The Sidney Community Association and other local groups won’t be able to participate in the committee tasked with advising Sidney’s Official Community Plan (OCP) review and update, while individuals who do not own property or live in Sidney will be.
These outcomes flow from the terms of reference for the select Official Community Plan Review Advisory Committee that Sidney councillors recently approved.
Coun. Peter Wainwright said the committee would have to be “very large” to accommodate and balance various groups and their respective interests if the body were to allow organizations to participate.
“Our feeling was that we wanted people on the committee who were going to be looking at the town as a whole, rather than bring in an interest that might be specific to a certain sector — be it economic, or arts and culture, or whatever,” he said. “At the end of the day, it would be council picking the people who they think are going to do their job well, not organizations appointing people, just to be clear on that,” he added later. “I know there has already been some discussion out there with some organizations wanting to ensure that they are represented. I want to make it quite clear up front that that isn’t what is being proposed.”
Steve Duck, president of the Sidney Community Association, said he understands the point that trying to have a representative from every organization would make the committee unwieldy, adding that there might be excellent candidates who are not members of any organization. But he also tried to challenge the argument that the association just represents its members by saying that the association believes every Sidney resident is part of creating Sidney’s future.
Chaired by Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith, the committee’s membership also includes one councillor, one member of Sidney’s Advisory Planning Commission, and six members-at-large, which “shall be members of the public with a significant connection” to Sidney.
Wainright said this language gives Sidney the ability to appoint individuals like Graham Debling (who has been involved with a number of local organizations) and Susan Simosko (longtime former president of the Sidney Business Improvement Association), who would not be eligible if Sidney were to limit membership to residents or property owners.
“This gives us flexibility to appoint people who clearly have a significant connection to Sidney and might be very good to contribute,” he said. “At the end of day, council will decide and it is simply based on who applies.”
As for the committee coming from Sidney’s advisory planning commission, Wainwright said that Sidney will encourage current members of the commission to apply for the committee. In other words, the commission does not get to pick its representative.
Would-be voting members of the committee (which will also include non-voting members including internal staff and external yet-to-be-hired consultants) have until Feb. 18 to submit their respective applications.
Sidney adopted its current OCP in May 2007, before the economic downturn of 2008, but also well before the residential construction boom that followed.
The review of the OCP, which spells out broad goals concerning land use planning and provision of municipal services, has been one of, if not the top priority of the current council following the 2018 election, and the process cleared a major hurdle last year with council receiving a report on local housing needs as mandated by new provincial legislation.
Among the next major steps is the hiring of outside consultants through a request-for-proposal (RFP) to assist with the review. Pending approval of council during current budget talks, the cost of the review could rise to $150,000 by the end of next year, up from $100,000 originally budgeted.
A report before council late last year points out that other recent RFPs for OCP review ranged between $125,000 and $300,000.
The high end of this range would be a “significant jump” from Sidney’s budget and require either reconsideration of the review’s scope or a budget increase,” it read. “However, these other communities are also substantially larger in population and geography than Sidney, and not yet built out, so the Town’s budget may yet be sufficient.”
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