A municipal development plan (sometimes referred to as a community sustainability plan) is a framework used by municipalities to address long-term community development, land use, and growth in a responsible way.
For example, have you considered how your municipality could manage a change in housing demand in the years to come? Or, how your city will respond to future mass transit needs? These are problems that can be addressed appropriately in a municipal development plan.
Do you have a complete municipal strategy? If not, it will be much harder for you to create an achievable development plan.
Priorities differ from one municipality to the next, depending on things like natural resource dependency, rate of population increase, tourism, natural disaster prevalence, and more. And because municipal development plans take a long-term approach (considering developmental changes over at least the next 20 years), they are powerful decision-making tools that address both current needs and future implementations.
To get started, we’ve outlined five Canadian development plan examples, followed by a number of things to consider in order to be certain your development plan aligns with your strategy. Viewing these examples (and strategy alignment tips) will help you see different approaches to creating your municipal development plan.
5 Municipal Development Plan Examples
- Calgary: This video explains why Calgary city officials decided to create a municipal development plan, how they developed it, and the outcome of their efforts.
- Wood Buffalo: The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo created this video, which features a fun, animated conversation between a father and his daughter. It describes the municipality’s changing population growth and industry, and how those changes spurred on the municipal development plan.
- Stony Plain: This development plan touches on five areas: community development, supportive infrastructure, economic opportunity, environmental responsibility, and governance and partners. For each aspect, it lists a description and bulleted, high-level “directions” outlining the way forward.
- Calgary: “Cowtown,” located in Alberta, has an in-depth development plan that includes seven goals: a prosperous economy, a compact city, great communities, good urban design, connecting the city, greening the city, and managing growth and change. The document outlines the role and scope of the development plan, the policies put in place to meet those goals, a framework for future change, and more.
- Leduc: Closer to Edmonton is Leduc, whose development plan lays out five sustainability principles: environment and infrastructure, economy and tourism, building the city, social wellness and safety, recreation and culture, and governance. For each vision area, the development plan outlines specific strategies for managing change in these areas over the years.
Have you taken your municipal strategy into consideration?
While municipal development plans and municipal strategic plans aren’t synonyms, there is a great deal of overlap between the two. For example, while they are similar in terms of goals, a development plan looks at these goals “from a land use and development perspective” (according to the city of Canmore, Alberta). Additionally, a development plan is meant to “shape the city’s urban form and direct the development and implementation of more detailed plans” (according to the city of Edmonton, Alberta). A strategic plan, on the other hand, takes all areas of a city into consideration, including citizen services, operational efficiency, employee development, revenue and expense management, and public safety.
If your municipality has (or is planning to create) a municipal development plan, be sure to consider the following:
- Your budget. A city strategic plan takes into account a city’s main goals (objectives) for a three- to five-year period. Those goals can then be used to allocate your budget. Because municipal development plans typically look at a much longer time period (20+ years), it may be difficult to determine your budget with a development plan alone.
- Your community’s feedback. Your municipal development plan should incorporate the needs and desires of the public. If you fail to take their feedback into consideration, you’ll likely end up creating a plan that doesn’t align with the needs of residents. For example, if you know your citizens love their green space, make land preservation a future priority. Or if your city relies heavily on clean water to run a large number of breweries—like Fort Collins, Colorado, for example—you want to be sure your plan for sustainability has an emphasis on preserving clean water and rivers. Many municipalities like to gather public feedback through surveys, workshops, or focus groups before they get started planning. If you choose to do this, be sure to ask questions like:
- Where do you live within the city/municipality?
- How do you get around?
- What do you do for a living?
- What do you value most about [your municipality]?
- Your short-term strategic themes. Municipal development plans typically focus on long-term development and sustainability—but you may not be taking into account the primary high-level goals your organization might be focused in the short term. For example, if your city has the goal of becoming “the most business-friendly city in the state,” have you considered which projects and measures will help you achieve this goal?
Before you move forward with your development plan, it’s important that your strategy—including your vision, objectives, and leadership—are all structured correctly. This free guide explains eight things you could be missing from your strategic plan. Download it now to ensure those elements are in place. Once you have a better handle on your city’s strategy, your long-term development plan will be that much more impactful!