With the City of Moose Jaw reviewing its Official Community Plan, Discover Moose Jaw is looking back at past community plans and how they came together.
Back in 1992, the Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT) produced a study called “Our Community... Our Future” which became a bit of a precursor to the Official Community Plans of today.
Former city manager Jim Penrod said before the study was done, the city and various leaders from various committees were looking for ways to rejuvenate and revitalize Moose Jaw. At the time, Penrod said the city was struggling to get various projects going.
“There were competing views on what should happen and how to use land and how to revitalize the city. So, the city decided that this would be an attempt to get some focus on rejuvenation, revitalization, Main Street improvements and that sort of thing,” he said.
R/UDAT studies for other cities came to the City of Moose Jaw’s attention and an application was made. Penrod said the team sent a couple of people to Moose Jaw to review what Moose Jaw was about and the terms of reference. However, Penrod said R/UDAT agreed to put a team together to do the study but the city had to follow their guidelines.
Penrod said the weakness of the study was that R/UDAT’s team spent four days meeting with various residents and groups and they put out the report.
“If you're going to really sit down and sort of map the character of a community, you can't do that in a day or two. You have got to spend a lot more time than that with the people. You’ve got to sit down and look at the areas and the regions and the zoning. You’ve got to look at the history and why it is what it is,” Penrod said.
He said the report had some good ideas such as infilling trees, changes to downtown and different zoning bylaws, but no major projects came of it.
The study said that downtown was impressive and work should focus on Main Street between Athabasca Street and the CPR Station and within a block or two in either direction.
He also noted that the Tunnels of Moose Jaw were not around in 1992 and the study made no mention of the tunnels as a tourist attraction. The Tunnels of Little Chicago opened in 1996.
One of the more contentious issues was surrounding the location of “The Spa” (now the Temple Gardens Spa).
Shortly before Penrod became the city manager, city council agreed to dig the wells for the spa. Penrod said everyone had a different opinion on where the spa should have gone. A Request for Proposals process didn’t solve anything and all of the proposals included the province and the city kicking in $3 million to $12 million.
The R/UDAT study recommended that the spa be located roughly in the Athabasca Street, Manitoba Street, Third Avenue Northeast and Second Avenue Northwest areas. The report said if the spa wasn’t going to move forward to look at potential recreation or tourism opportunities with the Natatorium.
City council at the time agreed to do a feasibility study. The study showed those who would go to the spa would not be travelling from far away and it wouldn’t attract people from overseas, internationally or from Eastern Canada. That feasibility study changed a lot of minds and shaped what is now the Temple Gardens Spa which opened in 1996.
Other interesting notes from the R/UDAT study were the recommendation to close Cordova Street to vehicle traffic and make it a pedestrian mall to Crescent Park and that Wakamow Valley had “potential for one of the finest open space systems in Canada, if not North America.”
The study also recommended getting rid of the Mac the Moose logo.
"Brochures, (silk screened) t-shirts and other printed material convey a visual message to potential guests that is more important than any amount of printed text," the study said.
The study said Mac the Moose "fundamentally fails" to represent the history and culture of the city and a "message delivered by the 'cartoon character' is not particularly flattering. It tells people that this is likely an unsophisticated community (which is clearly not the case), with not too much to offer outside of a meal and a rest stop."
In the early 2000s, the provincial government passed legislation requiring cities to produce an Official Community Plan (OCP) and Moose Jaw passed its first OCP in 2011, which is the one in effect today.
Glenn Hagel was the mayor when the OCP was passed in 2011, but said the process started long before his term. The process in total took about 10 years and by the time Hagel was elected mayor in 2009 public consultation was completed and the focus was largely on debate within city council.
Hagel said the discussion mostly revolved around zoning to make sure, as an example, industry was not being established next to residential properties. According to Hagel, it was not an “anxious debate” but a “thoughtful debate” to make sure the city had a solid plan for years to come.
He felt some of the good things that came from the 2011 OCP were about green space. He noted that the OCP outlines that residential development must have 10 per cent of the land as green space and five per cent of the land must be green space for industrial developments.
Hagel thought it was a wise decision when they decided in the plan that green space and recreational facilities must be within 400 metres of residential property, making it accessible for all residents.
“Wherever you live and if it's an apartment with children, they are within 400 metres or three blocks or so from a place where you can go and you can find a bench and some grass or you can find a facility that you can go in and play,” Hagel said.
Having gone through the process of finalizing a community plan, Hagel had some advice for the city councilors of today.
“They were elected to represent all of the people and to do what is good for this city as a whole and to just keep that in mind constantly. And if they do that, if they go into the debates with that as their guideline, they'll end up doing a good job,” he said.
You can find out more about the current review of the Official City Plan on the city’s website.