PlanSJ and Peel Plaza

We had an interesting discussion at the last PlanSJ citizen advisory committee (CAC) meeting regarding the impact of Peel Plaza on the PlanSJ process. It was suggested by one CAC member that the recent decision to proceed with Peel Plaza will make it much more difficult for PlanSJ to engage with citizens, as people are likely to feel fed up and disheartened with planning and the City. (I’m paraphrasing.)

I don’t have any intimate knowledge of the Peel Plaza project so I won’t speak to whether the decision to proceed is appropriate. However, I have noticed that arguments for Peel Plaza seem to be based on verifiable data or sound principles, and the arguments against it seem to be based on emotion and supposition, with a dash of misinformation and perhaps even self interest. (GW, I’m looking at you.)

That isn’t hard to figure out. So despite a concerted campaign by key players like the TJ, I think many (if not the majority) of Saint Johners may either feel unmoved by the Peel Plaza decision or actually support it. As is often the case in Saint John, the vocal minority can appear much larger than the silent majority.

So I don’t buy the underlying premise of the other night’s discussion — that is, that most Saint Johners were strongly against Peel Plaza. And thus I don’t think PlanSJ’s ability to engage has been harmed by the Peel Plaza decision. In fact, the effect might even be the opposite: those who supported Peel Plaza could see that decision as a commitment to change, and those that didn’t support it could see a greater need to engage with the planning process to guide future decisions.

And that’s the key thing to remember about PlanSJ. Regardless of what you think about today’s planning and today’s Council decisions, PlanSJ is about future planning. It’s about guiding how the City will grow and be managed over the next 25 years. For better or worse, the decisions of today are fait accompli. We need to focus on making sure that future councils and planners work within the vision that Saint Johners have expressed through this PlanSJ process.

I urge everyone to engage and participate, to ensure your voice is heard and your perspective helps guide our future. Choosing to be silent now out of discontent with today’s Council and today’s development decisions doesn’t serve anyone’s interests.

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