by Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on Thursday Mar 23 2023
The ultimate vision for Nelson contained in an over-arching document is now undergoing an overhaul with the promise of community engagement.
The City is cracking open its Official Community Plan (OCP) for scrutiny over the next two years — and a hefty promise of community input — with the intent to rewrite and make the plan more reflective of Nelson as it stands today, with a nod to where it will be in 20 years.
“The past decade has brought about significant changes to Nelson, making it an important time to reconnect to the community and ensure that the guiding vision and policies in the OCP align with our collective vision for the city,” said Natalie Andrijancic, city senior planner, in her presentation to city council on the matter during its March 14 regular meeting.
“By updating the OCP, we can ensure that it accurately reflects Nelson's diverse needs, identify potential gaps and dynamic aspirations both now and in the future.”
Mandated by the Local Government Act to be updated every 10 years, the OCP serves as a blueprint for how Nelsonites intend to utilize their land and develop as a community over the next 15 to 20 years, she added.
“It outlines our collective path forward and establishes a basis for us to confront future obstacles and embrace new possibilities,” she pointed out. “It reflects what we care about and what we strive to achieve as a community.”
The OCP review process will use three lenses — equity, health, and climate lens — to focus the updated document as it migrates through five phases.
• Background studies and reports (January 2023 – July 2023): the process will begin with stakeholder interviews, background research and analysis to set the foundation for engagement and dialogue on directions;
• Develop vision (July 2023 – October 2023): the vision will be developed, specific topics will be explored, and key options and trade-offs discussed, starting with the public launch of the OCP review;
• Develop strategy (October 2023 – March 2024): key summary report will be reviewed and complete a best practice review to include in the OCP, including a review of the development permit areas;
• Draft plan (March 2024 - October 2024): the first draft of the OCP will be written, with an open house and online survey sharing elements of the draft OCP, with the option for revisions and edits;
• Finalize plan (October 2024 – January 2025): final public review and revision of the OCP based on public feedback, and a presentation of the OCP at a public hearing for final consideration by council.
Source: March 14 city council agenda
The OCP review is an opportunity for the community to participate in shaping the future of Nelson, said city planner Matt Kusiak.
“We want people to understand the level of influence that they have and what this document will actually do, and what this means to the community,” he said. “And, ultimately, the policies that are integrated and written into this plan will be reflected by the feedback that we hear from this engagement process.”
Towards that end an engagement strategy has been formulated to capture as broad of a view of Nelson as possible, involving a number of public open houses, strategic visioning and planning workshops, as well as focus group meetings and interviews with community stakeholder groups.
There will also be one-on-one conversations and public presentations.
The engagement strategy may also include:
• stakeholder workshops;
• an interactive and informative OCP website;
• social media posts;
• educational and informative videos;
• self-led activities/walking tours;
• youth-oriented activities;
• interactive public discussion/display boards;
• thought exchanges and surveys;
• community events; and
City staff have recommended the creation of an OCP advisory committee to ensure “that the new Official Community Plan reflects the community's values, aspirations, and priorities by having an advisory committee that is deeply involved in the review process.
“The OCP-AC will help to bridge the gap between the City and the community, promoting transparency and open communication. The committee will also play a vital role in engaging the community in the review process, promoting inclusivity, and ensuring that all voices are heard,” a report from Andrijancic read.
City council appointed councillors Jesse Woodward and Leslie Payne to the committee, as well as Mayor Janice Morrison.