The 30-day time for feedback on the town’s transportation master plan closed Tuesday, and the legislated requirement for public consultation has been satisfied.
The plan has been three years in the making, CAO Marnie Cluckie told councillors last week, during a brief discussion about whether the time for consultation and consideration of comments should be extended.
While July is not considered the best time for public consultation, with many people away, Cluckie said the town had received a good response. “We’ve had significantly more feedback than we’d typically expect.”
She explained the town tried to make it a “more robust’ feedback, advertising the process in local newspapers, “to ensure feedback is integrated, because public consultation is so important if you’re going to have a successful document.”
The transportation master plan study was initiated in March 2020, “intended to serve as a long-range strategic plan for Niagara-on-the-Lake to identify transportation infrastructure requirements that address existing challenges and opportunities, support growth and recommend policies to guide transportation and land-use decisions.”
The study, the town’s website summary says, “identified the town’s transportation needs and opportunities through the year 2031 and recommended multi-modal operational, design, and transportation policies for the town. Recommendations from the TMP will enhance connectivity between transportation modes to move people sustainably, efficiently, and safely while reducing reliance upon any single mode of transportation.”
The TMP study was brought to the April 25, 2022, council meeting, received, and the 30-day consultation process approved.
The town’s consultant and project team will consolidate, review, and analyze the feedback before implementing changes as needed into the TMP.
The results of the review process will be presented to council before the TMP is finalized.
The extent of the comments received during the public consultation period will determine when the final draft of the TMP will come to council.
The final draft was expected to be presented to councillors for review in August, although there was some suggestion by interim operations director Kevin Turcotte last week that could be delayed.
“Council, it’s your plan. You can make changes as you see fit,” Turcotte said at the July 27 council meeting.
He said staff had not decided at that point whether the discussion would be held as a workshop or a presentation. Although staff is still working toward an August date, he said, “depending on how much feedback we get, it might get extended into September” if more time is needed to digest information from the consultation process and “bring forward a fulsome plan for council’s consideration.”
Cluckie told councillors the feedback will be looked at in terms of themes, “and you’ll see a revised document of the TMP that identifies what has changed.”
There will also be a summary of the feedback received from the transportation advisory committee. which will be integrated into the final report, she said.
The presentation of the final draft by the consultant will also include the history of the plan as it developed, “because when it takes three years it can be difficult to remember. It will chart that out and talk about the key pieces and what has changed from the last iterations.”
While “we hope to get this done by year end,” Cluckie said, “we do want to get it right more than we want to get it done. We want to make sure this is a good master plan document that will guide us for many years. That requires going slow to go fast later.”
She added that she thinks staff can balance those two things “and still achieve its objectives.”