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Co-Creating Stewardship


Whether it be a plan for a lot, a neighbourhood, a town, a city, or a region, almost all planning processes follow the same basic steps.  It follows that almost all planning contracts contain the same eight primary steps:

1.    Framing the Scope of the Project

This step is important in that it builds the project management framework down in writing, or at least confirms the elements of the proposal.  This framework includes:

·         Detailed definition of both the project outcome and a mutual understanding of the fundamental objectives of the project.

·         Creates a pre-analysis of stakeholders, political issues, and potential pitfalls.

·         The communications plan then clarifies what consultation resources should be used, when, and where.

·         Task lists, more detailed than those presented in the proposal, are then articulated and built into the contract, along with a budget and fee schedule.

·         A pre-assessment of risks are articulated, and contingencies listed. 

·         Clarification on where the consultant has flexibility and can make independent decisionS.

A detailed project management plan assembles the above points, and is inserted into the contract. 


2.    Background Research.

This is the literature review.  In it, the consultant creates a comprehensive bibliography, including government documents, academic papers, and miscellaneous literature, relevant to the project at hand.  A research assistant is hired in order to save on costs.  The client can assist by forwarding all internal and external planning documents.


3.    Consultations

        The consultations are the next phase and conclusion of the background research.  Written information is cross-referenced, checked, and categorized against original grassroots information.  A number of general community consultation events are anticipated, and many more small events including one-on-one interviews.  The tone is positive, but not patronizing, politicized, or paternalistic.  Cairnstone believes in treating the public as concerned citizens, who desire to contribute to the community and learn about it in a collaborative manner.

Create Background Report

In this step, all the information that was gathered in steps 2 and 3 is sorted, categorized, and assessed in a comprehensive manner.  The background report, which for economy can sometimes be prepared simply as a dataset list, provides the research and rationale for final deliverables.  It is the responsibility of the planner to ensure that all possible data sources have been considered appropriately. 


The client needs to review the background report carefully for errors or omissions.  They may catch something, due to their superior familiarity with the region being planned for, that the planning researcher missed.  This is an important step, because errors at this level will carry forward to policy and design work.   

6.    Draft Plan

The draft planning documents are prepared.  All plans have five primary components:

                      I.        VALUES/VISION

These are the factors that guide the community as a collective.  They are high-level words or statements that explain what the community wants to achieve.  An example would be “Limited crime”.  The values are used both to define objectives, and at assess or prioritize potential future courses of action.  Their definition is fundamental to a successful plan.

                    II.        OBJECTIVES

These are the targets that need to be achieved to make the values or community vision a reality.  Building on the last example of crime, an objective could be “residents feel safe walking on Main Street at night”.

                   III.        POLICIES

These are the detailed things that need to be done to achieve the objectives.  Again, building on the last example, policies could be “street lighting on Main Street will be reviewed to ensure that shadowing is limited”.

                  IV.        LAND USES MAP

This is the map that shows current and permitted future land uses.

                    V.        REGULATIONS

These are the detailed regulations that provide the legal teeth to the land.  They are usually kept in a separate zoning bylaw or ordinance.

7.    Final review and consultations

The scale of effort at this stage varies widely, and may be as large or larger an undertaking as steps 3 and 4 combined.  However, this is the iterative process with the client and the community that gradually polishes a draft document into a planning document professionally suitable for political adoption.

8.    Adoption

Typically, the consultant is only needed for the first two formal readings of a new plan.  The complexity and size of the processes will vary significantly from project to project, but the essential elements remain the same.




The complexity and size of the processes will vary significantly from project to project, but the essential elements remain the same.


The typical planning process (for government clients) takes 6-12 months.  Shorter timeframes, except for small projects, result in time crunches that are not in the best interest of the community or the client.  Private-sector clients vary from project to project.

Approx.Timeline (in months)→


Task ↓ 














Phase 1: Data Collection, Identify Gaps in Basic Data and Undertake Appropriate Research , and Create Background Report & Recommendations

Background Research/Interview Civic Leaders/Interview Staff and Council/Prepare and Implement Survey Mail-out to residents/Hold Roundtables or other Consultation forums as needed










±25% of total $fee

Prepare Background & Recommendations Report or Draft Report












±15% of total $fee

Staff, Council, Senior Governments & Public to review draft report with Cairnstone.  Open House.












±10% of total $fee

Phase 2: Prepare Revised Plan and Associated Maps & Graphics, and Ensure Consistency with Other Legislation

Prepare new Plan, based on draft report, and provincial or state and municipal legislation and policies (ensure coordinated package).  Also prepare .dxf-compatible digital maps using cartographic data from the client.












±25% of total $fee

First Reading.  Estimate 2 full days with Council (or Advisory Panel)












±10% of total $fee

Post new plan on website, advertise heavily in newspapers, distribute to senior governments. 












±5% of total $fee

Phase 3: Final Edits, Public Review, and Adoption

Collect Comments, edit plan, move to Second Reading, Public Hearing, and Third Reading.  Heavy advertising in advance.












±10% of total $fee





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