Print Edition: September 24, 2014
City planning doesn’t need to be left to officials in City Hall.
Abbotsforward, a new initiative from the City of Abbotsford which was launched in July, is updating the Official Community Plan (OCP) and creating a framework of neighbourhood planning. The previous OCP was created in 2005, and since then the city has undergone significant economic and social changes.
Urban designer and planner Patrick Oystryk offered an inside look at how the new OCP will affect the city of Abbotsford, as well as UFV students.
“Specifically regarding [UFV], we are also in the process of creating [a] U-District neighbourhood plan,” Oystryk said. The plan has been in motion since 2012, and he noted it would also lay groundwork for future projects.
“As the City’s first comprehensive neighbourhood plan, it will serve as a model for future ones elsewhere in Abbotsford.”
The first stage of Abbotsforward began in May 2014 and will end in October. Oystryk explained how the report relates to infrastructure.
“This report will explore the current state of Abbotsford with regards to land-use demographics, built form, and transportation,” Oystryk said.
While there is a plan for a U-District eventually, it’s too early in the planning process to predict what kind of changes could be made around the university. However, Oystryk reports that one of Abbotsforward’s goals is to support the creation of a U-District and create an OCP that will “enable it to thrive.”
Abbotsforward has set up booths at various summer events such as Jam in Jubilee, inviting the input of Fraser Valley citizens regarding what they would like to see prioritized in future city planning projects. One of these booths was at U-Join at the Abbotsford Campus on September 9, with the goal of getting a student perspective on community issues.
“The main objective was to explain the project, raise awareness, and receive feedback on topics such as housing and transportation,” Oystryk said.
Despite the bad weather at the event, Abbotsfordward still connected with many students.
“We managed to reach out to 105 students that day. In that sense, it was definitely a success,” Oystryk reported.
He mentioned their attendance at U-Join lines up with city strategies to meet people where they already organically gather, to collect feedback.
“Rather than asking people to come out to City Hall, we’ll be making an effort to send our planners out and meet people throughout the community,” Oystryk said.
One focus of Abbotsforward is to capture a community vision through photographs. People can submit photos of their favourite areas in the city, including parks and unique urban designs.
“Overall, it’s clear that people love their city and want the best for its future,” Oystryk said.
While there are no students currently working with Abbotsforward, Oystryk stressed the group’s commitment to the university. He said they are also looking into creating a partnership with a geography class, which would allow students and the broader population to give their input on the OCP.
The next stage of city planning in October will identify data trends from the background research report.
“Once these themes are identified, we’ll be able to go out into the community and have frank discussions surrounding them,” Oystryk said.
“Broadly speaking, we anticipate there will be discussions about density, neighbourhoods, mobility, amenities such as parks, and possibly more.”
This stage is set to finish in May, while the entire Abbotsforward action should be completed by December 2015.