Are Master Plans followed?

By my count, dating back to 2011, Cobourg has 8 “Master Plans” detailing how staff and Council should manage key Town attributes and features plus there is also a 2019 – 2022 Strategic plan. Some seem to be consigned to a shelf and others are used to rationalize something that needs to be done. But there is no apparent integration of them – e.g. references to Master Plans in the Strategic Plan. In April 2021, Councillor Emily Chorley said: “there are staffing gaps” and “some plans just don’t get done.” A review of the Strategic plan in April 2021 actually wanted two more plans (IT Strategic Plan and Climate Action Plan).  The Town’s web site helps a bit – there are 5 Master Plans online plus the Strategic Plan.

List of Master Plans

Relevant links are in Resources below – all plans are available – some on Town web site.  More detail follows.

  • Strategic Plan -2019 – 2022
  • Transportation Master Plan (2011) – Includes a Transit section
  • Parks Master Plan (2013)
  • Downtown Master Plan (2016)
  • Heritage Master Plan (2016)
  • Urban Forestry Master Plan (2018)
  • Waterfront Study (2018)
  • Culture Master Plan (2019)
  • Tannery District Master Plan (2021)

Transportation Master Plan (2011)
Gives guidance to planning department on such things as encouraging building near transit, improving certain roads, encouraging provisions for cyclists and more. Hopefully the Town’s planners already know about these things. It was in three parts – each one a large pdf file – available only on Town’s web site.  Transit was included although it did not talk about micro-transit or on-demand transit so it’s quite outdated.

Parks Master Plan (2013)
It seems that Cobourg does not have enough Parks. The plan provides lots of detail on what to do but one hopes that Planning staff already know these things. It points to the aging demographic and development of the waterfront amongst other issues. If I remember, publishing this plan meant that waterfront development got more attention.

Downtown Master Plan (2016)
There were some expensive ideas that came out of this but in the end, the only thing that happened was the Community Improvement plan for Downtown which means the Towns subsidizes sprucing it up.

Heritage Master Plan (2016)
Most staff and councillors already understood that Cobourg residents like Heritage and want it preserved so the plan did not really say anything new.  You could describe it as validating what was already being done.

Urban Forestry Master Plan (2018)
OK, so we like trees.  And they should be healthy!   Again the report validates what was already being done but also gave some interesting statistics – like the most common tree in Cobourg is the Norway Maple and 70% of Cobourg’s trees are native trees.

Waterfront Study (2018)
This was controversial since it recommended Marina changes such as adding more boat slips in the West harbour and buying a travel lift for boats.  But it also recommended upgrading the East Pier which has now been deferred pending fixing the harbour.  Overall, it would be fair to say that apart from Marina changes, Staff and Council have been following its recommendations.

Culture Master Plan (2019)
Mostly shelved as noted in Cobourg Blog Posts.  Nothing new or different was suggested.

Tannery District Master Plan (2021)
This was started in 2009 when the land was taken over by the town because of unpaid taxes.   The current idea is that the Town should find a developer who would build with the constraint that it would be a model sustainable community.  So far no luck.

But the big question is – do staff actually know what’s in all these “plans” and implement their recommendations?

If Lucas follows previous practice, one of his first tasks will be to convene a Council meeting to set a new Strategic Plan.  This could possibly make all the current master plans obsolete.

Where can I find Master Plans?
I’ve saved you the trouble of navigating the dreadful Town site – seven of the Master Plans plus the Strategic Plan are available to download from Cobourg Blog or Cobourg Internet (see “Download Master Plans – pdfs” below).  Five Master Plans are discussed on pages on the Town web site.  Each page has plan(s) available via links.  (See “Town Web Site Links” below).


Download Master Plans – pdfs
Hosted on Cobourg Internet or Cobourg Blog

Cobourg Blog Articles

Town Web site Links
Pages that include downloads.  Based on previous experience, there is no guarantee that these links will still be valid a year from now.

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Cobourg taxpayer
1 year ago

As I live in the east end of Cobourg and have watched the increased industrial development at Lucas Point and on Brook Road North resulting in increased transport trucks on the roads, I poured over the transportation master plan (prepared in 2011) and read that Brook Road N and Elgin should be widened. Also both these roads are the County of Northumberland’s jurisdiction. In addition the 100’s of houses that are planned for both areas will also require wider roads. Well sure enough development is here and both roads remain 2 lane. Another concern is the intersections of King/Brook Rd N and King/Darcy. Both are completely inadequate for transport truck turns. Finally Cobourg is getting much needed industrial development (jobs, tax revenue) and the roads/intersections are inadequate for transport truck traffic. Housing development will also cause increased traffic. Hello planning department!!!

1 year ago

Too many plans & not enough money! Taxes high enough…73 cent dollar & about 9% inflation.

John L. Hill
1 year ago

The Parks Master Plan was voted down by council (only councilor Larry Sherwin voting for it) after a heated meeting in a packed Park Theatre auditorium. Nonetheless, despite failing to win council approval, Councilor John Henderson moved its filing for information purposes. Thereafter a new director, Dean Hustwick, was hired. Hustwick proceeded as though the matter had been passed citing the Plan in subsequent memoranda to council as authority for staff decisions. Let’s face it, Master Plans are expensive tools provided by consultants allowing town staff to do what they want.

Cobourg taxpayer
1 year ago

These plans were prepared by all the consultants the Town has hired over the years. Most are written in very vague and to be honest, meaningless terms. No measurable outcomes and no follow through. Back when these consultants held workshops for the taxpayers of Cobourg to attend I remember the “sticky note meeting” when attendees put sticky notes all over the place regarding parks and recreation in particular marina development. Any one else remember doing this? I felt like I was in some kind of bad movie. These consultants and the town of Cobourg staff took themselves so seriously. Well folks here’s where our tax money has gone; to all the consultants hired.

Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
1 year ago

Cobourg taxpayer, yes and no. Yes, absolutely it costs tax money to prepare these plans. I disagree with “no measurable outcomes” though. While I am not familiar with many of these plans, I have read much of the Transportation Master Plan. There are timelines in it for creating multiuse paths. This could easily be measured. Spoiler alert for anyone checking on this, we are way behind on the timelines. Some of the recommendations are more dreams than anything. Like the path south of Lakeshore between the houses and the lake. While it might be popular for some the cost of constructing it and the most likely objections from the homeowners make this path unreasonable in my opinion. On the other hand there are paths that could easily be ‘built’ by painting a line on a road. This is low cost and meets the objectives of the TPM. Not all of the plans are “vague” but if they are not being followed they are “meaningless”.

Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
1 year ago

…. yes how true – then no action to implement or at least follow the spirit – instead action contrary to the plan happened (witness the expansion of the boat storage area to the north – hardly beautifying) Getting citizens involved without subsequent action or even contrary action turns a lot of us about getting involved…
… yes I was there and remember well…

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
1 year ago

Cobourg Taxpayer (or whoever you are)

I remember the ‘sticky note” public involvement exercise you are referring to.

It resulted in the “Waterfront User Needs Assessment and Detailed Design Plan” of May 2018 which described in detail some 80 projects to maintain, upgrade and improve our waterfront. They were listed as to priority with the caveat that a project could be caried out, out of sequence, if circumstances changed.

The Town response to increased plastic pollution of Lake Ontario by installing filters and catch mechanisms in the waters along the waterfront, is an example of the unanticipated.

The Waterfront consultants produced a fine, easily understood and well organized document. An example of money well spent and possibly a model for other planning documents

If you don’t agree with what I’m saying and think this kind of planning is a failure, tell us what the alternative is.

Some mechanism needs to be in place to insure orderly growth and development, coordination and budgeting, as Council and Staff make and carry out their responsibilities while circumstances (and councils) change over time.

John lists 8 Master Plans with number 9 being the Stragic Plan covering the priority and attention Council will give specific aspects of certain plans over their term. An important organisational document whose creation could include an opportunity for public input regarding prioritization.

Perhaps it is a well crafted and executed Strategic Plan that will restore order and respect (if they are truly missing) for the work of Council and Staff.

1 year ago

No surprise.

You can’t implement any plan when you don’t measure progress or hold anyone accountable….

I guess since we waited long enough, we can say that our ‘Acid Rain’ Plan from 1976 was successfully completed as many maple trees still show signs of life.