Open Letter to David Aston, Official Plan Consultant:  Re:Draft Official Plan for Owen Sound

David, I thank you for your listening tour of our residents and politicians.  You are an excellent listener and your draft official plan reflects that.

I want to challenge you, however.  I want to see better and more compelling language in our Official Plan that speaks to the beauty of our landscape.    We need more inspiration, more colour, more courage where we take a risk and stick our urban neck out because we don’t mind planting our flag high.  Look to James Kunstler and Jane Jacobs to understand where I am coming from.  I’m thinking about something along the lines which follow.

We seek Owen Sound to be a Geography of Somewhere.  We seek not to plan a Geography of Nowhere, where our town looks like any other, with a fading downtown and a strip where you can gobble a chicken burger in your car and back your minivan up to the door of a big box store in order to fill it with stuff in big cardboard boxes. 

We don’t want our planning to echo the sad, banal, consumer based lives of so many who live in our time.

We wish every department, especially bylaw and planning, to adopt a laser focus on improving our urban aesthetics.  We seek to exalt the role of beauty as opposed to just a reference to minimal compliance with something called a Building Code.  Owen Sound wishes to be one of the most beautiful, stunning waterfront communities in the province.  To this end, we will not allow run down buildings, poorly maintained yards and the like. 

Instead of forcing our kids and residents to stare at the visual disgrace that is the former Kennedy property, we will resolve to actually do something about it.  A chain link fence with a two by four slammed on top of it will no longer do. 

We will encourage gardens, meadows and flowers where-ever practical.  We will insist that developers integrate aesthetics into all of their plans and we will not be content with the lowest common denominator.  If you build houses, we will look for quality materials.  We will look to the towns of Netherlands and Germany for inspiration. Tossing a useless berm in front of your massive parking lot won’t be enough.  We will look for more.   If you plant trees in a subdivision, they must not be stunted shrubs. Rather, we want the trees you plant to grow into massive maples.  That’s right, we want trees from which some day kids will swing.

You get the idea.


John A. Tamming
Owen Sound City Councillor