The University of Alberta recently held an open house in an effort to bring the public into the South Campus’ Long Range Development Plan.
The open house served as another example of the university’s attempts to gather more consultative feedback from communities surrounding the South Campus area, resulting from a lawsuit filed in January 2012 over the building of an isotope facility.
The lawsuit was dropped after a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between South Campus and the South Campus Neighbourhood Coalition (SCNC) in June, which recognized measures outlining an appropriate consultation process.
Aside from the open house, various meetings have also been held in regards to the South Campus LRDP. The plan designates land usage for certain purposes up until 2030, based on the university’s needs, while taking surrounding neighbourhood concerns into consideration.
U of A Executive Director (University Relations) Anastasia Lim said the direction of the development plan is due to be reviewed roughly every 10 years to reflect the changing academic needs of the university and to take a look at what the land can be used for.
“The overall goal of that open house was again getting everybody on the same level of understanding that we are now,” Lim said.
“The other goal that we had in place for the open house was, once we collect that information with evaluation forms, with online submissions, we can then start looking (at) how we can plan consultative meetings with the communities going forward over the next number of months,” she said.
This will then culminate in a second open house in February 2013, which will lead to forming a long range development plan that can be sent to the U of A Board of Governors for finalization by sometime in the early summer of 2013.
These consultations have also since allowed the U of A to move forward with building the Cyclotron isotope facility that sparked the original debate surrounding consultation.
Construction of the facility began at the end of June. The new facility will be able to generate medical isotopes which are used to diagnose serious diseases such as cancer.
Issues that have typically come up from communities bordering South Campus have included density of residences being built as well as concerns surrounding transportation and sustainability.
Lim said that by holding these information sessions and getting feedback, the university is able to adjust or modify future plans to suit both interest groups.
“For land use plans, formerly that plot of land where the isotope facility was located was designated as recreational land,” Lim said.
“So that again is some of the changes that need to happen; now that the facility is identified for something else that could be more beneficial to satisfying the academic needs, we had to look at modifying the plan — which we did — for that specific area of land.”
One of the current projects taking place on South Campus alongside amendments to the development plan is a road project on 63 Avenue to try to improve transportation access, still undergoing consultation.
However, many projects are currently awaiting approval to see whether they can go through, especially with many of the recent budget cuts the University has endured.
“Depending on what part of the institutional plan gets approval (and whether) we get funding by government, or we get a donation or we’re pulled somehow through some kind of partnership … those (projects) are still very much up in the air,” Lim said.
Lim says the next step with the long range development plan is to compile the information that was received from the open house in order to build meetings around those concerns.
She believes continuing to keep external communication open with communities like Windsor Park and Garneau regarding U of A building and development projects, such as the PAW centre, is also key.
“With the planning process (and) with the amendment process, we are engaging with as many people as we possibly can because the comments and input that we get is what we use to work with as we move forward,” she said.
All the information presented at the open house can be found on the U of A’s Community Relations’ website, where anyone can continue to submit feedback until Oct. 17.
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