PORT HAWKESBURY: The Municipality of the County of Inverness, and its partners Develop Nova Scotia and UPLAND Planning + Design Studio, said they are continuing to prepare an Inverness Growth Management Strategy.

Inverness Chief Administrative Officer Keith MacDonald said they formed the partnership over a year ago.

“Last spring and summer, we worked collectively on a number of public consultations and we worked on various technical studies over the fall and winter, and now we’re bringing that information back to the community, in terms of a ‘What We Heard Report’ and a Guiding Principles Document,” he told The Reporter. “This is the next stage in the development of the Inverness Growth Management Strategy, and we’re hoping to get as many people from the community to review these documents and provide input to the municipality.”

The municipality said the stage of consultation with the community is underway.

“The Growth Management Strategy needs to reflect the desires and priorities of the community,” MacDonald said. “The municipality is looking forward to collecting feedback on the work completed so far and will make adjustments based on additional input from the community.”

The municipality said the What We Heard Report summarizes the opinions voiced during the initial round of consultations. Based on this report and the analysis completed to date, the municipality said consultants have prepared a set of guiding principles for the future growth of the community.

“The municipality wants to hear from the community if residents agree with the summary of opinions presented in the report,” the CAO stated. “It is important to gain validation that the Guiding Principles reflect the vision people have for the future of Inverness. This is a very important element of the project and the final steps in the Growth Management Strategy will be guided by these principles.”

MacDonald said both reports can be found on the municipality’s web site since public meetings are a challenge at the moment. He said once the province re-opens, the municipality will try to organize public sessions, and in the meantime, facilitate additional ways to provide feedback.

“They’re really well laid out and provide very detailed background on what information the project has been able to gather since it kicked-off,” he noted. “We also hope to connect with residents face-to-face. COVID-19 has certainly provided its challenges, in terms of close contact with individuals, in terms of round tables and direct consultation with residents.”

According to Inverness County, the community of Inverness has become an international tourist hot spot over the last decade, and has subsequently seen economic growth and investment, as well as significant pressures on infrastructure and the housing market.

For a sustainable and inclusive future, the municipality said it is keen to focus on the needs of the local community.

“We’re proud to support the people of Inverness in building this vision for their community. It’s important to share back and validate what we’ve heard through engagement as we know the success of this plan will be in the extent to which it reflects the ideas and ambitions of the local community,” says Jennifer Angel, CEO, Develop Nova Scotia. “We encourage people to take the time to reflect on what’s shaping up and confirm it captures their priorities for the residents of Inverness, as well as visitors, now and in the future.”

MacDonald said the strategy will look at municipal infrastructure, particularly water and wastewater services, treatment facilities, parking needs, sidewalks, accessibility, streetlights, and Active Transportation.

“The goal is to map out the growth potential for the community, and then overlay the municipal infrastructure to support that growth,” he explained.

Another major priority for Inverness is in housing, the CAO noted.

“Housing is indeed an area where there’s a gap for the municipality,” MacDonald said. “Short-term rental opportunities are very limited, and through this report, we’ll be looking to gain as much feedback from the community as possible so that the municipality can continue to work on possible solutions for housing.”

MacDonald said residents identified recreation opportunities and supporting health care facilities, as other needs.

“The municipality and its partners are working with the residents of Inverness to build a planned path for growth that is reflective of the people that live and work in the community,” MacDonald said. “It is an exciting process that will be replicated in communities throughout Inverness County.”

Once this consultation stage has finished, the municipality will work on a draft report that will be presented for review by municipal staff, and then the report will be taken to municipal council for their input, the CAO explained.

“Certainly this portion of the consultation will be over in the next two to three months,” MacDonald added.

The Inverness Growth Management Strategy web site can be accessed via: www.invernesscounty.ca/invernessgrowthstrategy.