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OCP is moving ahead; more work on land use bylaws

Council is hoping it can give the Official Community Plan update third reading at its July 25 meeting but wants to give itself more time to revamp the three development permit area bylaws.

Council is hoping it can give the Official Community Plan update third reading at its July 25 meeting but wants to give itself more time to revamp the three development permit area bylaws.

Councillors and staff acknowledged there were significant public concerns about the bylaws, expressed both in written submissions and at Saturday's public hearing.

But, they noted, few of the concerns were about the OCP update itself. Instead, people objected to the "heavy-handedness" of the steep slopes bylaw and environmentally sensitive area bylaw that were introduced after first reading of the OCP bylaw.

By separating the bylaws and looking at them individually, the controversial bylaws did not need to impede the progress of the OCP itself., councillors said.

"We need to assure the public that these [land use] bylaws will go back to staff for full and wholesome review," said Councillor Cro Lucas at Tuesday afternoon's packed council meeting. "I don't see that happening for some time period. The OCP itself is not anywhere near as problematic. Yes, there's a connectivity but if you separate the land use bylaws then I think the workload on the OCP becomes less and is easier to deal with."

Director of planning Hap Stelling said it was possible for staff to collate all the public submissions pertaining to the OCP alone and present them to council for discussion at the July 18 meeting. Changes could be incorporated into the document to be presented at the July 25 meeting, the last meeting before the August break. This should give the Islands Trust time to comment on the revised OCP by early September.

Staff will need more time to go through the public's comments about the land use bylaws and report back to council.

Stelling also noted that there were not as many concerns about the watersheds, aquifer and stream development bylaw, which might be able to move forward at a faster pace.

Councillor Nerys Poole said "I'd be opposed to modifying the language in the OCP. Many islanders are supportive of the objectives. The extent to which [the land use bylaws] have over-reached the mark is the issue. We need to listen and we need to respond to the public comments about too many restrictions."

She recognizes that "in attempting to achieve some solid objectives, we probably cast the net a little too far and captured far too many landowners and burdened municipal staff."

She'd like the bylaws to be passed within this council's term, which ends in November. And while the next council could repeal those bylaws, she'd like to have them presented in a way that would ensure community consensus.

Councillor Peter Frinton, listening to the debate on speakerphone, said the three land use bylaws "struck a sensitive nerve and we should be modifying these bylaws." He's been thinking of ways to relax some of the more proscriptive rules.

"I do caution," he added, "that while much is needed, it's different than throwing them out for being too onerous. I think they're very appropriate as a means of protecting the environment."

Mayor Bob Turner said, "I too think we have a good OCP and good OCP process. In terms of looking at the land use bylaws, we should be working with existing maps and not try to problem-solve by amending the maps or the OCP. The remedies can be found in changing the words [that make the maps regulatory.]"

Poole said that to have someone "groundproof" the maps would be prohibitively expensive. "In order to ensure the maps are 100 per cent accurate we'd be hiring a map person to be walking the island for the next five years."

The maps in the OCP are approximate, which is the norm, she said. They become controversial if the accompanying bylaws about what you can do in the mapped areas are too restrictive.

As to whether the OCP was an update or a review, Turner said that when the OCP steering committee gave its blessing to a new document, instead of making amendments to the old one, it was therefore requiring that the old one be rescinded.

He questioned comments that 50 new pages had been added to the OCP update since first reading, noting that many changes came from outside sources and were regulatory in manner

Stelling says that if council makes land-use changes to the OCP after first reading, then council is required to have another public hearing. However, other types of revisions can be made without prompting another hearing.

As to the language in the public consultation ads that called the OCP new, as opposed to updated, corporate officer Kathy Lalonde says the Local Government Act doesn't differentiate between an update and a comprehensive review. The ad was prepared by the municipal solicitor who focused on the statutory wording required.

The OCP is still considered an update, not a full comprehensive review.