Community consultation on the Trent Lands plan began last week with the university, aided by Toronto consulting firm The Planning Partnership, hosting a community workshop on Tuesday, November 27 at the Holiday Inn in downtown Peterborough. The workshop was well-attended with approximately 65 people showing up to provide input and glean information on the university’s upcoming development plan.
The Trent Lands Plan, according to Trent President Steven Franklin, will represent a vision for the short, medium and long term development of the university. The Plan will build on the existing land strategies, including the 2006 Endowment Lands Master Plan and Ron Thom’s Master Plan for Trent University, but will be much more detailed in scope, providing actual uses and analyses for the various parcels of endowment lands on the university’s main campus.
The Trent Lands Plan process was formally announced last month as an evolution of the administration’s Draft Development Plan and deals specifically with the 226 hectares of endowment lands surround the core campus. Julie Davis, chair of the recently formed Steering Committee on the Trent Draft Development Plan Community Consultation Process, says Tuesday’s workshop was a way for the university to reach out to the community for ideas and recommendations. “I genuinely believe that [the Trent Lands Plan] will only be good if we get as many different ideas and input as possible,” she stated after the workshop. “The people of this community know what we need [at Trent] so lets build it with them so that they’re feeling positive about it. I really think we have to be a good neighbour [in that regard].”
The university’s proactive approach to community involvement has been contrasted with the way in which it handled its last major development project, the Water Street Student Residence. That project ignited a torrent of criticism from students, faculty and community members who felt that there had been a lack of consultation and engagement on the part of the university and the developer. The residence project, the first phase of which was completed in September, drove a wedge between the university and the residents of University Heights who fought against the project all the way to city council. There was, however, little of that sentiment on Tuesday as most community members seemed optimistic about the university’s intentions for community engagement for the Lands Plan.
The workshop began with a presentation by representatives from the Planning Partnership, the consultant firm which authored the 2006 Endowment Lands Master Plan, who discussed the principles that guided the 2006 Master Plan as well as a general overview of the projects that other Canadian universities have undertaken with their endowment lands. Harold Madi, a partner with the firm, spoke about the potential for integrated living communities on the endowment lands and used the examples of University of British Columbia’s University Village, Simon Fraser’s UniverCity, and Guelph’s Village by the Arboretum as examples of the potential that exists for Trent.
Following the presentation, the community members were split into tables of seven or eight community members and encouraged to discuss the relevancy of the guiding principles as well as potential uses for the endowment lands. The ideas, which ranged from emphasizing sustainable building practices, to reserving land for sustainable agriculture study, to incorporating community centres and sports facilities, were then written down and collected by the firm.
Julie Davis noted that community members can rest assured that their ideas will be considered and be given considerable weight. “The recommendations that come out of [the consultation process] will have a significant influence on what [the university] do[es],” she explained. “It’s why we set up a committee on the consultation process… we want to get people to engage with us and build this together.”
Tuesday’s workshop wasn’t the only Lands Plan consultation that took place last week as the Planning Partnership also hired two students, Evan MacDonald and Natalie Hraiki, to engage with students on Symons Campus about the planning process. The two were stationed at various high-traffic locations on both the East and West Banks and were tasked with engaging with students and gathering their ideas on the future of the endowment lands. Both MacDonald and Hraiki said that students are welcoming the chance to offer ideas about the plan.
“A lot of students seemed very interested and optimistic [about the plan],” noted MacDonald. “I was really happy with how many students stopped and asked about it.”
Hraiki explained that in her view its important that the university reaches out to students. “A lot of planning projects in the past did not take community sentiment into account. This one is different because it goes out of its way to ask students, ‘What do you want to see?’”
The Lands Plan consultation process will resume in January and students and community members will have more chances over the next six months to provide feedback and offer their ideas. More information about the project can be found at trentu.ca/trentlandsplan.