November 20, 2012 Shape Your City – Get Involved in the Community Planning Process


For almost 25 years, I have been involved in the development community and have witnessed the change that Metro Vancouver has experienced over the last few decades. We’ve evolved and grown into a mature and confident city, one that has earned us the moniker “the best place to live”. This change however, has not happened in isolation. What many people do not realize is that community engagement and feedback is essential to the successful growth of a great city such as ours. And, that many opportunities exist for citizens to be a part of shaping this change.

From my experience, most of those who choose to engage in community planning are able to see beyond their personal interests and envision the benefits a new development project can bring to their community- particularly when they get involved early on.

However, in many instances, new development is met with opposition as citizens disconnected from the process fear the unknown. They do not understand how the change will make their lives better, not worse. If only they had taken the initiative to bridge the gap between what they know now and what the future could bring, they would see changes such as increased density and affordability, transit, more walkable and amenity-rich neighbourhoods, and more housing diversity can enrich the overall quality of life of every community member and add value to the community as a whole.

We can look to great examples of how community involvement has directly influenced planning process; where the old ideas of urban sprawl and daily commute have given way to highly livable and walkable communities. From Southeast False Creek, to Vancouver’s River District, to newly proposed Oakridge Centre Mall and Station Square Metrotown, all of these masterplanned communities have benefitted from the willingness of planners, developers and local citizens to work together to ensure that new development uniquely responds to the current and future needs of those who live there.

Getting involved in urban planning in your community can make the difference between a plan for the community and a plan by the community. You can get involved in planning a better and brighter future for your community in a variety of ways:

  • Participate in a survey or focus group. Many planning efforts use community surveys or small meetings of community stakeholders to gather information about conditions in the community and what people would like to see happen in the future.
  • Attend a public meeting. Public meetings are an important part of the planning process. They’re an opportunity to learn more about your community, gather information about the potential elements of the proposed plan, and provide your own ideas and feedback.
  • Get involved in a planning workshop. Planning workshops help get community stakeholders more deeply involved in making the local plan. These workshops usually take place over several days and use the ideas and feedback of community stakeholders to help plan and design the neighbourhood vision.
  • Serve on an advisory committee. Some local planning efforts have advisory committees made up of community residents and other community stakeholders, such as business or property owners. These committees usually provide advice and guidance that is used in the overall planning process and helps professional urban planners better understand the needs of the community.

Through the partnership between developers, community members and planners we can create holistic amenity rich mini cities which respond to the unique needs of local citizens. This is a win-win for all involved. Remove the fear of the unknown and let your voice be heard. Contact your local city hall and participate in the shaping of this great city so that it continues to be on the forefront of positive change and rightfully earns its place as one of the world’s most livable cities.

Cameron McNeill