EDITORIAL: Staff not elected by the people

We wonder if some of the latest and greatest in planning is being force-fed to communities in Parksville Qualicum Beach

This rush by Parksville council and staff to make many small building lots out of a few standard-sized plots might need to be reconsidered.

It’s a debate all to its own, but today we’d like to examine the bigger picture.

One problem associated with having staff who are up on the latest trends in planning is they want to try these ideas-de-jour in their own communities.

There’s a long list of items like this: higher-density housing, roundabouts, business on the ground floor-condo up above, etc. Many of them are great ideas and anything that can be done to protect the environment for future generations should be applauded and embraced. Thing is, not all of these round pegs fit into the square holes of every community. A good idea for Surrey, or even Comox, is not necessarily a good idea for Parksville. Sometimes, planners who are plugged into the latest trends grab words like “sustainability” and “green” and “density” and seem to believe they must institute these ideals into their communities.

It’s the right thing to do for the planet and for your communities, they are told at conferences and through their professional associations. One could see this apparent push to honour the latest as just another form of social engineering that does not take into account the uniqueness of each community or each neighbourhood.

Planning staff should not set the rules for development. They should provide guidance and information for the elected officials, and then enforce what has been decided by duly-elected councils. No matter how up-to-speed and talented planners may be, they cannot be above the democratic process.  The planning staffs of both Parksville and Qualicum Beach are valuable to their communities, for sure, but no one elected them to any position in their respective communities.

Working for a government of any sort has its challenges for professionals. However, if they see elected officials as a nuisance, a changing board they have to re-retrain every three of four years, they should seek employment in the private sector.

As frustrating as it must be at times, municipal employees serve at the pleasure of the people, who are represented by their elected mayors and councillors.

— Editorial by John Harding

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