In spite of reluctance from city staff, Campbellton planning to go ahead

Lack of staff positions hinders planning process, but Campbell River Council gives approval to move forward

Council gave the green light to a neighbourhood strategy to improve Campbellton despite not having the staff the city manager says is necessary for the project.

Coun. Ron Kerr, liaison to lobby group Campbellton First, asked city staff two weeks ago to look into an in-house strategy where city staff would work with Campbellton residents and businesses to beautify and improve the neighbourhood.

City manager Andy Laidlaw reported back there is not enough staff available to do the work.

“What I want to caution council about is, to undertake a neighbourhood plan would be relatively onerous,” Laidlaw said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “Staff do not have the resources to do that at this time, given our priorities.”

Campbellton First met with senior management at city hall last fall and agreed on a three-day charrette – an intensive planning session hosted in Campbellton for citizens, designers and city staff to collaborate on developing an improvement strategy.

At the time, Laidlaw said the city had a land planner, who has now left the position. A second staffer in the land department is also no longer with the city. And a third planner is just filling a temporary position and will not be returning.

Campbellton business owners Jim DeHart and Brian Shaw appeared before council on Tuesday and voiced their disappointment with the turn of events.

“We’re very disappointed in the report to council,” DeHart said. “We think it’s time to step up and prove to us the commitment you made to Campbellton last year was more than just (to win the election).”

DeHart proposed a working group that would include a combination of community volunteers and city assistance. He said Campbellton First would like to host six formal meetings but would need city staff to provide advice.

“We’re asking for $400 per meeting to pay for six formal meetings we need to hold in our neighbourhood,” DeHart said. “In total, $2,400 plus staff time plus mapping and materials needed for the planning process.”

Shaw is frustrated the city won’t make a commitment.

“We said we can do this as volunteers and we’ve been shut down, completely,” he said. “We’ve put together a good project here, we’re doing the work, we’ve got the volunteers to do this, so come on guys. Let’s get on board to make Campbellton a little bit better than it is. No more pussy footing around, please.”

Laidlaw said the city could help with a charrette hosted by Campbellton First and could help advance the project if and when the city has the staff.

That prompted Kerr to put forward the motion to have staff prepare the Neighbourhood Action Strategy, which was passed unanimously by council.

The strategy will have a budget of $3,000, taken from the council contingency fund, and is to be implemented no later than Dec. 31 of this year.

“There are a lot of projects happening in Campbell River right now, but I don’t think Campbellton should be shoved to the bottom of the list again,” Kerr said. “I think there’s an opportunity in Campbellton and I think an opportunity to do more with less. Campbell Riverites are doing that right now and I think city hall can too.”