What is an Official Community Plan?
An Official Community Plan is the highest level policy document for a municipality – it informs and guides how the community grows for the next 15+ years. The Official Community Plan is a bylaw adopted by Council that sets out the vision, objectives and policies that will guide the future growth and development of Dawson Creek. It integrates policies on land use, economic development, environmental stewardship, municipal services and infrastructure, transportation, protective services, community facilities and services to set out a clear path for elected officials and staff to follow. It’s like a roadmap for the City into the future!
What does an Official Community Plan do? What does it actually look like?
Dawson Creek’s Official Community Plan is a comprehensive document broken up into several chapters dealing with topics such as:
- Current and future land use types (i.e. residential, commercial, industrial).
- Future roads, water and sewer lines.
- Future parks and multi-use trails.
- Areas for future growth – residential, commercial, and industrial lands.
- How to deal with social issues, such as housing costs and an aging population.
- Protecting the creek and other environmental areas.
- Dealing with new development around flood zones.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Revitalizing the downtown core.
- Promoting and diversifying economic development.
One of the biggest parts of the Official Community Plan is the Land Use Map. This identifies what land uses we want to see and where they should be in the next 15 years. Usually things stay the same in established neighbourhoods, but sometimes we might want to change an area over time from Commercial to Residential for example, or maybe from Industrial to Commercial. Changes like that can be challenging for a City. People’s livelihoods can be tied to what land uses are permitted on their property. If we change land uses, it must be done carefully and with the bigger picture in mind.
What legal status does an Official Community Plan have?
All Official Community Plans are prepared under the authority of the Local Government Act. The Local Government Act describes an Official Community Plan as a comprehensive guiding document, primarily in relation to land use planning. The Local Government Act outlines required policy components (e.g. approximate location, amount and type of residential development to meet the community’s expected housing needs for the next five years) and optional components (e.g. policies relating to social well-being in the community). The City of Dawson Creek Official Community Plan contains both required and optional policy components, all of which help Dawson Creek move forward in areas where a local government can influence the overall quality of life of a community.
The Local Government Act also states that a local government is not obligated to undertake any project included in the Official Community Plan, or to retroactively amend existing bylaws. However, all of the City’s policies, plans, capital projects or bylaws created after adoption of its Official Community Plan must conform to it. For example, when Dawson Creek updates its current Zoning Bylaw, it should be made consistent with the Official Community Plan over time.
Why do we need an Official Community Plan?
An Official Community Plan guides every decision by Council and Staff so that they remain on track with what the community has said is important. That being said, an Official Community Plan does not commit or authorize a municipality to proceed with any project identified in the Plan. The Official Community Plan provides a regulatory framework to guide how the City evaluates and approves future development. It will provide clear direction for how Dawson Creek should grow in the coming years so that growth is well planned and supports the community’s vision for the future.
I thought we just did an Official Community Plan?! Why are we doing one again?
An Official Community Plan is considered a living document, meaning it can ebb and flow as a City grows and changes. While you don’t want to change an OCP too often, it is a good idea to check-in every 5 to 10 years to make sure everyone is happy with the direction that the City is moving towards and that the future vision established for the City is still relevant. You might remember the previous OCP review project. The background work was done between 2005 and 2009. Some of that background work was called the “Planning for People” project. That work was very sustainability focused, and the City won awards and national recognition for that process. The result of that process is the current Official Community Plan which was adopted in 2009, and can be found here: http://www.dawsoncreek.ca/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/bylaws/4042-Official-Community-Plan-Bylaw-Consolidated-Version.pdf.
Since that time, much has happened in Dawson Creek. Some key accomplishments for the City include the construction of the Kiwanis Centre for the Performing Arts and the Reclaimed Water Facility, the completion of the City’s Sure Water Campaign, the construction of 977 residential dwelling units, over $85 Million of commercial development and more than $54 Million of industrial development. In addition, a variety of new master plans, strategies and other policies have also been implemented. The City has also weathered an accelerated growth rate followed by an economic downturn, and now is seeing renewed growth in the community. All of these factors make it an ideal time for an update to the Community Plan in order to position Dawson Creek to be able to better plan for the future.
While there are many strong and relevant sections in our current OCP, it is evident that the document did not take into account the rapid growth of the City, as the Oil and Gas sector was only just starting to take off in Dawson Creek. Therefore, we think it is time to break open the books and see if there are sections in the current Official Community Plan that could use some tweaking. We want new growth to make sense and to make sure Dawson Creek stays a liveable community.
Who creates the Official Community Plan?
Our community does. Every person is asked to provide some input: City Council, City staff, First Nations, community groups, stakeholders, government agencies, children, seniors etc. Council will adopt an Official Community Plan that they believe best represents the interests and objectives of Dawson Creek as a whole.
Almost all cities in British Columbia have an Official Community Plan. Their time spans generally range from 15 years to 30 years.
We are calling this project Dawson Creek 2030. We picked the year 2030 because it is not too far away. Most people can picture themselves in 13 years, where they want to be, and what Dawson Creek should look like then. It’s harder to imagine yourself and your City in 20 or 30 years, especially when parts of Dawson Creek have already changed so much in the past 10 years.
I’m so confused! Why do city planners have to make everything so complicated?!
It’s OK! There are lots of strict Provincial laws about what an Official Community Plan must have in it and what it needs to do. Leave the legal language and the 100s of acronyms to us. What we want to know from the average person are your general thoughts on big picture questions like this:
- What will you be doing and what will be important to you in 15 years?
- What will you need from the City in order to succeed as the future you?
- What are your favourite things in Dawson Creek and what would make them even better?
- What are your least favourite things in Dawson Creek and what would make them better?
- In 15 years will you live in the same house, or will you need to be in a different type of house? Are there enough of those houses around now? Will there be enough in 2030?
- What should future residential development look like in general? Are you OK with the look of the new neighbourhoods in town now?
- What economic programs might help reduce the impacts of booms and busts in the oil and gas sector?
- What should future industrial development around town look like, and where should it go?
- Is it better to have trucks driving through town and support business, or have them go around town for improved safety, or is there something in-between that could work?
- How do we get the most out of a railway through the centre of town, without making residential neighbourhoods worse?
How can you get involved?
There are a number of ways to get involved. Visit www.dawsoncreek.ca/dawson-creek-2030 for a list of all our engagement events.
Who can I contact for more information?
Stay tuned to our website and the newspaper for opportunities to provide your input!
Dawson Creek 2030 – Get Involved!
If you have other questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.