Vancouver city planners court resident input for neighbourhood plans

West End Neighbours group has called for comprehensive plan before more rezoning

Grandview-Woodland, Marpole and the West End are the next Vancouver neighbourhoods to begin community plans with the city.

With city planners, residents will develop a framework for their community on concerns that include types and forms of housing, community facilities and parks.

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If you dont get involved, you shouldnt be complaining, said Sylvia Fong, a member of the Arbutus Ridge/Kerrisdale/Shaughnessy plans housing committee, who has been involved with planning for her area since it began in 2003.

But, Fong says, the time spent with the city and responding to proposed rezonings by developers doesnt always feel rewarding.

A lot of people are working, a lot of people have families, so youve got to trade off where your energy goes. So it would be good if it was positive energy, rather than ugh, why am I here if theyre not going to listen, she said.

Fong expected residents who continued working on ARKS would devise a more detailed plan with the city after council approved the general framework in 2005.

Instead, residents have had to push for earlier involvement in developers proposed rezonings, she said.

Fong said Brent Toderian, the citys director of planning, has explained the city is strapped for resources that could provide more detailed neighbourhood planning.

She recommends residents who participate in community planning create a strong relationship with their assigned planner, expect a long road ahead, and aim to ask the right questions.

Obtaining answers about a proposed rezoning as an architect working with the city is noticeably different to when she seeks them as a resident.

There were a few steps before I can find that out, she said.

Fong says the city should involve residents centrally in setting priorities about community amenities such as libraries and recreational facilities. She said residents need a clearer picture about what specific public benefit could come from a developer adding, say, three extra storeys to a building, to see what the explicit tradeoffs would be.

Were paying their salaries so definitely we should be heard and we want them to respond to that, she said. A lot of people that were in the [ARKS housing] committee, they were saying Well do we vote for COPE, do we vote for Vision, whos going to be the ones listening? and I dont know.

Fong notes the city recently established the website for public input, but she said more clear information for residents is needed.

The West End Neighbours group has been calling for a comprehensive plan before more rezonings are approved. Randy Helten, the groups president, is pleased the area is poised for planning.

We appreciate the citys progress toward developing a community plan for the West End, but the devils in the details, he said. The West End Neighbours and the entire community should be fully awake and fully involved in the process going forward.

Staff is to report back to council on a strategy to build neighbourhood capacity for participation in planning. Liaison councillors are to be appointed to each community plans implementation committee. Staff is to publish a list of outstanding community vision concerns identified as needing further planning, to encourage development proposals that address these and bring these proposals to early attention of vision implementation committees. Notification areas for proposed rezonings will be expanded on a case-by-case basis.

The city advises residents to watch for planning notices in the fall.

Twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi

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