Consultant Vince Verlaan presents his report on a public engagement strategy to Township council during its Nov. 23 meeting.

Consultant Vince Verlaan presents his report on a public engagement strategy to Township council during its Nov. 23 meeting.

Township looks at new approach to planning

Mayor’s Standing Committee on Public Engagement releases report following nine-month review

Nine months after it began, a review by the Mayor’s Standing Committee on Public Engagement has produced a series of recommendations.

They are designed to improve communication about development proposals between the Township of Langley and its residents.

“It’s almost like giving birth to a baby,” mayor Jack Froese said at the Nov. 23 afternoon meeting where the report was presented.

The committee was created after a proposal to densify parts of the semi-rural Brookswood/Fernridge neighbourhoods ran into a wall of public opposition.

During the nine-month public engagement review, roughly 300 people attended three public events, more than 50 took part in focus groups, 158 people filled out feedback forms and 21 sent in letters and emails.

Consultant Vince Verlaan of Modus Planning Design and Engagement Inc., the company hired to help the committee, presented an executive summary of the report to council.

Verlaan said the recommended changes to the way development proposals are dealt with are aimed at “getting beyond the usual suspects, getting beyond the loudest voices.”

The slide show presentation listed 10 goals, among them to “use proactive and ongoing communication and education protocols, skills and tools,” and “go to where people are and use creative engagement tools to make it fun and easy to participate.”

A report by Froese to council said turning those principles into specific measures could include setting new rules for developer-funded public meetings on projects, better access to planning documents by “posting all materials in easy-to-find locations on project web pages” and circulating the material as well as correcting “misinformation and inaccuracies and respectfully respond in a timely manner.”

It could also include a YouTube channel to explain the fundamentals of the planning process.

At Coun. Kim Richter’s insistence, council voted to amended the wording of the report to make it clear that it was focused on the planning and development process, not all Township activities.

The report was referred to Township staff, who are expected to have an implementation plan ready by the spring of 2016.