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Exploring contradictions: The role of the planner after a limit to growth has been reached Fish, Alaric K.

Abstract

Few examples in a North American context exist where a limit to commercial growth have been established. The Town of Banff, within Canada's oldest national park, is a municipality that had a limit established in 1998, and is now approaching build out. In reaching the limit there is uncertainty as the community and municipality begin to plan for a post build out environment. To investigate views about the growth cap and perceived social and economic impacts, semi-structured interviews were conducted with Banff residents, business owners, and NGO representatives. Although most respondents accept the cap as necessary to sustain what is special about Banff, many expressed frustration over the process by which the cap was established. Four key themes emerged for planning in a post build-out scenario: 1) A clear vision for the objectives of the park and Town need to be agreed on and accepted. Without this, decision makers risk facing continued distrust from constituents and difficulty in implementing changes. 2) Numerous times interview respondents expressed somewhat contradictory views; thus indicating a need for planning processes that allow participants to explore their own values and encourage an openness to learning. 3) The management of Banff National Park needs to shift to a more participatory and transparent model. An advisory roundtable with representatives from Parks Canada and park stakeholders would serve to improve communication and learning, while encouraging more transparent decision-making. 4) Planners routinely interact with a diversity of public interests and are therefore well suited to undertake the tasks of community engagement, consultation and facilitation that are required to create new opportunities for dialogue and learning. Making a transition to sustainability is an ambitious undertaking, but a change that planners are well suited to lead.

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