Council’s defining moment
The city council meeting on March 4 will give all of us a clear indication of the type of council we have. At that meeting they will show us their commitment to long-term planning or the lack thereof. They will be considering an amendment to the Official Community Plan.
The Official Community Plan is created to give council a framework as to how our city will develop. A lot of staff time and public input goes into the creation of the Official Community Plan. It is our roadmap to the future.
Previous councils, with the exception of the last council, have used the Official Community Plan as a guide in making their decisions on what is to be where. They have used it as a guide in rezoning properties to avoid us suffering from a bad decision in the future.
The previous council, and our current council, to date, have chosen to ignore the prudence of having a plan and following it. They appear to take the attitude that the plan was just an annoyance that could be disregarded at will.
The ironic part is that this plan is the one they approved a short time ago.
They did not have a problem with ignoring the official community plan until a group of citizens took them to the British Columbia Supreme Court to challenge a rezoning that conflicted with the Official Community Plan. The court upheld the contention of the citizens that any rezoning which did not conform to the Official Community Plan was not legal. Not only did the court determine that the city has acted outside of the law, they determined the city was sufficiently negligent in their duties that cost were also assessed to the city and paid to the citizens group. It was your tax dollars that paid for the costs billed by the law firm they hired to represent the city and the costs awarded to the citizens group.
The amendment to the Official Community Plan is to allow the rezoning of a property in the Haldi Road area to allow the operation of a rehabilitation facility known as the Women’s Recovery Center. The property in question is the former Haldi Lake School which had been sold and converted into a private residence with the changed to Rural Residential.
Our community is seriously short of rehabilitation facilities, like most other communities in the province.
The majority of citizens opposing the change to the Official Community Plan to allow rezoning for a rehabilitation facility are simply concerned that the introduction of an institutional facility will impact negatively on the rural characteristics of the area.
Out of this process a larger concern has arisen which should worry all of us.
We have an Official Community Plan which was developed with input from interested citizens as well as staff and council. Council approved the current official community plan a couple of years ago. The plan is revisited in detail every five years and again approved by the council.
When members of the current Council consider amending the Official Community Plan on an ad hoc basis, they also must consider the potential implications for the city.
If members of council feel they can casually change the plan on a whim, then the city is very likely going to find them in serious and expensive trouble in the future. If they choose to ignore the Official Community Plan, the plan is of no use and none of us can view our neighbourhoods as safe from the intrusion of unsuitable development.
Hopefully at the March 4 meeting, members of council will show the leadership and integrity we bargained for when went to the polls during the last municipal election.