Nanaimo has been reimagined with a new city plan.
At a meeting Monday, July 4, city council voted 6-2 to adopt a new city plan bylaw.
The city plan replaces the previous official community plan, and will also serve as the city’s master plan for parks, recreation and culture; transportation and mobility; climate action; and accessibility and inclusion.
The plan includes five city goals: resilient and regenerative ecosystems; equitable access and mobility; community well-being and livability; reconciliation, representation and inclusion; and a thriving and resilient economy. The city plan notes its framework is the “Nanaimo doughnut” – the city’s take on the doughnut economic model.
Coun. Erin Hemmens said the city plan has her enthusiastic support and pointed to the significant amount of public engagement that went into the plan’s development.
“It’s far from perfect, but it represents over 3,000 voices of Nanaimo residents and two and a half years of work of this council,” she said.
Coun. Zeni Maartman offered unequivocal support, saying the plan is focused on what Nanaimo wishes to achieve as a city.
“We’ve developed a wonderful, livable, green, economically prosperous, accessible, inclusive and welcoming plan for our city,” she said.
Coun. Ben Geselbracht also voiced full support and said he looks forward to seeing the action items that follow.
“I think what this plan will actually accomplish will be determined, really, by how willing we all are to put into place the actions that are required around these goals such as environmental sustainability, livability, safety, well-being and economic possibility,” he said.
The city plan bylaw also encountered opposition at the council table, however. Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said she has been opposed from the start to the process, which she said was “not community-driven,” and she said most of the citizens she’s heard from oppose the plan.
“We should have asked the question, do you believe in the doughnut economy, yes or no. The public wasn’t given that opportunity to answer that and I think that was very important,” Armstrong said.
The city plan’s doughnut economy framework also concerned Coun. Ian Thorpe, who said he doesn’t accept that framework and doesn’t think it should be the basis for a city plan. Thorpe noted that the plan expresses support for global environmental efforts and global social well-being and called it very idealistic.
“Which is fine to some extent, but this is not just imagining a perfect city 30 years in the future. This is meant to be our plan to move ahead, and to me, this as a plan is simply not realistic. It’s also very expensive,” he said.
Thorpe added that the plan isn’t overly friendly toward business or development and doesn’t have a sharp enough focus on crime and safety, and he said he has “really serious concerns” about the transportation plans.
Geselbracht rejected Thorpe’s argument about the city plan’s global lens and said the plan reflects input and consultation with local communities.
“I’m a little bit frustrated and angry with what I’m hearing today and I do not think it adequately reflects the hard work that went into this official community plan for the whole community, and I do think that it’s a lot of grandstanding that we’re hearing right now,” Geselbracht said.
Thorpe said the city plan should be deferred to the next city council to review, but did not make a motion to that effect.
Mayor Leonard Krog suggested that at its heart, the city plan is a reflection of citizens’ wishes to live in a city that’s a little more equitable and environmentally friendly, developed around urban centres with accessibility and ease of mobility.
“Let us not make this into something grander than it is,” Krog said. “It is a good city plan, it incorporates a lot of things … It is not a straitjacket. It is a statement of belief and hope.”
Thorpe and Armstrong voted against third reading and adoption of the city plan bylaw and Coun. Tyler Brown was absent.
The city plan can be viewed at this link.