The Town of Antigonish and WSP Canada Inc. hosted two open houses at the John Paul Centre in Antigonish last Thursday.

ANTIGONISH: With support from experts with WSP Canada Inc., the Town of Antigonish hosted two open houses last week to provide feedback on priorities that will build a road map for Antigonish’s future growth and community development.

Steve Scannell, special projects coordinator for the town said these information sessions are part of their Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) and Land-Use By-law (LUB) review.

“That is essentially the guiding document for the town of Antigonish with regards to development and land-use,” he told The Reporter during the first of two sessions last Thursday. “What we’re doing today is providing the community feedback through our community survey, through our pop-up consultations, and just kind of putting it back to the community to see how they’re responding to and how they’re reacting to that.”

The goal of the review is to modernize existing policies that will create opportunities for growth, new investment, and community development.

The review process will provide the town with the strategic capacity to plan for the future, while also aligning the town’s vision with the five priority action areas that were collectively outlined in the Engage Antigonish consultation sessions.

The five priority areas that were established by residents during Engage Antigonish were; create an age friendly community, pursue environmental sustainability, enhance recreation, leisure and outdoor space, support economic development, and support local arts and culture.

Christina Lovitt, manager of planning, Atlantic, WSP Canada Inc., said the open houses acted as a way to bring the feedback back to the public to close that loop and to provide them with the information they had received from the public themselves.

“For this MPS review, it’s lets really listen, we’re not doing little incremental changes, we’re doing a big comprehensive overview,” she said. “So we want the community to be part of that and feel like they’re reflective in that document.”

Prior to the event, the Town of Antigonish circulated a 29-question survey looking at transportation; housing; environment; parks, outdoor space, and recreation; economy; and community identity and culture.

Lovitt said out of the 254 surveys that were completed, The Landing is Antigonish’s favourite public place but they were seeing recurring issues in regards to housing, transportation, and the environment.

“We’re hearing a lot about housing options, and affordability for housing,” she said. “We’re actually hearing a lot of challenges with parking, on both sides – should we have less, should we have more.”

The survey revealed 72 per cent of respondents feel that housing is not affordable in Antigonish while 53 per cent felt existing housing does not meet the needs of the community. Fourty-two per cent of respondents feel there is an issue with availability of parking. A staggering 78 per cent of residents support investing in additional clean energy measures in Antigonish, while 83 per cent of residents would be willing to adopt water conservation measures to help ease water shortages.

Scannell said it’s important to host events like these because ultimately, when they’re creating a document like this for the town, the MPS is the guiding document for council when they’re making development and land-use decisions.

“It’s always good to have public feedback,” he said. “To make sure the work council is doing is representative of the community needs or the community wants.”