Gibsons council gave first reading to the official community plan (OCP) update bylaw Tuesday night, after staff said it was the last window of opportunity for the bylaw to be adopted before council’s term ends in November.
And though staff also said more changes could be made to the bylaw before further readings, both councillors Lee Ann Johnson and Dan Bouman voted against the motion.
Presenting the draft bylaw at the July 29 meeting, director of planning Andre Boel told council that his recommendation to proceed to first reading “was more a matter of timing and budget.”
The timeline for the OCP update had already been stretched to give the public and OCP steering committee more time to provide feedback, which increased the budget from $60,000 to $70,000, Boel said.
While the extra cost could be covered due to under-spending in other parts of the budget, he said, the Town has no other available funds to allocate to the project.
He noted the draft bylaw did not incorporate comments from the final questionnaire or the steering committee, but said that input would be used to complete a final draft in September, along with responses from referral agencies, such as provincial ministries and other local governments.
In order to meet that September target, so a public hearing could be held in October, the draft had to be sent out for referral in its current form, he said.
Coun. Charlene SanJenko, who represented council on the OCP steering committee along with Bouman and Mayor Wayne Rowe, recommended moving forward with first reading.
SanJenko said some members of the committee viewed the process as a “detailed review,” rather than an update, and that initially she too struggled with that limitation.
“I believe within the context of what we were working with, that our staff and our consultants have done a superb job of engaging our community and working with us as a very diverse committee with lots of different opinions, and I thought our chair did an excellent job under a tight timeline and budget constraints,” SanJenko said.
“It’s not the last kick at the can,” Rowe said, “but it needs to get out to referral agencies.”
Johnson, however, said she wanted to see the draft completed before it went out for referral, noting agencies often request changes to OCP bylaws in the final draft stage.
“I do think this draft substantially has all the major things in it,” Boel said in response. “Those things the referral agencies are looking at, those things are in there.”
Bouman said he wanted to see “a little higher level of agreement” on the steering committee before he could support first reading.
“I just don’t feel we’re there yet,” he said.
“In a perfect world everybody eventually agrees with each other,” Coun. Gerry Tretick said. “I think just taking a step forward is good. It doesn’t mean it’s a shoe-in.”
In his report, Boel said it was clear earlier this year that there was community support for removing the notwithstanding clause from the Harbour Area Plan, while some people also said the plan should be more specific about the scale of development that would be allowed. However, OCP steering committee discussions at June 11 and July 14 meetings failed to reach a consensus on proposed text amendments on the subject.
“There are two different visions on what should happen in the harbour area: on one hand a vision where new development cannot exceed heights of 7.5 to 10 metres and on the other hand a vision where there is flexibility on a case-by-case basis,” Boel said.
“The contention between those competing visions,” he added, “date back to the planning process for the Harbour Area Plan and also are influenced by the current George Hotel proposal.”
During Tuesday’s inquiries, Gibsons Alliance of Business and Community president Suzanne Senger asked if council was aware that the notwithstanding clause was only one sentence in the harbour plan, but three sentences had been removed.
“And it’s important wording,” she said.
Echoing Senger’s concern, OCP steering committee member Roger Swickis quoted one of the deleted sentences — “The heights, setbacks and massing of buildings should be guided by the building height and setback regulations set out in the Town of Gibsons zoning bylaw” -— and asked Boel if he considered that “an inconsequential editorial change.”
Boel said the notwithstanding clause was not one sentence in the plan, but the whole paragraph, and that the OCP text should not point to the zoning bylaw.
“That’s not what you do with an OCP,” he said. “So it’s in a way inconsequential because the zoning bylaw applies anyway.”
The updated OCP consolidates neighbourhood plans approved after the 2005 Smart Plan and adds policies for greenhouse gas reduction, sea level rise, aquifer protection and other priorities.
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