The vision of Vernon’s mayor and council will be present in the amended Official Community Plan (OCP).
Coun. Dalvir Nahal says now is the time to start having discussions about the future of development as the OCP is set to be amended in 2023. She put forward a notice of motion to council Monday, March 22, which was approved, asking that mayor and council be more involved in the planning process. After six-and-a-half years of pushing for this, a vision session will take place in October.
“This is not about us or the staff,” she said. “It’s about the public we are here to serve. It is about supporting one of the largest industries in our community, directly and indirectly, construction employs hundreds of people.”
Typically, Nahal said, city staff prepare the OCP and council approves it. But this doesn’t sit well with her.
“In the seven years that I’ve been on council, we’ve never really been asked what our vision is and whether or not the OCP aligns with that vision,” she said. “I have a fundamental problem with that.”
Nahal said the city needs to work with builders and developers to streamline processes, whether that’s pre-emptively rezoning parcels or amending bylaws relating to density and height.
“We have a moral obligation to ensure that our citizens find a safe and affordable place to live and in my opinion that can only be achieved with more inventory,” she said. “In order to attract inventory, we need to work with our builders and developers. In order to do that we need to ensure we are able to make the process quicker.”
The main issue Nahal said she’s heard from potential investors is the process takes too long — some between three or four years, she said.
She worries if the processes aren’t made more efficient and timely, developers may take their investments to neighbouring communities such as Armstrong, Coldstream or Kelowna, despite an increased cost.
She clarified she’s not looking to dissect the plan, but rather see more engagement from the public and stakeholders.
“My hope is we get lots of engagement, as it shows the public cares,” she said. “Our staff has put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the OCP, not to mention expertise and experience they come with.
But, at the end of the day, we are elected public servants, the face of the city, and we have a responsibility to our key stakeholders to ensure the building process is effective and efficient.”
Having OCP amendments every five to 10 years isn’t in line with the changing trends, she said, adding that some municipalities review them every year or two.
Coun. Kari Gares agrees.
“Not a full-on review, but a check-up. To make sure it still withstands whatever happens in the marketplace, in our community, in our region,” Gares said.
Coun. Akbal Mund called a yearly review, “a waste of time.”
City staff also said it can be very labour intensive.