Metathesiophobia – a phobia that causes people to avoid changing their circumstances due to being extremely afraid of the unknown – seems to rule Sidney’s community planning process. In their most recent meeting, seemingly with an eye on their re-election prospects and certainly not the future, Sidney council gutted two really forward-looking elements of their draft OCP.
What did Sidney council gut? First, the potential for neighbourhood rezoning to create small-scale, low-impact services and shopping in a number of neighbourhoods that are farther from downtown Sidney; and second, the potential for density increases in favour of lower-density development in a number of neighbourhoods designated in the draft OCP for much-needed higher density.
Not a big deal you might say. But does this make sense in a community that: has virtually no population growth potential except through density; is the Peninsula’s smallest; says it aspires to create more affordable housing and a younger population to service the Peninsula’s oldest population; prides itself on being ‘green’ and promotes walking instead of car use? Instead, Sidney’s council now wants to limit density and neighbourhood amenities, put people back into cars, and diminish what little opportunity there is for affordable housing. At the same time, council is just now calling for OCP consideration of live-aboard boats and float homes – concepts that are brand new to this OCP process and frankly an unnecessary distraction to the current process. What’s going on here?
I urge Sidney council to put their thinking hats back on, to not be afraid of change, to not be bludgeoned by backward-looking community associations, to not let Sidney become ‘The Little Town that Couldn’t’, and to remember that OCPs are forward-looking change instruments with a 25- to 40-year horizon that can be modified.
In case you wanted to know, we live right in downtown Sidney – have for decades – and are now kitty-corner to three new, large, high-density residential developments that along with other new downtown developments are helping Sidney to once more come alive and prosper. Our hope is that Sidney doesn’t go back to sleep again.