There is the Town Council, then there are zoning bylaws, in between to bridge differences at times, there is the Consultative Committee on Urbanism (CCU). Its broad mandate is to “guide, orient and support Council in matters of urban planning,’’ says the Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Habitation. Every Quebec municipality must have one.
For 20 years, David Kinninmonth, an architect and urban planner from Scotland who has lived in TBL for about 25 years, was a member of this consultative body in TBL, and he has just retired.
“It’s not about the rules, it’s about finding solutions’’ says Kinninmonth summing up the role of the CCU in an interview with Tempo. “The CCU has to see if a project makes sense despite the regulations and it also has to consider whether it is setting a precedent without good reason’’ adds the former CCU member. When a construction project is not fully in line with the town’s zoning bylaws, it is referred to the CCU for advice. Then, Council can either agree or disagree with the consultative body’s opinion.
The workings of the CCU
The CCU has changed a lot over the years says Kinninmonth. “The CCU does well depending on who presides over it. When former councillor Cynthia Wilkinson was president, she would insist that CCU members visit the premises of a project under consideration.’’ Now, he says, the information is provided to members on paper and they are not given time to visit properties in person. Committee members are volunteers coming from each TBL sector. There is no need to have expertise in urban planning or zoning; to be a resident of the town is the sole criteria to join the committee. For many years, it was difficult to recruit members, lately there is more interest in becoming a part of the CCU. It is up to Council to pick who will sit on the committee.
Widening the role of the CCU
As an urban planner, Kinninmonth would like the town to expand the CCU’s role and involve it in planning projects. “The town should be more pro-active, employ a designer to plan and make its streets look better. The town should also buy more land for public use and it should be the CCU’s mandate to push the town on such issues. It is not the CCU’s mandate now, but it should be,’’ muses Kinninmonth while praising the town’s plan to rejuvenate its core with the park and library project. These words resonate even more coming from an architect who was deeply involved in the planning and construction of the Centre Lac-Brome some years ago. It was a millennium project recalls Kinninmonth. And now, as we are nearing TBL’s 50th anniversary, dreaming of another project for our town may be part of Kinninmonth’s retirement plans!