What is an Official Plan? What is a Secondary Plan?

Environmental Studies PhD student Colin Khan has provided this account in case you might not be quite on top of the logic of the planning processes in the city. Thanks Colin!

A municipality’s Official Plan (OP) is part of the Province of Ontario planning process. OPs are used to describe and manage the various (and sometimes competing) land uses within municipalities. Planning is a tiered process, meaning that all municipal OPs must conform to the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). In turn, the OP directs all community master plans including transportation, infrastructure, and greenspace. The OP also outlines zoning by-laws, development reviews, urban design, and any secondary plans or community development plans. This helps to maintain responsible development and establishes rules and designations for specific land uses.

OPs must be reviewed and updated at least every five years as community needs are constantly changing. As a citizen you have opportunities to provide input during such updates. Attending information sessions and public meetings, as well as participating in community groups and contacting local Council are all ways to learn more and provide feedback on an OP.

Kingston is promoted as the most sustainable city in Ontario and perhaps even in all of Canada but to achieve this we need to be more involved in the municipal planning process and we need to work with Council to ensure that future developments and/or redevelopments are legitimately required, socially responsible, economically feasible, and environmentally sound. Kingston’s OP is currently under review and residents were recently invited to give comments on a draft. There will be another round of consultation in future..

Meanwhile, Kingston is also about to embark on a Secondary Plan (SP) for the Old Industrial Area and Inner Harbour. An SP is part of a municipal Official Plan (OP), or becomes an amendment to it, and it is used to direct development within specific regions of a given municipality. An SP helps to define more locally what land uses are available and describes when/how these designations should be developed if desired by interested stakeholders. While OPs outline broader development goals of an entire municipality SPs are useful in addressing community needs at a finer scale. Perhaps there is a need for more housing or public transit in a suburban neighborhood, or it may be time for necessary infrastructure renovations in a downtown core. Citizens, Council, and developers can work together to provide input into an SP as they can with the OP.

Often different scenarios of a given development are provided by developers and opportunities to comment on these are offered to the general public. An advantage of an SP is that it can be proposed, evaluated, written, and enacted independently from the five-year OP review cycle. A good SP ensures that local development is actually required and endorsed by the community and it also must respect the overarching OP.

We might add: the reasons we asked Council and Staff to make sure the review of the WSE is flagged in the OP is that sometimes it seems hard to find the end of the thread when trying to get the WSE out of all the various planning documents. Even if the SP is staff’s chosen procedure for the consultation that could take the WSE out of the OP and other policies, we want the updated OP to acknowledge that the WSE is, as of 2015, no longer an uncontroversial idea. That way, people can’t say, oh, you can’t use an SP to recommend against the WSE because it’s in the OP. We can say, no, the OP says it’s under review; we’re reviewing it; whatever conclusion we come to can then become policy. Got that :)? You can now impress your friends and neighbours (or your city councillor) with your fluency in planning acronyms.

–Laura Murray


Our letter to Planning re: the first draft of the Official Plan Update

We appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the update of Kingston’s Official Plan.

It’s imperative that the goals of sustainability and waterfront protection currently in our OP are retained and fortified in this update.

To this end, we have three particular concerns.

1. We believe that the Official Plan update must acknowledge that the Wellington Street Extension is currently under review, given widespread public concern about the road and Council’s vote that alternatives be investigated. The Kingston Transportation Master Plan update includes wording to this effect. As well, changes made to this draft OP include the addition of section, which prioritizes the preparation of secondary plans for the Old Industrial Area and the Inner Harbour. These secondary plans and the proposed WSE (or alternative transportation solutions) are inextricably linked. Perhaps a statement that the WSE is in question could refer to the secondary plans in section for clarification.

2. We also ask that you reconsider those changes made in the draft to sections 2.8.3 and 3.9.2 that considerably weaken the language around shoreline ecology protection. For example, the word “generally” has been inserted where the 30-metre setback or “ribbon of life” is mentioned in both those sections. As well, the statement in section 2.8.3 that “the City seeks to protect shoreline ecology” should be changed to “the City must protect shoreline ecology,” as suggested by one of the contributors on Crocodocs.

3. There is an inconsistency between the OP’s claim that the city is “committed to promoting transportation alternatives to the automobile that increase efficiency of travel, reduce energy consumption and pollution, and enhance sustainability” (section 4.6) and the long list of road widenings, extensions, and new roads in the OP. Both the general principles and specific plans in the OP update should emphasize environmental sustainability.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide input.

Official Plan Update Meeting August 5: A Report

Rory Baksh from Dillon Consulting gave a brief presentation to about 40 people regarding why the City of Kingston is engaging in an Official Plan update, the timeline for this update and how we as residents can comment. He stated that Kingston’s official plan is already “very, very good” and that this process was more about tweaking. He noted that a critical aspect of this update is aligning Kingston’s Official Plan with the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement. Some areas that were specifically presented through the displays were focused on stable neighbourhoods, affordable housing, urban design and resiliency.

The question period demonstrated many citizen concerns, including but not limited to:

  • concerns about the consultation processes and how effective they are on the outcome
  • asking if the WSE can be reflected as under review rather than assumed that it will be built
  • the importance of having council make stronger commitments to abide by the Official Plan
  • the importance of having stronger language regarding implementing goals of the plan
  • concerns about creating one zoning bylaw and the implications it will have on various regions in Kingston
  • asking if the city can implement a maximum height for buildings, like Washington DC has implemented (theirs is 10 stories)

Comments on the current draft close on August 16, 2015, and the second draft will be available for pubic viewing in October; another public meeting will be held in November.

WellingtonX will be asking opponents of the WSE to write in and comment on problematic aspects of the OP draft; stay tuned!

— Sayyida Jaffer