Powell River youth council requests infrastructure improvements

Group recommends being engaged in decision making

City of Powell River youth council wants to be more actively involved in planning for local streets and infrastructure.

At the March 17 city committee of the whole, Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman, one of the council sponsors for the youth council, said they have been having a lot of discussion around local streets, safety, improving pedestrian corridors, cycling corridors and outdoor places.

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She said council had requested that youth council come and speak about their idea of having the city do a pilot project for the summer, increasing the number of outdoor patio spaces, as is being done in other places. Unfortunately, due to health circumstances and spring break, the students were not able to bring the report so Leishman did it in their stead.

She said youth council is recommending that city council direct staff to bring a report to the committee of the whole in April 2020 regarding establishing an outdoor patio summer pilot project for Marine Avenue, starting June 1, 2020 and ending October 1, 2020.

She said that she and councillor Rob Southcott, the other youth council sponsor, conversed with them a lot about how the sustainable official community plan talks about complete streets and how the city is going to be rewriting the infrastructure design and construction bylaw. She said this outlines the engineering and design of streets, when new subdivisions are created, or new work has to be done.

“They really felt we are in a new era and they had a lot of concern about how it really doesn’t feel safe for cycling and it’s not desirable to walk down some of our main corridors,” said Leishman. “They suggested they would like to be engaged in the process of the rewriting of the bylaw. They talked about the province recently releasing the active transportation design guide in 2019.” The guide outlines measures such as traffic calming, and all kinds of different features to get citizens active, such as walking and cycling.

Leishman said youth council recommends that city council direct staff to include a complete phased approach when rewriting the city’s infrastructure, design and construction bylaw, including best practices as outlined in the British Columbia active transportation design guide 2019 edition. She said the students put together a subsequent recommendation that the youth council be engaged in and participate in the rewriting of the infrastructure design and construction bylaw.

“They would like to have an opportunity to meet with whoever the professionals are, and our staff,” said Leishman. “They would like the opportunity to hear about the plan and be able to have discussions around moving forward and how to implement some of those new design practices into our infrastructure design and construction bylaw.”

Mayor Dave Formosa said it was great to have the youth involvement.

Councillor George Doubt said he thought it was great to have the youth of the community involved in the bylaw, and the entire community should be involved, too.

Councillor Jim Palm said the dates that the youth council proposed might be pushed back because of the COVID-19 situation.

Southcott said he was thrilled about the youth initiative. He said he has been reading books about planning and in many communities across the continent complete streets has become an approach to figuring out how to make communities sustainable.

“Basically, it comes back to one simple change that occurred during the economic boom of post-Second World War, where North America suburbanized a lot,” said Southcott. There was an orientation to cars.

“Now, we are transferring back to orientation to people and that is where the whole complete streets thing comes in,” said Southcott.

“Our youth council is all over it and gets it completely,” he added, “especially some who have travelled internationally, where the patterns of social interaction are quite different, particularly in European cities. It’s a hugely exciting prospect for change for me.”

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