Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Prince Rupert's Official Community Plan gains approval, but with two dissenting opinions

The City of Prince Rupert has put in place its Official Community Plan and the accompanying bylaws, though not without another round of extensive discussion on a few of the elements, a conversation that led two members of the Council to vote against adopting the extensive community vision plan at this time.

In a four to two vote, the city's elected officials put the new OCP into motion, setting a course for what they hope will be a new era of development for the community with guidelines to help create a new downtown and expand on housing opportunities city wide.

The redesign of the downtown core is now ready for implementation
following approval of the city's new Official Community Plan 

Councillors Cunningham and Randhawa were on the outside for the final vote, both expressing their hesitancy towards adopting the OCP at this time, pointing to a number of concerns that they have related to the zoning elements of the documents.

Councillor Cunningham reprised some of his previous concerns over parking requirements in the downtown area and how if the city is trying to attract people to live in the downtown area that could be a significant issue towards development.

Rob Buchan, one of the city's contract planners  from iPlan provided a few comments related to the issue, noting once again of the need for the City to develop a parking strategy that would help to deal with parking related concerns related to any upcoming development.

"It's going to be a case by case assessment, if there is technically a requirement for more parking there is the option for a Board of Variance, an option for a development variance permit and an option of paying cash in lieu ... what we've spoken about previously is the need to have a parking strategy in place so that we have some clarity around those specific areas ... We need to codify rules in a parking strategy,  an deal with the provision of parking that will be required in different ways. We've spoken about cash in lieu, we've spoken about the use of Local Improvement Area Funding in order to help fund on street parking improvements. We need to have that detailed downtown Parking Strategy so that we can deal with this uncertainty, because this uncertainty is something that is going  to be potentially problematic for us going forward, so the more clarity  we can ge around that the better " -- Rob Buchan from iPlan on the theme of parking in the community related to the new Official Community Plan 

A property development proposal that was introduced prior to the new
OCP served as the focus for much of the discussion
(image from City of Prince Rupert Agenda past)

Councillor Randhawa raised his concerns over the fate of a proposed development on Park Avenue and how the OCP provisions could impact on that investment in the community and add cost and time to their proposal, with the Councillor looking to have it exempt from the new plan.

Mr. Buchan noted that to make any kind of a change to the zoning would require the council to host another Public Hearing, the city's contract planner noting that he has been working with the applicant that Mr. Randhawa had spoken of, but to this point there was nothing new to review on the progress of their proposal. 

"To make a change to the zoning bylaw, land use or density, you would be back to doing a Public Hearing and as previously mentioned there is development that is waiting for this bylaw to be adopted. So the OCP sets the policy of framework for the zoning  bylaw change and then that zoning bylaw change enables the other development to occur  ... I'm certainly familiar with the property you have mentioned and we have worked very hard to facilitate an application, but at this time I'm waiting to hear whether or not there is an accepted application in terms of completeness ... If you want to make a change at this point to the zoning bylaw, we're going to have to go back to Public Hearing" -- Contract planner Rob Buchan on the process ahead if the city chooses to change the zoning bylaw for a Park Avenue proposal

As for those council members looking to move beyond the days of talk and into some actual development, Councillor Niesh spoke to the issue first.  

He thanked the team from iPlan and City staff towards the development of the OCP and adding that while he might agree with Councillor Randhawa on the unfortunate timing of the Park avenue plans, he believes that the city needs to move forward on its Official Community Plan. The Councillor stating that he did not support any idea of having to host another Public hearing on the topic.

"Unfortunately this process, you know where were at in this process doesn't allow us to change it and if we decide to change it's delaying the process and by delaying that process it's going to stop other development that is in the queue waiting to happen. This is just an unfortunate timing circumstance and I think that you know moving forward, we have to still work with the proponent to see if we can make something  happen but as far as where were at in this process, I mean I don't think we need to give another public hearing ...  For us to move forward in this community it's time now to finish this OCP and move on" -- Councillor Wade Niesh

He also observed that the Park Avenue proponents could apply for a rezoning application should they wish to move forward.

Councillor Cunningham also had concerns over the densification prospects of the new OCP noting of two potential areas where it could be controversial, the first that of an area along Graham Avenue and another in the Crestview/Parker Drive area where the city owns land for potential development.

While he praised the work on the OCP, he still wanted to make note of his areas of concern.

"I don't want to go to another public hearing and things like that .... This OCP I've got to say has been great, it's a fantastic job and everything else. I'm just concerned about two or three areas and I just find it hard to support the whole OCP when I see these particular situations" -- Councillor Barry Cunningham

Councillors Mirau and Adey spoke in favour of moving forward with the Official Community Plan and accompanying bylaws, with Mr. Mirau noting that the city has conducted an extensive process towards the development of the initiatives, with a number of proposals awaiting some kind of finality to the process. 

Both noted that stopping it for just a few issues of concern was not something that they would want to entertain and how having come this far, they should move forward with it and allow for some of the other developments to come forward.

Councillor Randhawa had one more go towards his themes on the night, with the Mayor noting that if they were to make such significant change as desired then the entire OCP process would have to return to a Public Hearing and face further delays in implementation. 

The Mayor observed of the OCP work as a very complete document that sets the foundation for the future. 

Mr. Brain also made note of the efforts of council as a fantastic job and reflective of the community's views and values, recounting how he viewed the range of community engagement on the process hosted by the City. 

Towards an end to the conversation the mayor observed that Council has the mandate to move forward.

"However, process wise I agree with Councillor Mirau going and doing this with the OCP is not I think professional form on our part, if we had amendments that we wanted to make at any time on Council, we could have proposed and moved motions to make those amendments at any time ... Generally speaking I think we have a very complete document that's you know not 100 percent perfect but it is setting the foundation for the future and I think we've done a fantastic job making sure it's reflective of the communities views and values" -- Mayor Lee Brain on the OCP process 

As for some final thoughts, the Mayor thanked the participants in the OCP process and the community for its involvement in the development of the new plan.

"The amount of forward thinking, innovation that this OCP outlines for the next decade is really going to set a whole new development environment in motion. I mean as Mr. Buchan has said there is various developments that are waiting for this OCP to be completed. I think we're going to see a new streamlined development process in this community ... I think we've created much more of a certain environment and you know the past is the past and we've corrected a lot of the red tape issues that I think has plagued this community for a long time. And I think moving forward from this point forward you'll see developments happening in a much more streamlined way which is going to be great to see -- Mayor Lee Brain

The conversation exhausted after twenty-three  minutes, Council conducted its vote with a 4-2 scorecard on the OCP and zoning bylaws, moving the community towards this Councils vision of the future.

The full discussion and vote can be reviewed from the City's Video Archive starting at the 24 minute mark.

For more items of note on Monday's Council session see our Council Timeline Feature here.

A wider overview of past Council themes is available from our archive page.

A review of the OCP process can be explored further here.

No comments:

Post a Comment