As the feedback period ended for Sidney’s draft Official Community Plan (OCP), the town’s top bureaucrat defended the document from criticism that it lacks clarity and direction.
A joint statement submitted by the board of the Sidney Community Association describes the draft as well intentioned, but “unfortunately flawed” in a number of respects.
“It contains a broad range of intentions and policies, but little in terms of a framework or direction as to how these will be implemented,” the association wrote. “The lack of clarity will be confusing for the public, developers, staff and (council).”
The formal engagement period ended Monday (April 11) for the OCP, with adoption of the revised plan expected by late spring or early summer.
Sidney chief administrative officer Randy Humble countered by saying the goal with the OCP is to provide high-level guidance on topics such as land use, in looking toward 2040.
“The plan is intended to strike a balance between providing a road map for the next 20 years and leaving room for community members and future councils to make more detailed decisions based on current needs and realities,” he said.
The community association noted the absence of detail around height and density as part of plans to encourage more residential density and commercial uses in selected areas of Sidney.
Humble pointed out that Sidney’s zoning bylaw, not the OCP, address those aspects.
“While the draft OCP includes some building height restrictions in key areas such as downtown Sidney, the specific uses, building heights, setbacks, etc., for each (of the 11) land designation are addressed in the zoning bylaw,” he said. “This is usual local government procedure. The (municipality) plans to review the entire zoning bylaw after the updated OCP is approved.”
Among other comments, the association noted large areas of Sidney’s shoreline are not designated as environmental. “The policies are laced with ‘where possible’ or ‘may be required,’ but no indication of according to who or what. It gives the impression that there is not a true commitment to the protection of the environment.”
Council in February offered feedback on strengthening environmentally sensitive areas (ESA), Humble said, adding, “the project team is working to respond to these comments, and will also consider input from the public.”
The municipality heard early in the OCP review that environmental protection was important to the community, he said.
“Currently, there are approximately three linear kilometres of private property shoreline protected by ESAs; the draft OCP proposes to increase this by approximately 50 per cent, adding another 1.5 kilometres.”
The draft OCP has also significantly strengthened guidelines for property development within those ESAs, Humble said. “Other areas of the foreshore outside of the proposed ESAs in Sidney are already protected as municipal parkland or covered within other development permit areas, which also offer a layer of environmental protection.”
Ultimately, the criticisms and the municipality’s response point to a larger disagreement about the nature of the OCP.
The association appears to see the draft as a more prescriptive document, noting that it needs to include “clear direction regarding further work and actions that would be included for consideration when (council) is forming its strategic plans and budgets.”
Humble said the municipality appreciates there are different perspectives on how prescriptive an OCP should be.
“We are grateful to all the community members who have taken the time to review the draft plan and share their thoughts on it over the past month. This feedback will be carefully considered by (council) and staff as the document continues to evolve over the coming weeks.”
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