Land-use planning, as defined in broad terms, defines the process through which communities try to control as well as design transformation and development taking place in their physical environments. According to Site Economics Limited (23), land use planning has been practiced under various titles including town planning, community planning, physical environment planning as well as city planning. Physical environment, which mainly refers to land together with everything tangible existing on as well as beneath its surface and its various uses, constitutes to the most basic object of land-use planning. Planning further includes the manner and technique by which constructions are laid down in a city as well as the design employed when constructing public places. As explained by Jackson and Curry (440), physical environments are partially man-made and partially natural. A fulfilling man-made or constructed environment constitutes to the ultimate objective of planning although the relationship between the natural and constructed environments as well as the interaction between humans and their environments are also critical concerns. This is particularly because human activities may perpetuate negative effects on the natural environment while certain natural conditions may on the other hand perpetuate hazardous impacts on humans. Similarly, planners are concerned about the need to safeguard natural environments from negative impacts of human use, such as water pollution, as well as protect humans from harmful natural circumstances, such as flood zones British Columbia (16).
Planning the physical environment means that certain deliberate order is imposed with the sole intention of attaining a desired level of environmental quality. Although environmental quality is central to the planning practice, there is no standardized agreement pertaining to the various attributes that distinguish a good and well-organized environment. As such, varying cultures esteem environmental qualities differently and hence take different approaches to organize their physical environment (Schwarz 16). While there are several different factors that impact choice of environmental qualities desired by each community at a certain time and place, every community, through political as well as social approaches, must lay down its own standards to define quality physical environment. People’s needs, preferences as well as economic situations should influence the quality of physical environments that are planned as well as established Site Economics Limited (31). This paper explores the how Vancouver Island defines quality physical environment. The paper thus looks at the Island’s land use planning from diverse perspectives including history, development of planning legislation and policies, strategies of land-use controls, legal foundations as well as the social, economic and environmental impacts.
Land use planning in Vancouver Island
Land use planning in Vancouver Island is not a new venture as it traces its roots from Canada’s land use planning history. As explained by British Columbia (21), the close link between conservation and land use planning in Canada emerged with the Conservation Commission that prevailed years prior to the World War 1. During this time, Canada was caught up in a wave of inspiration emanating from varying sources including the British city planning, the Garden city movement, the United States’ reform movement as well as the City Beautiful movement. The City Beautiful movement particularly inspired Canada by offering an ideal example of a well-ordered city with beautiful contractions and public spaces that acted as symbols of advancement in industrial civilization (Erceg 45). As a result, various groups of citizens across Canada started categorizing themselves into Town Planning Commissions s wells as Civil Development Associations. These efforts were however not given preference until the Conservation Commission developed concern about public health. Having perceived individuals’ health as the greatest of all resources, the Conservation Commission resolved to support town planning as a way of promoting a healthy as well as productive population. As such, the Commission advocated for the adoption of the British Planning Act of 1909, which was perceived to be an ideal model for enhancing the development of a healthy and attractive Canadian community. As explained by Site Economics Limited (45), Dr. Charles Hodgetts was chiefly responsible for advocating for the adoption of the British example. This was because Hodgetts was well informed about the unhealthy housing conditions that most families in Toronto and other industrial cities lived. While he believed that improved standards of city layout as well as housing design would eradicate these problems, he planned for a global city symposium in Toronto in 1914. During the same time, Hodgetts secured an appointment with the world’s most distinguished British planner, Thomas Adams. Thomas enlightened Hodgetts on the need to regard planning as an integration of art and scientific approaches that require most accurate evaluation of human needs as well as problems. He also enlightened him about the natural conditions that should prevail in an area before land improvement plan could be put in place. Both Thomas and Hodgetts agreed that there was need to promote healthy living conditions as well as quality design standards (Mendes 435). Thomas’ perception regarding a well planned physical environment, however, went beyond the creation of healthy living conditions and quality design standards. This is because he stood for “city efficient” as well as “city functional” aspects of school planning. According to these concepts, Adams believed that various parts of the city should be organized to suit their particular functions. As such, residential areas should be supplied with all amenities as well as services that go hand in hand with healthy community living; industrial areas should be served by important facilities that include railways; business areas as well as civic centers should be planned to meet the commercial and public needs of the community; and the wider city should be organized to allow safe and convenient communication (Schwarz 19). Additionally, land should be used in the best way possible and not to be wasted; the unique characteristics linked to each site should be integrated into comprehensive development plans; civic facilities like community centers as well as hospitals should be accessibly situated for people expected to use them; and restricted land development as well as public development programs should be organizes and programmed to reduce overall public expenditure as well as eliminate costly mistakes Jackson and Curry (441). These principles thus formed the basis for Canadian land-use planning. Further evolution in land use planning resulted from Adams’ effort to gain an immense amount of knowledge on planning. This is because he constantly travelled to various places in Canada where he undertook planning studies as well as analyzed problems associated with land-use and settlement. By 1919, Adams established the Canadian Town Planning Institute where interested individuals from any professional field would be admitted as associates. The institute aimed to promote research, enhance dissemination of new knowledge as well as the outcomes of planning experiences, generate new ideas on planning as well as advance the planning practice standard (Erceg 51). The great depression however halted most planning activities that has been initiated in Canada. The Town Planning Institute was disintegrated in 1932 and could not be restored until some twenty years later. The restoration of this institute in 1952 paved way for the revival of various other planning activities as well as the emergence of notable planning practitioners including Frederick Todd, Dunington Grubb, Naulan Cauchon as well as Horace Seymour. Similarly, most major cities in Canada, including Vancouver, Halifax, Ottawa, Calgary as well as Saint John developed master plans (Mendes 339).
While developing its master plan, Vancouver Island, just as was the case with other major cities in Canada founded its strategies on the Canadian planning legislation as well policies that were widespread at the municipal, regional as well as provincial levels. As explained by Erceg (66) the planning legislation and policies emerged from Adams Thomas’ model of planning legislation. This model generated rules as well as procedures that communities could employ when addressing matters that impacted their physical environment. Thomas believed that both the rural and urban communities needed land-use planning given that they both had financial and environmental problems and they as well depended on each other. This realization indicated that rural and urban communities could not be disintegrated when it came to land-use planning activities (Fraser 119). This thus marked the birth of regional land-use planning in Canada. This was then followed by drastic development in land-use planning at the provincial level. Although only three provinces has land-use planning statutes by 1914, the dawn of 1925 saw every province in Canada creating a form of land-use planning statute. Professional planners however perceived these statutes as being inadequate given that they did not make it compulsory for municipalities to prepare plans or even allow the provincial governments to actively participate in the planning process (Schwarz 27). Similarly, the municipal governments proved to be critical especially because their main interest was to have strong powers that could regulate construction as well as overall land development. Despite these inadequacies, United States had adopted the zoning technique that particularly seemed attractive. As a result various provinces in Canada started adopting the zoning technique. This technique had first prevailed as a bylaw particularly when it was adopted by Kitchener in 1924 but was integrated into law in 1925 Jackson and Curry (443). Canada’s planning law has increasingly evolved since then, which has seen the modern land-use planning administrative systems being more complex than anyone could have predicted.
Land use planning in Vancouver Island covers a wide range of physical environments including forests, mineral as well as energy resources, fish and wild life, fresh water resources, agricultural as well as the coastal resources. As explained by Fraser (127), land-use planning on coastal resources in Vancouver Island is particularly extensive given that these resources have, throughout history, played an important role in the social, economic as well as cultural advancement in adjacent communities. This is particularly because the coastal zone comprises of a wide range of marine habitats that include the nutrient-rich inlets as well as rocky shores that lie on the west coast region, and the extensive beaches that lie of varying locations on Strait of Georgia. As such, land-use planning on these resources is critical given that they greatly impact the diverse aspects of biological communities prevailing in the region. Of particular interest among Vancouver’s coastal resources is port planning, which mainly revolve around Port Metro Vancouver. This is especially because various human aspects have perpetuated significant changes in the region, which demands for proper plans to ensure that land in this region is put into proper use. As explained by Mendes (449), the supply of land on any new urban development at Port Metro Vancouver was, for decades, restricted on vacant as well as underdeveloped lands that were situated in urban locations that already had certain type of development designation (16). However, expansion of historic population as well as immigration of human populations from other regions as a result of employment growth led to constant decline of development land to a point where no vacant land was available. Limited designated land on which new development could take place meant that any new development of transportation infrastructure at the port would also be muted. The need for proper land use planning at the Port Metro Vancouver is justified by the fact that it constitutes to the largest as well as busiest port in Canada. It further constitutes to an exciting avenue for domestic and foreign trade as well as tourism and a key economic aspect that drives the Canadian economy (Mascarenhas 17).
Port Metro Vancouver’s land-use plan is governed by the Canadian Marine Act as well as the Port’s business mission and vision, and it informs the prevailing as well as future development activities prevailing within the Port’s jurisdiction. As explained by Fraser (133), the land use plan only covers the port’s jurisdiction that borders about sixteen municipalities, one treaty first nation as well as one electoral area. According to this land-use plan, the Port Authority has a legal obligation to consult First Nations when implementing any projects that are likely to have adverse effects on aboriginal as well as the treaty rights. On the other hand, the First nations are allowed to participate in community liaison initiatives so as to discuss their varying concerns pertaining to port operations as well as development. Similarly, Port Metro Vancouver has devised ways to engage local communities in important dialogues and communications (Port Metro Vancouver 21). The plan for establishing these community-based communications as well as dialogues is to bring together local communities, government officials, port representatives as well as first nations to identify issues of concern as well as propose potential solutions pertaining to various port operations as well as development (British Columbia 32). The community-based initiatives, through communication as well as dialogues would address things such as rail noise and port-related land use, which could perpetuate adverse effects on communities living within the port jurisdiction. Land use planning at the port metro is further founded on environmental stewardship. This is particularly because the port is committed to more than just the cargo, cranes, port terminals, ships as well as the domestic and foreign trade. As such, port Metro Vancouver has established a plan through which it can protect the physical environment owing to the fact that it is home for thousands of fish species, birds, crustaceans and aquatic mammals. As such, all projects as well as physical works undertaken at port metro must be taken through an environmental review to ensure that they conform to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (Port Metro Vancouver 34). Land use planning at the port further demands that activities at the port would comply with requirements placed by the federal legislation, such as the Fisheries Act as well as the Species at Risk Act. Land use planning at the port metro Vancouver further revolves around the establishment of environmental initiatives that would eventually enhance the creation of a healthy ecosystem. As explained by Mascarenhas (21), the Port Metro has established an Air Action Initiative that aims to significantly reduce air-emissions from vessels travelling around the ocean, freight handling equipments as well as rail and truck machineries. The port has also set up shore facilities that could enable cruise ships to turn-off their diesel-powered engines and link to the land-based hydroelectric systems to improve air quality as well as reduce noise. The overarching Land use plan linked to this new development is that most of the container vessels operating at the port will be power-enabled, which will further improve air quality. Another aspect of land-use planning in Port Metro is the consolidation of major assets as well as facilities so as to enhance effective dispensation of services to the domestic shipping community. According to Erceg (82), Port Metro handles about 400,000 vehicles on yearly basis, which makes the port one of the busiest port in North America. These vehicles are usually transshipped using two terminals that make the port the most efficient avenue for enhancing dealership in Canada. As a way to address the issue of land scarcity at the port, authorities have integrated new land-use plans that allow the two terminals to handle additional cargo that include heavy rolling equipments as well as machinery. This will allow for the transshipment of other bulk products, including steel, forest products as well as heavy machineries without demanding for additional land resources to create new terminals (Mascarenhas 36).
Evidence from the Port Metro land use planning indicates that there are potential social, economic and cultural impacts that could result from regulated development at the port. The fact that local communities are expected to consult local authorities as well as the first nationals involved before they engage in any economic venture shows that there is a significant changes in the exploitation of land resources. This can in return affect the economic aspects of the surrounding communities as they will have to halt most economic activities that may seem beneficial to them but be controversial to other land-use planning stakeholders (Erceg 97). The land use planning is however bound to perpetuate positive environmental impacts. This is because involved stakeholders are obliged to engage in actions that are likely to promote environmental stewardship. This means that any actions that are likely to be detrimental to the environment will eventually be halted while those advocating for environmental conservation will be upheld (British Columbia 47).
Land-use planning proves to be an important community aspect that ensures that important land resources are put into proper use, which in return enhances the quality of life in the physical environment. Different communities have varying definitions of what a good and well developed physical environment could refer to, it is obvious that most of them are guided by certain legislative and policy standards as well as history of planning concept in Canada. Similarly, the history of land-use planning in Canada constitutes to the basis upon which aspects of land-use planning in Vancouver Island are founded. This is especially because the history comprises of the various aspects that define a well-developed physical environment as well as the various approaches that planners should adopt to enhance proper land-use controls. Land use planning and the Port Metro Vancouver is founded on important models and strategies that are bound to render the highest quality in physical environment while addressing issues of scarcity on important resources such as land. The plan is thus founded on creation of community liaison initiatives and consultation of the First Nation before any development is undertaken to ensure that potential problems that could ultimately be controversial are addressed. The plan is also founded on creation of power initiatives as well as integration of prevailing facilities and assets to promote air quality and ensure that a great deal of cargo is transshipped without demanding for any additional land resources. Land use planning has proven to perpetuate serious social, economic and environmental impacts given that local communities are involved in deciding the most appropriate development activities that should take place at the port.
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