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Vancouver uses virtual open houses to ensure citizens have their say

They will temporarily replace in-person open houses and have been launched on the city’s new digital engagement platform, Shape Your City Vancouver.

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Virtual open houses allow residents to have their say on proposed re-zoning applications
Virtual open houses allow residents to have their say on proposed re-zoning applications

The City of Vancouver has introduced virtual open houses to allow residents to have their say on proposed re-zoning applications and how a property or area can be used or developed.

 

An initial four virtual open houses have been launched on the city’s new digital engagement platform, Shape Your City Vancouver.

 

Three-week window

 

These virtual open houses will temporarily replace in-person open houses. In place of the standard three-hour in-person event, virtual open houses for re-zonings provide a three-week open period (Monday to Sunday) for the public to ask questions.

 

City staff are obliged to respond within two business days, which will also be posted publicly. The public can also share their thoughts via a comment form, also found on Shape Your City along with background information about each project. All comments submitted will be summarised in a staff report for council, which will be made public.

 

City authorities acknowledge that an online option isn’t for everyone, and said re-zoning planners will continue to be available by phone to share project information and answer questions.

 

Across British Columbia, the property development industry is estimated to employ 233,600 people in direct and indirect positions. Vancouver reports as part of its pandemic recovery efforts, it is continuing to process and review re-zoning applications to help generate employment and meet urgent housing needs.

“This new format provides many accessibility benefits and we’re excited to provide the public with a more interactive, convenient, and informative way to participate in our decision-making”

The city notes holding open houses online is one of the many ways it is supporting recovery, and is linked to the Planning Vancouver Together initiative that will both identify short-term actions to help communities recover and culminate in a city-wide Vancouver plan to guide strategic priorities.

 

“We’re going from holding a single event where staff shares information with individuals one-on-one, to having a longer online Q and A with city staff and all content, slides, and modelling available,” said Gil Kelley, general manager of planning, urban design and sustainability, City of Vancouver.

 

“This new format provides many accessibility benefits and we’re excited to provide the public with a more interactive, convenient, and informative way to participate in our decision-making.”

 

Covid-19 support office

 

In a bid to assist the businesses community, the city has also established the Covid-19 Business Communications and Support Office.

 

The office is intended as a single point of contact for Vancouver’s local business owners to get information from the City of Vancouver regarding business support programmes, to learn what city-run business services are currently available, and to make suggestions to us concerning business and the economy.

 

Earlier this year, Vancouver asked community members to share their thoughts on engagement during Covid-19 and received more than 3,000 responses from Talk Vancouver members and the general public.

 

The majority of respondents said they are in favour of virtual engagement during the Covid-19 pandemic (84 per cent) and most said they were likely to participate (between 67 per cent to 80 per cent).

 

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