Rossland city council heard the findings of the public engagement process for the city’s new Official Community Plan (OCP).
WSP planner Nola Kilmartin and consultation specialist Ingrid Liepa unveiled the Official Community Plan update in a 90-minute presentation to council at the Aug. 9 governance and operations committee meeting.
The project is moving into Phase 4 of 6, and the consultation process or ‘What we heard’ part of the report indicated a robust response from the community.
Due to the pandemic, the community engagement looked a lot different than it did in 2008.
The consultation process was largely done online instead of in-person and asked residents to help shape the 2021 OCP using a variety of tools, including public surveys, stakeholder focus groups, background information, a conversation guide, idea fairs and Advisory Council workshops.
The Rossland public surveys generated a total of 1,173 respondents, 335 for Phase 2 preliminary survey, and 838 for Phase 3 surveys on Growth, Affordability and Housing; Environment, Transportation, and Climate; and Recreation, Arts, Culture, and Heritage.
Rossland received a response rate of 29 per cent, which was comparatively much better than other communities such as Ucluelet 20 per cent, Squamish seven per cent, and Kelowna 2.3 per cent.
The surveys broke down the main concerns for residents, identifying the challenges and opportunities, in particular the increasing impact of climate change, water and food security, affordable housing and air quality.
“There is a growing consensus that we may have entered an unprecedented new climate reality that has ramifications for all four of these basic necessities,” said Lipien. “We may be looking at the beginning of shocks and disruptions I think this really underscores this moment in time around updating this official community plan, preparing a document that could support Rosslanders in what could be a decade of considerable change and disruption around us.”
The report also included the community-vision priorities based on public feedback and a desire to adapt and adopt Rossland’s future goals.
Tweaking Rossland’s vision for the future identified a variety of new concerns, including climate change, becoming net-zero by 2050, environmental protection, embracing diversity, community health and well-being, affordable housing, family-friendly community, recognizing indigenous history and reconciliation, accessibility, and localization.
WSP also engaged council in providing feedback of their own, answering questions and prioritizing topics in respect to future changes.
The first of 10 “Goal Statements” was on Managing Growth, and the question: “What would you change, or add to improve this goal?”
Council spent almost an hour sharing their thoughts and observations on the very broad yet contentious issue of growth and how to apply it in the OCP.
“There is no question for me that the community is at the tipping point right now,” said Coun. Andy Morel. “I have had a number of people come to me and say, ‘We’re fine the way it is, we don’t want to see a lot more growth in the community.’
“The comment, ‘We don’t want to see Rossland turn into a Whistler,’ that came through many times. To find that balance between growth and sustainability, it’s hard to measure really what is the priority here.”
Coun. Janice Nightingale concurred saying: “I think what we want to try and do is find a growth that attracts full-time residents that will stay with us long term not develop a bunch of houses that will be dark for half the year or turn into Air B&Bs.
“Again it’s that community-based versus having the focus of our growth be resort-based or tourism-based.”
Kilmartin pointed out that growth and economic development can also come in other forms such as light industrial, like indoor food production, and that there are tools available, such as down-zoning that council and city staff could consider.
“This discussion opened up a big can of worms, important worms, but this is a very large topic on its own. Outside of the OCP, these are very large challenges you face,” said Kilmartin.
The WSP presentation’s time came to an end with more questions remaining.
Council agreed to respond to the rest of the questions via email before adjourning.
Residents can access the OCP update in the Aug. 9 agenda package at rossland.ca.