OCPM 2009 annual report: recommendations on two-step consultations, follow up
on OCPM reports, and 2006-2009 report

MONTREAL, May 11 /CNW Telbec/ - The Office de consultation publique de Montréal makes public today its 2009 annual report, which will be tabled at the council meeting at the end of the month. The document outlines the activities of the Office last year, in addition to making a few recommendations, as it is invited to do under the Charter of Ville de Montréal.

In 2009, the OCPM was entrusted with a great variety of mandates. Most of the 12 majors projects examined and authorized will change the urban landscape and life of the neighbourhood where they are established.

The consultation on the development plan for the site of the Bassins du Nouveau Havre allowed all interested parties to inform themselves and express their views on the vision and development guidelines for an important urban area. The draft by-law approved by elected officials defines the parameters for dense development that takes into account the history of the neighbourhood. The development agreement signed between the City and the owners of the site is particularly forward-thinking. It opens the door to new partnerships between developers and host communities.

The construction projects for the 2-22 rue Sainte-Catherine Est and Quadrilatère Saint-Laurent raised the issue of redevelopment of an emblematic area of the city and the ways of dealing with the various social, urbanistic, heritage and real estate problems in a neighbourhood devoted to concerts and entertainment.

The public consultation highlighted the importance accorded to integrating buildings into their surrounding area and respecting the spirit of the neighbourhood.

The condo conversion projects for the old convent of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary and the old Philosophy College brought to light widely divergent views on the appropriateness of transferring to private ownership heritage buildings on the mountain. The public consultations helped to better define the acceptability of heritage conservation criteria employed by the City.

The public examination of the master revitalization plans for the land of the old CN Shops and the Namur-Jean-Talon Ouest area allowed the Office to try out new ways of doing things, upstream, to establish a guiding vision and orientations for the development of the two sites. The Office also held a downstream consultation on the draft by-law governing the development of the residential and industrial components on the site of the old CN Shops.

At the end of a very busy year, and in the light of what we have learned from our experiences, we think it important to define the considerations that should mark the future of the OCPM.

Participation. The Office is proud of the citizen participation in its public consultations, which is varied and distributed according to the issues examined. Some 2000 people participated in 2009. Attendance at the public meetings numbered approximately 4000. Among them, some attended in a personal capacity, while others came as representatives of interest groups.

The consultation process. Back in 2007, we pointed out the wisdom of establishing a formal two-step consultation process for the approval of major projects and, notably, for projects whose impact would structure the future of an area of the city. This suggestion was based on the dissatisfaction resulting from consultations sometimes being held too soon to allow citizens to understand the real consequences of projects that change as they go along, and may proceed without further consultation. It was also designed to respond to the dissatisfaction of developers who find that the consultations are sometimes held too late, when it is difficult for them to incorporate the concerns of the host community without incurring major cost increases.

The idea of a formal two-step consultation process took shape in 2007, and two mandates were entrusted to the Office concerning the revitalization of two sites: the site of the old CN Shops, in the Sud-Ouest borough; and the Namur-Jean-Talon Ouest area, in Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de Grâce.

The OCPM plans to continue with its 2009 activities by introducing a transparent and credible formal two-step procedure for projects involving the revitalization, redevelopment or transformation of a city sector, thereby opening a more continuous dialogue among citizens, civil society and developers to enhance the projects.

Follow-up on recommendations. In our 2008 annual report, we underscored the citizens' difficulty in gauging the impact of their participation in Office consultations, outside of the OCPM reports, and in tracing the steps taken by the administration following the filing of these reports.

Given the importance of issues submitted to the Office over the past few years, we recommend the establishment of an automatic response system to the commissions' recommendations.

Moreover, we have introduced with this annual report a first report on the follow-up to our recommendations for the period of 2006-2009. In an insert included in the annual report, we examine the effect of public debate on the evaluation of projects submitted to the Office. This is done from the standpoint of the OCPM's contribution to the expression of the values of Montrealers in public consultations. We have focused on two of those values: solidarity and coherence. Solidarity is mentioned in the Montréal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities, where it is associated with respect, justice, fairness, democracy and social inclusion. As to coherence, it is the ultimate goal of any master plan, which essentially aims to ensure coherent development of the city's various components and functions. After that, the territory's development may be more or less consistent with the orientations set forth in the Plan. The present report provides an opportunity to examine the effects of public consultation from the perspective of those two values. It would be impossible to quantify the impact of those values on urban development. However, by focusing on the issues surrounding them, one can see how the OCPM helps to give shape to the values of Montrealers, and how public debate affects the construction of the city.

However, this is a difficult process because, as indicated above, there is no follow-up mechanism in place. Also, it is difficult to pinpoint the effects of public debate as they can take so many different forms. Nonetheless, we have made a first attempt to evaluate this contribution, and made it public with the annual report insert.

Please visit the OCPM Web site, www.ocpm.qc.ca, for a copy of the annual report.

SOURCE Office de consultation publique de Montréal

For further information: For further information: Luc Doray, (514) 872-3568, Cell: (514) 977-8365


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