Greetings, friends and neighbours,
[Note: the first sentence in paragraph 7 has been edited in response to a resident's comment]
It’s been 6 months since the municipal election, and we thought a recap of what’s happened since then might be helpful. This email includes information on:
· The re-focused OCP review process
· The Mayor’s OCP Advisory Committee
· A possible model for moving the OCP process forward
· Staff, MODUS and Councillor resignations
· A by-election on July 8
· Our new Director of Planning, Felice Mazzoni, and his thoughts for moving the OCP process forward
As you know, Peter Jones, running on a campaign of keeping North Saanich rural, was elected with a very sizeable margin over his two more pro-development opponents. (Jones received 2,226 votes to Nancy Borden’s 828 votes and Murray Weisenberger’s 698 votes.) During the previous Council’s term, in the face of significant dissatisfaction with how that Council was managing the OCP review process, we frequently heard Councillors (and a few letter writers) saying that the election would be our time to have our voices heard and that only then would we truly know what residents thought. Well, the voters spoke, clearly indicating what common sense and many surveys, including one by MODUS, tells us: people who chose to move to rural-residential North Saanich like it more or less the way it is, and the significant changes proposed by the Project Team and supported by most of the previous Council and some candidates, were not popular.
Mayor Jones, who promised in his campaign to pause the OCP review process and reset it, did just that upon being sworn in, supported by other more rural-minded Councillors who also won their seats handily.
A lot has been written on why the OCP process went so poorly in the previous Council term. While we won’t dwell on that here, we refer you to these two articles (among many) on the North Saanich Community Voices website for more information:
Other articles on this site by Alan Osborne and several on the Regional Growth Strategy are useful background reading that underpin the OCP discussions.
While Mayor Jones has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, due to issues around diplomacy and transparency, we appreciate that he is doing what he said he would do during the campaign, in course-correcting the OCP review process to reflect the community’s values and wishes more accurately. He set up a Mayor’s OCP Advisory Committee (MOCPAC) made up of community residents and some Councillors to advise him on how to move forward. The MOCPAC meetings are open to the public, and past meetings can be viewed on the district website here:
Unfortunately, a few likeminded supporters of the original OCP process have used the information vacuum to generate doubts about the MOCPAC initiative. Although some of their questions are valid, and shared by many (for example, when and how will the review progress?), we anticipate that most will fall away as the new plan emerges in the near future.
The Mayor has also set up working groups (including, full disclosure, some members of NSCV) which will soon begin their work on various sections of the OCP, and those recommendations will be brought to the Mayor and then to the rest of Council. Mr. Mazzoni, the new Director of Planning, has indicated that residents will be consulted along the way as well. Once Council has looked at them, they will be brought to the whole community for input.
Mayor Jones has appointed Councillor Sanjiv Shrivastava to be a common thread through all the working groups. His inclusion of the Regional Growth Strategy is a refreshing change from the OCP Project Team’s ignoring of it, and his focus on data-driven, evidence-based decision-making will be important as he helps to move this process forward.
The MOCPAC has identified and begun exploring a planning model, the Doughnut Economic model, that is being increasingly used by cities and smaller communities around the world, including Amsterdam, Nanaimo and North Cowichan. What is the Doughnut Economic model? Here is a brief description from the Doughnut Economics Action Lab website (https://doughnuteconomics.org/about-doughnut-economics):
“Think of it as a compass for human prosperity
in the 21st century, with the aim of meeting the needs of all people within the
means of the living planet.
The Doughnut consists of two concentric rings: a social foundation, to ensure that no one is left falling short on life’s essentials, and an ecological ceiling, to ensure that humanity does not collectively overshoot the planetary boundaries that protect Earth's life-supporting systems. Between these two sets of boundaries lies a doughnut-shaped space that is both ecologically safe and socially just: a space in which humanity can thrive.”
On February 20, 2023, MODUS Planning, Design and Engagement resigned from the OCP project.
As is common after new councils are sworn in, there have been a couple of resignations of senior staff. Carly Rimell, who led the OCP Project Team, resigned soon after the election, and more recently Brian Green, Director of Planning and another lead on the OCP Project Team, also resigned. This is normal after elections, and after seeing the re-focused rural vision this Council brings, it’s not surprising that two more pro-development planners have decided to find a better fit elsewhere. (For comparison, eight senior staffers resigned or retired during the previous Council’s term.)
You will probably have heard that Councillor Brett Smith resigned after calling the mayor “Mr. Hitler” during a Council meeting. There will be a by-election on July 8.
Our new Director of Planning, Felice Mazzoni, introduced himself to the MOCPAC at their meeting on April 18. Mr. Mazzoni has a lot of experience with rural communities, including as Director of Planning for Ucluelet, where he built two community plans, and has worked for other small municipalities and rural communities on policy development and planning.
Although on the job only since mid-April, he has quickly begun assessing the work done to date, perusing several OCPs from neighbouring communities and considering the newly arrived MODUS data.
Here are some of his remarks from the April 18 MOCPAC meeting on the OCP process (edited slightly for brevity):
“I think there’s a lot of great work that’s been done. That work needs to be validated, though.
I’ve been forwarded all the information from MODUS . . . I think there’s a great opportunity here in building this OCP and completing it in-house.
“I think we have the capacity . . . and the expertise to be able to do that and a lot of expertise to draw on, some great minds in this community and I think that’s especially important, and especially with some of the community organizations.
“So I expect to be resourcing individuals and community organizations a lot during this process.
It’s interesting when you have consultants doing OCP’s for communities – I was one of those consultants quite a while ago so I know what it’s like to come in and start building plans for communities and then some of them are going in the right direction and some of them go into the wrong direction.
“There’s always common ground, even with the most diverse opinions when it comes to Official Community Plans. . . I think we can build on that and we can move forward in this community, finish this OCP internally and resource the people who were involved with it to begin with, and a lot of people who will be involved with it going forward . . .
“I’ve been here a week. I’m going to be definitely putting my priority into filling another position in the planning department that’s sitting vacant right now that deals with policy planning so that will help me get this project done . . .”
Mr. Mazzoni indicated that the information received from MODUS would “certainly inform us as we move forward but not necessarily form the structure of what we are going to build in the future. I think there’s a lot of information, it just needs to be validated for this council and for the community. One of my priorities will be to draft a report to council very shortly on the plan on moving this OCP forward [emphasis added] so council can deliberate on it and make a decision including using that information from MODUS and basically getting a plan together and creating a communication plan around that and getting our messaging done so everybody knows what’s going on, create some transparency in the process.”
From Mr. Mazzoni's comments we are very hopeful that the OCP process going forward will be smooth, productive and transparent.
We hope this update has been useful, and we will continue to bring information to you from time to time. Please sign up, if you haven’t already, for the occasional email update. To do this, simply go to the NSCV website (https://www.nscv.ca). On the right-hand side of the homepage there is an e-mail sign-up button.