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Peterborough's Official Plan: Shaping Your Home for Decades to Come

Written by
Robert Gibson
and
and
November 3, 2021
Peterborough's Official Plan: Shaping Your Home for Decades to Come
Photo of City Hall by Mady Rodrigues

For the last decade, the City of Peterborough has been updating its Official Plan. Defined as the document which “​​guides the long-term growth and development of the City,” the Official Plan describes the goals, objectives and policies which will shape how Peterborough will look and operate through the year 2051. Decisions concerning where and how people live and work within the city, as well as environmental protections are dictated by this document. 

Each municipal government is required to create an Official Plan which follows provincial policy and regulations, namely the Provincial Policy Statement and requirements under the Planning Act. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has released the Citizen’s guide to land use planning where the public can learn more about this process. 

The first draft of the City of Peterborough’s Official Plan was released for consultation in 2019. After “incorporating changes to address public, agency, First Nations and provincial comments, and [integrating] the results of a Land Needs Assessment,” the updated Official Plan proposal was released in July 2021.

On October 21, 2021, the development of the Official Plan reached a milestone - the last open house took place. The meeting consisted of a presentation by Milan Nguyen, who works in Peterborough’s Planning, Policy and Research, detailing the changes that have been implemented since the draft’s July release, and addressed additional questions from the public. In the presentation, Nguyen shared that in developing the Official Plan, the City utilized surveys, design charrettes (meetings with multiple stakeholders), as well as pop-ups at events, presentations and individual meetings to gather public feedback. It was estimated that there were 5800 engagements related to the plan. 

Since July 2021, community and advisory groups have been urging City staff to employ stronger language surrounding the topics of climate change, green buildings and affordable housing. They have also been pushing for specific targets and timelines. Members of the public also had questions about monitoring, development and forest policies. An additional review of environmental impact studies was requested (despite one resident being against the additional review), in addition to an increase in buffers (“areas of adjacent, undisturbed vegetation that reduce adverse effects to wetland function”) for unevaluated wetlands.

Tom Whilans, Trent University Professor and wetland expert, said that the provincial guidelines for wetland buffers are 120 meters, but the city uses 30 meters as the minimum. Whilans stated that there is no justification for 30-meter buffers. Nguyen responded by saying that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required, and depending on the results, a higher buffer may be appropriate. Whilans followed up by asking why 120 meters was not the starting point. Brad Appleby, supervisor of Development Planning for the City, said that all development is required to do a natural heritage screening. The requirements for developers to do an EIA were referenced as belonging to section 7.21.2.  

Other concerns and comments raised included imposing maximum building heights, density targets and road improvements. On the topic of opposition to taller buildings and resistance to housing plans, Chief Planner Ken Hetherington explained that “It is difficult for city planners to be the only ones in support of density,” and encouraged community organizations that support density to communicate their support. 

Another main topic of discussion during the meeting was a suggestion that the Parkway might come back to the Official Plan after an environmental assessment is completed. Cameron Douglas, a high school teacher in the Youth Leadership in Sustainability program, raised this issue. Appleby responded that an environmental assessment looks at alternatives, which does not include the Parkway.  

One of the changes highlighted by Nguyen is an acknowledgement of the Peterborough Climate Emergency Declaration. There will be an elimination of climate change in the introduction and guiding principles, though it is unclear how this change will impact the Plan. There will also be changes to strengthening leadership of green building design.  

After an overview of the Official Plan, a question period ensued. Mohammad, a Peterborough resident, asked if the Official Plan considered the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Nguyen responded by pointing out that the Official Plan is aligned with the Sustainable Peterborough Plan and Climate Change Action Plan and initiatives such as increased broadband availability, increased housing availability and transit and infrastructure support. Appleby also noted that the Sustainable Peterborough plan, although dated, was based on consultation and “grounded in research available at the time.”

There were additional proposed improvements  which will be included on the City’s website and Connect Peterborough, along with tracked changes. As of the time of publication, no new information has been posted on the city’s website. 

On November 1st a virtual meeting will be held which will provide members of the public the opportunity to make a “written or verbal representation to Council either in support of or in opposition to the Draft Official Plan”. Public input will be taken into consideration before City Council considers adopting the edited Official Plan at their meeting on November 29.  Following that meeting, the plan may be sent to the province for approval. More information can be found on Connect Peterborough, including past open houses and comments from other organizations. 

Reimagine Peterborough provides analysis and commentary about the Official Plan. They are  @ReImaginePtbo on Twitter and can be found at https://reimaginepeterborough.ca/. This is a chance to have your say about your City’s future and shape your home for the next 10 to 30 years. 


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