St. John's Coun. Tom Hann (head of the table) chairs this past week's planning committee meeting made up of council members and city staff. Among the things discussed were a mayor's symposium, planned for late February, which will kick off public consultations on a new municipal plan for the capital city. - Photo by Dave Bartlett/The Telegram
What do you want the city of St. John's to look like in 25 years?
That's what city council and staff want to find out as they prepare to draft a new municipal plan.
Anyone who wants to have their say on how the city should evolve will have several chances over the next 18 months through a number of public forums.
The process will begin with a mayor's symposium - scheduled for Saturday Feb. 25 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at city hall.
If the event has to be cancelled due to poor weather, it will be held on Sunday, Feb. 26 from 1-4:30 p.m. instead. The symposium was discussed at a city planning committee meeting this week.
The event will be facilitated by the provincial government's rural secretariat and will use what's called "clicker technology" to offer real-time voting on suggestions and ideas raised by the public.
People attending the forum will get a copy of the data collected before they leave. At the committee meeting, staff said they'd soon have the questions to be posed during the symposium.
Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff raised the possibility of the information being biased because of the way those questions are phrased.
However, other members of the committee pointed out that the symposium is only one way the city will collect data during the 16 to 18-month process.
People interested in participating are asked to pre-register, as there's only space for 100 people.
The city will hold additional meetings if there's enough demand.
Coun. Sheilagh O'Leary asked that information packages be prepared beforehand for people who pre-register, to outline in broad strokes how the city makes its planning decisions.
After the meeting, planning committee chairman Coun. Tom Hann told The Telegram council is anxious to get the project moving.
"That will be the first major piece of work to be done," he said of the symposium.
"Over the next 18 months we're going to ... take it into the wards and have public meetings. We're going to give the various interest groups in the city the opportunity to have their input."
Hann said the city wants to hear from people from all walks of life to get as complete a picture as possible of what the citizens want.
"Sometimes when you get into this kind of thing you get self-interest groups that will come out, and what we are trying to do is to make sure everybody in the city has an opportunity to have input," he said.
"That means the ordinary person ... and not just ... advocacy groups, while they will (also) have their opportunity."
He said the information collected at the meetings should be a comprehensive set of comments and ideas which the city can use to start drafting a new municipal plan.
Hann said one of the main things the city wants to do is strike a balance between encouraging development and preserving history and heritage.
Social media will also play a role, as the city wants to give people who can't or don't want to attend public meetings have their say.