Do you sometimes feel as though your voice is not heard, that perhaps your views do not carry much weight in the city’s decision-making process? In that regard, the creation of a citizen association can contributes to the quality of life of a neighbourhood. This type of association provides an expertise to handle and resolve daily issues, which the city, as a whole, might not have.
For example, two years ago, the Vieux-Moulin resident association in Aylmer heard of the construction plans in front of an elementary school in their community. Commercial activity in the sector would have doubled, which greatly preoccupied the residents for security reasons. Through dialogue and effective organization, the Association was able to have the presentation to the urban planning advisory committee postponed.
Sandra Lemaire, the president of the association, said the delay gave the Association the time to prepare, with the help of Mobi-O, a list of what was at stake and a set of recommendations. Safety audits were organized in order to show that the environment must also be taken in consideration when planning community developments. In 2017, at a municipal council meeting, the Association shared its concerns regarding traffic during peak hours and the children circulating in the area. City council voted unanimously against the expansion project of the commercial space.
The developer decided to meet with the Association. Together, they discussed what could be included in the project to satisfy all parties. The plan was to build a pharmacy and a gas station in addition to the Tim Horton that was already there. Since a gas station generates as much traffic as a Tim Horton, it was agreed that the gas station would be replaced by an entertainment type business. The Association was open to the idea of the pharmacy since the developer had reduced the square footage of the building. The Association also proposed speed reduction measures on certain streets.
An agreement was reached to the satisfaction of both parties and was sent to the City. The developer committed to implement and pay for a certain number of speed reduction measures in order to offset the negative impacts associated with the arrival of new businesses in the neighbourhood. In return, the Association agreed not to raise any objection and to support the necessary regulatory changes.
Lemaire believes that all neighbourhoods should have their own association. She also believes that different neighbourhood associations should join forces. In doing so, it minimizes the issues that can arise with any project development. For example, the Vieux-Moulin Association met with the Jardins-Lavigne association to discuss certain topics such as the possible light rail system.
In order to reinforce citizen participation, the City could consider including citizen associations before formal decision-making processes begin. If residents had been informed of the project before the initial presentation to the urban planning advisory committee, the City would have not waste time or money. One must keep in mind that the perspective of residents can differ of that of municipal officials. These neighbourhood insiders can perhaps catch grey areas in regulations and highlight aspects that might need improvement.