Three major proposals have set the Alberni Valley abuzz on social media in the past year: the Connect the Quays project, the City of Port Alberni’s purchase of the Somass Sawmill waterfront lands and San Group’s announcement that it intends to build a billion-dollar master-planned community around the Burde Street beaver ponds.
The City of Port Alberni has begun the official public engagement process for its Connect the Quays project, with an open house held last week concurrently with an online survey. The Somass Sawmill purchase and San Group proposal have yet to reach the point where formal public discussion is happening, although residents are welcome to share their opinions with city council at any time.
While these three projects or proposals have garnered the most attention, there is something else even more important that residents should consider: the city is going to revamp its Official Community Plan. An OCP comprises policies that guide long-term planning and land use management in a municipality. An OCP covers everything from transportation and utilities to housing, recreation and future land use.
An OCP paints a broad picture of what a municipality wants to look like, now and in the future, and informs how a local government can exercise its powers in land use decisions. Every bylaw that is passed, every decision on development has to be consistent with the OCP.
The last time the City of Port Alberni revamped its OCP was 14 years ago. A lot has happened since then. What do we as residents want to see happen in the city over the next 14 years? Higher density and more flexible housing choices? More recreational opportunities? Different industry?
We will have a say in what we want in the OCP. We will also have a say in what we don’t want to see end up in the OCP, keeping in mind it is a big-picture document and not a deny-this-specific-project document.
Input on the OCP and other proposals is also done a certain way, to ensure our voices are heard.
Ranting on Facebook may make you feel better, but it does not make your opinion official. The only way to make your voice count is by reaching out to city hall directly via e-mail, filling out a survey, speaking up at a council meeting or public hearing, or by old-fashioned letter.
— Alberni Valley News