"OCPs are significant because, after their adoption, all bylaws and works undertaken by a council or board must be consistent with the plan."
B.C. Climate Action Toolkit
THE fractious state of the current City of North Vancouver council does not bode well for an easy resolution of the five immense tasks it has on its hands.
Even under normal circumstances, any one of the tasks might occupy council's attention for a year or more before the final votes, yea or nay. Now factor in: artificial or long-overdue deadlines; inadequate public process; undue pressure from external forces and/or a disturbing propensity for members of council to switch their votes from one meeting to the next.
These are the balls in the air:
- revision of the official community plan;
- rezoning of Harbourside properties to allow commercial/ residential use;
- rezoning of "surplus" school lands;
- renewal of the Harry Jerome recreation facilities;
- expansion of Port Metro Vancouver rail-lands.
I set the stage for this
column with the Climate Action group's phrase, ". . . all bylaws and works undertaken by a council or board must be consistent with the plan. . . ." because I believe it is closer to most residents' expectations for an OCP than vague definitions that speak of "visions" or "guidelines."
Currently in Stage Two of the city's OCP revision process, deliberations are on track to produce a final draft of the new document in January 2013.
Assuming it's a good fit with the preferred directions of council and with regional goals, it is reasonable to expect the plan will have been adopted by this time next year.
Moving forward from that optimism, and given that an OCP sets parameters for council decisions for the term of the document, it makes sense that significant planning and land-use changes should neither anticipate the new OCP, nor be decided in isolation without regard to municipal neighbours.
Enthusiastically or not, all North Shore councils signed on to Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy, which was adopted on July 29, 2011.
That document strengthened Metro's determination to preserve scarce industrial lands throughout the region by declaring, "Industrial areas are primarily intended for heavy and light industrial activities . . . residential uses are not intended." The strategy goes on to define "employment areas" which are "intended to support industrial activities" and to "complement the planned function of [nearby] urban centres. . . ."
Again, residential use is "not intended."
That leads us southward to the conflicted 13-year history of Harbourside planning. Like many of you, I have always believed the area adjacent to the Seaspan operation was zoned light-industrial; but according to historical OCP facts provided by Coun. Pam Bookham, that is incorrect. Well, kinda.
"Schedule A of the 2002 OCP shows the waterfront lots in Harbourside to be designated as Town Centre (mixed use)," Bookham explained.
But here is where the information confuses: Chapter 5, Land Use states, "A 1999 OCP amendment resulted in the development of the Harbourside Business Park.
Within the life of this plan, that site will be fully developed with light-industrial and commercial buildings. It is anticipated that, upon build-out, the city's total inventory of lightindustrial space will increase to approximately 420,000 square metres."
Yet today, the city's priceless, jobs-potential, economic asset is set to disappear under unrelenting pressure from Concert-Knightsbridge Properties who likely never had anything other than 370,000plus square feet of residential/ commercial use in their sights.
A mere few weeks ago, jubilation greeted finalization of an $8-billion federal shipbuilding contract for Seaspan, breathing life into a heritage, but sometimes-faltering, waterfront industry.
Both events are OCPfriendly game-changers, set to rejuvenate the city's socioeconomic landscape. So why is council even considering such a contentious land-use amendment right now? After all, the overarching OCP is under a revision due to be completed in 10 months.
Does the city have tacit approval from Metro in hand? If so, why?
Why did Port Metro back off its opposition? Was it to sweeten council's approach to its contentious Low Level Road rail-yard expansion?
Lastly, why did council flip-flop on its previous promise to strike an arm's length Harbourside task force, thus risking its reputation in the eyes of the people by sidelining community opinion in favour of a "public information" process led by the developers' own project facilitator?
City council cannot cover every square inch of its territory with high-density residential, expect other communities to provide the amenities and traffic corridors to support the increased population, and then look down its nose when its neighbours run short of cash.
North Shore residents - especially those in the city - are entitled to answers and to an unbiased, transparent process.
So far, they haven't received that, and unless something changes, council is buying itself nothing but grief.
Next week, the rest of the stories.