CITIZEN ASSOCIATIONS: RESIDENT EXPERTS

28 August 2018

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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.

Une réponse à CITIZEN ASSOCIATIONS: RESIDENT EXPERTS

  1. Mike Duggan says:

    Thank you for posting. Yes, this was a good example of citizen engagement in the decision-making process, and I worked hard towards this outcome with the assistance of the residents’ association and Sandra Lemaire and Véronic Boyer in particular. It was not a partisan effort but a necessary reaction to what was deemed an irresponsible cooperation between a private developer and the city’s administration. Trying to put unwise changes through Council had to be challenged !

    ** Please keep in mind that associations are not meant to replace the role of the duly elected councillor, who carries the vote on behalf of all of the citizens in the given ward. The two must work together in the interests of the residents and everything possible must be done to ensure that partisanship does not interfere. **

    After initiating the creation of the Vieux-Moulins association, together with other citizen volunteers the Jardins-Lavigne association was created. There was a recognized need for social and community development north of Allumettières – newer neighbourhoods filled with young families and new arrivals from outside the region where a sense of belonging and participation were deemed necessary. Paul Drouin, one of our excellent city staff also deserves mention for having been instrumental in the coordination of these new associations. He was often available after-hours and on short notice, and even helped broker financial assistance from a more established Aylmer residents’ association to help the new ones move forward quicker.

    -Mike Duggan, councillor for Lucerne ward (2013-2017), councillor for Deschênes ward (2017-present)

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