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Neighbourhood forum planned for Highlands

Social Planning Council invites neighbours to voice thoughts April 7

The Squamish Social Planning Council (SPC) is about to hold its fourth neighborhood forum in Squamish -this time with a focus on the Garibaldi Highlands.

With its latest gathering scheduled for Tuesday April 7 at 6 p.m. at Quest University, the Social Planning Council is providing an opportunity for the citizens of Squamish to come together and talk about their own neighborhoods.

What is it we love about the neighborhood in which we live? What are some of its biggest problems? What is at risk in our neighborhood as we watch powerful forces of development - seemingly not always under full public control -sweep across our town and change lives, sometimes for the better, but not always. And finally, how can we find ways to preserve what we cherish, improve what is lacking, and develop a vision for the neighborhood in which we live?

These are the questions residents face.

The Social Planning Council is an independent non-profit organization made up of concerned Squamish citizens seeking a closer look at the town's major social issues and joint solutions among all interested parties. The council attempts to do this in greater detail, given the time constraints on the District of Squamish council or the planning department. The Social Planning Council seeks to facilitate town council's work, but acts independently. This kind of independent inquiry since it provides councillors with alternative views and input into their own planning process.

The Social Planning Council has convened groups of multiple stakeholders on the pressing issue of housing in Squamish - problems such as homelessness, the need for shelters, and the insufficiency of affordable housing. Working with these various stakeholders, activists and organizations, council members have helped identify how these issues affect one another withan overview that is essential to finding solutions.

In focusing on specific neighbourhoods, forums bring the discussion to the level of family lives at the local level. They have provided a chance for neighbours to sit down together and consider their area as a whole -what's great and what needs work. In some cases these forums have helped spark local neighbourhood groups to move forward in organizing more regular meetings on their own.

Some common threads run through the concerns of all three neighbourhoods canvassed so far, and some issues are quite neighbourhood-specific. But they've provided a chance for people to speak out on what's on their mind. This process is vital in times like this when it seems like development is moving so fast we can barely keep up with it, grasp its impact or try to influence its direction.

These sessions have also been fun -the council has served lunch or dinner and encouraged people to relax and spend some time together talking over issues of common concern.

The council's forums are nearing the finish line. The next to last forum at Quest University on Tuesday April 7 will include dinner starting at 6 p.m. and is expected to run until 9 p.m. All are welcome, but organizers particularly hope that Highlanders will turn out.

The final forum will involve Dentville and North Yards, and is hoped to take place by early May at a location to be announced.

The council then plans to report their findings on community concerns and aspirations. It's hoped the process will help bring neighbours together and create a greater sense of town cohesion as we look at common issues, goals and problems. These ideas can then be presented to Squamish council for implementation.

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