Trail residents will be hearing a lot about the “OCP” in the coming months, and they’ll even be asked to be part of it.
But what is an “OCP” and why is this on the city’s agenda, now?
In short, an OCP, or Official Community Plan, is a high level planning document outlining the vision, objectives and policies related to land use and growth over the long term (from five to 15+ years).
“An OCP serves as a guiding document to inform municipal decisions related to planning and land use management,” began Trail Mayor Lisa Pasin.
“And it is intended to be comprehensive in nature, including policies on land use, housing, transportation, infrastructure, recreation, heritage, greenhouse gas emission targets and sustainability.”
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Insight from citizenry is key for a renewed OCP because, down the line, its details will undoubtedly have impact on the community-at large.
For example, the OCP will designate land that can only to be used for parks or open space, and where properties can be commercially developed or remain for residential-use only.
So it is important for everyone to have their say in determining the guiding principles for new development in the coming years.
“Because an OCP is meant to represent the community’s vision, public consultation and input through the process is important so that the plan captures ‘who we are’ as a community and ‘where we want to go,’ or ‘who we want to be,’” says Pasin.
Stakeholder and public sessions will get underway in the fall, and will include a number of different methods by which residents can provide input.
“Review and refinement of the project schedule and consultation methodology is currently occurring,” said Pasin. “And will be communicated to the public to maximize the opportunity for engagement.”
But why is the OCP being undertaken now?
Pasin says updating the official plan was identified as one of council’s strategic priorities earlier this year.
“And while previous elected officials had certainly recognized the need to undertake the review,” she continued.
“The development and implementation of the Downtown Plan and the subsequent capital projects that were undertaken in the last five years or so, such as the Victoria Street Corridor project, pedestrian bridge, and Riverfront Centre, took priority.”
With those major undertakings now complete, council was able to dedicate the required resources to this project, recognizing that the development of an OCP for a city the size of Trail takes time, likely 12 months.
“And it requires a sizable investment, in terms of the contracted planning support, (which is) $100,000 phased over two years,” Pasin added. “As well as the dedication of staff resources to the project.”
Council officially launched the OCP process at the July 15 governance meeting by awarding a $95,000 contract to consulting firm, WSP Group Canada Ltd.
“In Trail’s case, we may not see much change in the actual OCP designations because we are a well-established community with limited opportunities for growth within our municipal boundaries,” explained Corporate Administrator Michelle McIssac. “Being constrained by the local topography and our location in the mountain valley, we don’t have vast land areas available for future development, and as such, we are not necessarily setting out the vision for where new residential or commercial areas should be established but may be moreso needing to focus on the revitalization and/or densification of our existing neighbourhoods.”
In early May, the city began seeking proposals from consultants with proven experience in land use planning and community sustainability, to undertake a comprehensive review and update the OCP, originally adopted in 2001.
“Intangible factors were also deemed to be important in advancing a preferred proponent … the reviewers placed considerable weight on experience, local knowledge and if there was a pre-existing relationship in terms of assessing ‘fit’ and how the consultants would work with city staff, council and stakeholders,” McIsaac noted.
“In this regard, the city has developed a long-standing and successful relationship with the WSP Group (formerly MMM Group), including the development of the Downtown Plan and the Victoria Street Corridor Improvement Project among others, which was a critical factor in the ranking process.”