Sidney council has scheduled a public hearing for June 27 after finalizing the draft of what is poised to become the community’s new Official Community Plan.
Sidney’s current OCP dates back to 2007 and Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said during Monday’s meeting, that the new “sophisticated” document developed over the past two years will be more holistic than previous OCPs. Not only does it address land use and development, but also a whole range of other issues, including climate change, environmental protection, transportation, parks and open spaces, amenities and other areas, he said.
Council went on to unanimously approve the first two readings of the OCP bylaw.
McNeil-Smith made these comments in addressing concerns from correspondence questioning the absence of specific language around implementation. He said the municipality already has or is developing specific plans for specific issues, such as climate action, pointing to next week’s presentation of the municipality’s full climate action plan, to be followed by review from council and input from the community.
The same approach will also inform other issues, he added.
Commenting during the meeting, Coun. Peter Wainwright addressed criticisms that council is rushing the process. If council had another year left in its term, he would have no doubt that additional consultation would take place. But he also feared engagement would suffer during the summer months with residents away.
The current OCP has several gaps and will remain open until plugged, he added. “Some haste is not unwarranted.”
Dennis Carlsen, president of the Sidney Community Association, Tuesday morning only expressed concern about the timing.
“Council has made it very clear that they intend to adopt the OCP bylaw before the summer,” said Carlsen. “Council was aware that they were undertaking a major project with a new OCP in the run-up to a municipal election this fall. This timeline does not leave adequate time for the public to fully appreciate the substantive changes that have been made to the OCP since the first draft was released.”
McNeil-Smith called in response engagement with the community and council listening and responding to the public excellent.
“(Council) moved to give the first and second readings of the new OCP (bylaw) because we felt the community has been provided reasonable time to comment on the initial draft and subsequent amendments made by staff and (council),” he said. pointing to the extensive feedback and revision timeline.
He added council will review any further input before determining whether to make changes or adopt the new OCP.
Counting the provincially-mandated housing needs assessment, the OCP review process started in early 2019.
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