Official Plan Review and Update – Barrie, ON

Dillon was retained by the City of Barrie to complete a municipal comprehensive review (MCR) and create a ground-breaking new Official Plan and Zoning By-law for the City.

Barrie is one of the fastest growing “outer ring” municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe and needs strong planning policy and land use regulation to achieve its vision and shape its development. The OP is being leveraged as a mechanism to foster greater integration across land use, infrastructure, environmental, and facilities that have traditionally been planned in isolation.

As a key part of this project we created a leading-edge and dynamic public engagement program that leveraged the City’s investment in the EngagementHQ platform with a really active online discussion board and regular posting of project updates. We used innovative consultation techniques like the creation of a video shared widely with staff and the community to launch the project, the design of a Lemonade Stand on the waterfront where people could get information and ask questions of staff on summer evenings, and we hosted a Movie Screening themed public engagement event to encourage participation and a deeper understanding of why this OP project matters. For the Moving Screening we showed 2-6 minute clips of documentaries and interviews about growth planning issues in North America and specifically in Barrie. We covered big topics related to the MCR process including housing, transportation, climate change, employment, and public space. After each video we used Mentimeter to poll participants on key issues facing the City of Barrie in the context of the videos. We followed each item with a facilitated discussion on the topic. This could be done virtually or in-person. It was the most successful public engagement event that the City of Barrie hosted. The videos contextualized issues facing Barrie in ways that participants had not thought about and in a manner that encouraged people to express their big community desires for the future. 

Aerial shot of Barrie, Ontario
Marina and waterfront view in Barrie, Ontario

The work focused on drawing out the key elements of growth and a vision for Barrie that people want to see. Outreach for the consultation event was done using traditional outlets as well as social media and radio ads. Other consultation and engagement tools used included online surveys, community mapping, walking tours and interactive story cubes. Story cubes were used with the project Stakeholder Advisory Committee and the public as a fun and engaging way to discuss issues and opportunities related to growth planning in Barrie. Story cubes presented different scenarios for growth. Depending on the combination of cubes and images showing, participants had to discuss what about the image worked or resonated with them and what did not. To support the engagement and planning processes, numerous graphic assets were prepared to explain the planning process, improve reporting and remove jargon from materials to provide greater transparency in the planning process. In addition to the public and stakeholder engagement, which included online and in-person consultations, Dillon also led internal City consultation. The effort put into an MCR and associated OP Update is only valuable if a broad range of City departments and divisions are involved. Staff consultation included members from planning, transportation, engineering, economic development, tourism and culture, parks and recreation and emergency services.

Driving all of this was Dillon’s unique approach and integrated client relationship – not as consultants but rather as mentors. This translated into very successful internal team workshops to strengthen the relationships within City departments and help to equip staff with the knowledge and skills needed to take charge of the future and achieve the right plan for it. Mentoring included training on the Engagement HQ and Bang The Table platform that the City now uses for all engagement projects.

Project Details

Project Partner: City of Barrie
Business Unit: Community Strategies
Service offering: Community Planning