Two open houses and planners are getting a strong idea of what residents want to see in their downtown area.
The open houses were held March 8 and 9 at the Kinsmen Community Centre with Tim Schmidt, director of planning and development, along with planners from Parkland Community Planning Services (PCPS) fielding questions from attendees, in some cases, students from the schools.
The main hope was to hear from residents and then build upon previous studies commissioned by the town. Planners want to come up with a better idea of where to go in terms of downtown revitalization. The sessions are all part of the Downtown Action Plan, an ambitious program hoped to be approved by August. After that Schmidt hopes to move forward with proposals. “What we want to do is create a final plan that we can actually act upon as early as 2018.”
“And that includes when we go and replace the underground infrastructure. Replace it and add surface improvements that beautify and add to the streetscape and value.”
Also part of the open house was a focus on creating development guidelines in the downtown area of Ponoka. Building improvements and construction would follow long-term guidelines in the downtown area. This may take some amendments to the town’s land-use bylaw but will also enhance the area.
Schmidt mentioned that consideration for downtown parking is another part of the process.
Interest was relatively high, says Schmidt, with about 70 people attending haflway through the first day. Among them were about 30 students from the social studies Grade 12 class at Ponoka Secondary Campus who were eager to participate in the discussion and to raise their own hopes for the town.
Assisting in the process is PCPS. Craig Teal is the agency’s director who fielded questions related to improving the downtown streetscapes as well as dealing with traffic flow challenges. “Certainly lots of interest in seeing more variety in businesses downtown,” added Teal.
His hope is to be able to provide the town with a common vision for Ponoka. “This is a long-term gain.”
Moving forward, Schmidt hopes to provide the Heritage and Downtown Revitalization Committee, which meets tonight at the Kinsmen Centre at 5:30 p.m., with some updates on parking for the downtown area as well as a community vision based on information that came out of the open houses. The hope is to have conceptual designs ready to show residents by May.