Official Community Plan Finalized
Finally, the new official comunity plan (OCP) has been finished. I hope that the plans to improve transit do pan out as I have long felt that this is one area in which Nanaimo is in great need of improvement. I am a firm believer that regardless of what strategies an OCP employs, that this town and the west coast in general for that matter is poised to continue to grow dramatically in the years/decades to come. I hope that the OCP fits the future well.
New OCP leads way to develop
The city’s new official community plan ushers in an era for planned, large-scale projects in the vast expanses of undeveloped land in the city’s four corners.
City council passed a new OCP on Monday, one that strikes down the urban containment boundary that prevented any development in large areas of north, west and south Nanaimo.
While critics say removing the UCB opens the door to urban sprawl, planners say the new OCP should encourage more orderly, controlled development. One such improvement is the creation of a new corridor land use designation for the city.
“It’s to encourage increased density along transit routes,” said Andrew Tucker, city director, planning and development.
The UCB is a line drawn on a map to corral growth, reducing urban sprawl and ensuring efficient use of services like sewer and water. With the UCB removed, planners say the city has not opened the door to unbridled development. Now a master plan has to be done first, before any large tracts of land can be developed.
Master plans, otherwise known as comprehensive plans, typically take many months to develop.
It’s considerably more than what is required for the subdivision of a few hectares of land. Tucker said the areas affected are in the hundreds of hectares
“There are four areas in the city to which that policy applies: Jingle Pot, Linley Valley, South Nanaimo Lands (Sandstone) and Cable Bay,” Tucker said. “If you’re doing a small, five-acre site and the area around it is developed, you’re doing site planning for that particular site. For these areas we’re talking about, the idea is don’t do any development until the road layout is done.”
It means a change from the past, when residential neighbourhoods appeared around the city in a piecemeal, mostly unplanned fashion. Now whole neighbourhoods would be completely planned from start to finish, similar to that seen in Hawthorne off Wakesiah Avenue and Jingle Pot Road.
Cable Bay and Sandstone will be the first planned communities. The Snuneymuxw First Nation and its partner, Northwest Properties, have already started developing a master plan for Sandstone, while Cable Bay Lands is still awaiting a resort land use designation from council before it can go to the master plan stage. Both developments could start taking shape in the next year or so.
The new OCP contains few changes to the rules affecting development related to environmental guidelines: heritage conservation areas, steep slope and water course development and protection of environmentally sensitive areas.
While it sets the rules for development, how fast new, planned neighbourhoods spring up is something the OCP can’t regulate. That’s up to the developers paying the bills, and how fast occupants buy up the new homes and establish new businesses in those new neighbourhoods.