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LETTER: Sidney leaving plans for growth up to developers

In Sidney’s draft OCP, town planners said they recognized that Sidney residents want gentle, planned growth. And planners have only forecasted an increase in Sidney’s population of about 100 persons annually. That would require fewer than 50 additional homes each year if Sidney can attract families with children, its stated goal.

So, fortunately, gentle, planned growth is very achievable.

Yet instead, the draft OCP has tremendously increased housing density across the board in residential areas outside the town’s core. Far, far beyond need. The most obvious aspect of this is that nine neighbourhoods have been removed from the ‘Neighbourhood Residential’ category of single- and two-family homes and targeted for very intensive multi-family use with up to four-storey apartments. This is unfair, discriminatory, and completely unnecessary.

But at least this change is obvious in the draft OCP and in the town’s online survey. Residents can see it and express their opinions. But there is another, even bigger, change and this one has been deeply and deceitfully hidden.

Mentioned only once and never explicitly discussed, the draft OCP (page 15) would shrink the minimum lot size in all ‘Neighbourhood Residential’ areas to just 350 square metres. For comparison, the current zoning bylaw for the same areas prescribes minimum lot sizes of either 500, 715, or 930 square metres. Moreover, in future, the OCP would permit duplexes on all these shrunken lots while they are now only allowed on some lots in some areas. This is extreme densification beyond any conceivable need.

By allowing extreme densification everywhere in residential neighbourhoods, town planners have stripped the mayor and council of any real power to control and manage where, when, and what type of growth happens in Sidney. Instead it leaves Sidney’s growth completely up to developers.

Of course, there would still be the zoning provisions. However, if this draft OCP passes, the mayor and council will be under enormous pressure to approve any zoning amendments from developers that correspond to the adopted OCP. After all, the developer would only be asking for consistency with already-approved principles.

Elaine Hicks