Montreal Urban Agglomeration: A Plan Worth Delivering?

graphic Brandon Johnston

The Montreal Urban Agglomeration Land Use and Development Plan was recently released for public consultation. It’s the first time the plan will be updated since the original version was introduced in 1986, so it’s unsurprising that it has received a lot of attention from those who want to remodel Montreal.

The document presented to the public is not finalized, which explains why it has been criticized as “incomplete” and “too general.” After watching the first public consultation online, it would seem that concerned citizens and special interest groups mostly question loose ends and generalities they feel weaken the plan.

The plan does have a complimentary document, though, which outlines norms and criteria intended to embellish general content. It is also guided by the 2012-2017 Plan métropolitain d’aménagement et de développement and the Act Respecting Land Use Planning and Urban Development.

The agglomeration’s plan comes off as repetitive because it reformulates in maps and in words much of the information contained in the PMAD. It is also extremely conceptual in its delivery of information, observations and intentions, which perhaps leaves too much room for interpretation. How useful can it be to address urban issues when there are no solid strategies and more suggestive information?

I took a moment to reflect on the plan and compare it to Amsterdam’s Structural Vision: Amsterdam 2040. I’m a fan of the Dutch—they validate everything urban and surely were born to do so. Adopting the Dutch mentality could defend the agglomeration’s plan and suggest that vague generalities are a good thing.

Here in Montreal, the agglomeration’s biggest concerns are transit corridors, road networks, heritage sites, ecoterritories, blue networks, residential uses and employment/economic centres.

In Amsterdam’s regional plan, they include public spaces, green networks and public transit. Both are concerned with building inwards in order to increase forms of density and maximize existing built-up space.

The gist of the plans focus on envisioning land-use patterns that maintain and enhance what exists already. What’s awesome about both plans is that they are more attentive to land-use tendencies and how people use and understand them than they are to policy and regulation guidelines. The equation of each plan is more user-friendly and less boxed in by regulative logic.

So maybe Amsterdam does a better job at deconstructing land-use patterns into more detailed information than Montreal (their maps are generally more full and insightful on their own).

However, I can understand how Montreal’s land-use and development plan is headed towards a future where Montrealers might read the city differently, foreseeing an urban core where density is the goal and green and blue networks are priority.

Ashley Zver-Volel is pursuing a B.A. in urban planning at Concordia.