ED ALLARD: Those who want change need an education

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There were two important meetings last week dealing with the city’s Official Plan that will have some impact on city priorities over the next 20 years or so.  The first was a briefing to the Planning Advisory Committee last Tuesday.  The second was an open house meeting last Thursday where residents got to offer their ideas.  

The first session provided an overview of planning elements, outlining population, employment and commercial growth prospects for the city and the land and zoning needs to support that growth.  It covered some obvious trends such as the ageing of the population and continued commercial growth along Brookdale Ave out to the 401.  It also suggested that land for new industries to provide for future employment is at a premium.  

With the area along Brookdale Ave continuing to grow as a main shopping area, maybe it’s time to acknowledge that our traditional ‘downtown’ has changed, probably forever.  We need to find a new role for the area.  Along with that, it’s time to rethink the roles of the Heart of the City operation and the two Business Improvement Associations.  Dressing up empty storefronts is not going to change things back to where they were.  Maybe the future lies in more residential accommodation instead.  

Concern about more ‘employment’ land naturally led to some discussion about amalgamation.  It will occur in some form eventually, quite possibly within the next 20 years.  But in the short term, there is scope for sharing services (and their costs), such as police, fire, transit, as well as water and sewer, which can benefit both Cornwall and the adjacent townships.  If amalgamation is the eventual aim, then City council’s decision last September to nix a shared water and sewer arrangement with South Glengarry is looking more and more short-sighted.  It’s time to begin some joint discussions.  

The second session, last Thursday evening at the Civic Complex, was itself the second in a series.  The first, late last year, asked the question: what do you like about Cornwall?  In other words, what are the main elements that define what our city is, now?  This latest round asked: what are the key things that need to be developed between now and 2034?  

About 100 people turned out, the majority aged 50 and over and, much the same as the last time, the views of those 100 are representing what the other 45,000 think.  I can understand that many people in younger age brackets are busy with family activities and many other priorities.  Besides, planning is sometimes like watching paint dry.  It’s not that the ideas of a small, older crowd are not worthwhile, but it begs the question: what different priorities and ideas might have come forward from a larger and younger audience?  What did the planners not have the benefit of hearing about a future vision?

One school of thought puts the onus on city hall to find ways to better involve more young people in the process.  I’m of an older school where the onus is on the people themselves to get engaged in the process and live up to their civic responsibilities, or be left out of the equation.  

Seven of our 10 incumbent councillors were at the session, but only one or two of their challengers appeared.  It wasn’t an election event, but it left an impression that those aspiring to lead us had little interest in listening to what residents want for the future or in contributing to the long term planning process.  I hear rumblings that people want change, but I’d like to think those who are proposing to bring that change know something about the territory first.  

And that’s the way I see it.

Organizations: Planning Advisory Committee

Geographic location: Cornwall

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