Protecting seaside charm, addressing housing affordability among goals of Sidney OCP

Maintaining the town’s quaint character and addressing climate change and the housing affordability crisis have emerged as key goals for an update to Sidney’s Official Community Plan, according to a report released this week.

The report follows a 10-month engagement process with the community.

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“This is an opportunity to reflect and make sure we’ve heard people clearly, before moving forward and drafting the updated Official Community Plan,” said Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith. “I am pleased by the diversity and number of people who feel invested in Sidney and are actively shaping its future.”

The report noted that beyond maintaining the charm of the seaside town, dealing with climate change and the ongoing housing affordability crisis, the town should preserve and enhance its environmental assets, support outdoor recreation, improve active transportation and meaningfully engage with the Indigenous community and take action toward reconciliation.

The report also outlined key areas of concern, including wariness around increasing density and allowing reductions in parking requirements in some areas.

To maintain the town’s character, the report suggests implementing foreshore development-permit areas with a 50-metre buffer and encouraging use of natural means to protect shorelines, while developing design guidelines.

On housing, the report ­outlines measures such as ­prioritizing multi-family ­housing in appropriate areas, with a focus on affordable workforce housing, redeveloping older ­single-detached homes as multi-unit developments, and encouraging garden suites and duplexes in residential neighbourhoods as a form of gentle densification.

The report also includes policy directions that address reconciliation with First Nations, and suggests taking steps toward greater cultural understanding of W̱SÁNEĆ heritage, values and worldviews, while supporting stronger government-to-government relationships. It also suggests working with First Nations to incorporate art, culture, history and traditional practices and knowledge, and including the SENĆOŦEN language in signage and place names.

As for climate change, the report suggests applying a climate lens to all local government decision making in order to integrate greenhouse-gas mitigation efforts across all municipal programs and services.

The report calls for a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050.

The Official Community Plan review advisory committee will consider feedback until Oct. 20, before developing an early draft this winter.

The updated plan is intended to look ahead to 2040 and provide direction on issues around land use, transportation, and environmental protection.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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