The City of Charlottetown is developing a new official plan that will be the foundation for all future land development in the capital.
Consultants and city officials involved in making the plan held a virtual Q&A Thursday evening as the kickoff to the new plan, giving residents a chance to think about answers to pressing questions about the city's growth and future land use.
Questions such as: what locations in Charlottetown can the city grow and develop? Does the city grow upward or keep widening out? How will green space be affected? How can this plan address the current problems facing the city like housing and climate change? How can a city grow and maintain its historic character?
By the end of this process, the intention is the official plan will contain the answers to these questions and become the guiding document for all city land planning in the future.
"It's a very busy place [Charlottetown], it's a good thing to have but it's challenging," said Alex Forbes, the manager of planning and heritage with the city.
"There's a lot of pressure on the department, but it's the best of times because those pressures are coming from growth … but the challenge will be how do we balance that growth that is in sync with the communities we serve?"
To help be in sync with the public, the official plan will be made using a significant amount of feedback from people living in the city, Forbes and others on the virtual Q&A said Thursday.
"Staff have identified problems that we think need to be worked on, but we need the feedback from the public to make sure the issues we think are important, as staff, are in sync with [issues] the public think is important," he said.
"With the public input, it ensures nothing gets missed, all the voices are heard and that council is acutely attuned to what they need to pay attention to."
Housing, climate change at the forefront of new plan
The city's old plan was developed in 1999 and adopted in 2005 and "no longer meets the current needs of our growing community," a release from the city said. There is room for some policies to carry over from the '99 version, but major issues like affordable housing and climate change weren't a consideration then as they are now.
This new plan is a restart of sorts, Forbes said. It gives the city a chance to look at the new conditions that are affecting the city.
"Housing has become much more complex over the period since those initial policies were put into place," Forbes said.
"Climate change wasn't the issue that it was 20 years ago, it is an issue now. We're building provisions into both the official plan and the zoning bylaw dealing with rising sea levels."
The city has recruited some outside expertise to assist with the creation of the plan. Rachelle Dillon, an urban planner with O2 Planning & Design out of Calgary, is the plan's project manager.
The city's rapid growth — 7.5 per cent between the 2016 and 2021 censuses — creates problems that need to be addressed right away, said Dillon.
"With increased growth does come, immediately, housing pressure," she said.
"But also is increased pressure on existing systems like open space systems, transportation systems … so we need to look at everything together in light of climate change."
How to take part
Dillon said it's important that the team working on the official plan hears from people across Charlottetown from different backgrounds and cultures, to get a wide-ranging and inclusive view for the capital's future.
"I really want a lot of people to come out," she said.
"I want their ideas and how they experience the city."
There will be more chances for residents to have their say in the coming days, weeks and months. The virtual session will be available online next week for anyone who missed it.
More community pop-ups and drop-ins are scheduled this month and next. Those include
Sept. 16 in Victoria Park, from 2-5 p.m.
Sept. 17 at Charlottetown Learning Library Centre, from 2-4 p.m.
Sept. 18 at the Downtown Farmers' Market, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Oct. 2 at Farm Day in the City
The city anticipates the new official plan will be brought to council for consideration in summer 2023.