Jubilee Park consultation – a model for Wilson Farmhouse

A resident’s perspective.

In reading coverage of the Wilson Farmhouse issue at the Community and Social Services Committee in the Guelph Tribune of September 19th, I came across an article on the inside front page based on the press release issued by the City on the Jubilee Park.

The original press release is available at this link: http://guelph.ca/2013/08/help-us-create-jubilee-park/

It appears to me that the City has already developed the perfect template for simultaneous neighbourhood and CIty-wide consultation on potential community uses for the Wilson Farmhouse, or outcomes such as demolition or sale and severance.

The second paragraph of the Tribune article states: “People from the Kortright East neighbourhood, and anyone interested in park planning, can share their ideas about what the new Jubilee Park should look like.”

The City is hoping to gather input through visioning workshops, concept selection workshops and an on-line discussion forum.

I am having trouble reconciling the public statements made by staff in connection to the Jubilee Park process with those made by CAO Ann Pappert regarding public consultation on the fate of the Wilson Farmhouse.

The Tribune article contains the following quotes:

We are excited to work closely with residents, in person and online, to create a unified vision for Jubiliee Park, Karen Sabzali, the City’s manage of parks and open space, said in the release.

In the past, she said, the city’s approach to community consultation for park planning meant mailing a survey to residents for feedback on a proposed park concept already developed by staff.

‘We are changing our process and demonstrating our commitment to community engagement – a principle of open govenment – by asking residents to help us identify park features they would like to see in Jubilee Park,’ Sabzali said.

The attitudes and processes described by Ms. Sabzali embody a vision of consultation which is democratic, open, inclusive and looks to tap the widest possible creative input.

They are in direct contrast to the defeatist attitude expressed by Ms. Pappert in the staff memo posted on the Ward 2 blog.

the decision to pause conducting a full formal survey of the neighbourhood and of the broader community, was my decision after consultation with staff. It was based on:
• The recognition that we already had a reasoned understanding
of the opposing opinions and needed a Council deliberation prior to further actions.
•That a successful solution to this dilemma would not be arrived at by ‘majority rule’ approach.
•That the level of input required to solve this matter, likely went well beyond the project itself. The root issue is determining how best to approach balancing the interests of a whole community with those of a specific neighbourhood.

I believe that the Jubilee Park consultation process provides a road map of the way forward for a public consultation on potential community use of the Wilson Farmhouse, or demolition versus severance and sale, involving both the neighbourhood and residents City-wide. I believe this needs to happen before a win-lose decision of demolition or severance and sale is made by City Council.  SW

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Filed under Heritage, Public Input, Wilson Farm Park

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