There's a case being made by residents in south Etobicoke for hard work and perseverance when it comes to shaping the future of one's own community. That it ultimately pays off is a lesson well learned by any Torontonian looking to have some influence in the city's urban planning.
The residents of the Mimico-by-the-Lake community have been fighting for decades to protect what's important to them when it comes to future development. And though nothing's set in stone, it was announced this week the city is pursuing the creation of a framework for growth in the area, currently under study by the city and urban planners in the Mimico 20/20 project.
Known as a Secondary Plan, it will have to be approved by city council, but would be a boon for the residents' hard-fought campaign as it could help protect the lakefront community's integral qualities.
However, as evidenced by the experience in south Etobicoke, getting your voice heard is not often as simple as attending one city-run consultation.
It takes several elements, including collaboration. There's strength in numbers and the residents in Mimico are capitalizing on that, having created their own steering group called the Mimico-Lakeshore Network (MLN) representing a wide variety of interests.
It takes constructive engagement. The emphasis of MLN has been on contributing to the process in a positive manner and it appears that approach has garnered them respect and credibility on the part of other stakeholders.
It takes a lot of homework. The concepts of urban planning aren't typically navigated by average residents, so there's been lots of learning to do. Recently, the Mimico Residents Association and the MLN both issued formal position statements on the development project, with the latter publishing a comprehensive 30 page report on the study.
Most of all, it takes perseverance. Residents have insisted on being at the table with the city since day one and they've attended all public meetings, a planning charette and workshops. They've also pushed for more opportunities for involvement. When this week's workshop filled its 250-person capacity, the city came through and promised to hold a second workshop to accommodate.
Though it's an ongoing process and there's no clear 'win' yet, this residents' group is making sure its collective voice is heard. All signs indicate the city is listening. Their efforts should be an inspiration to anyone looking to make a difference in the future development of this city.