EDITORIAL: I’m down with the OCP

Northern Sentinel editor Cameron Orr discusses why he thinks it's time to update Kitimat's OCP.

When Kitimat Council rescinded the first reading of the proposed strata conversion bylaw, it was because there was a mix of expediency and confusion that no one was comfortable with.

The bylaw’s purpose was to stem the dropping vacancy rate and keep a rental stock available in Kitimat.

But its execution had councillors unsure, with others saying the process to have this done was going too fast.

By confusion, I mean it seemed there may have been other ways for council to set policy rather than through a strata conversion policy, but no one had time to really look at the options.

Being entirely shameless, I’ll refer to my August 14 editorial on this matter where I suggested that the Official Community Plan (OCP) could stand to get a refresher, since the current OCP says Kitimat doesn’t need new rental housing.

And that plan was written in 2008 anyway, so to expand on my August 14 point, what use is the 2008 plan if the town is in a radically different situation than it was?

There are a lot of policy questions council is looking at lately, from this strata conversion idea to what to do about workforce accommodations in town. Questions we didn’t have to think about in 2008, or didn’t think we had to.

Would an OCP have helped guide discussion on a strata conversion? I’d think so.

I’d anticipate a modern OCP for Kitimat would include, among other things, guiding policies on rental accommodations and other housing issues.

With each passing day I become more and more aware of the importance of the OCP. (During my first round in Kitimat as the paper’s reporter, I definitely didn’t have the context to understand why having a master plan really mattered.)

The town needs an official plan, which addresses modern needs.

We need to understand and prioritize the need for rental housing in the community, for during construction and for after as well.

Figure out pedestrian needs (ie, walkways) if we’re going to have a higher density of people for the time being.

And maybe figure out a list of legacies we’d like seen left behind once construction is over, whether it’s some sort of replenishing local trust fund for civic projects or an industrial contribution for locals to access the channel.

That’s why I think it’s time for a new OCP. Until we have one, most decisions will seemingly be made haphazardly with no eye on the prize, whatever the prize is.

 

Cameron Orr