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Sechelt's OCP review focuses on engaging residents

‘I don't think planning needs to be boring and stuffy, and I think if we can make it a little bit fun, we're going to have an easier time getting people out’: Coun. Alton Toth
Aerial view of Sechelt looking out toward the inlet in September 2011

How do you make more than 200 pages of community policy into something that residents want to read – and can understand? That is one of the many foci for Sechelt’s Official Community Plan (OCP) review. 

District of Sechelt staff provided an update regarding the OCP review during a  March 27 committee of the whole, focusing on getting more of the community involved during consultation and trying to present policy in a way that gets the community engaged.  

An OCP establishes policies, goals and objectives for land use planning and development within a municipality.

Official Community Plan review

Kevin Pearson, Sechelt's senior policy planner, provided an overview of the review, expected to be completed by the summer of 2026. 

As per new provincial legislation, OCPs must be updated every five years, Pearson said.

Recognizing that community legislation isn’t exactly a page-turner, he said the goal is for the new OCP to be clear, concise and visually interesting. “We want a realistic document that people will actually read.”

Main policies covered include future land use, transportation and utilities, parks and community services, development permit guidelines and social well-being.

Pearson said the plan will also feature engagement forums, workshops and community outreach to inform up-to-date population statistics.

The budget for the OCP review is $100,000, with a potential opportunity for more funding through a provincial grant that Sechelt received earlier this year.  

Staff are also hiring a consultant for the project, ideally with the expertise to present policy “in an interesting manner,” Pearson said. 

Coun. Donna Bell suggested that simplifying the details of what an OCP is and is not would help bolster community engagement.

Coun. Adam Shepherd raised the point that one of the most significant changes since the last OCP was implemented is the volatility of the environment and climate impacts, and that the environment should be given a higher priority on the new plan.

Coun. Darren Inkster echoed Shepherd’s sentiment and highlighted topics such as oceanside mitigation and enhancement, micro-watershed protection, naturalization of district parkland and allowing for more wildlife corridors through the municipality. 

Coun. Dianne McLauchlan spoke to the importance of the neighbourhood plans, and that part of the complexity in Sechelt’s OCP is because it includes all of the neighbourhood plans, which makes it difficult to find the facts.

Noting that she has been unable to find Sechelt’s neighbourhood plans as they are not available at the library or the archives, she said that updating them would be an important part of the review as they give valuable history context, and are useful in emergency planning. 

Coun. Alton Toth said he was looking forward to the process, saying that schools, senior centres or service clubs are good places for community engagement. 

“I don't think planning needs to be boring and stuffy, and I think if we can make it a little bit fun, we're going to have an easier time getting people out,” Toth said. 


Andrew Allen director of planning and development explained that housing has been staff's primary focus for several years and it will be a focus of the OCP review. 

In 2019 the province brought in the initial requirement for a housing needs report. Allen called this the benchmark for staff to start working regionally, after Sechelt’s housing needs report was completed staff shifted their focus to the implementation report. 

Through Bill 44, introduced last year, the province has mandated further planning work to support housing, and bylaws will be coming forward in the spring to amend the district's “relatively new” Zoning Bylaw, Allen said. 

The district has also hired Urban Matters to update the statistics in the housing needs report, all of which help inform OCP direction, Allen said. 

“We know we've got a mountain of work ahead of us, but we're excited to do so,” he said. 

Jordan Copp is the Coast Reporter’s civic and Indigenous affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.