By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
Durham residents have voiced what they feel are key issues for the region to address.
Envision Durham released a public opinion survey in February asking residents a number of questions. The survey closed in April.
Envision Durham is a comprehensive review of the region’s official plan.
Residents were asked to talk about themselves, what issues are important to them, and where their biggest priorities are.
According to Jonah Kelly, the principal planner for Envision Durham, 13.1 per cent of respondents were from Oshawa.
The city was third behind Clarington at 15.1 per cent, and Whitby at 31.8 per cent.
“I think there’s a reason why the Whitby one was a little higher, and that’s because we did a lot of promotions here at regional headquarters,” explained Kelly. “We tried to have some of the kiosks align with regional council meetings… so, I think we saw a lot of people come in who are residents, and who live in Whitby, and ended up doing the survey.”
He said 48.8 per cent of respondents took the survey because they own a home in Durham, and 27 per cent because they work in Durham.
Participants had lived in Durham between one to 69 years, with most living in the region between 20 and 39 years.
According to Kelly, 95 per cent of respondents believe it is either very important or extremely important to manage how and where growth occurs in the region.
“Curbing urban sprawl and perceived over consumption of land for development was identified by participants as one of the biggest land use challenges facing the region today,” said Kelly.
Housing affordability was another big ticket issue according to Kelly, as 66 per cent of respondents believe the need to increase opportunities for affordable housing is very to extremely important.
Other issues which received a great deal of attention included support for local food security, and environmental goals.
There was also high support for regional efforts toward minimizing the pollution of air, water, and land resources.
Respondents also hoped to protect environmental features from development and urbanization.
More than 90 per cent of respondents believed these issues to be very important or extremely important.
Kelly noted 81 per cent of respondents want investments in enhancing the region’s ability to recover from the effects of climate change.
Respondents also want to increase environmental and conservation efforts for the Oak Ridges Moraine, the Greenbelt, conservation areas, and area lakeshores.
“Protecting what we already have in terms of existing natural heritage features and green space connections was a prevalent theme among many of the survey takers,” Kelly said.
Respondents also indicated they want better access to natural areas in the region. This includes connections from local parks to conservation areas, and their favourite recreational trails.
“Waterfronts, and in particular the Lake Ontario waterfront trail, was highlighted for passive and recreational opportunities,” added Kelly.
Kelly also noted there are several geographical areas Durham residents feel need improvement. This included stretches of Highway 2, the Highway 407 corridor, urban centres, and aging retail centres. The most important land use planning issues included job growth, housing options, transportation and transit, protecting natural and rural landscapes, climate change, and urban sprawl.
“In general, working towards achieving these various components would be largely viewed as key to shaping Durham into a complete community, where current and future residents can live, work, play, grow and invest,” Kelly said.