Sidney has updated its Official Community Plan spelling out future land use.
Council voted 6-1, with Coun. Scott Garnett opposed, Monday to adopt the revised document following third reading and a public hearing. The vote concludes a process that lasted almost two years, much of it unfolding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said in a release that the document offers stronger guidance on topics, which the community has identified as important, including affordable housing, the economy, reconciliation with First Nations, environmental protection, climate change response, as well as preservation of Sidney’s small-town, seaside character.
“This plan provides more certainty around how growth will be managed and how we will protect the character, culture, and coastal environment that makes Sidney unique,” he said.
Coun. Peter Wainwright said during Monday’s meeting that the plan is not perfect, but “way, way, way better” than the document last updated in 2007.
“The big problem with the previous OCP is that it was just too open for interpretation,” he said. “While we were not completely prescriptive to the level that some people want, it is not ambiguous in the things that matter.”
Wainwright also said that locking down the OCP is not as important as future political choices. “Look hard at who you elect,” he said.
Coun. Chad Rintoul, meanwhile, praised the process, noting council has listened to the community and changed the OCP accordingly.
The lone voice of opposition came from Coun. Garnett, who had earlier tried and failed to gather support for changes to the West Side Local Area Plan, itself part of the Official Community Plan since 2017 following a vote by the previous council.
The updated and now adopted document proposes heights of up to six storeys in the area of West Sidney designated as mixed-use village, an area that includes Henry Avenue West, Airedale Place, James White Boulevard, Skylark Lane, Jahn Place, Jahn Place and Beacon Avenue West.
“The document disregards the neighbours who live there in the Galaran Road neighbourhood,” Garnett said earlier.
Coun. Barbara Fallot agreed with Garnett at the time, but the duo failed to rally a majority in favour of amending the OCP bylaw prior to third reading. If the move had succeeded, council would have to had to rescind second reading of the OCP bylaw and make this change. Ultimately, the municipality would have had to hold another public hearing, said Randy Humble, Sidney’s chief administrative officer.
Wainwright had earlier warned against such a move. Council had not one but two opportunities to consider a full review of the West Side Local Area Plan as part of the OCP review process but chose not to include it in the fall review, said Wainwright, pointing to the high level of engagement during the creation of the plan as a standalone document.
Council, he added, had also heard from hundreds of people during the actual OCP review process and the OCP does not greenlight anything. He said any kind of proposal for the area would have to undergo rezoning, pointing to the power of future council to reject proposals.
He also warned against the practicalities of Garnett’s proposal. “It’s not simply a matter of ‘oh, let’s back up and do another public hearing on a new OCP’ … It’s a ‘let’s go back to the process that we need to do if we are going to re-open the Westside Local Area Plan.’” Such a move could last six months, he said.
Coun. Rintoul, meanwhile pointed to the need for additional housing in the area, in voting against the proposed amendment.
Garnett for his part suggested that future councils could not be trusted. “We don’t know what the council of the day will be when a project comes forward or what their leanings or tendencies will be,” he said. “That troubles me.”
He also countered claims that the apparent lack of input from area residents should be judged as support, adding that he has heard residents concerned about the OCP zoning for the area.
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