Whole planning process a farce?
The Committee of the Whole on Tuesday was a watershed meeting for the integrity of planning in North Cowichan. Community planning in North Cowichan has hit a major crisis of credibility under this council. Worse than that, it is now confirmed that community planning has been used as a trick to bait and switch [Bell McKinnon community] residents to accept the new [Cowichan District Hospital]. Even North Cowichan’s planning staff have come under attack by this council.
Some councillors plan to ignore the public consensus that created the award winning Bell McKinnon community Local Area Plan:
During this meeting council probed staff on the extent of council’s powers. Staff confirmed that council has full discretion when they make their final decisions on the OCP [official community plan]. Some council members were visibly pleased when it was confirmed they have the power to reject the BMC LAP.
More specifically, three councillors confirmed the Bell McKinnon Local Area Plan is on their personal cutting blocks for the current OCP review process. I am very grateful for their honesty in making their individual positions public but the sad reality is that two of those same councillors voted in favour of the LAP only 29 months ago when it was unanimously approved.
The results of this meeting are very concerning for those of us who live around the new hospital. If council proceeds as three of them have suggested, we will suffer a serious breach of trust for having presumed that future councils would uphold the integrity of the past municipal planning processes. This leaves us on the BMC asking — “why bother planning?”
Moreover, if council proceeds as three of them have suggested, we as a municipality will totally mismanage the impacts of the $887 million CDH mega project. Example: one of the OCP’s proposed growth management scenarios shows zero growth in the BMC. How can the largest project in the history of the Cowichan Valley be considered a “no growth” scenario? This project is a magnet that will create unprecedented demand for adjacent growth — yet the OCP process is virtually mute on the order of magnitude of the project and its impacts to Bell McKinnon and the larger community. This is a serious gap in our current planning and I am urging council and everyone involved in the OCP to revisit their assumptions and understandings of the CDH project and the BMC LAP.
Conclusion and challenges:
Now that council has confirmed it can, and some councillors will, reject the BMC Local Area Plan — I urge you all to keep in mind that the same can happen to your neighbourhood plans and input.
This creates a serious problem for the leaders and participants of the current OCP process. Why should we bother investing our time and energies in planning our future when the final plan will be drawn by councillors following their own value systems?
Perhaps before we proceed any further with the OCP review we need public confirmation from council that our efforts, time and resources are not being wasted.