The first formal open house for the Harewood Neighbourhood Plan was held on Sep. 22 at the University Village Shopping Centre. The plan is part of a yearlong process that is currently in the first of five stages.
Community planners and volunteers provided background information on the neighbourhood related to land use, infrastructure, topography, heritage sites, and environmental features. They asked residents to fill out a short survey to help identify what they like about their neighbourhood and what needs improving.
Chris Sholberg, the City of Nanaimo’s Heritage and Community Planner, says that the open house helps city planners understand what residents are thinking before they go further into the process. He says that this sort of information is crucial in helping identify what issues exist in the neighbourhood so that the community planners can develop actions that addresses these issues in the neighbourhood plan, or alternatively, identifying what neighbourhood characteristics the residents want to protect and build upon.
“We’ve done a number of neighbourhood plans in the south end area and other areas in the past and the public involvement is actually crucial to understanding a vision for the neighbourhood and how it will look in 20–30 years time and how it will function, how the road network will work. From a technical perspective we have a good handle on what needs to be done but that could miss the wisdom that the residents have. Sometimes it’s not necessarily compatible on where we want to go on a technical perspective so it’s good to marry these two together and hopefully it’s a win/win situation,” Sholberg says.
Kent MacDonald, 16, is the planning committees’ Youth Rep. He has spent much of his young life in Harewood and is proud to be part of the project.
MacDonald agrees that community input is an essential tool in creating a vision for Harewood. “It’s perfect because it’s what we need to hear because we could just do it ourselves and it would be ok, no input from the community and that would bother them because this is where they live—this is what they want to see. Not something that is just put there for them. And so, with the community input it’s going to help us focus on community benefits. That is the main purpose.”
Ryan Butler, a VIU student and Harewood resident completed the survey. He says that the inclusion of bike lanes could create a safer and more sustainable Harewood. “I think if you look at the amount of students we have here, we have a real transient population and it’s really dominated by car culture…I was hoping that they would put in bike lanes. There’s an old school along Fifth and there’s an old ball field right beside it and right there there’s a really old lane that people often confuse as a driving lane and it’s for the busses. It’s basically already a bike lane but what I fear is that a lot of people—my girlfriend in particular—have a hard time biking especially in weather that isn’t ideal. They don’t feel safe on the road. I think it’s a barrier to biking and if we can promote alternative forms of transportation we can reduce students cost of living—not just students but all citizens.”
For more information on the Harewood Community Plan visit <www.nanaimo.ca/EN/main/departments/Community-Planning/4299/Harewood.html>