BANFF – An overview of the process, scope of work and to raise awareness for the upcoming Banff Community Plan was provided to Banff council as the lengthy undertaking is set to begin in the coming months.
The plan, which serves as the long-term planning guiding document for the Town, outlines the goals and objectives for the community.
“This is a legal requirement, but it’s so much more than something we have to do. It’s something we should do and something we need to do for the community,” said Coun. Grant Canning. “We are a municipality of plans. There’s no question about that and this one is certainly one of the most important. This is only the first step in a very long process as we move forward.”
The previous plan was from 2007 and has to be updated with the new policy direction once the Banff National Park of Canada Management Plan is finalized.
The report highlighted many goals and objectives from the 2007 plan are now different, while federal and provincial legislation has also changed.
During service review, council directed staff to begin the scoping exercise for reviewing and updating the Banff Community Plan.
The direction included Town staff returning with the proposal for launching the planning and including representatives from committees and community stakeholder groups.
“It’s not only the community plan, but it’s the community’s plan,” said Darren Enns, the Town’s director of planning and development. “We’ve often adopted a very grassroots and high touch environment for the public to become involved, whether it be open houses, town hall events or other ways for the community to become tangibly involved in drafting the plan.”
The Town of Banff’s plan not only has to align with the Municipal Government Act (MGA), but also with the Canada National Parks Act for Park Communities and the Banff National Park of Canada Management Plan.
The MGA has all municipalities with more than 3,500 people adopt a municipal development plan. The Banff plan has to follow the MGA and be approved by the federal minister who has Parks Canada in their portfolio.
The management plan stresses there be no net negative environmental impact, the Town has an obligation to environmental stewardship and heritage conservation and that they follow the guidelines created by the federal minister when it comes to activities in the national park.
The goals for the community plan’s review and update are to have a structure in place derived from council direction, give information on the purpose of the plan, have the public provide input to further guide Town staff on the community’s needs and ensure the plan’s existing policies are relevant or need updating.
The review process will have five phases, according to the report, that involves background review, forecasting and issues analysis, policy development, updating and revising the plan and council approval.
“A key focus of the updated community plan will be the alignment with other strategic plans and policies that establish strategic direction in matters relating to social planning, environment and sustainability, mobility and transportation, land use, urban design, culture and heritage, housing and affordability, economic prosperity, tourism and recreation, trails and open space,” the report stated.
The report noted Town staff will use information from the 2021 federal census that continues to have information being released this year, but Enns highlighted Town staff are continuously collecting necessary information such as demographics and housing.
Among the keys to the plan are community engagement and bringing forth issues important to residents in shaping the guiding document.
“There’s an insatiable appetite for planning in this community and people are very well informed about the topics they want to see included in the community plan,” Enns said. “We’re really looking to leverage and take advantage of that appetite and feed it with the public events and public outreach, which is available to all members of the public.”
Coun. Ted Christensen, who was part of the 2007 plan, said the advisory committee of people from throughout the community is extremely important in drafting the document.
“It’s a very significant element to our success to have this advisory committee structured with council approval and some opportunity for letting the public know these positions are going to come up,” he said.
The plan will be developed at the same time as the Banff Community Social Assessment process – completed every five years – and Town staff is aiming to align parts of the community consultation and census data review for efficient use of time and resources.
A specific timeline has yet to be set, according to the report, with the goals of the plan align with the management plan for Banff National Park that isn’t expected to be approved until this fall. It is anticipated a draft would be ready before the end of 2023 and would have to be completed within five years of a new Banff National Park of Canada Management Plan.
Town staff will return for a budget request once the management plan for Banff National Park is released since additional staff resources will be needed for consulting the public.
The report noted an updated environmental overview or a strategic level environmental assessment will be needed due to the Impact Assessment Act. It also has to align with other strategic plans such as the Tourism Master Plan for Banff National Park.
“There’s an incredible opportunity for community involvement,” said Coun. Chip Olver, who was on council for the 1998 and 2007 plans. “This is what I think is the foundational planning document with every resident’s fingerprints all over it. I’m so delighted we’re hearing the community will be deeply involved in the development of the next plan.”