The village of Harrison Hot Springs will be developing a new plan for the community over the next year.
In council Monday night (Nov. 18), planning consultant Ken Cossey brought forward a plan to update the village’s Official Community Plan (OCP) in order to make sure it is still in line with Harrison’s long-term goals.
“The OCP should showcase the municipality, encourage investors to invest, visitors to visit, and non-residents to relocate,” Cossey said.
“Your OCP is 12 years old at this time, so there may be some new trends that may be developing and have not been captured in the old document,” he continued. “So it’s important to view an official community plan as a living, breathing document.”
The idea behind OCP is to create a planning tool that can help council’s move towards a long-term vision of their community. Although the recommendations in an OCP do not bind council to a particular decision — particularly when it comes to approving developments that are of a different zone than is suggested in the OCP — it helps provide a framework for the village.
In Harrison’s history, it has only had five OCPs. The first one was developed in 1964, with a second in 1979 and amendments added in 1985 and 1995.
The current OCP was adopted in 2007, and envisioned Harrison as a “high quality resort destination and residential community with a compact village centre and an emphasis on the natural and cultural environment.”
It also outlines 10 goals for the village: provide efficient and affordable public services, establish a pedestrian-oriented village centre, develop tourism and recreation features, protect views of the lake and mountains, protect air and water quality, promote compatible tourism and residential development, manage traffic and parking, provide a mix of housing types, restore and protect the Miami River, and reduce community greenhouse gas emissions.
Council voted unanimously to begin the process of revisiting the OCP, which will involve developing a “report card” to see how well Harrison has met its 10 goals.
First steps in the process will also include creating a “gap analysis” to see what tools Harrison is missing in its OCP, as well as looking at transportation and land use issues, doing an environmental review and a quality of life survey.
Councillor Gerry Palmer also requested that initial reports back to council on an updated OCP include the number of development variance permits that have been applied for by developers.
“I’m interested whether in fact anything is built in accordance with the OCP, or if pretty much everyone comes and says ‘I need a variance,’” Palmer said. “My own personal thought would be a successful OCP is one that requires minimum variances as opposed to constant variances.”
A significant part of the new OCP will centre around community consultation. Although there’s no definitive answer on what that will look like at this time, it could include open houses, surveys, town hall meetings and focus groups.
Cossey initially presented the OCP update with an ambitious one-year timeline, but several councillors suggested that it would be okay to extend the timeline longer.
Under the original one-year time frame, a draft bylaw would be developed in May 2020 and community consultation would begin in June 2020 and go until October 2020. The formal adoption process, which would include a public hearing, would begin in November 2020.