Tuesday 16 November 2021

The OCP - A Tough Decision

 The OCP Review - Another Turning Point 

A Tough Decision but Easier Than It Looks! 

            I believe, as do many in the Municipality, that the OCP Review has developed into a series of disappointments.  The upshot of these has been an unfortunate but progressive erosion of trust by the residents in the management and prosecution of this Review. 

            These disappointments have arisen in spite of a very auspicious beginning with the Staff Report of 2 March 2020.  This substantial and excellent report by Carly Rimell, entitled The Official Community Plan Review - Scope and Proposed Approach, was enthusiastically received by Mayor and Council on 9 March 2020.  The report, which was adopted without modification, was very comprehensive and listed 20 Topics/Issues to be considered in the Review.  Within these were 47 sub-topics.  So far, 42 of these remain unaddressed, while two of them have consumed most of the Project budget and effort to date (report available). 

            Flowing from this Staff Report was the consultant RFP, the consultant selection and the High-Level Work Plan Engagement Strategy report of 14 September 2020.  References to the Topic/Issues are found in the first two documents, are slightly referenced in the third then all but disappear as the Project moves along.  

Council chose not to create any opportunities for review or revision of the Review process until 12 July 2021.  By then the guidance offered in the March 2020 report was all but abandoned in favour of the obsessive focus on the Six Big Concepts.

            As early as the fall of 2020, residents became concerned about the project direction.  These concerns became ever stronger but were all deflected until the post-rally meeting in July 2021. 

            My disappointment stems mainly from two concerns: 

  1. That the Council directive of 9 March 2020 to proceed with the RFP and other initiatives "based upon the content of the [Staff] report" was not followed.  The Project Team chose to ignore a specific Council resolution to follow a different path.  This noncompliance was never questioned.
  2. That the concerns of the residents were routinely forwarded to the Project Team and lay dormant until 12 July 2021.  Citizen concerns may have been “listened to” but rarely received a response. 

    We are all clients of the Project Team who are working for us at our expense.  Mayor and Council are their direct supervisors and are the agents of the residents in directing the work of the Project Team.  As such, the Mayor and Council should have received, assessed and responded to our concerns as they arose, rather than allowing the PT to assess their own work often months after the fact.

I don't believe that the Project Team has followed the initial conceptual and specific directions "based upon the content of the [Staff] report” of March 2020 that was endorsed by Council.  

Furthermore, the course that has been chosen, i.e., selective urbanization to the almost complete exclusion of other OCP Review priorities, has increasingly angered many residents.  There has only been slight recognition of this by Mayor and Council. 

It is worth repeating yet again that in an early Urgent Priorities survey by the Project Team, only 8% of the respondents consider housing to be an urgent priority but they rated four other topics more highly, 63% in aggregate.  Recently, a PT summary of correspondence revealed that only 5% of those respondents were in favour of the Review process to that point.  Yes, 5%!  These remarkable statistics have been all but ignored by the PT and our representatives. 

Another major turning point in this Project will be encountered on 22 November 2021. 

In the Council meeting of 18 October 2021, it was established that the remaining term of the current Council is not sufficient to complete the OCP Review as planned.  It was suggested that work continue until a draft OCP is complete.  This would then be held in abeyance for action by the next Council. 

For a variety of reasons, I do not feel that this course is supportable: 

  1. After over a year this Project is so far removed from the aspirations and specific directions given by Council in March 2020 that continuation could be considered reckless:
    1. only 8% considered the chosen priority to be important; only 5% are content with the work to date
    2. 42 of 47 initial OCP Review targets remain substantially unaddressed after over one year of work
    3. there is considerable uncertainty as to the basis for the intense urbanization focus (actual housing needs vs. existing supply, RGS/RCS considerations, UC Boundary, role of the District within the CRD, inappropriate use of the Complete Community concept, etc.)
  2. Given that there is insufficient time remaining to complete this Review, continuation could again be considered reckless:
    1. this Council should not in good faith commit further funds, resources, staff and community time to a project that they know will be completed by others, perhaps with different priorities
    2. this Council cannot presuppose how the next Council will consider a draft OCP which they had no hand in preparing; the next Council could well decide to reject all or part of the work and the costs associated with it
    3. if this Council cannot complete this project in the time available, then they cannot create obligations for a future Council

Thus, the situation as outlined above leaves Council with only one viable choice on 22 November 2021, but not entirely a bad one: 

1.       Receive the OCP Review Staff Reports as planned but “for information only”

2.       terminate further work on the OCP Review but to be resumed by the next Council

3.       file, safeguard and store the data and reports generated to date 

This choice has the advantages of :

§  regaining the trust and support of the community

§  avoiding the further entrenchment of a flawed process

§  eliminating further costs of uncertain value

§  reducing the stress and anxiety for all parties involved

§  not creating, at substantial cost, unreasonable obligations for the next Council


I hope this perspective is helpful in your deliberations.

Spring Harrison, North Saanich