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Harewood neighbourhood plan begins second phase

The second phase of the Harewood Neighbourhood Plan process began this week, beginning with a discussion Wednesday on issues and opportunities Nanaimo's oldest and largest neighbourhood wants to address.

The commencement phase of the plan, which attracted as many as 180 people to one open house, began in the spring and concluded in September.

"What we got back from those first two meetings is that there is a very strong sense of community in the Harewood neighbourhood," said Deborah Jensen, a community planner with the city. "You've got families who have been there for generations, you've got people who moved in and have been there for 10 or 15 years. They love it there. Obviously there are challenges like unsightly properties and lack of sidewalks and all of those issues will come out, but for the most part the people in Harewood are really proud of their neighbourhood."

With new dimensions being added to Harewood such as the renovation of University Mall, inclusion in the Vancouver Island University master plan, and new multi-family housing, Harewood is a changing community.

"They've been asking for a neighbourhood plan for a number of years now," said Jensen.

A parallel study is being done on the Third Street corridor, a major artery connecting VIU with the downtown core. Jensen said it was only natural to embark on a neighbourhood plan at the same time as the study. The Third Street corridor has been identified in Nanaimo's official community plan as a priority area for corridor planning and will likely serve as a testing ground for policy, and its results could prove to be precedent setting for other parts of the city.

A neighbourhood plan is a set of guidelines outlining how an area should grow and change over time. It deals primarily with land use decisions such as how to address population increases over the next two decades, including issues like housing, transportation, environment and commercial needs. The most recent areas in Nanaimo to conclude plans include the Newcastle-Brechin area and the South End Neighbourhood Association.

Heather Campbell, president of the Harewood Neighbourhood Association, said the process is a good opportunity for residents to have their voices heard in how they would like to see their community progress.

"It's easy to sit back and complain that there are no sidewalks, but the test is how do you fix it?" said Campbell. "I'm really looking forward to some of the ideas that people come up with. The recent issue of Colliery dam, I think, has raised the attention of a lot of people and if that gets them involved in the process, then we'll have a better discussion overall."

The next step in the process is a design charette at the end of this month.

About 12,000 people of diverse demographics reside in Harewood in just under 5,000 residential units. It has a rich coal mining and agricultural history and is home to Colliery Dam Park, Buttertubs Marsh, the Nanaimo Ice Centre and Nanaimo Aquatic Centre.

Harewood's official boundary runs into Chase River near Tenth Street, west to VIU, east to the railway tracks that separate it from the downtown core, and north to Bowen Road.

The 12-month planning process is expected to cost about $60,000.

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