The Nanaimo sign at Sway’ A’ Lana Lagoon at Maffeo Sutton Park. (News Bulletin file photo)

The Nanaimo sign at Sway’ A’ Lana Lagoon at Maffeo Sutton Park. (News Bulletin file photo)

Council sends Nanaimo’s city plan to public hearing

Councillors vote unanimously for first two readings of city plan, public hearing will be June 22

Nanaimo’s next city plan has now been placed on the table for the public to have a final look, and importantly, a final say.

City council, at a meeting Monday, May 30, unanimously passed first and second readings of a city plan bylaw so that the document can go to a public hearing June 22.

The city plan is, at its heart, Nanaimo’s new official community plan, but it also weaves in plans for parks, recreation and culture; transportation; active mobility; climate action and resiliency; and accessibility and inclusion. It will replace the existing OCP from 2008 as well as other guiding documents.

“I think this plan sets a good foundation for Nanaimo for a safe and livable city. I think it sets a foundation to meet our residents’ needs and also take care of the environment,” said Coun. Ben Geselbracht, adding that the city plan has attracted attention from other local governments for “its impressive ability to tie together all the different elements that make cities healthy and thrive.”

READ ALSO: City of Nanaimo’s draft official community plan now ready for review

The new OCP focuses the majority of the city’s future growth into seven urban centres linked by mobility corridors, with downtown as the stated primary urban centre.

“We are … looking at the majority of growth being absorbed in these centres and also, secondarily, the mobility corridors in between,” said Lisa Bhopalsingh, the city’s director of community development.

She noted that for areas outside urban centres and corridors, the anticipated growth intended in those neighbourhoods over the next 25 years “is very modest and gentle.”

The new OCP, according to a staff report, updates land designations to meet anticipated needs for residential, commercial, institutional and industrial land, with projections based on various housing and land inventory studies.

Neighbourhood plans “will continue to serve as key guiding documents to inform future development,” noted the report, and the city is also attaching to the OCP, as appendices, area plans for downtown, the south downtown waterfront, the hospital district, the Green Thumb Bowers District, and Sandstone.

Land use in the OCP will support the regional growth strategy, with the City of Nanaimo, and by extension its urban centres, expecting to absorb the majority of the Regional District of Nanaimo’s growth. Bhopalsingh said that ties into “economic integration and the development of strong employment centres.”

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The city plan is structured to align with Nanaimo’s doughnut economic framework and its emphasis on keeping within environmental limits while maintaining a social foundation. The staff report notes that the city plan’s green policies include measures around low-carbon energy use, land use linked to active transportation choices, and ecological protection.

Some other aspirations of the city plan include working government-to-government with Snuneymuxw First Nation on reconciliation outcomes; improving community wellness, accessibility and inclusion in parks, rec and culture plans; and strengthening the city’s focus on “social well-being outcomes” such as housing affordability and community safety.

Coun. Sheryl Armstrong expressed concern that safety, despite being a priority for citizens, isn’t sufficiently addressed in the city plan, though staff and other council members mentioned that community safety had indeed been brought forward as a primary goal.

“One of our desired outcomes is a high degree of perceived and actual public safety and security…” said Coun. Zeni Maartman. “I believe that this is something that is on our council lens.”

Armstrong also mentioned reservations around the process, saying OCPs in other municipalities tend to have community-led steering committees, whereas with Nanaimo’s city plan, “this has been council-driven, not community-driven.”

Coun. Don Bonner said he felt that while council led the process, it was nevertheless “community-driven,” and Coun. Ian Thorpe said even though council was “a bit too active” in driving the planning,” the “unprecedented” amount of public response made him feel better about the process.

Thorpe said he had some concerns about the plan’s framework, language and direction, and Mayor Leonard Krog compared the city plan to a budget process, where ultimately councillors will vote on the document as a whole.

Before that, the plan will be referred to the Agricultural Land Commission and other government agencies, and citizens are invited to provide further feedback leading up to the public hearing.

“This is your opportunity to make sure you come out, because if you don’t, your voice won’t be heard,” Armstrong said.

The city plan can be reviewed at this link, or for a lower-res version, at this link.

READ ALSO: Census shows Nanaimo is one of Canada’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas

EDITORIAL: We have a say in how our city of 100,000 grows

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