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The following is a summary list of key steps taken so far as part of the City's Neighbourhood Association Organizational Review, Support and Engagement efforts. The information is listed in chronological order (oldest to newest):
- At its regular meeting held February 10, 2020, the City's Governance and Priorities Committee (GPC) received an information report from staff on the status of neighbourhood associations in Nanaimo and the nature of the City’s relationship and engagement with these groups. The report can be viewed on the meeting's page on the City website. Review of this relationship was brought to the forefront due to questions raised on different occasions by Council regarding the representative value and community accountability of the associations. This has been particularly apparent when external pressures, such as social issues or new development proposals, have impacted a neighbourhood, and led to conflict amongst residents and between residents and City staff.
- In response to the February 10, 2020 GPC meeting discussions, staff invited the City’s 20 active neighbourhood associations to respond to a questionnaire to gather their perspective on:
- Organizational capacity;
- Most positive neighbourhood change(s) observed over the last ten years;
- Top priorities for change within their neighbourhood;
- Role they think they should play for their neighbourhood; and
- What organizational criteria (if any) should be used by the City in order to formally recognize and support a neighbourhood association?
- Input on the questionnaire was gathered over a series of months, commencing in March of 2020 and carrying through to the Fall of 2020, in tandem with the City’s REIMAGINE NANAIMO process. In total,14 neighbourhood associations completed the questionnaire. A draft version of the questionnaire summary results was sent back to the neighbourhood associations in January 2021, to check accuracy of the input provided, and then finalized in February 2021. A key response was that 8 out of 14 of the associations supported some form of organizational criteria being put in place by the City for recognition purposes.
- The input provided by the associations was then used to develop the following staff recommendations for consideration by the GPC:
“That the Governance and Priorities Committee recommend that Council direct staff to:
1. Formally support neighbourhood associations that meet and maintain the following organizational criteria:
1. Have an elected executive that meets on a regular basis;
2. Have a membership structure (not necessarily fee paying);
3. Hold an annual general meeting (AGM);
4. Keep minutes for executive and general membership meetings;
5. Engage with its neighbourhood for input prior to responding to City development referrals such as rezoning, Official Community Plan amendment, and development permits;
6. Provide periodic updates to members related to the activities of the group; and
2. Develop a detailed Partners in Community (PIC) program and annual budget for consideration.”
- At a virtual information session on April 15, staff provided the neighbourhood associations with an opportunity to respond to the proposed recommendations. A number of associations who attended were in favour of having formalized organizational criteria, noting that they already meet the proposed criteria for being recognized. However, clarity was requested on what their role would be in giving feedback to Council on development applications and other processes where they would represent their neighbourhoods. A few neighbourhoods with less structure did not see the need for criteria in order to be recognized.
- Comments about outstanding neighbourhood plan development and updating/implementing existing neighbourhood plans was also shared. Possible public realm improvements and neighbourhood plan implementation projects were briefly discussed under a potential Partners in Community (PIC) framework. Staff also noted that there will be continued engagement with neighbourhood associations through the REIMAGINE Nanaimo Phase 2 and 3 process and that neighbourhood associations and other stakeholders will review the draft PIC program as details are developed.
- On April 26, 2021, the GPC considered a staff report outlining the proposed recommendations noted above. The discussion focused on the proposed organizational criteria, how they would be applied, the desirability of putting the criteria into place, how they would benefit the associations, and the need for Council to put weight on an association as a reliable place to engage in the development process. Additional discussion focused on the proposed expansion of the Partners in Parks (PIP) program into a Partners in Community (PIC) program with a broader scope and a focus on project implementation. A number of neighbourhood associations provided presentations or written submissions to Council. Most asked that the decision on the recommendations be deferred until additional engagement with the neighbourhood associations could occur, the benefits of recognition to the associations could be articulated, the development referral process improved, and points of error corrected in the Staff report.
- Based on the staff report and neighbourhood association input, the GPC made the following recommendation to Council at the April 26, 2021 meeting, which was in turn endorsed by Council at its regular May 3, 2021 meeting:
1. It was moved and seconded that the GPC recommend that Council refer the Neighbourhood Association Organizational Capacity Review, Support and Engagement topic to Staff to provide minutes and a summary report to share with neighbourhood associations, asking them to provide further comment, and return to a GPC meeting at least two months following the April 26, 2021 meeting, potentially in September.
2. It was moved and seconded that the GPC recommend that Council direct Staff to develop a detailed Partners in Community (PIC) program and annual budget for consideration.