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Dates set for town’s Official Community Plan public meetings

The Town of Lake Cowichan's Advisory Planning Commission is drawing near on its latest draft of the Official Community Plan, with an early draft released to the public last week.
Town of Lake Cowichan councillor Franklin Hornbrook

The Town of Lake Cowichan's Advisory Planning Commission is drawing near on its latest draft of the Official Community Plan, with an early draft released to the public last week.

The Official Community Plan (OCP) is a document put together by volunteer community members who make up the Advisory Planning Commission (APC). The OCP serves to provide the elected officials with guidance as to what the community would like to see happen.

The town's elected officials discussed the latest OCP draft during their Tuesday, February 8, committee meetings.

"Thousands of volunteer hours were put into this," councillor Tim McGonigle said.

The town's chief administrative officer Joseph Fernandez provided some background on the early draft.

The last draft of the OCP was completed in 1999.

"After five years we begin revisions and making changes that are required," he said.

The 1999 draft was done by a consultant with some input by the Advisory Planning Commission (APC), Fernandez said. This time around, the APC was involved every step of the way.

"It is a Lake Cowichan document. It was not brought in from outside," Fernandez said.

The town's planner James van Hemert helped the APC quite a bit during its drafting stages, as he has a way with words, Fernandez said, and has put together his fair share of OCPs in the past.

"He was instrumental in phrasing things," Fernandez said.

During the last six years, the APC has gathered momentum," Fernandez said.

McGongile was quick, alongside other councillors, to congratulate the APC on a job well done.

“It’s countless hours with little accolade,” he said.

Copies of this ever-changing OCP draft are available on the town's website, at the library, the Municipal Hall, and at local schools.

This public release is in advance of the public consultation meetings, to take place Saturday, March 12, and Thursday, March 17, at the town’s Municipal Hall on South Shore Road.

The March 12 meeting will take place from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and the March 17 meeting will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“I’ve really been waiting for this public input part,” APC chair Chris Rolls said. “If there’s stuff in there people don’t like, we want to know. If there’s stuff in there people like, we want to know.”

Rather than allow the document to risk becoming a reflection of the APC table’s wishes for the town’s future, Rolls said that the public meetings will help ensure it’s more of a representation of the community’s wants.

“Everything is up for input,” she said of the document.

Those that can’t attend the meetings should call the town, e-mail, or write letters to the APC.

Discussions around whatever feedback they’ve received from the public meetings will begin during the APC’s Thursday, March 24 meeting at the Municipal Hall, beginning at 2 p.m.

Although all items in the document are up for discussion, there are some key changes from the 1999 document that may raise a higher level of public input than others.

For quite some time, the APC has been discussing the allowance of animal husbandry, including chickens, within the town.

This is a hot controversial item at the APC table, so it will be interesting to see what the public as a whole has to say on the subject, Rolls said.

Another new item is the importance of trails within the town, ensuring town residents are free to use other modes of transportation than a vehicle.

During the APC’s Thursday, February 10 meeting, town planner James van Hemert brought up the benefits of density for the first time.

“The cap of 37 units per hectare is too low,” he said, of the town’s current zoning. “Density is a very powerful tool to create vibrant communities... We have plenty of land downtown that can accommodate this. Good design really has an effect on how density feels.”

This could come in many forms, including allowing for taller buildings.

“How do we use land we have to the best of its use?” Rolls asked.

One con to this plan could be the loss of views, she added.

“It would be a shame to lose the views we have. How tall before you don’t see the mountains anymore,” she said.

The new OCP will also include climate change goals revolving around the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

After making amendments to the OCP in accordance to public input, mayor and council are expected to pass a first and second reading in acceptance of the item.

After this point, a second round of public consultation is expected to take place.

Then, the town’s to adopt the document, which Fernandez expects to take place by September of this year.