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

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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 – Lefroy / Belle Ewart

My last article introduced the Draft Official Plan for Innisfil and the concept of ‘place making’ in each of the Town’s neighbourhoods. Last week I wrote about concepts proposed for Cookstown. This week, we’ll take a look at proposals for enlivening the core of Lefroy and Belle Ewart:

  • The plan recommends creating a “compact mixed use and retail core along Killarney Beach Road. As one approaches the Church Street intersection, ground floor retail, small restaurants and shops could welcome visitors and strengthen the section of the street leading to the lakefront. The area to the east of Church Street could allow a wide variety of commercial uses with residential above to improve the approach to the water, while west of Church Street, limited commercial uses and offices could be allowed on the ground floor of residential buildings to maintain the residential character. Gaps should be filled with new buildings that recreate the scale, spacing, setbacks, height and character of the existing houses, on both sides of the street.”
  • The recreation centre would be “a vibrant community centre with more programming for residents of all ages, additional opportunities for play, indoors and out, and ice skating in the winter.”
  • “Enhance lake access and the public space at the end of Killarney Beach Road with water related attractions such as boating, boat rental, fishing, beach shops, play areas and restaurants or pop-up food kiosks.”
  • “Maximize opportunities for a mix of uses at the Marina (as the zoning allows for), including restaurants, cafes, information kiosks and small scale shops and a convenience store.”

As the primary settlement area of Innisfil, Alcona has the widest variety of proposed place making sites, focused on Innisfil Beach Road and Innisfil Beach Park. Those will be reviewed in a future article.

The staff report on Our Place is being presented to Council on November 8. It is expected to be received as information with a recommendation that staff report back to Council no later than January 2018 with a Final Draft for consideration.

The staff report says the Our Place Official Plan is “structured around the Connect, Grow, Sustain focus areas of the Inspiring Innisfil community strategic plan … the overall focus of the Our Place Official Plan is to embed place making and to create places and destinations that we can all use and enjoy throughout the year.”

Interested residents can learn more by attending the staff presentation at Town Hall or by accessing documents online at Our Place Innisfil Official Plan.

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.

Let’s Take Back Our Cities

The announcement that Toronto’s Air Canada Centre is going to be rebranded as the Scotiabank Arena generated about as much enthusiasm as the notice of another road closure. We seem to have reached a tipping point for public toleration of corporate intrusion into daily life. I think I reached the breaking point years ago when I arrived at Union Station and was appalled to see the floors and stair risers of the historic building covered with vinyl-graphics advertising in addition to the numerous posters and ads already covering the walls. Virtually every arts and sports venue in Toronto has been claimed by a corporate brand. I no longer know where many of them are because the current name is meaningless and some names have changed several times.

For years we have been told that wages and corporate taxes have to be kept low to compete globally. Yet the same corporations still have hundreds of millions to spend on discretionary branding exercises, and that’s after paying executives record-breaking, tax deductible, compensation. In 2016, Canadian CEO pay was 159 times greater than the average income (Huffington Post). We are expected to accept corporate names on buildings, arenas, and theatres; transit vehicles wrapped in advertising; bus shelters and litter bins plastered with ads. Every major fund-raising charity event is co-opted with corporate advertising. This is the corporate elite telling cities, “We own you.”  Continue reading

Neighbours, Friends and ‘hoods

I was intrigued recently by an article published in Vox titled, “How our housing choices make friendships more difficult” (David Roberts, Jan. 16, 2017). It seems particularly important as Innisfil prepares its next Official Plan, Our Place, which seeks to define specific places for public gathering and interaction. Speaking of experience in the United States, the author says:

“Our ability to form and maintain friendships is shaped in crucial ways by the physical spaces in which we live. “Land use,” as it’s rather aridly known, shapes behavior and sociality. And in America we have settled on patterns of land use that might as well have been designed to prevent spontaneous encounters, the kind out of which rich social ties are built.”

The article goes on to discuss how friendships change as people age, form families and move into their own homes. The article references some research on the subject:

“The researchers believed that physical space was the key to friendship formation; that “friendships are likely to develop on the basis of brief and passive contacts made going to and from home or walking about the neighborhood.” In their view, it wasn’t so much that people with similar attitudes became friends, but rather that people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and later adopted similar attitudes.”

The article notes how patterns of human settlement have changed over millennia:  Continue reading