Letters to the Editor

Victoria offers an example of better planning process

To the Editor,

Re: Public process sorely lacking, Opinion, June 7.

I’ve waited 10 years since returning to Nanaimo for an editorial of this calibre to appear on the subject of Nanaimo’s abysmal failure to plan properly. Congratulations on a job well done.

Some readers may think that what passes for planning in Nanaimo is unexceptional and they may well be right. But cities that are universally admired do things differently – much differently.

It’s never too late to start and in Victoria, only a few miles down the road, we have a reasonably good example of how planning is often done to a much higher standard.

A recent issue of the Victoria Times Colonist brought to light two interesting aspects of Victoria’s contemporary planning ethos.

One item discussed how a James Bay developer had worked closely with the local neighbourhood association to plan a condo development, taking into account the needs and wishes of the local community as well as the impact of his proposal on neighbouring properties.

The outcome was satisfactory to all concerned and city council was spared any controversy. No change of provincial law was required to achieve this result – only a change in the attitude of developers and city hall staff.

The other item revealed that things don’t always go right with respect to land use planning in Victoria and that not all councillors are prepared to go along with the secretive-meeting flow that is common in such matters.

The result: three councillors are holding their own public hearing on a public land use question of vital civic importance that their confreres would just as soon discuss and make decisions about behind closed doors.

I wouldn’t bet against the lead councilor of this group becoming the next mayor of Victoria. He clearly has his thumb on a discontented public’s pulse.

There should and could be useful lessons locally.

We’ve had too much secrecy, too little meaningful public involvement in rezoning (and other) decisions and arguably a great deal of harm done to the financial interests of homeowners who have often been rudely impacted by zoning changes rammed through without any regard for their interests.

The remedy is not far to seek: councillors should start acquainting themselves with procedures used in progressive communities of the kind Nanaimo aspires to be.

Victoria would be a good place to start.

Eric Ricker

Nanaimo

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