A local group has raised concerns about the City of Colwood’s draft official community plan (OCP), saying it could have a number of unintended consequences.
The newly-formed Colwood Community Stakeholder Association consists of more than 50 developers, stakeholders, residents and professionals. Formed in response to a growing number of concerns with the City’s draft official community plan, the group says it’s not the overall vision of the plan that’s in question, but the unintended consequences that could come along with it.
“One of the biggest things in this OCP document is the financial implications and the affordability. Every other municipality is struggling with affordability of housing. The unintended consequences [of the OCP] will increase the cost of housing, it will increase the tax rates on businesses, it will increase the tax rate on citizens,” said Dave Saunders, a member of the association, who made a presentation to council earlier this week.
“It is very clear from the professionals that I spoke to that if this OCP is adopted immediately the costs associated to all the new regulations in it will remove many segments of that young, that middle and that senior [population] from having an affordable house in Colwood.”
Saunders said the group wants to work co-operatively with the City, staff and citizens to ensure the document benefits everyone in the long-run.
Mark Holland, a member of the real estate development industry who has been hired by the association as a third party independent consultant to review the document, said the group wants to bring forward solutions about how the plan will be implemented. “We want to bring forward ideas about the how. The conversation isn’t about the what. Our discussion is about the how, so there are no unintended consequences.”
“This plan is the playbook for an entire industry, for future homes and businesses for the next 10 years. It’s appropriate for us to take the time to make sure this is right,” Holland said.
On Tuesday, council voted to host a special committee of the whole meeting in the coming weeks to allow members of the group to voice their opinions.
“Hopefully they [the association] can work together to articulate what their concerns are. We’re not going to slow the process down,” said Mayor Carol Hamilton, adding housing affordability is not something the municipality can control. “We’ve been busy with the OCP with timelines and consultants working with the public to bring all the information together and council needs to see a draft of changes so that we can put our stamp on it.”
But not all everyone was happy with the decision to host a special meeting. Some residents who spoke at Monday’s council meeting said special interest groups, including developers had equal chance to speak up about the plan during the year that consultations have been taking place.
“The proposed OCP timelines for input have been public for over a year. There were many avenues for input. What we have so far in the document is the desires and wills of over 1,300 Colwood stakeholders through their direct interactions,” said John Vincer, who was an original member of the OCP steering committee and noted the process should be transparent.
However, Saunders noted the groups’ past meetings have not happened behind closed doors and neither will the upcoming committee of the whole meeting, adding they want to be “fully transparent.”
The second draft of the OCP is expected to go to council in early February and the special committee of the whole meeting will take place shortly after.