One of my commitments in this term of Council is to find ways to better engage residents in planning and other discussions. Recently, a proposal was made to develop the back of the Superstore parking lot with two six-storey buildings intended to be marketed as seniors rental housing. While I'm increasingly comfortable that a mainstream of ward residents considers the proposal to be acceptable intensification, I'm nonetheless making every effort to find non-traditional ways to reach stakeholders for their feedback.
Toward this end, I've spent around 6 or 7 hours with the plans right on the Byron linear park, accosting passers-by for their thoughts. That's been instructive, and something I'd like to do more often.
More significantly, I used some of my office budget to retain Milieu Technologies Ltd. to conduct an extra level of consultation with new online tools and outreach beyond the simple open-ended tools that the City offers. This isn't something we can afford to do for every project, but on a pilot basis I considered it worthwhile. I'm pleased to present that paper here.
My initial hopes have been realized. I believe we've reached residents that a simple City comment form wouldn't normally, and Milieu's unique methodology has given us greater insight than we normally have into how people feel about the proposal. I've attached the full report below, and will be submitting it in its entirety to be included with my comments to the staff report that will eventually recommend approval or not. It's given me a bunch of data to which I wouldn't ordinarily have access, including where people roughly live, and some very interesting data points on the emotional response people have with respect to the proposal.
Milieu has been making in-roads working with other jurisdictions to formalize their tools within the consultation process, and I hope that working with our office has provided them with some impetus to talk to planners across the province. I'm told that our own planners have taken an interest in our pilot, and are watching it closely.
I won't address today how I interpret the findings, but I will say they validate and lend richness to the comments I'm reading coming in to the City by traditional means, the conversations I've been having with residents on-site, and what I've heard at two consultation sessions. One of my key learnings this term has been that people often have difficulty expressing in writing the underlying concerns they have about development and how it's affecting their quality of life. Unlike any tool I've used thus far, this report is helping me unpack that.
I hope you enjoy reading it. As you have questions, I'll endeavour to pass those on to the consultants for answers. They've been excellent to work with, and I'm looking forward to a continued relationship with them for the remainder of this term.