The town of Huntingdon held an interactive public consultation evening on June 14 at École Arthur-Pigeon, as part of a strategic process to create an ambitious ten-year sustainable development plan for the municipality.
Around 50 residents took part in the activity which was led by Montreal-based Espace Stratégies, a consulting firm specialized in strategic planning and economic development. After a brief introduction, participants were asked to circulate around the room and contribute ideas and answers to various questions and prompts on posterboards, relating to their vision for the town and its future development.
“It is a big moment for us,” said Huntingdon mayor André Brunette, who acknowledged the town was rapidly growing with plans for housing, commercial, and even industrial development in place. It was around a year ago that he began thinking about the need for a master plan to guide the town. “We know some of the people coming are from outside the region. We want to know what we need in town to continue to serve people. It was time to do this,” he says of the consultation.
Throughout the evening, new residents as well as those who have spent their lives in the town moved between the tables, jotting down their thoughts on colourful Post-it notes. The event was also envisioned as a social gathering, with neighbours meeting and discussing the different ways in which they imagine their town progressing.
“I like an approach that is much more free,” said Justine McIntyre, the project leader with Espace Stratégies. “Citizens have a lot to say to each other,” she explained, suggesting that this is especially the case following the pandemic. “Not everyone is interested in the same things or the same level of engagement,” she added, noting this approach is the most accommodating.
Espace Stratégies will take the comments submitted during the consultation into consideration during the production of a summary report. She says the results, when combined with information gleaned from a survey sent to residents earlier in the year, will inform a master plan they hope to have ready in three to five months.
The plan will be based on the pillars of sustainable development. It will emphasize economic and environmental development, but “We are also looking at social and cultural aspects to make sure we maintain all of these in balance.”
Residents identified sports and recreation infrastructure as priority projects, as well as the creation of a community centre. Other priority issues included available services and activities, the quality of transportation infrastructure, the variety of shops and businesses in town, concern for the environment, and the availability of jobs.