Residents of Ashcroft had an opportunity last week to learn more about the Village’s plans to overhaul its Official Community Plan (OCP) and zoning bylaw, when consultants from Urban Systems were in town to meet with residents and groups to get feedback.
There was also a community workshop on November 28, and a community open house on November 30, where attendees could see a draft of the feedback that had been received.
Dylan Houlihan, a community planner with Urban Systems, and two colleagues were at the Ashcroft HUB for four days, where they were able to meet with residents. They also met with groups including the Parent Advisory Council, students, Rotary, the RCMP, the Wellness and Health Action Coalition, nurses from the Health Unit, members of the off-leash dog park committee, and municipal staff. On Wednesday night they went to Drylands Arena, where they met with parents there with their children, and reached out to parents at the HUB.
“We talked to 150 to 200 people,” says Houlihan, “and got another 30 to 40 surveys filled out. We met a lot of young families.
“The HUB is a dynamic place, and it was nice to be at the centre of the action. One of our goals was to speak with younger people who are underrepresented in the surveys.” They also took a different survey around to local businesses, and had a dozen returned.
At the workshop, Houlihan explained that the OCP and zoning bylaw should be updated every five to 10 years. “The current OCP and zoning bylaw were developed in 2005. They should reflect the community and its changes over time. And some government grants are only available to communities with up-to-date planning tools.
“If a community has infrastructure and other needs identified in its plans, they’re more likely to get funding. The OCP provides direction as to how a community evolves. The details in it show what’s important to the community and what values it has.”
At the workshop, attendees were encouraged to write their thoughts about a variety of topics on sheets of paper posted on the walls. At the open house, draft results of the feedback received were displayed, along with general policy directions, and suggestions for some potential actions to be undertaken by the Village.
Key themes that emerged from the feedback included infrastructure (maintaining existing water and sewer services, and having safer connections for pedestrians and cyclists within and between neighbourhoods); housing (more housing of all types); demographics (the need to attract more young families, and the necessity of ensuring key services remain); economic development (the need to diversify the economy and market the Ashcroft lifestyle to attract entrepreneurs); and health care (the need for innovative approaches to attract and retain a range of health care professionals).
“The process has given us a greater appreciation of the Ashcroft community spirit, which will really help with the OCP process,” says Houlihan. “I’ve been around Ashcroft since 2001 and knew the community spirit was there, but didn’t know how strong it was. There’s a great synergy between groups, and a strong sense of community. People should take pride in this and build on it.”