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City of Courtenay collecting feedback about future of Arden area

After a round of public meetings, the City of Courtenay will post ideas for the Arden Local Area Plan for more public feedback.
THIS MAP SHOWS THE study area for the Arden Local Area Plan. Ideas generated so far will be posted on the City of Courtenay's website for further public feedback. The City hosted three public meetings last week to gain input on the area

After a round of public meetings last week, the City of Courtenay will post ideas for the Arden Local Area Plan (LAP) on its website for more public feedback.

The City hosted three public meetings last week to hear what people would like to see in the area in the future.

City environmental planner Nancy Hofer said the process has gone well so far, and hearing from area residents is important.

"Nobody knows their neighbourhood better than a resident so even though us stakeholders had this general sense, we were hearing consistently, over and over, people confirming that bit of information," said Hofer, adding, "so I guess what to do about traffic calming and the fact that people want a well-defined, well-connected trail system for cyclists and walkers was probably something we had a sense of but we didn't realize just how strongly the people, who came out at least, were telling us they wanted that."

The Arden LAP area extends east of Arden Road into the City of Courtenay, west out to the Marsden Road area, south to the Comox Valley Parkway area and north to Boon Road area. Much of the study area is part of the Comox Valley Regional District, but has been defined as a settlement expansion area in the Regional Growth Strategy, (RGS), meaning it's been identified as an area that should be annexed into a municipality in the future.

The first meeting last week outlined the plan goals and outcomes from the first public meeting in July, the second meeting was a workshop to discuss planning and design options for the area, and during the third meeting the consultant team presented the information gathered at the first two meetings and asked the public for feedback.

The Record was present at the third meeting, and although Hofer and consultant James Tuer both reminded those present the meeting was designed to be a visioning process for the area — not to discuss whether the area should be annexed into the city — the topic of annexation kept trying to creep into the meeting.

Hofer acknowledged annexation was a topic attendees —many of whom live in the regional district right now — wanted to discuss.

"I noticed that in the beginning people had been very focused on the concept of annexation and certainly that's something we've heard overall, that people want to talk about that and they're concerned about the phasing of that and when's it going to occur," said Hofer, adding nobody knows when it will occur, and the majority of participants seemed to embrace the visioning process by the final meeting, rather than focussing on annexation.

"Many people had been willing to put aside and recognize, 'OK, we're not talking about annexation right now but we do want to talk about what amenities we want in our community, where's the connectivity into the other urban fabric most appropriate, what are the issues we're facing right now, traffic speeds being one of them, and then, if and when development may eventually occur in neighbouring areas, what could it look like so for me at least, from my perspective?'

"It was interesting to see how people could embrace that visioning process so I'd say that was  successful in that respect that the intent of the LAP was eventually embraced by a number of the participants both in and out of the city."

Many people at the third meeting gave positive feedback except for a few who seemed unhappy, mainly about the prospect of eventually coming into the city.

One woman who said she was from a different area of the city noted she wished residents in her area would be consulted on what they would like to see in their area in the future.

Hofer said the plan will help with future development by showing what the community wants.

"Because the RGS said that one day this will come into the city, the City wanted to look at it before it does eventually come in so we can be very confident when (development) applications are coming in, whenever that day is, to say this is what the community wants," she said.

The information gathered through the process will be compiled and is expected to be posted at soon for further public feedback. Hofer noted anyone can provide feedback, not just those in the area.

Another public meeting is expected in about six weeks before the LAP is finalized and presented to Courtenay council for approval.

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