Local neighborhood groups that want to build hockey rinks, community gardens or other amenities under the banner of a community league appear to be on the verge of getting out of the red tape shackles that the city has bound them in for years.
The rules that govern seemingly everything for community leagues have been a source of frustration for decades. However community groups are seeing a ray of hope after Monday’s first meeting of city council’s community services committee.
What would take months to plan and build takes years. In part because city staff gets replaced, and then it’s back to square one.
Take for example the tale of Jens Deppe from the Allendale Community League. All the league wanted to do was convert an unusable asphalt basketball court and convert it into a crushed gravel path as part of a community garden.
One of the first instructions from a city rep was to do soil testing. Several months, and $4,000 later, it was done. However the city staffer was replaced by someone new who told them they didn’t need to go into the ground because the project would be staying above ground.
“It seemed a bit ridiculous that it’s such a small project and I wasn’t aware of all the steps and processes,” Deppe said. “It seemed unreasonable.”
Other tales of red tape prompted the committee to see if there’s a way around this. Unfortunately council can’t make changes right away. It needs to study the problem. Councillor Michael Walters is happy that a committee will be formed to hear from individuals caught in the maze.
“I want to learn from the people who it’s taken six years to do a community garden about why? I want to learn from people who are in the throws of it today who are about to throw their hands in the air and I want some people there who have done it well and quickly.”
City manager Linda Cochrane heard the complaints. Some are valid, some she’s glad the city was as cautious as it was.
“I do think that we had some community projects that got away from and when they got bigger than any of us had ever been able to keep track of. I think we might have over compensated.”
That’s why she said there are so many checks and balances in place.
“There’s some reasonable action that needs to be taken that finds some space in the middle that doesn’t burn out volunteers and have them come here to you saying we’re all a bunch of bureaucrats.”
Councillor Andrew Knack is hoping a how-to road map can be put online for community groups to use.
“Maybe I’m oversimplifying it, but it could be as simple as taking that road map , developing a program for it so that you can log on to a site to say ‘I want to do X. Good here’s step one. Here’s the form you fill out online, we can track it from step one to step 10.’ I really feel like it’s that simple.”
Council will hear back from the group in February.
Meanwhile groups who are fundraising for major projects have been turned down in attempts to have the sponsor’s logo placed on the project. Councillor Tony Caterina raised the issue saying groups are reluctant to donate money.
Cochrane said she’d look into it.