The document that will guide growth and development in Sicamous over the coming years is one step closer to completion.
Last week, municipal council gave first reading to the community’s new official community plan. With that, it will be sent out to neighbouring local governments and government agencies for comment. Following any necessary revision, the OCP will come back to council for second reading, and then proceed to a public hearing, possibly around the end of September.
The revised OCP has been a made-in-Sicamous effort, hammered out by a mix of Sicamous residents/businesses and/or property owners in partnership with local government.
Deb Heap is one of the Sicamous residents who volunteered to take a lead in the OCP review process when it was initiated by council in 2015. Heap says she is pleased overall with the resulting document, which was borne from significant public input.
“Is it perfect? No. Is it really good? Yes!” said Heap. “And is it a good start? Absolutely. And will it be a living document going forward and will there be revisions to deal with things we might not have got? You bet. But I think it was critical we got this going right away as opposed to naval gazing for two or three years trying to come up with the perfect OCP.”
A notable difference from the document being replaced is that the proposed OCP – intended to be a visionary document for a community’s future – actually has a vision.
“The vision was actually not even in the OCP, it was in the growth management strategy, and it was kind of like you’ve got a document with no vision and no guiding principles,” said Heap. “So what we did was we made the vision right up front, first page, and the guiding principles right up front. Then what we did was we took those guiding principles and made sure they were constantly re-iterated and threaded through the whole document so it was completely clear what our priorities were throughout.”
The vision: “Sicamous is a thriving, diverse and beautiful four season community nestled in the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains, lakes and rivers. The community is the centre of recreation in the Shuswap and offers a unique and attractive place to live, work and play.”
The draft OCP notes the the purpose of this statement is to identify key aspects residents, business owners and visitors value most – an overall idea of community identity and goals for growth and development.
This vision is followed by a set of guiding principles or priorities for the community. These include, along with economic development and diversification, a focus on town centre revitalization, community beautification and age diversification.
“We’ve taken a little bit different approach on this whole idea of the age friendly thing and instead of it being seniors friendly, age friendly – all those things are going on in the background, but as part of the OCP we’re focusing on age diversity and making it a great town for everybody,” said Heap.
Connectivity is also a major focus. This, Heap explains, isn’t just about roads, but corridors and pathways that accommodate all forms of travel/transportation.
“We really looked at it from how do we get around town… and how do we improve access for everybody to what you would call community landmarks. That would include parks, schools, water – water is a big one,” said Heap. “Public access, public connectivity, everybody in town being able to get around easily with pathways and just kind of improving people’s access to things they want to do in town.”
The proposed OCP also addresses the appearance of future growth and development, veering away somewhat from what Heap describes as “kind of an ocean nautical theme.” She says with the new OCP, the community would have “character areas.” The town centre, for example, would have a lakeside nautical theme guide the general appearance of the area.
“It’s not that it’s really prescriptive, but basically you’re giving people an idea of the feel you want in these different town-centred character areas,” said Heap, adding a similar approach is in the OCP for “gateway areas” such as the future roundabout that will direct traffic into town.
Sicamous residents can view the latest draft of the OCP on the district’s website (in the Aug. 10 council agenda).