What is Community Planning?

Community planning directs future community development by establishing long-term visions, goals, policies, and strategies for the community. Unlike day-to-day development planning activities which typically focus on current development proposals, community planning draws images of the future of the community and helps the community achieve social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

Community planning can influence many perspectives of a community, from housing provision, to economic development to environmental protection, parks and trails, public transportation, cultural continuity, community safety, to name a few. It ensures that the community functions well and provides the best services to its residents for generations to come. A well-planned community is also able to maintain a good “look and shape”, which enhances a sense of community and improves the happiness and wellbeing of its residents.

A master-planned community vs. a freely-sprawled community

Typically, there are two ways to develop a community – having a well-thought-out land use plan or letting the community grows itself freely.

A master-planned community

A master-planned community is a community that is carefully planned with full consideration of future objectives and demands. It develops a physical layout that is mindful of the environment and makes architectural and urban planning efforts fit into it.

A master-planned community typically involves meaningful consultation with its residents and designates lands into several zones. Each of the zones has its very specific function, which can usually be judged by its names, such as single dwelling zones, high-density residential zones, commercial zones, office zones, industrial zones, park zones, etc. Zoning maintains a good “look and shape” of the community and ensures that the community runs well both in each individual zone and as a whole. It also ensures that the wellbeing of the residents, economic development, and environmental protection are well balanced for decades, if not centuries, in the future.

The downside of a master-planned community is that the community may look scattered at the beginning with a lot of gaps between developments because it takes time to achieve the master plan. However, as time goes, the community will function better with comprehensive services to its residents – the future image of the community is always under control.

Malahat Nation has great potential for growth. With a well-developed Community Master Plan, we will be able to pursue the best interests of Malahat members whenever a new development opportunity comes up because we know whether the opportunity meets our expectations and where it should go. This would be a long process, but in the end, we will have a well-structured and well-functioned community that benefits future generations.

A freely-sprawled community

A community without planning (Houston, TX in 1970s)

A freely-sprawled community is a community evolved in an “ad hoc” fashion. It has little or no planning and sprawls as new development emerges. Typically, it takes a “first come first serve” approach, where new development is assigned a piece of land next to the most recent development.

The advantage of a freely-sprawled community is that, in the beginning, the community looks functioning well and provides convenient services to its residents because everything is close to each other. However, as the community sprawls, various problems emerge rapidly – the environment is contaminated, cars are jammed on the road, noise surrounds every household, economic development stagnates, and the community looks bad from afar. With little consideration of future demands, the community would easily end up with, for example, residential houses next to an industrial plant, water supply problems, or no land available for a commercial development that everyone wants.

Malahat Nation would have a compact neighbourhood at the very beginning if we let our community sprawl freely. Everything might be located within walking distance and we might be able to generate more revenue by accepting all the development opportunities that come to us, but our community would develop at the cost of our health, environment, and economy in the future.

Which way would you choose for Malahat? If you would like to talk more about community planning, please feel free to reach out!
Cliff Feng, Community Planning Coordinator