As Port Edward prepares to potentially undergo major growth with the emergence of the liquefied natural gas industry, some residents are calling for more openness from district council.
“When I was canvassing and talking to people, what I heard is what one gets out of this office and what is really happening don’t connect,” said Alice Kruta at the Jan. 27 meeting.
One of the two main focal areas of concern for Kruta was Port Edward’s Official Community Plan (OCP), a document that outlines areas and types of development going forward.
“Not many people even know what the OCP is and the importance of it with regards to decisions being made. There is a lot of changes to the 2013 OCP … ask anyone on the street if they know what the OCP is. You’re going to be surprised because you’re not going to get a lot of people who know what it is and how important it is,” she said.
“This is why I would like to see small public meetings. You want a smooth, functioning Official Community Plan and that is not happening … I know it is a lot of work, but it is our bible.”
Noting some opposition to LNG in the community, Kruta said the time to make changes is now.
“I am really concerned about a lot of young people. There is nothing here for young people to do and I really think that is an important issue because the young people are our future. They are the ones who are going to be looking after us,” she said.
In responding to her concerns about the plan and industry development, acting Mayor Dan Franzen noted there was opportunity for input throughout the process.
“There were public meetings and they were reported. There were public meetings for the OCP, for the camps, the LNG plants – they all have public meetings. I have sat here in them and a lot of times nobody shows up, but the information is out there … the community’s reflection [in the OCP] is friendly growth. We don’t want to be Vancouver, we don’t want to be Vancouver. You’re going to see a lot of changes in the next little while. Some you’re going to like, some you’re probably not,” he said, adding LNG is one way for Port Edward to address issues related to young people.
“LNG is going to make it so there are things for our young people to do because right now we have a tax base of almost nothing. Until we get some structures here, it is going to be the same.”
Franzen noted council is in the midst of changing how council meetings are held to allow for more public participation.
“We had a meeting on that and we are going to have an opportunity for public input at the end of the meeting. It won’t be for big long speeches, but if you have a simple question we are going to address that … we do want a user-friendly system, so if you have a question it is not a problem,” he said, adding anyone is welcome to attend the regular monthly meetings.
However, Coun. Grant Moore suggested council go even further in opening up more communication with people in Port Edward.
“I would like us to have every six months a public forum, almost a question and answer period for the residents of Port Edward in order to be transparent. Everybody talked about transparency in their campaign, here and Prince Rupert, and I think it would go a long way for residents,” he said.
“It would just be good to get the community together every six months and some people are nervous about coming to the more formal council meeting.”
Along with creating more council access for the public, Kruta said a lot of residents’ concerns could be addressed by making better use of the district bulletin, which is sent out to all residents.
“It could be used more diligently to post changes or bylaws that are coming up or notices that are coming up. It seems like you are doing just what you are legally required to do,” she said.
“The newsletter is so predictable most people just throw it out. It has the transit info and council news, but that is as vague as it can get. There is no postings, no land use decisions, no community report, no committee reports. This could really be made a lot more effective because everybody in Port Edward gets this.”
Council has asked staff to look into what is put into the bulletin and if anything could be added.