The draft of Innisfil’s strategic plan, Inspiring Innisfil 2020, is now available. It is an encouraging and hopeful start toward building a more cohesive and vibrant community. The draft report presents a clear review of the issues and opportunities as well an outline of proposed strategies. I am summarizing some of the report’s content here to encourage as many Innisfil residents as possible to read the report for themselves.
Among the findings and recommendations, the report says:
“Pressure will be exerted by population expansion, changing immigration patterns, continued urban encroachment, (unless better planned) and growing demands on land use and community development. The Town is not ready for all of these significant shifts.” (p 7)
Key Priorities (p 11)
- Complete a review of the Town’s Official Plan
- Identify an urban core
- Complete a strategic infrastructure servicing plan
- Develop a long-range financial plan
Innisfil needs stronger medium and long term planning (p 25)
- “Innisfil needs to lead the planning of growth and development, not simply react to one-off development opportunities. The Town must assert itself to shape the kind of community its residents increasingly indicate they want.”
The report recommends the formation of a Community and Economic Development unit, an Innisfil Arts Council and an Innisfil Tourism Network. In conjunction with these, it recommends the appointment of an Economic Development Officer and a Tourism/Culture/Special Events Coordinator.
Some of the strategies proposed include:
- Make planning a top priority
- Ensure each neighbourhood remains distinctive
- Connect residents and neighbourhoods
- Make community building a priority
- Increase local employment opportunities
- Make economic development a top priority
- Attract entrepreneurs and small businesses
- Appeal to businesses and professionals to relocate to Innisfil
- Retain local businesses and help them expand
- Develop the agricultural economy
- Develop and promote tourism and culture
There is lots more in this draft report and the consultants want to hear comments from the community before a final report is prepared for Council. So please get a copy, read it over and attend the Open House if you can (Jan 24, 25). I say this is a fragile start because, to be successful, this strategy will need thoughtful and unwavering support of Council and energetic participation from the residents of Innisfil.
I’m not sure yet that we can count on either. Lately, Council has been wringing its hands over the cost of the Innisfil Beach Road urbanization project. I’m as keen to save money as anyone else. By all means use the tendering process and any other tool to get the most value for money. But an earlier Council approved subdivisions that made Alcona the de facto growth centre a l-o-n-g time ago. Let’s finish building the community that was started. The $7.2 million cost of the next urbanization segment will be recovered eventually from development charges. Oddly, we didn’t hear this concern about cost when $30 million was showered on the Recreation Centre and Town Hall, neither of which will ever generate revenue to compensate for the capital cost.
My preference would be for Council to focus on maximizing the return on the investment that is well under way on Innisfil Beach Road. Wouldn’t it be interesting to invite architects and designers to visit Innisfil, possibly students from the U of T School of Architecture, to propose projects and designs to make the most of the emerging commercial strip? This is a golden opportunity for urban design professionals to have a hand in the creation of a classic “small town Ontario” main street updated for 21st century commerce. It might open eyes to the real potential of this corridor for economic activity and the revenue that it would generate.