Nanaimo council seeks feedback on strategic priorities

A sports and entertainment centre, waterfront walkway and redevelopment of Beban Park cracked the top five list of Nanaimo city council’s priority projects.

Now politicians want to know if they’re on target.

Council plans to host one e-town hall meeting to gauge the public response to politicians’ top priorities for the next two and a half years.

Civic politicians, whose lack of a ‘clear’ and ‘well communicated’ vision and strategic plan was highlighted in a core services review, added their own priorities and key projects to a document created by their predecessors four years ago.

The waterfront – key for the previous council – is also a focus for this one, which aims to see foot ferry service, a master plan for its property on 1 Port Dr. and strategic development plan for the entire south downtown waterfront. It also wants to connect waterfront walkways. A study is planned to look at options for a walkway from Departure Bay to the Nanaimo Estuary, according to Dale Lindsay, director of community development,  although there’s no date for when that will happen.

A sports and entertainment centre, most recently pitched by Howard Johnson Hotels, is a key capital project and part of council’s recreation, culture, sports and tourism priority.

Coun. Gord Fuller told the News Bulletin the centre would be more of a partnership as opposed to a key capital project for the city, and it’s one the city could help invest in and possibly offer tax exemptions toward whomever builds it.

“There’s a lot of stuff we can’t do that we could do with a sports and entertainment centre,” he said.

His biggest priority, however, is that the city has a comprehensive affordable housing strategy – a top initiative also included in the update along with property acquisition. He said we have one of the highest child poverty rates in B.C. and a high adult poverty rate and housing is a big part of alleviating poverty.

Councillors received the draft report and agreed to host an e-town hall meeting to get public feedback on priorities at a city council meeting Monday. Coun. Diane Brennan attempted to get more than one public meeting, but no councillor was prepared to second the motion.

Coun. Bill Bestwick said council can always have another open house if it felt the feedback wasn’t acceptable or didn’t reach many targets.

“To me, this is about being expeditious with what it is that we have identified in all of our own spheres of discussions and communications and talks with people in our community from our own worlds we travel in,” he said, adding council didn’t arrive at the items without “considerable discussion” and open houses or town hall meetings with people in the community and with the volumes of master plans and strategic plans.

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