It’s time to do something about the UBC Farm and the planning process.
The future of the UBC Farm is on the minds of many of the people attending the current series of planning workshop being hosted by UBC Campus Planning. Today’s workshop was no exception –about 80% of the people there were there because of the farm and many were affiliated with Friends of the UBC Farm.
The big picture goals and objectives of the planning process is concerned with thinking about and considering how to lay out the groundwork for the next two decades of building and design on UBC’s main campus. From this vantage point the underlying questions lead us to consider where and how to build student housing, how to integrate academic, residential, and services, how to organize transportation and movement through and around camps, and ways to build and enhance a strong sense of community. These are important questions. However, the combination of the planning process and a well-organized committed community organization is leading toward political gridlock.
The student organizations, the off-campus community supporters, the faculty support groups (of which I see myself a member of), have clearly brought the question of the farm front and center. Only the most myopic observer could say that there are no concerns about the way the farm is being dealt with in this planning process.
It’s very clear. As long as the farm is not dealt with we won’t be able to get to the big picture questions. We will have gridlock. It's time to find a way forward to solve this immediate problem so that we can move on to deal with the big questions.
If we, both community and off-campus participants, are honest in our intentions to collaboratively engage in the planning process we'll seek a realistic solution to the planning impasse. We need to find a way to facilitate an opening for the diversity of voices that make up the UBC community. If we fail in being inclussion in planning then the plan itself -whether or not the Farm is saved- will be a failure.
The way forward.
The first thing we must do is set the 24 hectares under question aside. Pull the farm and associated woodlands out of the discussion. Set up a multi-party stakeholder group to examine the issue and report back within a clearly defined timeframe. Once the farm issue is set aside for full discussion with all of the voices at the table we will be able to turn to the fundamental big picture questions that need to be address in the campus plan.
Once the multi-party stakeholder group on the farm and associated woodland area is in place we can then proceed to consider the big questions of the full campus plan and open the process to the full diversity of voices that in fact make up our community at UBC.
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