The Alcona North and South Secondary Plan concepts are textbook examples of contemporary planning that incorporate many ideas for sustainable living. If Innisfil’s population is going to almost double in 20 years, this is steering the process in the right direction. Higher density is proposed to meet the provincial target for people and jobs per hectare.
The Town’s Secondary Plans call for walkable neighbourhoods with a mix of housing types and land uses. Green space is preserved around the developments, which includes bike and walking trails. One conceptual plan created by McDonough and Partners for Minto Group Inc. shows residential neighhbourhoods arranged around commercial hubs called a village centre and sub-centre. Although most energy can be supplied by natural gas, one “optimized” alternative proposal is to rely more on biomass and solar technology. A visual representation and other details can be viewed at the planner’s website: North Innisfil Concept Plan.
The Town’s planning document specifically includes descriptive standards for sustainability which are quoted here:
“In addition to the energy conservation and water resource policies … the following additional policies shall also apply.
- Where appropriate and subject to topographical and servicing requirements, plans of subdivision should be designed to maximize the number of lots with a north south orientation.
- The use of vegetation to reduce energy consumption of buildings shall be encouraged.
- Plans of subdivision shall be designed to encourage pedestrian and cycling travel through:
- a modified grid system of roads;
- block lengths generally not exceeding 250 metres in length;
- a connected and efficient pedestrian and cycling network;
- strong connections between the residential neighbourhoods and existing residential neighbourhoods to the south;
- incorporation of mixed uses where feasible;
- dedicated bicycle lands where necessary and feasible;
- creation of pleasant pedestrian walking environments through wide sidewalks, landscaping, lighting, streetscape character and animated street life.
- Plans of subdivision shall be designed to provide the opportunity for transit use.
- Energy efficient building design including passive solar energy gain, increased insulation, Energy Star appliances, and alternative energy systems among other initiatives, shall be encouraged in all new buildings.”
What really stands out from these documents is how much room for improvement there is, within existing neighbourhoods, even in recently-built and newly-built subdivisions in Innisfil. Or from another perspective, it’s an indication of how much thinking has changed in recent years, and how far behind the curve developers are in updating building plans to a higher standard of sustainability.
As I write this, I have read news about a new book that offers fresh thinking about cities and nature. The Natural City: Re-Envisioning Human Settlements, is being launched Jan. 26 at Toronto City Hall. It is written by Ingrid Leman Stefanovic, a professor of philosophy and founding director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Environment. It suggests there is a “danger that nature will continue to be thought of as something outside city walls — pristine wilderness separate from the city”. The notion of the natural city proposes that our urban spaces are successful only to the extent “they integrate the grace and wonder of the natural world.”
Town of Innisfil, Alcona North & South Secondary Plans, November 2011
Natural Cities on an Urban Planet, Toronto Star, Jan. 1, 2012