A very quick update on the first day of the IMCL Conference...
In large part the the morning centred around two themes:
1. The built environment of our communities has a deep impact on our culture/social development.
What I took away: Ideally, if communities are built to be safe and beneficial for children it will ultimately improve life for everyone. A pretty good point if you think about it - I mean; what are our children learning during their day to day lives in our modern communities?
I'd suggest they are learning that you drive to go buy a carton of milk, that you play alone in your own backyard (on your own swing set) and that "nature" is also something you have to drive to. Broad generalizations, I know, but there's some truth to it.
If left unchecked these trends can ultimately lead to communities where people don't know their neighbour, physical activity drops & obesity rates increase. The good news is that we can design our communities in ways that encourage active forms of transportation (like walking or cycling) and in ways that bring nature in to everyone's day to day experience.
These are all very familiar themes that have come up from our MDP public consultation.
2. Regional Planning and Addressing Sprawl
The bottom line here is that sprawl likely can't be addressed without some form of regional planning. And, ultimately there needs to be some sort of legislated boundary that limits urban growth - often called called an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) down here.
Oregon set up regional planning back in the late 70's. In the Portland area this means that there are 25 different municipalities (each with their own council) and a Metro Council that handles a few select services, delivered over the whole region. It's essentially another layer of government between the local (municipal) and state levels.
I don't believe that adding another layer of government is the right way to go to address sprawl in Alberta - it's not in our 'DNA' to support something like that. But the current system that leaves all these decisions subject to negotiation between local councils isn't working. When it comes down to it there's too much self-interest; municipalities are competing with one another for development that provides property tax revenue.
Sure, it's possible for a municipality to take an altruistic approach and and restrict urban growth within it's boundary... but that's really not useful if the development just hops to an adjacent municipality.
I think there are some structural changes that need to happen in Alberta if we want to get serious about addressing sprawl and protecting our valuable, productive farmland and natural areas.
I guess that was really just the morning. In the afternoon I attended:
Re-thinking Approaches to Design Led Community Participation
Kind of a weak session - but at least one very cool & fun idea I'd like to try in GP
Sustainable Community Planning Charrettes: a Collaborative Approach to Sustainable Planning
I've heard of Charrettes before and it was interesting to hear that there will be a training session by the National Charrette Institute in Olds in a few weeks.
The Golden Necklace: Southern California's Regional Multi-Use Trail System
The project is huge and probably has lessons for the Wapiti Corridor Planning Group in the GP Area or the River Valley Alliance in the capital region.
Quantifying Impacts: Urban Parks & Art Installation
This was a thought provoking session that looked at efforts to quantify the value of parks and public art in hard money terms. Things like; do property values increase near parks/natural spaces? Do large public art installations have a noticeable effect on the local economy?
That's all from day one - on to day two!