The president of the Sidney Community Association praises council for responding to concerns expressed by the public and various community groups about the review of Sidney’s Official Community Plan (OCP) spelling out future land uses.
“Council’s desire to adopt the OCP before summer should be tempered with the need for clear and comprehensive policies that will provide meaningful guidance regarding the future of Sidney as a community,” said Dennis Carlsen in a statement to Black Press Media after the municipality announced revisions to the draft plan following a special council meeting Thursday that lasted for nearly four-and-a-half hours and produced 20 resolutions.
“Staff are making a large number of substantial changes in an attempt to address the concerns that we heard through the public input, and the new draft will be presented to council on May 30,” said Coun. Peter Wainwright, who chairs the OCP review advisory committee.
It is not clear yet how the revisions will impact the timing of the OCP process. While council never set a firm deadline for the project, staff had identified June as a completion period. Sidney’s official press release does not point to a specific date. “Staff are working to prepare a revised draft OCP that will be presented to (council) in the coming weeks and made available to the public. Before (council) adopts the final OCP, the public will be invited to participate in the bylaw adoption process, which includes a public hearing.”
Four major categories of decisions stand out. The first concerns council’s resolution directing staff to remove the zoning designation of neighbourhood commercial policy area from the draft OCP. The draft had identified three areas in Sidney — Weiler Avenue West near Greenglade Road, Bowerbank Road near Malaview Avenue and an area at the north end of the existing neighbourhood commercial area on Resthaven Road at Malaview Avenue — as having potential for rezoning from residential use to neighbourhood commercial to supply services and amenities close to residents. While the draft OCP did not envision all lots in the policy areas for redevelopment as neighbourhood commercial, the concept of commercial services closer to residential areas lost whatever support it had around the council, with all councillors except Coun. Sara Duncan voting for its removal from the OCP.
Wainwright said council made that change after what he called “a lot of pushback” from the public. “It’s an interesting idea with some potential but the time is not right,” he said.
Sidney staff later confirmed that the removal of the neighborhood commercial policy areas from the draft does not affect existing neighbourhood commercial areas, including the site of the current site of Cedarwood Inn and Suites, the object of several, yet-to-materialize redevelopment proposals, the most recent one being a plan for a five-storey, 104-unit condominium building on Lochside Drive, with 36 family-oriented townhomes also on the site.
Conscious of concerns about the potential size and scope of any future project on the site, councillors unanimously passed a motion asking staff to provide additional guidance on the form and density of the Cedarwood Motel site.
Concerns about density, specifically its location, run throughout the revisions. They add up to fewer areas proposed to transition from neighbourhood residential to multi-unit residential and more policy permitting lower-density townhome-style development instead of larger three-to-four storey apartment style buildings in newly designated multi-unit residential areas, language which also impacts the Cedarwood neighbourhood.
Councillors also voted to exclude language that would have permitted ground floor residential and live/work uses in Sidney’s downtown core. But critics of density suffered a narrow setback when a motion to remove multi-unit residential designations in spots around West Sidney failed by a narrow 4-3 vote.
Council also called on staff to include language allowing for the future consideration of liveaboards and float homes as potential housing options in Sidney.
Overall, Wainwright said the new draft OCP adds some additional housing to the “substantial amount of additional density” already allowed under the OCP.
Several motions dealing with the environment also add up to an expansion of areas designated as environmentally sensitive areas along Sidney’s shoreline both south and north of the downtown core with some areas overlapping but subject to different rules to ensure clarity. Council also created an environmental sensitive area for Blue Herons. Council also asked staff to create more buffering between residential areas and Sidney’s central hub of marine activity around Harbour Road, while limiting industrial activity.
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