Suggestions and concerns from the public were at the foreground of the Town of Lake Cowichan Advisory Planning Commission’s latest meeting, Tuesday, March 24.
The meeting came after two public consultation meetings, during which time Advisory Planning Commission (APC) chair Chris Rolls said that larger crowds turned up for the second meeting than the first.
“People were showing up having actually read the Official Community Plan (OCP),” she said. “People finally wanted to share their opinions… It’s going to take more than one meeting to go through them.”
With a member of the public dropping off a copy of the OCP that was full of his notes, during this most recent APC meeting, the commission will have even more input to consider before furthering the OCP on to mayor and council.
The draft of the OCP currently being updated serves to provide the town’s elected officials with guidance related to their general direction in things like zoning and other bylaws over the next few years.
Between Rolls and town planner James van Hemert, a list of suggestions that came out of the public consultation was discussed by the APC during their latest meeting.
Combining these suggestions with those submitted by the Cowichan Valley Regional District and other sources, van Hemert plans on making some changes to the OCP.
Many of the changes are factual, such as naming things correctly; these changes he will simply make on the OCP, highlighting for the APC where the changes were made.
For more subjective changes, van Hemert will provide the APC with a list of suggestions for the commission members to contemplate during future meetings.
Of the public feedback gathered thus far, the town seems to be in favour of allowing smaller lot sizes, to facilitate density as a means of low-income housing for young people and seniors.
The public seems to be divided on the issue of urban agriculture, with a number of concerns arising from allowing animals – mainly chickens – in town. As such, this issue will be brought up again during future APC meetings.
Zeroing in on the Palsson Elementary School site, van Hemert again suggested re-zoning it as a comprehensive development area. With the future of the school somewhat unclear, he said it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the zoning of land.
As a prime central location in town, he said, “This area is well set up for mixed use development.”
As a comprehensive development area, he said, proposals for the land could go before the APC for a review process before being approved.
Although the zoning specifies some guidelines, the town’s elected officials could, for various reasons, have a say as to whether or not they will be followed.
“They may go to council and argue why they can’t meet guidelines,” van Hemert said, of developers.
Like other issues, this, too, will be brought up during future APC meetings, in advance of the document being brought forward to the town’s elected officials.
After making amendments to the OCP, mayor and council are expected to pass a first and second reading in acceptance of the document.
After this point, a second round of public consultation is expected to take place, which is potentially followed by further amendments by the APC.
Then, the town’s elected officials are to adopt the document; a process Fernandez expects to take place by September of this year.