After six months, three open houses, 1,400 comments and 24 OCPizza Nights, the Town of Gibsons presented a draft version of its updated official community plan (OCP) to about two dozen residents on June 2 at the Gibsons Public Market.
And while there was no criticism aimed at the draft document’s contents, some members of the public complained about the review process and timeline, with Suzanne Senger of the Gibsons Alliance of Business and Community warning that a public hearing in the middle of summer with many residents away would mean “friction time.”
Presenting the draft, consultant Robert Barrs stressed that the update was not a major rewrite of the document.
“Probably 90 per cent of the material within the document is the same as the old document, because it was very good material,” Barrs said. “We recognize that, and a lot of people told us that through the process as well.”
Instead of reinventing the OCP, he said, the update includes some revisions and new sections incorporating changes that have occurred since the current OCP was adopted in 2005.
Among highlighted changes:
• Removing the notwithstanding clause from the harbour area plan, which said consideration could be given to a specific project regardless of the OCP’s guidelines and policies. Calling it a “very confusing text” that “practically doesn’t mean anything,” director of planning André Boel said it was removed at the request of the OCP review committee.
• Adding eelgrass protection and anticipated sea level rise (of one metre by the year 2100) to development permit areas.
• Creating a new aquifer protection development permit area.
• Reducing the number of land-use designations from 22 to 16.
• Opening with a vision statement, based on public input: “Gibsons will continue to be a welcoming, sustainable community that offers residents and visitors an outstanding quality of life in a spectacular natural environment. We will ensure this beautiful town retains its seaside village character for the enjoyment of all, and we will nurture our unique cultural heritage and natural assets while supporting opportunities to live, work and prosper.”
With the draft OCP available on the Town website (www.gibsons.ca/official-community-plan-update), residents were asked to go online and fill out a questionnaire by Sunday, June 8, or ask staff to print them a hard copy and return it by the deadline.
Several speakers balked at the short timeline, and Senger complained that the correct documents did not appear to be posted on the Town website.
“It seems really rushed and a little bit confused, and I’d like to know what’s going on with that,” she said.
Former mayor Barry Janyk, who sits on the OCP review committee, said he agreed with a speaker who wanted the process slowed down.
“I’ll echo that till hell freezes, because you need to have time to think this thing through,” Janyk said. “This is the most important public document that the Town of Gibsons works under, and you need to have time to understand the implications.”
Janyk also said the committee was not given the opportunity to review the raw comments collected during the engagement process, but had to rely on the “synthesized” version provided by the consultants.
Boel said the steering committee would meet the following week and could discuss those concerns.
“We’ll see,” Janyk said.
Responding to complaints about the timeline, Barrs noted the process, which started last November, was now in its third phase, and “at each phase of the process, we had quite a bit of input.”
But Senger said the last OCP review took three years.
“This is, like, what? Eight months?” she asked. “I just cannot fathom how you can get it done in such a short timeframe … in an authentic way.”
By “fast-tracking” the process, she added, the Town will “end up with frustrated, angry people.”
While the Town’s plan is to finalize the document in July, Boel said that is still tentative and will depend on the next steps in the process.
“We’ll see how it goes and keep everybody informed,” he said.
The next night at council, Senger repeated her concerns about the process being rushed, asking Mayor Wayne Rowe: “Are you willing to take more time to have the conversation so everyone goes along with the process and doesn’t feel railroaded?”
“I’ll wait till I see the staff report,” Rowe told her.
Coun. Dan Bouman said he found it “challenging” as an OCP review committee member to digest the “huge amount of information” coming out within the short timeframe, adding that he wasn’t alone.
“Various members have said they need more time,” he said, “so I sent an email to the committee chair saying, ‘I’m one of those people. I need a little more time.’”
A staff report on the OCP review is expected to come before council’s committee of the whole on June 10.
© Coast Reporter