The Cape Breton Regional Municipality is getting help from Statistics Canada to find out what residents think about everything from mobile homes to transit.
The federal agency will be calling up to 1,800 homes in CBRM next week to conduct a survey for the municipality's planning department.
Planning director Malcolm Gillis said the survey has benefits for both the municipality and Statistics Canada.
"What Statistics Canada gets is their staff trained using real questions for real answers for real municipalities," he said. "What we get is yes, it's a training survey, but these people are mentored by professionals that know how to conduct a survey, and we get that survey done for us, that would cost probably tens of thousands of dollars, we get it for free."
Residents get letters
The federal agency sent letters out this week to let people know they have been selected for the survey.
The CBRM wants input on active transportation and transit, land-use planning, a proposed new library and ways to revitalize the municipality's urban centres, Gillis said.
Residents will be asked where they live and how they get to and from work, the grocery store and other activities.
They will also be questioned on whether mobile homes should be allowed in urban areas. Some of those homes can cost $100,000 or more, said Gillis, yet land-use bylaws prohibit them, even in neighbourhoods where the average home is worth far less.
"If you walked into our office and sat down and had a chat with one of our development officers and said, 'Look, I want to live in Sydney and I want to buy a mini-home from a factory. I understand it's inspected at the factory for compliance with the building code, so this is a bona fide home. Where in Sydney can I put it?'" Gillis said.
"The answer is going to be, 'Nowhere.' And if you said, 'Gee, OK, maybe I'll go to Glace Bay.' Don't bother. 'Uh, alright, what about North Sydney?' No. Not allowed there either."
Residents will also be asked whether the municipality should regulate what Gillis called a "forest" of advertising signs, something it currently does not do.
"It's never really something that manifests itself to be debated at council, but our office is the office that people usually call up and say, 'Hey there's a godawful sign on Kings Road in front of my place. What are you going to do about it?'" he said.
Gillis said the survey will be used to help staff and councillors decide on priorities in an overall review of the municipal planning strategy and the land-use bylaw.
In the letter to residents, Statistics Canada says the data will be provided to the CBRM, but it will not identify individuals or households.
The phone survey will be conducted May 28 to June 1, and the results are expected to be ready by the end of July.