Since August of 2016, Blaise Fontaine has been the Engagement Lead on The Greystone Area Structure Plan and Neighbourhood Plan application process in Cochrane, and when the application goes to Public Hearing, anticipated for this Spring, The Greystone team and our clients are feeling prepared and ready for what’s next.
The Greystone Development Area has functioned as a gravel extraction operation in the Town of Cochrane since the 1940s. In early 2016, the Town began to pursue the final alignment of Griffin Road to James Walker Trail. This alignment would require a portion of the Burnswest lands. Burnswest and their development team began conversations with the Town of Cochrane Administration, and determined the time was right to start a planning process to determine a suitable infill redevelopment. Located in the heart of Cochrane, the plan provides the opportunity to revitalize and enhance an important area within Cochrane.
“No two projects are alike” Blaise says, “Some stakeholder engagement campaigns can be really straightforward when you have a low-profile and less-contentious project, but because of Greystone’s unique location and history in downtown Cochrane, we wanted to work collaboratively with this highly-engaged and personally invested community throughout our application process. On top of that, we maneuvered around a municipal election in October and were conscious of a number of other new developments in Cochrane which were still requiring the public’s and Council’s attention.”
B&A developed, led and implemented an extensive communications and engagement strategy that aimed to effectively navigate the complexities of the project. The approach has involved dozens of stakeholder meetings, two public open houses, and engagement with neighboring landowners, supported by regular stakeholder newsletters. The engagement activities have generated hundreds of pieces of feedback from stakeholders, which were documented, summarized, and responded to in feedback reports. Given the strong public interest and profile of the project, B&A also managed and coordinated all media relations for the project, acting as the spokesperson for media requests. Engagement activities and materials have been featured on the project website (greystonecochrane.com), which continues to be actively updated with key information as we move towards a Public Hearing.
“Greystone has been one of my favourite engagement campaigns at B&A because it has challenged me to be strategic and methodical in my approach, but also highly responsive and adaptive to stakeholder needs which were constantly evolving.”
The Greystone project team required innovation in their approach. In the fall and winter of 2016, the team noticed a dip in the public’s participation as well as misinformation being shared about the project which was likely due to a bit of “engagement fatigue” following the election. The Greystone team still had project updates to share with the public but needed new mediums to get the right messages across. To help reach different audiences, the Greystone team produced two informational videos about the project which are hosted on YouTube and on the project’s Facebook page. Using media as a new tool for the project’s engagement campaign has helped breathe new life into the public’s interest, as well as ensuring that correct information was getting to the public.
The Greystone team is eager to bring the project before Council and ultimately to the public at a Public Hearing. The team believes in the project and the opportunity to offer a vibrant, balanced and sensitive infill neighbourhood. The public’s involvement with the project was an important influence throughout the plans’ development and refinement phases, and the results of the public’s contributions have been shared widely on the Greystone website and through ongoing newsletter updates.
“Working collaboratively with the Town Administration, our stakeholders, our clients, and the entire project team at B&A to come up with comprehensive solutions to complex planning dilemmas has been a really rewarding exercise. Despite the project challenges, we are all looking forward to the Public Hearing and knowing that we did our absolute best to ensure the Cochrane public was engaged, consulted, and included at every touchpoint during the planning process.”
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