One of the schematics of the proposed Facilities Plan, including a district hall, visitor centre, museum and art gallery at 325 Wallace Street. (District of Hope image)

Back to the drawing board for new facilities plan in Hope

Council cites lack of feedback, confusion in decision to poll community in September

Council is taking one step back before moving forward with the new Facilities Master Plan.

After reviewing the results of their public consultation at Tuesday night’s meeting, they realized that there was some obvious confusion with the plan as presented. The district is looking at building a new district hall, and at the same time is looking at solutions for other district buildings. Those include the Search and Rescue building, fire hall, Visitor Centre and Museum, and even an art gallery.

But many of the comments showed that there was a misconception that the district is looking to create that space in Memorial Park, which isn’t true. The plan involved using the same footprint as the current district hall. Memorial Park is not zoned for commercial use and there are no plans to change that.

“I think this proves we did a poor job of presenting the plan,” said Coun. Scott Medlock. “We have to come up with a way to make that very clear.”

There were just 187 feedback forms submitted from the public. The majority agreed that council should develop and create a comprehensive and sustainable long-term plan for facilities, but there was just tepid support for many of the ideas within that plan. Fifty two respondents said Memorial Park should not have any buildings on it.

Just over 55 per cent of respondents said they do not agree with the plan as presented, although 61 per cent agreed that a new centralized fire hall and Search and Rescue building be created.

Mayor Peter Robb said there was also insufficient feedback, and that he’d like to see more before they make such important decisions for the community. One of the barriers to getting that feedback is likely the pandemic and the lack of in-person consultation opportunities.

So, they made a motion and agreed unanimously to go back to the community with a better representation of their plans in September. By then, the provincial government has predicted that event organization will be back to pre-pandemic normalcy.

But the discussion also showed that not all points in the plan are popular with individual councillors.

A larger district centre in the current location would require more employee parking in the area, as well as visitor parking.

That will mean extra pressure on parking availability throughout the busy summer months when parking is already at a premium on Wallace Street, said Coun. Victor Smith.

“We are very lucky to have that park, it is stunning,” he said. “But I just think the parking is going to be an issue. I’d like to revisit what we’re doing. This is a master plan for our town, we want to get it right.”

Coun. Heather Stewin said there are also issues with locating emergency services buildings in areas where tourists may be milling about or getting in the way.

READ MORE: District of Hope seeks public feedback on municipal buildings, housing needs

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Hope Standard