EDITORIAL: Public engagement a necessary process

People need to speak up when they have concerns about development

It seems we’re writing more these days about public hearings and development consultations being well-attended, and how concerned residents in areas impacted by housing projects are raising their voices.

While doing so is seldom successful in keeping contentious projects from being approved in one form or another – as was the case with a 20-unit townhouse complex rezoning proposal in Langford that saw 96 neighbours express their displeasure via petition – there’s something to be said for the expression of concern from residents.

Developments take a long time to move from concept to reality and voices need to be heard throughout that process in order for those developments to be beneficial to the communities in which they are undertaken.

Obviously, not every citizen’s ideas will be incorporated into a project every time they raise their voice, but concerns cannot be addressed if those who could address them don’t know they exist.

If neighbours don’t suggest (or insist on) considerations of street widening, extra parking stalls, better lighting, a focus on storm water drainage, merging and turning lanes, green space protection, or whatever else is important for them as development plans move forward, the developer is forced to just assume the municipality’s bylaws and guidelines are enough to work with.

And let’s face it, most developers will have what’s best, or least expensive, for their particular project at the top of their mind, not necessarily what’s best for the community. Without hearing from a development’s potential neighbours, they won’t necessarily understand the latter, especially if they don’t live in the area.

So kudos to those who engage with the process, to those who make their voices heard when they have concerns about development.

You might not get projects shut down, but you’ll give both developers and municipal governments things to consider as they move forward with their plans. Then you’ll have a platform to stand on, after everything is said and done, from which to say either, “we told you so,” or “thank you.”

Kudos also need to be given to those developers (whether private or public) who actively engage with the public and listen to people potentially affected by the work, so they can take those concerns into account while they design and complete their projects.

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