Community Conversations – a conversation!

I want to thank everyone in the valley who tries to discuss ideas and plans openly. I know it is sometimes difficult, and scary, and occasionally there are good reasons to not discuss something publicly, but I think the advantages of opening up discussion usually outweigh the negatives.

I attended the third “Community Conversations” held by the Village of Valemount last week, and I recognize the work that goes into this sort of discussion. Council and staff freely acknowledged that the comments they received last time said they should do less talking and more listening at the next one, and I think they were better at listening this time, and asking the community questions. It may not have been hugely attended, but the people that came were thoughtful, respectful, and I think had some genuine and valid concerns.

One really interesting part of this latest “Community Conversation” is that the Village has promised to give what answers they can to our list of the top 15 questions and issues. I certainly don’t expect they can answer them all fully, and I don’t even expect that all the issues are something the Village needs to deal with. But I appreciate that the questions have been asked publicly, and at least it got a few of us thinking about these issues.

One topic that has been on my mind over the last year is issues with housing. Bobbi Roe brought it up specifically regarding housing for seniors and young families, because there doesn’t seem to be a lot of options available, although there seems to be plenty of empty houses or vacant properties. Herbert Boenisch suggested it may not something the Village can deal with, certainly not without a lot of extra taxes, but he wasn’t sure who should really try to address the issue. I agree with Boenisch, it doesn’t seem like something the Village can address on its own, but we have to start somewhere. And a room full of people interested in sharing questions and ideas – that sounds like a great place to start.

I also brought up the question of what housing is available now, and how we might plan for potential expansions like Valemount Glacier Destinations or the twinning of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. I don’t expect the Village to have an answer, but I recall mention some time ago of a possible survey of what housing is available, and I haven’t seen any results of that yet. I realize this may be considered somewhat sensitive information, it may affect pricing of lots for sale, or the amounts charged for rent, but I think it would be worthwhile information for someone to have – and maybe someone does.

And it is interesting to hear that Dunster residents are also getting together to talk about issues with the available housing. It is not surprising that different communities would have the same issue, although the root of the issue and the importance of the Agricultural Land Reserve may make the solution much different from a solution for Valemount. But it might not be that different either. What is interesting is that people all around the valley are talking about it, and that seems like a great opportunity.

Again, I don’t expect the Village of Valemount, or any one government or group to “solve” this issue, but it might be a good opportunity to get some interested people together to throw around some ideas. I just don’t want to wait until Valemount Glacier Destination’s master plan is ready, or for Kinder Morgan to start their construction before we start talking about what we want to see in our own community.

The other really interesting part of the “Community Conversation” this time is that it felt a bit more like a conversation. Sure, I always feel weird about “break out” groups, especially when you weren’t expecting that sort of engagement, but there was almost no overlap in the top questions the five groups came up with. I don’t envy the Village in attempting to answer them, but I am glad they are going to try.

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