A Colwood group made up of business owners and developers is questioning the process that has led to a draft version of a new official community plan for the municipality
The group, the Colwood Community Stakeholders Association, hired veteran planner Mark Holland to review the document, and he made his latest presentation to Colwood council Monday night.
Holland said prior to the meeting that an official community plan has substantial influence.
“The official community plan is one of the most important documents in the entire governance of a municipality,” he said. “It needs very close attention.”
While there is no firm timeline for an official community plan to be renewed, rules call for it to contain five years of “growth capacity,” Holland said. “Most communities do about an every 10-year cycle.”
Colwood Coun. Cynthia Day, also speaking before the meeting, described the official community plan as the municipality’s path forward. “It’s a vision for the future of what we hope the community will develop to look like,” she said. “So we’re trying to promote development along the transit corridors and in our urban-density nodes, which is Colwood Corners and Royal Bay.
“It doesn’t preclude any development happening in other places, but it points to development being preferred in the places where it’s not contributing so much to the traffic jams and the other problems.”
Colwood’s official community plan process began in July 2016.
Holland said a new official community plan can cost several hundred thousand dollars and take a few years to complete.
He said Colwood’s draft raises several issues for him. “I would say the first concern I have is about the consultation,” Holland said. “[Colwood] spent a lot of money, an enormous amount of money, in the first couple of years doing consultation.
“The problem was that then they stopped doing consultation.”
After seeking input, he said, Colwood staff and consultants wrote a draft official community plan — but there have been no public meetings or open houses since.
Along with that, the official community plan committee that was formed had no representative from the business or development realm, which is not normal practice, Holland said.
He said that another concern is the potential fire hazard from a planning model in the draft where houses could be spread through a treed area rather than having a set conservation zone. When trees are too close to homes it can lead to a greater danger of an “interface” fire, Holland said.
Day said she is aware of the concerns from the group Holland speaks for, but thinks the path taken in creating the draft has been well-considered.
“There’s been quite a commitment to represent the feedback that we’ve received to council.”
She said an online survey from November 2016 to January 2017 brought in 1,300 responses.
Holland said his concerns go beyond those of the group he represents.
“The moral issue, on behalf of the community, is that nobody else in Colwood has been alerted that the plan is out there in a public meeting, where things can be explained,” Holland said. “A 300-page planning document is really difficult to understand.”
Day said she is not sure when the official community plan will be presented for adoption. “The draft OCP was presented and given its first reading in February.”