Our Place Plan Nearing Approval

Innisfil Council will consider a staff recommendation to adopt the ‘Our Place’ Official Plan at a Council meeting this Wednesday, January 17 and to take effect subject to approval by the County of Simcoe.

I have previously written about Our Place Plan proposals to create various public gathering and event spaces throughout our town. The Official Plan also covers all of the planning aspects related to development, density, zoning, transportation and so on.

Some of the objectives are:

  • direct the majority of growth to the primary settlement area of Alcona; to direct limited growth to Village settlement areas through intensification and on vacant greenfield lands; to limit growth in Hamlets to infill development.
  • Retail is expected to develop “at an appropriate scale in every primary, urban and village settlement.”
  • Direct higher density residential and mixed uses to the major transit station area surrounding the GO station on the 6th Line …
  • Provide a range of lot sizes and densities, housing types and tenures, provided the scale and massing of development is in keeping with the character of the adjacent neighbourhood.
  • Plan to achieve a minimum intensification target of 33% of all new residential units occurring annually within the delineated built-up areas, or as an alternative target as specified by the County of Simcoe.
  • Protect and maintain stable residential neighbourhoods from infill, intensification and built form which is out of keeping with the physical and heritage character of those neighbourhoods.
  • The progression of development within a settlement area “will be based on a sustainable and logical progression of development in accordance with Provincial County of Simcoe and Town policies.”
  • Neighbourhoods are to be designed with a modified grid street pattern that provides for a high degree of permeability and connectivity …
  • Building design shall incorporate principles of sustainable development and, energy and resource efficiency and may be subject to a sustainable checklist prior to site plan approval …

The full Our Place Official Plan document (429 pages) is available from the Town of Innisfil website.


Urbanization Approaching Reality

On Wednesday, December 6, Council formally received a proposal for an eight-story condo with street-front retail. The development is proposed for the north side of Innisfil Beach Road, adjacent to Alcona Home Hardware and west of the corner plaza.


Development Proposal – 828 Innisfil Beach Road

The building would consist of eight floors and 80 residential units. Designed as an adult building for ‘seniors’ aged 55+, the condo units would consist of one and two bedroom layouts. The ground floor would provide a total of about 5,000 square feet of retail space along the street. Parking is situated behind the building in a lot with a landscaped perimeter. In a unique approach to snow management, a snow melter would be utilized to remove accumulations.

In some ways, watching the planning process play out in Innisfil is the municipal equivalent of watching paint dry. The final report of the Inspiring Innisfil Official Plan was released in February 2011. It advocated for an “urban core”. The design guidelines proposed multi-storey zoning in an Innisfil Beach Road commercial zone with retail situated at the street. More than six years later we are just beginning to see this concept take shape. Two other buildings are reaching completion near Adullam Ave., and a multi-storey rental building is expected to receive approval for the south side of Innisfil Beach Rd at the 25th Sideroad.

This development addresses several needs. It provides local accommodation for an aging population (a neighbor has reluctantly moved to Barrie recently); it fills a gap in the streetscape with more convenient local retail and encourages more activity (social and economic) on the street. The condo proposal has been working its way through the planning and approval process since May of 2016 and reached a final proposal of zoning bylaw amendments in November this year. The building proposal was received as ‘information only’. The development will require Council approval of some zoning bylaw amendments concerning height (8 instead of 7 stories) and small changes to setbacks. The developer’s plan comes back to Council for consideration in the spring.

Download PDF:

828 Innisfil Beach Road ZBA & OPA Presentation

Managing Growth in Our Place

Previous articles have discussed proposals for Place Making in key areas of Innisfil. The draft Official Plan also discusses how the town intends to direct and manage growth in the coming decades. The growth policy depends on a “settlement hierarchy”:

The settlement hierarchy in Innisfil includes:

  • Alcona as the Primary Settlement Area,
  • Lefroy-Belle Ewart and Sandy Cove as Urban Settlement Areas,
  • Cookstown and Stroud as Village Settlement Areas and
  • Gilford, Churchill and Fennell’s Corners as Hamlets

Growth will be directed to settlement areas based on the hierarchy especially toward Alcona as the “Primary Settlement Area”.

The plan states that, “To facilitate intensification while preserving the character of residential neighbourhoods, Strategic Growth Areas have been identified on Schedule A. The majority of the Innisfil’s intensification will be directed to these Strategic Growth Areas. Otherwise, opportunities for intensification are largely limited to infill on previously undeveloped sites, severance of large lots, and accessory dwelling units.”

The plan’s objectives include (p 36):  Continue reading


Innisfil Welcomes Santa this Weekend


Just a note to remind my ‘younger’ readers that Santa will make a bright and colourful appearance in Cookstown during Light Up Night this Saturday (25th) which takes place from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. Enjoy treats and cider at merchants along Queen St.

The traditional Lighting of the Tree is at 6:00 p.m. followed by the Santa Claus Parade at 6:30 p.m. The party continues afterward with hot chocolate and caroling at the Cookstown Library.

Santa must love Innisfil because he’s making an encore appearance at the Alcona Santa Claus Parade on Sunday (26th) along Innisfil Beach Rd. from 25th Sideroad to Jans Blvd. starting at 1:30 p.m.


Place Making in – Alcona

Placemaking concepts contained in the draft Official Plan, Our Place, for Alcona focuses on the portion of Innisfil Beach Road from Jans Blvd. to Innisfil Beach Park as a “compact and walkable commercial core”.

“With the right mix of commercial and civic uses, active parks and plazas, and opportunities for community gatherings, Innisfil residents will have more reasons to walk.” To that end, suggestions for this area include:

  • “a town square to serve as a gateway to the commercial core of Alcona that could include a coffeehouse, outdoor seating options and a play area visible from the street. Introducing visible activity at the entrance to the commercial district will encourage people to park their cars and explore.”
  • “The parking lot at C.W. Coops is currently underutilized and has the potential to become redeveloped as a semi-enclosed public space with benches and a fountain. Parking can be relocated to the rear allowing for more visible activity on the street.”
  • “a bike/pedestrian loop via roads and trails connecting Alcona to other destinations in Innisfil.”
  • “Strengthen and intensify the corridor by encouraging mixed-use buildings with retail on the ground floor and residential above, fronting the sidewalks. Limit building heights, and consider the architectural treatment of the buildings and storefronts with the goal of enlivening the street and creating an attractive retail
  • “Program the spaces in front of and behind the library to include outdoor activities such as concerts and performances, outdoor reading rooms, art displays, movies, children’s play and small maker fairs or markets.”
  • “Create a teen hangout space with a plaza where the Idea Lab is currently located, providing indoor uses such as a pool hall and coffee bar with unique seating, and outdoor activities that could occur in the area currently occupied by the parking lot such as games, outdoor study areas, an outdoor skate park, and a lounge area.”

Several Place Making ideas extend to Innisfil Beach Park as another focus of community activity:

  • A community garden and outdoor oven to be used by the community for communal dinners, gardening events, plant sales and children’s classes.
  • Beer garden and picnic area
  • An environmental education and welcome centre that functions all year to showcase the ecological assets of the park area and connects to the nature trail along the creek.
  • Waterfront restaurants with outdoor dining
  • A quiet area to sit and relax on hammocks and lounge chairs
  • Opportunities for water activities such as such as canoeing, kayaking, water trampolines and boat rentals, supported by cafes, food kiosks and a beach shop.
  • Provide a complete walking loop around the park that can also be used for cross country skiing in the winter.
  • Transform one of the existing structures into an information and snack kiosk that opens into the park with outdoor seating options near by and located in close proximity to the playground.

Of course, the Official Plan also addresses other vital questions about parks and community spaces, transportation, neighbourhood growth, densities and development, commercial areas, employment areas, sustainability, natural heritage system, “countryside”, and Lake Simcoe shoreline. Policies and proposals in the plan aim to ensure that Innisfil is socially, culturally, physically and digitally connected.


Place Making in – Cookstown

The latest Official Plan, Our Place, discusses in exhaustive detail all the aspects of urban planning for Innisfil. It discusses strategies for being socially, culturally, physically and digitally connected. Residential and commercial growth policies, employment areas, and sustainability are also examined in relation to the built environment. There is also a focus on Place Making for each of Innisfil’s constituent ‘settlement’ areas as way to bring this built environment to life:

“Place making is a collaborative process where we feel engaged in creating and sustaining public destinations. These are the places where we recreate, shop, eat, gather, interact, and most of all build the social and emotional ties that hold our community together. The principal goal of place making is to create places that a wide variety of people will use and enjoy throughout the year.”

This aspect seems to me to be the most inspiring and potentially the most important in determining the appeal and enjoyment of our urban spaces in the next decades. The Appendices discuss recommendations for each of our specific place making areas. I thought I would start by sharing some of the ideas for Cookstown, site of our designated Heritage Conservation District (Appendices, p 55):

  • “Additional commercial uses on the ground floors would extend the commercial district and also provide opportunities for entrepreneurship …
  • A small plaza at the main intersection of the village, in the vacant space next to Hambly Insurance, could host small-scale events, and offer seating options and table games.
  • The Library is an important community anchor and the spaces surrounding it have the potential to become very active gathering places … Concerts, farmers markets, arts and crafts and food festivals could occur here during all seasons and create a destination for locals and visitors… On a daily basis, a small library café or daily food trucks would invite people to stay for lunch … Recreational activities such as a skate park or fitness amenities would draw youth …
  • The area around the trailhead for the TransCanada Trail on Queens Street, west of the commercial district, could become a welcoming place for bike riders … An outdoor café with bike racks and an interactive playground, art and a playful seating area would invite bicyclists and pedestrians …”

This gives you a flavour of the types of Place Making suggestions made for several sites including the Town campus, Innisfil Beach Road and Park, Innisfil Heights, Lefroy-Belle Ewart and Sandy Cove.

The report itself cautions that, “The achievement of the strategies outlined in this Plan cannot be achieved by the Town on its own. We all have a part to play in creating Our Place. It will require a mix of empowered individuals, community groups, volunteers and stakeholders to implement them. For example, strong partnerships between the Town and local businesses are needed to help achieve these strategies in commercial areas.

Likewise, neighbourhood groups, and other environmental organizations will need to work with the Town to find innovative, fun and educational opportunities for activities in neighborhood parks, the waterfront and natural areas. Other groups that can also play an active role in programming and animating public spaces throughout the Town include local cultural organizations, the historical society, the library, and students.”

Plan to attend the Our Place Open House at the Town Hall on Wednesday, November 1, (5:00 to 7:00 pm) to learn more about the future direction of our Town – Our Place. A public meeting takes place the following week, November 8 at 6:30 pm.