Official Community Plan draft supports conservation of ‘spectacular natural environments’
North Cowichan public hearing into critical planning document set for next week
A public hearing into an updated Official Community Plan for North Cowichan that recognizes the importance of natural areas and forests is just around the corner.
Council last April unanimously approved first reading of the OCP bylaw — a blueprint for the community over the next 20 years — paving the way for the public hearing.
The draft OCP is a wide-ranging document covering issues such as growth management, housing mix and affordability, food security, the local economy, climate action, social justice and sustainable infrastructure.
The document pledges to conserve and regenerate natural areas and recognizes that North Cowichan's “unique communities are set in spectacular natural environments defined by forests, rivers, lakes, coastline and farmland.”
The OCP notes that the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve lies within the Coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone, which includes “a variety of rare ecosystems (e.g., Garry Oak meadows), as well as many provincially identified rare and endangered species.
“Much of the Coastal Douglas-Fir Zone has been destroyed, damaged, or fragmented over the past century by logging activity, urban, residential and agricultural development, along with the spread of invasive species such as Scotch Broom.
“As the human population continues to grow, the important older, second-growth forests that remain are at significant risk. The health of the Coastal Douglas-Fir Zone in this region depends on wise stewardship, conservation, and rehabilitation.”
After the public hearing is concluded, council will decide whether to proceed with the OCP as drafted or make changes before giving second and third readings to the bylaw and moving to adoption.
The OCP guides council and staff in budgeting, servicing, planning capital projects, and development approvals, and is used by residents and businesses as a reference for investment decisions, and by school districts and community organizations to guide facility planning and service delivery, the municipality says.
The OCP does not directly impact how land may be used, but subsequent bylaws and regulations must be consistent with the OCP.
Residents have two ways to comment at next week’s public hearing:
— On-line: Monday, July 18, 2 p.m. until at least 6 p.m.
— In-person: Tuesday, July 19, 2 p.m. until at least 6 p.m, at Cowichan Exhibition Park (live-streamed).
Further details: www.northcowichan.ca/OCP .
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— Larry Pynn, July 15, 2022