Letter: OCP does not provide enough vision

People, your OCP reads like a sales pitch, mixed with a smattering of “Thou shalt nots”

OCP does not provide enough vision

Ladies and gentlemen. Your ongoing questionnaires and feedback channels have been troublesome on several levels. Therefore, I have chosen to provide opinion, in my own way, with respect to your draft Official Community Plan.

“..and the people plowed under their food crops and planted grapes. And the people got drunk, and the cost of food skyrocketed. Pet horses ate the remaining ALR pasture. Then came climate change and, as predicted, people migrated north from the vast desert that was once California, and they settled on our side of the wall. Then came the predicted atmospheric rivers. The roads washed out; power and water, gas and ferries, and supplies of everything were interrupted. And the rich remained drunk in seclusion, and the poor went cold and hungry. There were no facilities for resupply….no local airports, no heliports no railroads. No local ports to unload feed grain, a boxcar or a container. The lessons of ‘Lake Abbotsford’ were unheeded. Instead of loving and helping each other, people hoarded stuff, until others stole it. Then came the forest fires, unstoppable fires. You see, there were rules to protect the undergrowth in the whole riparian forest, especially near the Urban Containment Zones, (I hate that dictatorial term, but more on that later), near the schools, near the wood-inspired multifamily dwellings and the empty fire hydrants. You’d think the warning fires of Slave Lake and Fort McMurray and Barriere and Lytton would teach them to remove the fuel, but no, the fuel was protected. When the fuel dried out and the sparks flew there were no water bombers to call. Their contracts were canceled and their equipment was in California. The B.C. central Fire Control Office moved their scarce resources to higher priority fires, and we faced arrest if we tried to douse it ourselves.”

Did I mention earthquakes or snowstorms? Enough, you say? People, your OCP reads like a sales pitch, mixed with a smattering of “Thou shalt nots”. It attempts to paint some utopian view of our little corner in social terms, without the physical obligations of the collective, or the cooperation of the neighbors. While the world is full of disaster response legislation, an OCP should plan for disaster avoidance. It does not. In addition, we need clean air, a massive water supply, food security, territorial ownership, property rights, shelter opportunities, transportation, and ongoing security of all of these.

This OCP lacks collective ambition. In previous times, the Roman’s needed water so they built viaducts, and Rome survived. By contrast, 200,000 people in Ephesus lacked that determination and that city failed. Furthermore, an OCP needs to inspire our younger generations. People should not need to migrate away to live and work. We need to inspire all our citizens to go far beyond the basics of life, work, budgets and taxes. We need to inspire people to take up volunteering, paying forward, building institutions, preparing for the inevitable, and solving our problems.

On Urban Containment Zones…a favorite municipal topic. The legal code in French territories specifies that nothing is allowed unless specified in their code. By contrast, the British common law and codes allow full creative freedom, unless restricted by codes. We live in a land of the liberated and free. In any natural historic example, cities sprang up by natural evolution. This was based on availability of water and its use with transportation. Water was used for heavy transport (rivers, lakes and oceans) and cities evolved at the meeting points of waterways and roadways. Water was therefore managed to sustain life, carry sewage, allow transport. People gathered in those places for collective security, to market goods and services, and to enjoy human interaction. In more modern times, the transportation links have gone beyond rivers. They now encompass airports, buses, light rail, trucks and cars. Population density gathers around skytrain terminals, airports, and various crossover points. So ‘containment’ is not needed. Density evolves where people like to gather. And that would include anywhere along transport routes.

Speaking of transportation, wouldn’t it be nice if our bus routes could connect people in a meaningful way. I have yet to see, in 22 years, more than two people on a Maple Bay bus. Wouldn’t it be nice if our transport nodes converged so people could use multiple modes for one trip. Great cities do that. So why can’t we? In New York the subways, the railways, and the bus terminal are all stacked together, even including a sports stadium. Same in London where transit connects for people. The Tube connects with Heathrow and local buses, and a massive connecting system throughout the city. The Motorways and rail network complete the network for moving people. Wouldn’t it be nice if our transit were to connect to our ferry terminals, or to our airports, or wherever we want? The Mill Bay ferry goes from where to where, you ask? I don’t know where it goes, but it sure doesn’t go to anywhere useful, like a bus stop, or an airport, or Schwartz Bay. And where does it start out from, you say? Don’t know that either, but it’s not from Mill Bay or anywhere with even a parking lot!

That’s outside North Cowichan’s view, you say. Yes, and that’s our basic problem. You see, there are four local territorial governments supporting one natural region. The whole region has the same needs. So it involves four local governments and one provincial elected official. The OCP needs to show leadership, not just for restrictive zoning, but for where you, as leaders, are willing to take us. You are charged with casting a vision for us, not just coping with today. It’s time for you to go the next mile. The OCP is incomplete as it now stands. It reads like a restrictive covenant. It needs a hundred year vision, where every resident is equal in every opportunity, and the outlook appears very bright. So back to the drawing board, people. Two sections need review or removal. You know which they are. And two more sections are needed. One has to do with vision casting, the other with disaster mitigation and avoidance.

I want to thank those people you carefully selected to work on your OCP over this past two years. They have given a lot of themselves and we appreciate that. It allows us to stand on some basic foundations, so we now can see further. It has shown us who we are, so we can do better.

Bruce R. Matthews

Maple Bay