Chelsea looks to 2040 with Strategic Planning session
Reuel S. Amdur
La Fab was the location of a Chelsea Council presentation of their 2040 Strategic Plan, on June 14. The session was bilingual, with Mayor Pierre Guénard speaking mainly in French and Vice-mayor Kimberly Chan mainly in English. Sheena Ngalle Miano, the Director General, presented in both. There was one short-coming with the English at the meeting. The screen for English was too small and difficult to read.
Mayor Guénard explained that the strategic plan incorporates the master plan and includes public input. Chan added that the plan also incorporated staff thinking. Generally speaking, the document was thoughtful but for the most part at a high level of abstraction.
There were four main foci—vision, mission, values, and pillars. The vision is that of cherishing and protecting nature and regenerating it, and for a community that is “connected,” that is, integrated. This vision flies in the face of a Chelsea experiencing rapid growth and a population with important, if not dominant, orientation and connection to outside interests and pressures. In a word, it will be a constant challenge to sustain this vision.
Its mission is for Chelsea to work with the community to provide socially responsible services, engaging in actions that are ethical, respectful, and sustainable. Chelsea is to be a change agent, using dialogue and collaboration, showing empathy, transparency, and respect. Is this to be the peaceable kingdom?
The pillars appear to be the guts of the plan. One, focusing on Chelsea’s identity, sees the place as a unique and sustainable community living in harmony with nature and slowing down to commune with nature. It is to be progressive and inclusive. Nature and the environment are to be protected, sustained, and regenerated, and natural protected areas are to be maintained. Chelsea is to strive to reduce greenhouse gases and the use of water and energy. Transportation is to be safe and accessible and active transportation is to be promoted.
What can we make of these pillars? Chelsea’s population is engaged in this capitalist, mercantile, industrial society. Slowing down? While this municipal government is genuinely striving to be progressive and inclusive, Chelsea is an affluent community, needing a lot more work in order to be inclusive. Guénard pointed out that Chelsea housing is 90% single family. ”That needs to change,” he said. Right, but not easily done. And does Chelsea’s desire to promote green building practices add to costs in a way that makes more inclusive housing less possible? On another point, Chelsea’s rapid growth spirt makes unlikely a reduction in greenhouse gases and consumption of water and energy.
It is somewhat less clear that natural areas are to be protected when we come up against quantitative considerations. Chelsea has been committed to protecting wildlife corridors to and from Gatineau Park, but the Larrimark development was approved in spite of the fact that such a corridor runs through it. The justification was that it is not a major corridor.
Council proposes annual targets, with a one-year action plan for each municipal service and to communicate these widely.
The audience at La Fab gave the Strategic Plan enthusiastic support, along with a note of caution, a caution shared by councillors. Will Chelsea be able to afford such a bold scheme? Related, can it compete effectively for staff and retain them to carry out the plan? The market for staff is highly competitive, with Chelsea facing off against Ottawa, the feds, Gatineau, and the province.
We see other problems. Is three years long enough to work out how the plan is to be implemented? What checks are to be in place to avoid backsliding and roadblocks? What about ambiguous situations such as Larrimack? Setting down a principle is one thing, following it another. Let us examine a case in point.
Chelsea has a policy of protecting buildings of artistic and historical value. Architect Hank Kloosterman’s remarkable house is slowly facing destruction from erosion. Has Chelsea engaged experts to establish the building’s artistic worth?
Photo caption: Sheena Ngalle Miano, Chelsea Director General kept the Chelsea Strategic Planning session on track.
Photo credit: Reuel S Amdur