Kitchen meetings help spur discussion on Lantzville topics

NANAIMO – The District of Lantzville is encouraging residents to host kitchen table meetings.

During the last few weeks, roughly a half-dozen households in Lantzville have welcomed neighbours for a discussion about the future of their community.

These neighbourly get-togethers are known as kitchen table meetings and are not only supported, but also encouraged by the District of Lantzville.

It’s all part of Lantzville’s ongoing water master plan development and official community plan update, which has already seen the district host larger workshops and send out resident surveys.

Frank Limshue, the district’s community planner, said the idea behind the kitchen table meetings is to develop a comprehensive understanding of what residents want and need when it comes to development and water within their own neighbourhoods.

“We can get a better sense of what folks really like about the neighbourhood and what sort of goals and objectives they may have for the neighbourhood moving forward,” he said.

There have been a total of six meetings so far and each meeting has been attended by as many as 10 people, according to Limshue, who said the benefit of holding kitchen table meetings is that it’s a more hands-on approach and people are more willing to share their opinions since they’re in a more comfortable setting.

“It’s a lot more intimate because it is among folks that you know. People are a lot more open and you definitely feel a lot more comfortable talking to your neighbours than you do standing up at a big hall with a microphone in your face,” he said.

Limshue said kitchen table meetings will continue throughout the month of December and into January. He said that they would like to see more residents become hosts and those who are interested can call the district’s office.

“What we do is provide the host with a kit and the kit basically simulates an exercise that we went through back at a workshop on Dec. 2,” he said.

Limshue said the official community planning portion of the meetings revolve around the kinds of housing that individuals would like to see in their neighbourhoods.

“It’s really about trying to gauge people’s attitudes towards different types of housing forms within the community,” he said. “It’s also trying to identify the key features that the community likes and wants.”

When it comes to the conversations on water, Limshue said the purpose of the meeting is to figure out needs versus wants and what kind of cost formulas would work for residents.

“That’s really what we’re trying to drill down and get a threshold as to what folks would find acceptable in terms of trying to accommodate water from a financial perspective,” he said. “It can be pricey depending on what neighbourhood you are in and how far you are from an existing water-main.”

In the meetings Limshue has attended, people who wanted water have been very open to the idea of connecting up to the municipal system, but are concerned about the cost and time frame. He said that he’s been surprised at the number of people who have appeared to support higher-density development, such as a two- to four-storey building, not only in the village core, but also within other neighbourhoods.

“I am surprised at how many people are thinking that having some higher density in their own neighbourhood isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” he said. “There is a lot of support for diversification, not just in the village core, but throughout the municipality.”