Community groups in Capital Ward will be invited to join meetings between developers and Ottawa city planners as part of a one-year pilot project aimed at engaging the public earlier in planning decisions.

On Monday, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and planning committee chair Peter Hume unveiled a number of city-wide initiatives designed to demystify the process by which new developments like condominium buildings are approved.

The changes include revamping development street signs to feature plainer language and images of proposed developments and redesigning report templates to make it easier to find and contact city planners.

The pilot project in Capital Ward, however, will give registered community associations a chance to participate in consultation meetings before applications have even being filed.

Pilot project begins in August

Hume said the pilot will help make the process more transparent to the public.

"We're really trying to open up the planning process and put community members who have been incredibly critical of the city, right in the centre of applications," said Hume.

The pilot project will begin in August, and a report on its results will be tabled to the planning committee next summer.

Capital Ward encompasses a number of residential neighbourhoods, including the Glebe, Old Ottawa South, Old Ottawa East, Heron Park and Riverside, as well as Carleton University.