Maryland governor impressed with Ontario Growth plan

Maryland governor impressed with Ontario Growth plan

Says implementation will be biggest challenge

After reviewing both an initial and completed draft of the Ontario Growth plan, the recent governor of Maryland, U.S.A., says it is among one of the best he has seen.

“I’m very, very impressed with the plan,” Parris Glendening tells Axiom News. “I think it will serve as a model literally for all of North America.”

Glendening just completed his second and final term as governor. During his leadership, one of his primary agenda items was smart growth. He led the creation of a groundbreaking smart growth initiative that focused on using the entire $23 billion state budget as an incentive for smart growth. He is currently president of the Smart Growth Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C.

Glendening notes that a key strength of the Places to Grow initiative, launched by the Ontario Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal in June of this year, is its level of public engagement since inception. The plan was developed and launched with the support of a number of stakeholder groups representing key sectors in the province, including mayors of the designated area, national and international experts on smart growth and other sector leaders.

Another strength is the plan’s “truly regional focus,” which Glendening says is particularly noteworthy considering that the United States has very few regional plans to date. One hundred and twenty municipalities are included in the initiative.

Glendening also points out that the Growth plan incorporates almost all of the principles of smart growth, including the focus on broad-scale, integrated planning for cities and towns, and creating complete communities where people can walk to almost all of the amenities required for daily living.

He says in particular that intensification, or building in previously developed areas and making better use of urban space, is addressed in a rational approach. “Most people get a little nervous with the idea of intensification,” says Glendening. “But the [Ontario] plan has it so well wrapped-up in a focus on design.”

He’s also impressed with the focus not just on increasing resident density, but also job density, in certain urban cores.

The fact that considerable public dollars are already being put towards the plan, to ensure it happens, actually gives it some teeth and suggests this initiative will be more than just another nice plan on the shelf, says Glendening.

At the same time he points out that implementing the plan will be the toughest challenge. “The high level of enthusiasm and almost visionary effort now must be sustained by nuts-and-bolts work for a couple of decades.”

Will public funds continue to be made available for the plan’s implementation? Will the design standards actually be enforced in future development plans? Will communities have the necessary tools and assistance to move from vision to plans to execution? These are a few of the questions around implementation that will need to be asked, says Glendening.

He concludes that if the plan’s execution matches its vision, the result will be truly an exemplary model for other jurisdictions to follow.

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Michelle Strutzenberger

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