes of his pen, he took real examples of buildings in Collingwood that could be altered with small changes that would make huge differences.  He talked about intersections, trees, transit and public art.  He “de-layered” the town through a series of maps showing different aspects of the town.  One was waterways.  Did you know there are 16 points in this town where we cross water?  I had no idea.

So here’s my thought.  Go and read through the strategic plan, sustainability plan and complete community plan.  I promise it won’t take more than 20-30 minutes.  Then go to Robert’s blog and read through his posts.  I’ll bet you won’t be able to stop and it will get your heart beating as you begin to see his ideas and concepts in a very real and applicable way.  You’ll be glimpsing our near future.

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