EDITORIAL: Project planning a balancing act for councils

Neighbourhood input can sometimes derail good projects

Planning a city’s future is not an easy task.

We admit that’s an understatement. Between municipal staff and civic politicians, many hours are spent assessing or writing proposals, doing research, discussing options, hearing from the community, and finally approving – or rejecting – residential, commercial and other projects.

Those are all important aspects along the road to progress in a city. For elected officials one of the toughest parts of making decisions is finding a balance between progress and the preservation of neighbourhood values.

The latter are often established by people who have lived or worked in a neighbourhood for some time and feel a sense of “ownership.” A feeling of home and pride of place, including pride in business ownership or even one’s workplace, is something most people don’t give up easily. So, we’re not surprised when people bristle at ideas and projects they feel tear away at that feeling.

An apartment complex in an otherwise suitable location on Burdette Avenue was rejected on a tie vote last week after a public hearing saw at least half of speakers opposed. And neighbourhood opposition continues to a large condo/townhouse proposal for the former Victoria Truth Centre property, after council twice told the developer to make revisions, then sent it to public hearing.

While public oversight is necessary and frequently helpful, we sometimes wonder if the sense of ownership in neighbourhoods actually blocks good and useful development.

We recall a Vancouver developer’s plan to remake an entire block in Cook Street Village, where a popular fish and chip restaurant, a grocery store and a wine shop operated. There was much public outcry over what would be lost “for the gain of a developer.” But two of the tenants relocated nearby and the multi-faceted development that emerged is part of the fabric of the village.

Change, especially in established neighbourhoods, is never easy. But blocking change can be the fastest way to stagnation and can prevent opportunities for others to contribute to community.

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