To the Editor,
On Aug. 12, 2019, Port Alberni City Council released their Strategic Plan, but the public didn’t notice.
On Dec. 5, 2019, the Third Avenue project appeared during departmental budget presentations. Seeking public engagement regarding the budget and Strategic Plan, such as conducting electronic town halls, or public information sessions, was mentioned by council.
On Dec. 9, a letter to council regarding uptown beautification, induced a brief discussion regarding some proposed changes to Third Avenue. The mayor mentioned that planning for the Third Avenue project had not yet started.
The project again appeared as a budget line item at the Jan. 20, 2020 budget meeting, but no detailed plans were discussed. At the Jan. 27 regular meeting of council, a detailed plan for Third Avenue was presented to council and the public, with a staff recommendation to proceed on a chosen option. When did planning begin, since it wasn’t underway as of Dec. 9?
Christmas came and went. What happened to public information sessions, or electronic town halls? Recently, the mayor stated that this is a “fundamental shift on the way we view an area.”
The strong feedback against the project at present should have been anticipated as a result of council’s choice to work behind the scenes on their vision, including engaging a consultant to assist them, and choosing not to engage the public during the planning phase.
It is not just a tweak or adjustment that is proposed for Third Avenue. The entire community must contribute monetarily, and much of the community transits the area on a regular basis. So, the plan should not have been devised with the majority of input coming only from the mayor, councillors and businesses located on upper Third Avenue.
Revealing a plan containing a fundamental shift, a $1.5 million price tag, and little public input was a serious misjudgement.