Editorial: Vision for the future

Official Community Plans seem to be a hot topic right now in the Okanagan

Official Community Plans seem to be a hot topic right now, at least for Penticton, Summerland and Peachland.

Penticton, of course, is in the midst of reviewing and updating it’s OCP. It’s the first time in 15 years an in-depth update has been done. In Summerland, the discussion isn’t so much about the OCP directly, as it is about a large-scale seniors development and competing visions of the community’s future.

Related: City to spend 18 months on new community plan

Peachland, which is also reviewing its OCP, is in a battle with a group of citizens over an attempt to amend the plan to allow for five-storey buildings along Beach Avenue, where the plan currently indicates three storeys as a maximum.

One side or another often try to hold up the community’s OCP as their argument for why something can’t be done. Much of the time, that comes from thinking about an OCP as some sort of binding, inflexible document laying out the rules. Unlike zoning bylaws, which specify the uses a piece of property can be put to — and can also be amended— an OCP all about setting out a vision for the future.

But over time, visions change. For example, It’s highly unlikely that back in 2002 when Penticton was developing the current OCP, planners had any clue of the changes the information revolution would bring to our communities.

The Local Government Act defines an OCP as “a statement of objectives and policies to guide decisions on planning and land use management.”

That doesn’t mean those objectives can’t change. An OCP might list a property as future parkland, but 10 years on, that may no longer be an appropriate objective. In Peachland’s case, a three-storey designation doesn’t mean future councils are forever held to that.

The City of Penticton is in the process of collecting community input on the OCP. Given the long-term nature of these documents, it’s important that everyone takes part in that discussion, so the language in the final document is both flexible and truly represents the desires of the community.

Related: Shaping the future of Penticton

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