Public input on community-planning overwhelms city staff

Victoria city council extends deadline

After two months of gathering feedback on the official community plan, City of Victoria staff say they might have to ignore it to meet target deadlines – unless the deadline is extended

City council says it wiser to slow down the clock and incorporate some of the public’s wishes.

Between April 7 and June 10, city staff gathered feedback from more than 6,000 people at 57 events, such as meetings and workshops with different stakeholder groups including youth, First Nations and community associations. The total well surpassed the city’s target of 5,000.

Coun. Marianne Alto called the public engagement, reaching almost 10 per cent of the population, “extraordinary.”

People’s ideas on the draft document, which lays out the groundwork for growing the city over the coming decades, spanned the gamut.

“I think it’s fair to say the public is generally supportive of the draft plan … in terms of a strong downtown core and a network of town centres,” said senior planner Scott Cameron.

People did point out some areas they’d like to see added, however.

“People really wanted to see performance measures added to all the sections,” Cameron said. “A number of stakeholders indicated we needed more of an emphasis on the harbour and the role it plays in the city.”

City council passed Cameron’s recommended to push the adoption of the plan back to March 2012, rather than aiming for October 2011.

Coun. Geoff Young, however, delivered a warning from his experience as chair of the Capital Regional District.

People are loving the regional growth strategy to death, he said.

The problem, he said, “is as you make these things bigger and bigger, the possibility of making them truly real documents that have a place in people’s lives in the region becomes smaller and smaller”

Many public suggestions are important but don’t belong in the document, he said.

“We are quite frankly struggling,” he said, adding he sees the city’s official community plan drifting in the same direction.