I find the recent media activity surrounding the OCP to be mystifying. I had the privilege to represent the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce while serving as a member of the OCP Advisory Committee.
The process initially established two separate committees, one for individuals and one for organizations. I felt this was a constructive approach. The vocal individuals seem to be quite regressive in their opinion and dismissive the value of a strong local economy, while organizations would argue for enabling economic growth and ensuring that growth is properly managed with public input. Breaking into separate groups like this enabled collaborative dialogue and an opportunity to capture all opinions.
Then the process went off the rails. We lost the consultant and the head of the city’s planning department in the middle of the process. While the city staff did their best to put it back on track, the process floundered until a new consultant could be brought on board. The new consulting staff did a great job of moderating discussion, and eventually changed the process by consolidating the two advisory committees.
My original concerns were quickly proven true. The discussions devolved into broad statements of two sides protecting their philosophies, and spending very little time talking about land use and zoning.
Now we have a draft, in which I find myself agreeing with the vocal individuals. Little or none of our input was heard. There is little doubt that this process moved in three stages. The first stage (with the original consultant) was to sell us a new idea for community growth and development called magnets. The second stage (with city staff) was an effort to review maps and zoning and get public input on what should be done. The third stage (with the new consultant) was simple lip service. And the result is an OCP that hasn’t changed. A self-congratulatory document that says that all is well, keep doing what you are doing.
Suddenly the newspaper is filled with that vocal individuals’ voices crying foul because the new OCP is too favourable to business. You have got to be kidding me. There is one page in the entire document talking about economic development, defining our objectives to expand access to tourism vendors (artisans, food carts, etc.). To accomplish this goal … keep doing what we are doing.
Parksville needs an infusion of common sense. Parksville needs to hear from the people who understand that we must balance our focus on the environment with a focus on the economy. We need to hear from people who understand that our environment is protected by policies that encourage municipal density and growth, reducing our human footprint in the rural areas. We need to drown out the radical voice that calls for the destruction of our quality of life through an impoverishment of our citizens.