Victoria’s Official Community Plan survives first round of tweaking

Public hearing on city document to continue on July 30

The words “development opportunities” on the waterfront have taken a back seat to “public realm” enhancements in Victoria’s draft Official Community Plan.

City council debated that wording change and others during a four-hour debate last week. Based on feedback received at a public hearing June 27, councillors took turns bringing forward small, but significant tweaks to the 258-page document.

Coun. Ben Isitt suggested changing the direction to “realize development opportunities for public land west of Wharf Street.” Guidelines for that waterfront land should be to “enhance the public realm,” he said.

Council voted on a compromise: to enhance the public realm on city-owned waterfront land, and to complete the Harbour Pathway in partnership with development, where appropriate.

“We’re taking the ‘for sale signs’ off those lots,” Isitt said.

Council also approved an amendment to limit parking for marine users.

The OCP will serve as the highest-level planning document to guide decisions over land use and resource allocation for the next 30 years.

Core to the plan is a direction to grow small commercial centres to create more walkable communities.

While there was some concern residents will resist more density in their neighbourhoods, council held firm to this vision.

“One thing we heard consistently (was that) people wanted us to focus on urban centres,” Mayor Dean Fortin said. “Not everybody is going to agree with that. But that was really clear.”

Other amendments clarified that a new central library needs to be located in the downtown.

By 11:25 p.m., the debates were still ongoing, requiring the meeting to be adjourned.

Part two of the meeting to pass third reading of the OCP is scheduled for July 30.

“I think it’s valuable the level of details councillors want to put into the OCP,” Isitt said.

Among the issues up for debate: zoning of the former Blanshard school site; lowering allowable building heights and enhancing Bay and Cook streets as corridors for biking.

Legally, councillors must not receive new information after the closure of the public hearing and before the final reading of the bylaw. Doing so could invalidate the public hearing, sparking the need for a new one to be held.

For this reason, members of the public wishing to comment on the OCP should direct their comments to publichearings@victoria.ca, rather than directly to members on council.

rholmen@vicnews.com

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