Brampton Planners Discuss Future of City with Local Media

If you haven’t heard by now, the City of Brampton is looking to prepare for the future. That might sound a bit too obvious, as every community should be preparing for the future. But the city has launched an official campaign called Future Ready Brampton to help facilitate that discussion.

As inbrampton recently documented, the city is soliciting feedback from the public through an online portal about what is next for Brampton. To be more specific, this initiative is focused primarily on planning, a topic that can get quite contentious at times in Canada’s ninth largest city.

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As part of the launching of Future Ready Brampton, the city hosted a panel discussion with Brampton local media, posing questions to Rob Elliott, Brampton’s Commissioner of Planning, and Larry Beasley, of Beasley & Associates Inc. who was brought on by CAO Harry Schlange some months ago for this purposes of planning out Brampton for the future.

These were the questions I posed to Elliott and Beasley during this panel session. I would encourage you to watch the video in its entirety to get the full context:

Larry, you were the former chief planner for the City of Vancouver. Vancouver is a unique urban setting in the Canadian context in that its landscape and geography has required unique planning policies be put into place. Could you enlighten us if there are any aspects of Vancouverism that could be adopted to Brampton?

Although Beasley is known predominantly as ‘the Vancouver planning expert,’ he also has plied his wares in Abu Dhabi, Dallas, Australia and in some Nordic countries as well. Beasley says the problem with planning is that it’s become too homogenous; that we’re trying to implement the same things everywhere. There are certain principles you could take from other places, but Beasley says you need to harness the local community mindset and come up with something that fits that community.

Being that the ideas he takes are from Vancouver, Dallas and other Urban areas, the challenge would be how to apply those principles in a primarily suburban setting. As 60 per cent of Canadians prefer suburbs to cities, Beasley talks about how to keep suburbs like Brampton sustainable, resilient, and inventive…in their own unique way.

Transit and planning are intrinsically linked not only in Brampton but in all urban areas these days. We’ve seen how political machinations have affected transit planning as evidenced by the light rail file in the last few years. Putting aside the political factors surrounding the transit file, what transit modes do you see Brampton adopting in the future?

Beasley says public movement is going to embrace all kinds of modes—not just buses or public transit, but also ride sharing or devices that would allow right of way for certain vehicles. But he said that in the future the discussion wouldn’t actually be about transit, and that there is only one word that would be important: proximity. The idea is to get points of destination closer together so you get shorter and fewer trips, and the trips you do have become more active, naturally occurring. So overall, the future for transportation in Brampton wouldn’t necessarily be so focused on a transit plan, but rather surrounding land use planning.

A popular talking point these days is about what is good for millennials, but what about those who are more traditional in their outlook? Whose families have resided in Brampton spanning generations, or those who run small businesses who are resistant change? How would you address their concerns?

Elliott says that the small businesses he has spoken to are very excited about Future Ready Brampton. He also tied his answer back to the university, about how it’s not just a brick and mortar building but a talent incubation center for people who want to start businesses and need an outlet or resource for their ideas. However, Elliott said he would be interested to hear any concerns as a way to figure out how they should be addressed.

Beasley was adamant that the term NIMBYism is a negative, pejorative term which immediately marginalizes people. He says we need to embrace those very people who love and care about their communities and are resistant to change. Beasley says his job is to show people how those changes can help them, and that is a challenge because not doing so would be disrespectful.

Beasley says “if you are worried about your community, talk to me because I’m worried about your community,” but marginalizing people by using terms like NIMBYism before having that conversation would not be helpful.

The reporter next to me followed up on this question and asked how Beasley is going to achieve that consensus. The answer was to break down the barriers by asking deeper questions; ask someone why they hate something being proposed when they just say “I hate this going in here.” Beasley also stressed the need for contradiction, asking would you want to live in a Brampton where everybody was the same and there was no contradiction? That would be a pretty boring place, Beasley concluded in the final moments of the media panel.

City of Brampton spokesperson Natalie Stogdill mentioned that planning staff have been out canvassing street corners with flyers about this initiative to solicit feedback from Brampton residents. After the media panel, Beasley attended a meeting with members of the Brampton Board of Trade, although Stogdill confirmed that more sessions with the former Vancouver planner and the public will be held in the future.

One personal suggestion I would make is to host these meetings in every corner of Brampton. The West Tower adjacent to Brampton City Hall is an impressive structure that, when I was walking through it, does convey a futuristic motif reflective of the goals of Future Ready Brampton. But this initiative is supposed to be about all of Brampton, not just the immediate area around City Hall.

I recall a former mayoral candidate running for office in 2014 had town halls across the city from the west side to the east while he was campaigning for votes. He ultimately lost, but the point is for a project like Future Ready Brampton to be successful, you have to go out and speak to residents of Mount Pleasant, Heart Lake, Goreway, Bramalea, and other areas in order to get that success.

Let’s hope the city does the outreach properly and respectfully. Brampton’s future may depend on it.

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