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Hintonburg to pilot neighbourhood planning initiative

Thu May 25, 2006 Miss Vicky 

Yesterday morning I attended a workshop organized by the city and a network of Carleton researchers to discuss Ottawa's new Neighbourhood Planning Initiative. Council recently designated Hintonburg and Vars as two neighbourhoods to "pilot" this new effort, which is supposed to promote a more integrated and collaborative process for planning all city services.

Basically, the idea is to get city departments talking to one another and engaging community stakeholders more effectively. Right now departments work in relative isolation from each other, a highly ineffective, dysfunctional and potentially wasteful bureaucratic reality that frustrates pretty much everybody. Physical planning, discussions of zoning, traffic studies, provision of social services - all effect quality of life in a neighbourhood but decisions and planning can occur independently, on conflicting timelines and sometimes at cross-purposes. And as for community engagement, associations and residents can find themselves scrambling for information or locked in a seemingly endless series of public meetings and consultations (sometimes both).

This new approach isn't really new - the idea came out of the 20/20 process a few years ago, and has been percolating at city hall for some time. Now it's time to put ideas into action, and it's great to hear that things will be starting in Hintonburg.

After all, we have a road reconstruction and a community design plan about to start - what better time to try a new, more integrated approach? Then we really can talk about more than zoning and streetscaping, but rather what kind of neighbourhood we want and how we can achieve it. And, if what I heard in the workshop is any indication, we'll be able to try out some more meaningful public engagement processes. So we can expect more than a room lined with confusing diagrams and engineers to talk to.

My real hope is that this new approach will help break down what I feel has become an adversarial relationship between the city and its citizens, particularly on planning issues. This has been more than apparent at a number of public meetings I've attended (remember the Richmond Road/Westboro CDP meeting?). To make it work, though, we're going to need good faith and a lot of work on the part of city staff and community leadership. I'm optimistic about this - the folks involved in Wellington Street Works really want a more integrated approach and want to build a clear vision for our community. I think there's a lot of good will there. Let's hope we can keep it going.

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