Election Issue: The Downtown Neighbourhood Plan

In the most recent prairie dog, we ran the top six municipal election issues as we saw them: poverty, the rental crisis, urban sprawl, transportation, recycling and waste, and recreation. I turned in a blurb on the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan that was bumped and seeing as it's otherwise just sit useless in my hard drive, I thought I'd post it here...


After many consultations, draft reports and delays, on September 21, city council passed it’s new Downtown Neighbourhood Plan entitled “Walk to Work”. It lays out a comprehensive and progressive vision for the centre of the city that will see it transformed over the next 25 years into the heart of Regina’s cultural, civic and business life.

If all goes according to plan, the moonscape of surface parking south of Victoria will become sites for new development, biking and walking will be better accommodated, transit will be improved in and out of the core, more residential development will begin to spring up downtown, and street-level business will be courted and encouraged.

All in all, we should slowly see downtown Regina become a greener, more vibrant and user-friendly place to be.

Already, plans have been unveiled to revitalize Victoria park and the streets around it, and a new condo-complex and hotel has been unveiled for downtown’s western gateway on the site of the Plains Hotel.

City hall seems pretty happy with the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan. There were figurative high-fives all round the day it passed council, and it seems to be moving full steam ahead.

So why is it an election issue?

Because as the plan unfolds, there will be room for a new council to interpret it, ignore it, circumvent it or -- dare I suggest? -- sabotage it.

Sure, it will be made into a bylaw and incorporated into the Official Community Plan, but council has shown this is no guarantee that it will be followed in the long run. Over the last year, apartments were converted to condominiums despite objections from city staff and city policy. Apartment blocks were approved in commercial zones in contravention of guidelines in the Official Community Plan.

No plan or policy, it seems, is sacrosanct forever.

And yet to be fair, when I have pressed sources within the city's administration about this, they have responded that the various elements within the plan are too interconnected for any of its parts to be ignored, rewritten or interpreted in ways contrary to their intent. Here's hoping they're right.

Despite the boons it promises for the city, the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan is not without costs. And they may be costs that future councils will be unwilling to carry.

Without cheerleaders on council -- and based on their profiles and public statements alone, it’s not always obvious who among the challengers for council are such -- the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan could conceivably wither and die.

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