Monday November 24, 2014

EDITORIAL: Democracy can and does work

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Weyburn city council did what most every level of government needs to do: walk a fine line between what the populace wants, and the long-term needs of the city at large.

At their meeting on July 21, council chambers were packed with concerned residents, who opposed a proposal for a 60-unit modular apartment/condo on Second Street, extending from Prairie Avenue south to the McKenna Hall parking lot. There were several reasons given for their opposition, plus the developers provided their reasons for wanting to build this apartment to begin with; in the end, council decided against rezoning the land to allow for this development.

What came out of the evening’s discussions is hopefully a good sign of good things to come, both for the developers and for the city.

The developers, for their part, are willing to compromise to come up with a design for a smaller apartment complex, although as they pointed out, they put a lot of effort and money into developing the plans they came forward with. It will take a lot of work to make the new plans, including obtaining input from the city and from city residents.

For the residents’ part, this was a prime example of how democracy works, and what it can accomplish. When the proposal was made, people sat up and took notice, particularly those who live in the neighbourhood of Second Street and Prairie Avenue. As was pointed out, there is a certain ambiance, a style, that has been built up over the decades, including the historic Court House on Prairie, and the McKenna Hall facility, owned by the St. Vincent de Paul parish council, who had great concerns about the impact on parking and snow removal.

With the rather-large building that was proposed, parking at the very least would be a major concern, as any major event at McKenna already results in vehicles being parked on many blocks around the hall area. Any new designs or proposals would need to address the concerns as expressed at the council meeting, both by council and by residents; at the same time, the hope was expressed that this decision, while negative, will not scare away any future plans for development, whether by these developers or others. As in any proposal that ever comes to council, especially in an established residential area, the feelings of those who live there have to be accounted for.

In a way, how this incident came up and was decided can serve as a lesson for future developments, including to city residents: democracy works when residents care enough to speak up and make their views known.

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