I attended the Town of Aurora’s Heritage Advisory Committee’s meeting last evening, February 12th.
Item 1 on the agenda ended up being a much bigger item than the committee or staff had anticipated.
It had to do with the proposed South East Heritage Conservation District that is looking to come before council soon in an attempt to move to its next phase.
This second conservation district has been in the works for some time. There is a piece run on pages 9 & 25 in the Auroran of December 20th 2011.
Shortly after this I wrote a column in the January 10th 2012 Auroran and followed that up with a blog post, which you can read here:
Fast forward to a February 5th letter to the Auroran by a group called “Concerned Residents of Aurora Centre”: http://www.newspapers-online.com/auroran/?p=5469
This group delegated to the Heritage Advisory Committee last night and was represented by more than a dozen people, filling all the available audience chairs in the Holland Room. This group included property owners, business owners (some new and some over 25years) including a Real Estate agent.
The shared concern was that numerous residences and businesses have not been adequately informed or communicated as to what is being proposed.
At the other side of the table town staff simply shrugged.
They had met the minimum requirement for public consultation, what else could they conceivably do?
And therein lies the problem.
The Town of Aurora has proven time and time again they have little to no idea how to engage with residents.
As stated by the delegation, running ads in local papers and placing a notice on the town’s website is laughable at best.
It was also stated that the Town placed door-knockers on houses, like the ones you receive as advertising and immediately discard. Even the chair of the committee acknowledged how poor of a communication tool using door knockers are.
At the Heritage Advisory Committee meeting of July 8th 2013 the Town’s Heritage Planing Manager gushed about how they set up a booth at the Aurora Farmers Market and in her words “didn’t hear anything negative, or anyone opposed” to the district.
Didn’t hear? Or Didn’t want to hear?
So, apparently the “Concerned Residents of Aurora Centre” were not even known to the study group, consultant, staff or committee until just recently even though they are inside the boundaries and are active members of the community?
Wow, that is some piss poor engagement.
Visibly disappointing that anyone would be questioning the study and asking for more time to be consulted a member of the Heritage Advisory Committee that is also a member of the sub-committee for this study and also happens to be a member of the Ratepayers association HEAT (or Wells Street Neigbourhood HEAT, or whatever they are calling themselves these days) had to leave the table to collect herself.
But that wasn’t before she decided to provide a very patronizing backgrounder on how the ratepayers group she is involved in held one single meeting at a tea-house whereby a conservation district was decided upon so many moons ago.
The fact that almost nothing has been communicated since, and that the ratepayers group has had several communications issues which I touched on before here:
Has nothing to do with anything.
Obviously the Concerned Residents of Aurora Centre are just “late to the party”.
Their concerns simply need to be captured and then the study can continue.
No need for a dialogue.
That can always happen later.
Compare the Heritage Advisory Committee, it’s sub committee and staff’s approach to engagement to the city of Toronto’s.
Pam McConnel a Toronto City councilor most famous recently for being flattened by Mayor Rob Ford in a bizarre altercation in council chambers, posted on her blog last October about the City’s new website here: http://pammcconnell.ca/2013/10/30/city-of-toronto-launches-a-blog-on-heritage-conservation-districts/
Heritage Conservation Districts in Toronto ( http://hcdtoronto.wordpress.com/ ) is a simple WordPress site designed to serve as a resource to learn about milestones, events and ways to participate in the heritage conservation district studies and plans currently underway in the city.
Wow. Something so simple, yet so effective in filling in the missing pieces in a needless communication puzzle.
This must be why Toronto’s efforts are recognized by the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals: http://yongestreetmedia.ca/devnews/heritageaward11272013.aspx
While here in Aurora a number of community members are left on hold while another heritage project moves past them.