The media are filled with year-end reviews and it’s probably not a bad idea to look at how far we’ve come, at the beginning of this New Year, in the process of implementing the Inspiring Innisfil 2020 strategic plan. The consultant’s Final Report was released in March last year but didn’t receive Council approval until June. It’s hard to believe that it’s only been 6 months in implementation. (Staff were also given 45 days to draft an action plan).
The Report identified “key priorities” that “should be undertaken immediately”:
- 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
- Form a Community and Economic Development unit
- Establish the Innisfil Arts Council
- Establish the Innisfil Tourism Network
- Expand Innisfil‘s offering of festivals and events (including amateur sporting events)
- Develop Lake Simcoe-based recreation and other outdoor activities
- Collaborate with Big Bay Point Resort
- Grow Simcoe‘s Green Economy
- Develop tourism infrastructure
(more descriptive details of these priorities are available by clicking on the Inspiring Innisfil 2020 website)
I would give the Town top marks for progress so far. Work will continue this year to further develop an urban core in Alcona, work on the strategic infrastructure servicing plan began in 2010, the budgeting process was accelerated to facilitate potential savings, several highly visible staff changes have been combined with a new economic development department, community driven organizations such as the Arts Council and Tourism network are in formation, Innisfil Beach Park is being improved with federal funding and new community events are being planned.
There have been a couple of stumbles in the road. The Town’s (and County’s) Official Plan is still in limbo because of inconsistencies with Ontario’s Places to Grow policy. An initial proposal to redefine the Town’s identity more closely with Lake Simcoe met with a wall of opposition that abruptly ruled out any variance of name from Innisfil, such as Innisfil Beach or Innisfil Shores. A ‘branding’ exercise to update the town logo may turn out to be just as controversial and divisive.
In my view, the biggest early accomplishment has been the degree of public engagement and participation in Town initiatives. The organizations that are engaged in development of local business, arts, tourism, trails, and festivals and events are the engines that will collectively accelerate the formation of a truly thriving community in the years ahead.
Innisfil’s accomplishments so far stand out when compared to Places to Grow. The province’s award winning plan to at least contain, if not control, urban sprawl has been decades in planning, with inconsistent implementation, uneven results, and entrenched political and corporate opposition. Provincial bureaucrats don’t seem to understand that time is of the essence. Developers are buying up land, making zoning applications and designing subdivisions while provincial reviews grind along at their leisure. The consequences of decisions made five years ago are just starting to emerge into the landscape in brick and stone, and will be with us for a long time.
Now it’s your turn. How would you rate Innisfil’s progress in implementing Inspiring Innisfil 2020?