Official community plans may get planning geeks excited, but they generally make for dry newspaper copy. That stated, it’s difficult to dismiss their importance to a community, especially to a city which hasn’t had its OCP updated for about 15 years.
It would be an exaggeration to suggest Parksville is at a crossroads in its future and the current debate over the draft OCP will affect life here forever. Still, the new document is out there, and it’s always better to effect change in a plan like this before it becomes law instead of fighting it tooth-and-nail every time a development comes before council.
It’s important to note that changes to the OCP, amendments, can be done on a case-by-case basis. All it takes is a majority vote of council for a development to proceed. That means a developer who has the time and money to go through a cumbersome process can build something that does not conform to the OCP, as long as he has enough votes on council.
That contributes to cynicism about the OCP process. Why all the money and staff time and consultants and fanfare to produce a document that can be changed at the whim of council?
As Mayor Chris Burger and others have explained, the OCP is an indicator of a community’s maturity and a sign to developers and others that a city has its, ahem, stuff together. It shows the city has a vision, guidelines and rules. Willy-nilly really isn’t a professional option.
So, Parksville now has a draft OCP, three years in the works and ready for public comment. There are fair arguments the timeline for public comment on this document is too tight, but (and we despise this saying, but it fits) it is what it is. Complaining about the timeline is time wasted at this point.
We urge Parksville residents to go to the library, City Hall or online to look at the document. Check out your neighbourhood and the business areas. Are there parts of the plan that look wonky to you and/or contrary to the way you see this city developing? Make your concerns known at open houses Feb. 26 and Feb. 28 at the civic centre or go to the city’s website and comment. Be there for the May 6 public hearing. Be specific in your input: “I don’t like it” just won’t cut it.
For their part, city staff and politicians need to be open to changing this draft before it becomes the law of the land. — Editorial by John Harding