Community engagement for Penticton’s Official Community Plan review included reaching out to families and children, like Thomas Dawson, encouraging participation in games involving planning and development. (Western News file photo)

Floods, fires and park controversy played a part of Penticton’s planning

New Official Community Plan projects less than one per cent growth

Floods, fires and a divisive controversy over leasing a park all played a part in the development of Penticton’s new official community plan.

After more than two years of work, the draft of the new OCP, designed to guide development in the city through to 2045 was presented at city council’s April 16 meeting.

Work on the plan started in February 2017 and special projects manager Ben Johnson said a lot of community engagement went into its development, referencing the requirements of the Local Government Act.

“It doesn’t talk about exactly what kind of detail we must engage the community, but I think we’ve gone above and beyond to this process to really get the voice of the community integrated into the plan to a guide to all our development in the years ahead,” said Johnson.

READ ALSO: ExpOCP kicks off with a packed house

The existing OCP is 18 years old, created in 2002 with a major update in 2006. Johnson said it was based on some assumptions about Penticton’s growth rate that didn’t come to pass.

“It was written to a time when Penticton was growing quite rapidly … at about two and a half per cent per year,” said Johnson, adding that the actual growth rate has been less than one per cent per year, so the community never reached the projected 45,000 residents.

“It was based on some very robust ideas, very ambitious ideas around growth. There’s a lot of talk of hillside development of very high-density residential development in the valley bottom,” said Johnson. Also, a lot of assumptions were made around our economy and what drives it.

“But it paid a bit less attention to some of the innovative industries. The viticulture sector has really emerged in the last few years; you won’t find mention of craft breweries, distilleries, that kind of thing in our old official Community Plan.”

In the new OCP, the growth rate is projected at about 0.65 per cent per year.

“We’ll have about 7,000 new people living in Penticton by 2046. And they’ll need about 4,500 new housing units,” said Johnson.

A growth plan is a fundamental component of an Official Community Plan according to Johnson, who also listed goals and policies in different areas like housing, transportation, natural environments, art and culture as other vital components.

READ ALSO: City to spend 18 months on new community plan

After the last two years of flooding and forest fires, the plan also looks at the environment and resilience as part of growth.

“Every year, there seems to be a number of months where we’re suffering through the smoke of wildfires. Flood is an ongoing reality for us,” said Johnson. “This speaks about how we can grow to mitigate those risks around hazards and threats, how we can minimize greenhouse gas emissions as a community, as a corporation, as a city.”

That also includes minimizing energy use, waste production and creating opportunities for organics diversion.

“And protect those natural areas around the city that so many of our citizens value,” said Johnson.

With the experience of the battle over leasing part of Skaha Lake Park, the OCP emphasizes the parks and recreation master plan.

“It really revolves around protecting our parklands within our city and finding new opportunities for parkland development as we grow as a city, protecting our natural areas and enhancing our trail network,” said Johnson.

Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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