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Decision halts southern region OCP

Split board stalls amended bylaw

Powell River Regional Board directors split the vote on a second reading of the southern region official community plan (OCP) bylaw at the Thursday, July 28 regional board meeting, stopping the process and negating the need for a public hearing.

Colin Palmer, board chair and Area C director, and Stan Gisborne, Area B director, representing the two areas incorporated into the OCP, voted against the reading, while directors Dave Murphy, Area D, and Patrick Brabazon, Area A, voted for the reading. City of Powell River directors Debbie Dee and Chris McNaughton did not have a vote in the issue.

Bylaw 454, 2011, underwent many changes between its first and second reading, too many as far as Palmer is concerned.

“I recommended that I feel there’s a lot of people in my area who really don’t understand what’s happening and there have been some major changes which they haven’t heard about,” said Palmer. “I’m just saying I want to call a halt to the process, so that people can really find out what is being proposed, rather than rushing to a public hearing at this time.”

The existing OCP is still in effect and the bylaw will now go back to the planning committee level. Palmer would like to see a proper communications plan outlined with any future bylaws that develop. He estimated that out of about 3,600 people who live in the affected areas, about 3,000 people don’t know anything about the bylaw.

“In the end, if they don’t respond,” said Palmer, “if they don’t care or if they don’t know, well at least we can say to them this time we really tried. We really made an effort.”

At the meeting, Brabazon expressed disappointment in Palmer’s take on the matter and did not understand why a public hearing would not be enough communication for south-of-town residents.

“If we do not continue there will be no hearing in August, probably won’t be one in September or October; it’ll be next spring maybe before an updated OCP,” he said. “I think that’s unfortunate.”

Murphy agreed. He said people do not attend the planning meetings and believes a public hearing is the best way to inform people.

“We’ve worked with the planning department, we’ve worked with our planners, we’ve smoothed out the math to make things right, in my view, and we were off to a public hearing,” said Murphy. “I don’t know where these people are that you say are out there that don’t know or are confused, but they never show up at any meetings. Where are they? And the only way I think that we’re going to hear from them is if we have a public hearing. Then you’re going to hear them.”

Gisborne said he wanted the bylaw struck down because it does not recognize existing businesses. At least 60 jobs have been created since the original OCP in 1993, he said, and some still exist in businesses on properties not designated as commercial. Under the new bylaw these properties would become non-compliant.

“I strongly urge you all to defeat this motion,” said Gisborne. “This draft OCP has already cost jobs. People are calling me and telling me that they’re not going to do any hiring until they have their property designated as commercial...We should be encouraging business and light industry, not designating them from the area.”

City council voted against supporting the bylaw on June 23.