The City of Duncan will delay adopting its new official community plan likely until the middle of 2023 to allow for more public input.
Council made that decision at its meeting on Jan. 16 after staff made the recommendation.
Council gave the first two readings to the new OCP bylaw in August.
In a report, the city’s manager of planning Kyle Young said staff feel that there has not been enough public engagement for council to approve the new OCP at this time.
He said that while it is unknown why there was low public participation levels during the comprehensive review and update of the OCP that was conducted over an 18-month period from January 2021 to August 2022, the limited ability to hold in-person engagement activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic may have been a factor.
But Young said, based on observations of higher participation levels in OCP projects that were completed by other municipalities during the pandemic, limited in-person events is not the sole factor that led to low participation in Duncan.
“Another factor that can influence citizen interest in long-range community planning initiatives is whether or not there are controversial issues or projects occurring in the community or that are proposed to be addressed in the plan,” he said.
“For example, heightened citizen awareness triggered by a recent, contentious greenfield development, an approach to growth management, or new municipal service is likely to lead to a greater willingness to participate, particularly if those issues are immediately and tangibly impactful to those citizens. In the absence of this factor, long range plans like OCPs are perceived as innocuous and mundane and people are less motivated to be involved.”
Young said staff feel that while the public engagement approach that was adopted was appropriate and reasonable, there may be value in “checking in” again with the community to see if the city “got it right”.
“Importantly, if additional engagement is undertaken, offering in-person opportunities that were limited during parts of the pandemic will be essential,” he said.
But Young cautioned that delaying adoption of the OCP could create uncertainty in the development community because developers partially base their investment decisions on the policies in the OCP.
Council agreed to delay adopting the OCP and to hold three more public information sessions and contact community groups and organizations and invite them to gather feedback from their membership on core topics in the proposed new OCP, and encourage them to participate in the public information sessions.
Council also directed staff to request that the OCP advisory committee review the option of proceeding to public hearing prior to undertaking any further public engagement.
After consultations with the advisory committee, council decided at its meeting on Feb. 6 to amend the current OCP and replace the city’s current design and sustainability standards with the enhanced standards in the new OCP that will be applied to upcoming development applications until the new OCP is adopted.