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Comp Plan: Public Process


I don't want to get into that debate about the value of public consultation. Hence I didn’t post this on the existing thread about Comp Plan.

In Montreal, Canada (population 1.7million) we are starting with the principle that public consultation is an important part of the Plan update-review process, or la révision du plan d'urbanisme as we call it here.

As a planning commissioner, (and AICP member, having previously worked as a planner in the public, private and non-profit sectors for several years), I want to provide some examples of how other cities have undertaken the publc consultation process, over and above formal Planning Commission hearings.

Where we are in the process right now is that staff is drafting an entire revised Urban Plan (aka City Plan, General Plan). The various chapters have been submitted to advisory committees made up of community groups and other interested parties. This has been done behind the scenes. So how do we get it out for public discussion?

Any good examples of getting useful public input at this stage?

Since there will be a draft document on the table, I think that the ranting and raving can be controlled somewhat by not lettting people rant for long before re-focusing the meeting on discussing the draft plan. But what other things have been done?


Cyburbian Emeritus
Open House "visioning" sessions can be helpful.

I also like visual preference surveys.


maudit anglais
Toronto went through a pretty lengthy community-outreach process in developing its new Official Plan. You may be still able to get some info on the public participation process via the City's Website. In a somewhat related vein, we are conducting a fairly innovative public process (called "Listening to Toronto") to get input into the City's budget - again, the website should have some info.


Staff member
We had horrific public participation when we updated our CompPlan in 1999. We did everything we could to get the word out and the people in, and it just didn't pan out. Print media, electronic media, WWW, perosnal invitation letters from the Mayor, Council etc. Nada.

I've thought that the best approach would be to "leak" that a nuclear waste recycler was planning to come to the city and we wanted the public's input prior to meeting the developers. I imagine a crowd of about 40,000 for that one.

MAYOR: Thanks, everyone for coming. The developer has informed us he's going elsewhere. But while you are here, we're getting ready to update the Comprehensive Plan and we were wondering ...

Lee Nellis

Not to be pessimistic, but I think you have to start with the assumption that the advisory committees having done all this work will look to some members of the public like the decisions are already made. Ideally you would have a visioning process first (and in a city the size of Montreal it would have to be a major one), solicit volunteers from the participants for the committees, then have your electeds consciously balance the committes to make sure all views are heard. But since that is not where you are at, I would try a series of listening posts or open houses in every neighborhood to introduce the committees' work, with participants in those open houses being able to respond in writing only. I would then take their comments and integrate what the advisory committees thought was good, all BEFORE even one public meeting. I would then tightly structure a series of meetings, with one in every neighborhood being ideal, to have people discuss the revised recommendations using the NGP, nominal group process. If that all works it may reveal some neighborhoods where more specificity is needed and then I would begin using tools like visual preference surveys.