This week, Shape the Sault, the city’s Official Plan Review process, hosted their second open house with the purpose of getting community input and engaging with local residents and stakeholders to create a strategy for the next 20 years.
For those of you who may not know, the Official Plan is a legal document approved by City Council that contains the community’s vision and goals for the city, upon which community consultation is the building block.
The first open house back in March dealt specifically with Agriculture and Rural development, and the focus of this week’s event was the Natural Environment and Resources.
The primary concerns, as explained by Senior City Planner Peter Tonazzo, were tree by-laws, protecting and re-greening some of the flood channels. “We’ve got to continue to protect our wetland areas; we’ve got to continue to protect the escarpment.”
As for as what the city can and cannot do when it comes to the natural environment, a lot of the minimum requirements are dictated to the municipality by the province. In other words, there are provincial requirements without any leeway. To this point, Tonazzo said “We can certainly go above and beyond provincial requirements, and there is certainly some local discretion.”
With a greater surge of people who care about the environment now than historically, Tonazzo noted that it plays into how the city will shape their plan and policies moving forward, especially in regards to tree protection. “I think when it comes to environmental legislation in general, we are finding there is more and more regulation, not less and less. So they are adding new laws, but not really taking any away.” He continued, “(In the Sault) there isn’t a ton of areas left that don’t have some environmental protection on them, and that aren’t currently developed.”
Tonazzo described protecting the environment while also trying to develop industry and development in our region as being a balancing act in order to benefit the greatest public good. For example, the Ring of Fire project and Essar Algoma’s operations both have huge economic opportunity for our region, and with Essar Algoma being a massive employer in the Sault, they need to be respected and considered when planning for the future.