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Planner brings civic and industry experience

Working with new city council provides wealth of opportunity
Paul Galinski

Thomas Knight’s new position with City of Powell River will require some planning.

Having been named as director of planning services, Knight will be assuming the duties of Carlos Felip, outgoing director of planning services, who will be retiring effective February 28.

Since September 2013, Knight has been employed by the city as planning manager - (community energy emissions plan). Having worked for the city for 15 months prior to his appointment to the senior staff ranks, Knight has had an opportunity to witness how the planning department operates before assuming his new position. He said he is excited about working with the newly elected council.

“I’ve had the opportunity of working with several of the councillors through the sustainability steering committee and now they’ve been elected as council members,” Knight said. “I see the passion they bring to the table, not only with sustainability but with a lot of different things.”

He added that he has worked at least 30 years in the planning field with a lot of mayors and of them, Powell River’s mayor is the hardest working.

The relational nature of a community such as Powell River is a really healthy feature to build planning upon, Knight said. Powell River many not have the range of amenities that larger communities have but there are other things that speak to a community’s health.

“We have a very livable city,” he said. “Hopefully, lifestyle will be one of the big things our marketing group will be selling in terms of what we have here.”

Knight said he has gained a wide range of occupational experiences that will allow him to don different hats in his new position here.

“Having been part of the development industry for half the amount of time I’ve been in the planning field, you really gain an appreciation about what it means to deal with red tape, or in a community being over-regulated,” he said. “I know what it’s like to be on the other side of the counter trying to put forward a project that I think will bring a lot of benefit.

“If you’re frustrated by having to deal with bureaucracy, you end up moving on. I don’t think we are overly regulated in Powell River but we can ask what can we do internally in planning and engineering that we can send the message we are open for business?”

Knight said the city now has a sustainable official community plan (SOCP) that will give a new vision of where the city wants to go.

There are very few communities in BC that have what Powell River has to offer, the new planner said. “We are adjacent to the ocean and Powell River is built on a hill so many residents have great views of the ocean,” he said. “We have this expanded harbour front and walkway. We have moorage. When you compare that to other places in BC, there’s very few that do.”

Knight said planning provides the city with a blank slate to do many things in the community. The direction of what gets drawn on that slate comes directly from city council. He said he is looking forward to seeing what comes out of council’s strategic plan discussion to figure out the key strategies for the coming year.

Knight said he has been hearing from council how much more it wants to be engaged with the community so one of the challenges is how to increase that engagement.

“How do we get city planning more outside of city hall? One of the immediate challenges is how do we heighten and expand upon all the good work the Townsite [Heritage] Society has been doing for heritage? How do you build on that and look at doing things community-wide?”

One of the great advantages, according to Knight, is the excellent makeup of the people of this community.

“Never mind the state of your infrastructure, the people are most important,” he said.

It is an exciting time for Knight to be starting his new position, especially right after a civic election.

“It’s not like you’re coming two-thirds of the way through,” he said. “When the opportunity came to decide to work here it was a pretty easy decision. I could see the potential. I’m looking forward to it.”