Last Thursday morning, a contingent of prairie dog people (Paul Dechene, Stephen Whitworth and myself) attended a news conference at City Hall where Phase 3 of the Official Community Plan was launched. To bring you up to speed, Phases 1 and 2 involved “Scoping” and “Building the Foundation” respectively. Phase 3 is titled “Advancing the Vision”, and involves seeking public input and identifying priorities as the city “grows and changes over the next 25 years”.

Over the last few years, we’ve done a fair bit of writing on the process that led to the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan. The Official Community Plan is similar, except it will address planning on a city-wide scale, and will look at such issues as Land Use & Transportation, Social & Cultural Development, Economic Development, Infrastructure and Natural & Built Environment.

In the next few months,  city officials, who are working with Dialogue, the consulting firm that helped develop the Downtown Plan, will present information on the OCP at a variety of community events. In the fall, the city will host a Speakers’ Series to look at best practices in other cities along with Citizen Circles to discuss specific topics of interest to stakeholder groups. In October, there’ll be a public workshop and ideas fair, and in December, an open house to seek further public input.

You can also participate in the process by visiting and offering your input there.

As this process unfolds we’ll do our best to keep you informed. At the press conference, Jason Carlston, General Manager of the Planning & Development Division, and Kim Sare, the city’s Sustainable Communities Coordinator, expressed strong interest in having the planning process be driven by citizen input. That’s fine, but realistically, how many Reginans are prepared to make the changes that we’ve been told repeatedly need to be made if Regina is to get its multi-billion dollar infrastructure deficit under control and become a truly sustainable 21st century city.

To achieve those goals we need to increase our density. That means smaller scale housing in existing neighbourhoods, as opposed to more sprawling suburbs and big box clusters with massive parking lots. We also need to become less car reliant, and embrace other means of getting around the city like public transit, cycling and walking.

At a post press conference scrum, Carlston said “I think we’re looking at different ways of doing things than we have over the last 25 years.” To help Reginans understand the challenges that the city faces moving forward, he noted, with a growing population and a pressing need to adjust our lifestyle expectations to accommodate the rising cost of housing, energy, environmental controls, infrastructure repair and replacement, and whatnot, the city will be undertaking an “education process”.

Should be fun.