1. Community Identity
If a discerning citizen were to desire to appreciate and applaud a distinct community that knows where it came from, what it has arrived at, and where it intends to progress to, that individual need look no further than to Morinville, Alberta.
I had not been to Morinville for many years and had opportunity to do so the day before yesterday. Its charm has been sustained.
The town centre continues to gravitate to the ecclesiastical compound, small business has proliferated on the rue Champlain that intersects the community, residential subdivisions have been well organized, the industrial park retains its commerce, and the memory of citizens past is honoured in the well designed civic cemetery.
Citizens I spoke with said with unsolicited sunniness how much they liked where they were.
The Town’s Francophone origin is prominently enunciated even in the street signs: les rues Grandin, Laval, Jacques-Cartier, Tâché, Montcalm—and two that struck me best: Indépendence and Confédération.
The compound also contains a founders’ monument, on which are inscribed the names of the pioneer German families who participated in the building of the community. There is also a more recent monument on which are placed plaques of recognition of all the community’s mayors, from its first, Omer Saint Germain, to its current, Lloyd Bertschi.
The ecclesiastical centre includes the former Notre-Dame Convent, now partly converted to the Musée Morinville. The old convent is situated, within the sound of an Ave Maria, very near to the church.
Other fine cultural heritage has been preserved with care throughout the Town, such as that evident in the fine tending of the cemetery.
One of the most recent, and one of the finest, additions to Morinville is its new cultural centre. Opened in May, this is a excellent example of what progressive councils and their administrations were able to effect to take advantage of the “shovel-ready” projects that the Federal Government assisted in funding during the recent phase of the Building Canada Fund. The centre is clearly a point of pride, and I had the pleasure of being toured, on but a moment’s request, throughout the building.
The performing area has a fine stage and state-of-the-art technology behind the curtain and at the back of the hall. The lobby is open and warm in ambience. The meeting rooms of are high quality and contain modern digital media. The kitchen, gleaming with neatness, can produce a banquet for 450 guests. The performing season is off to a good start, and includes such fine artistic organizations as Pro Coro, Alberta Opera, and Ballet Kelowna.
This accomplishment is reflective of the soundness of the approach to governance that has been selected by the Town. A long-term 25 years’ documented vision drives a three years’ strategic plan that is aligned to the political mandate, and the plan in turn drives an annual business plan that directs the administration. In turn, the annual business plan substantively informs the community’s second most important annual policy documents, namely, its budgets.
If a community wills it itself, it will sustain its identity, and being smaller does not preclude any largeness of thought. Morinville is one of those communities that feels right.
2. Comments on Civic Planning
Morinville’s Council has developed a refined and sophisticated strategic plan in the form of a Municipal Sustainability Plan. Such a plan is not required by the Municipal Government Act but is promoted strongly by AUMA, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association. This puts Morinville legions of years ahead of most communities of like size in Canada. The five dimensions of sustainability identified by AUMA are environment, culture, society, economy, and governance; and one of its essential tenets is the fostering of a dialogue with citizens. In Alberta, there are currently five regional MSP projects, and twelve local ones, of which Morinville’s is one.
In effect, an MSP is also a long-range strategic plan, and Morinville terms it so. Thomas Plant, in his Strategic Planning for Municipalities describes strategic planning as “the process of determining a municipality’s long-term vision and goals, and developing an action plan for those goals.” The key reasons for its development are:
- “to establish a collective vision;
- to plan for [the] future;
- to maximize resources;
- to communicate priorities.”
The Morinville 2035 Growing Together document and its embedded iterative processes of strategic planning framework, triennial strategic plans, and an annual business plan all make very considerable good sense. In the MSP there is particular attention paid to:
- Citizen engagement, sound service management, accountability, quality service, and especially planning to ensure a complete and beautiful community, and regional leadership;
- Arts, culture, heritage, recreations, and multiplicity of identity in a learning community;
- Thriving business and agriculture; and,
- Responsible infrastructure and healthy ecosystems.
Morinville is also revising its Municipal Development Plan, now 14 years old, and its Land Use Bylaw, both of which are required by the Municipal Government Act. A municipal development plan essentially coordinates anticipated growth with future land use, including protection of agricultural lands, and infrastructure, including transportation systems and schools.
Morinville has chosen to make the MDP its second-level planning document, governed by its first-level document, the Municipal Sustainability Plan. It has also chosen to have the Municipal Development Plan, first, to drive area structure plans, which are statutory plans at the neighbourhood or industrial park scale, and then to inform the land use bylaw, which is at base the actuating regulatory mechanism. There is also an important and crucial interrelationship with the needs of the Capital Regional Board and its Regional Evaluation Framework.
The full first reading draft, as at 14 February 2012, of the Municipal Development Plan and the governing hierarchies is available. It is very clear, very thorough, and well articulated by the superior planning document, Morinville 2035. It is also practical and thus implementable. The draft of the fully detailed land use bylaw is also online.
Incidentally, the 1984 downtown plan is still on the books at and makes some interesting recommendations regarding retention of residential areas, location of shopping centres, development control, and, importantly, heritage conservation and revitalization strategy. In regard to heritage conservation and façade improvement, one can look to the success of Nelson BC, Saint John NB, St. Andrews NB, and Halifax NS.