New Official Community Plan in works

District to strategize with community before adopting planning policies

The District of Vanderhoof is reviewing its Official Community Plan (OCP).

A framework of long-term land use, planning and development policies in the community, the OCP is reviewed by the district every five or six years in accordance with provincial legislation.

“The OCP is sort of a road map of where we should go,” said Tom Clement, deputy administrator for the Town of Vanderhoof.

The latest review comes at a time when town council is forecasting a population surge of some 500 people in the coming years, campaigning for support to construct a $12-million aquatic facility and working with area industries, the provincial government, the school district and the College of New Caledonia to expand post-secondary education.

“It’s the idea of making Vanderhoof a livable place, attracting and retaining people,” Clement said about some of the town’s primary OCP policies.

“That certainly is going to be a challenge over the coming years.”

Beginning on Monday, Nov. 19, the town is holding three focus group workshops to gather and incorporate into the OCP the community’s values and ideas on environmental stewardship, sustainability, infrastructure, housing, economic development and social needs.

In the past seven to 10 years, an aging population has propelled senior’s housing to the forefront of the OCP’s list of potential infrastructure goals.

There is also a growing desire in the community to establish a modified transit system and develop land at the airport, explained Kerry Pateman, the district’s planner.

“We haven’t yet identified any specific needs that have to absolutely be in place in order for Vanderhoof to move forward in the next four or five years,” she said.

With growth imminent, town officials are assuring with relative certainty the availability of land for commercial and industrial development, as well as residential expansion.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” said Clement.

“We’re not in a bad financial position. We’re in a good position.”

According to the current OCP, published in 2009, residential expansion is to be generally confined to the district in order to “preserve the rural character of the area” and “maintain the viability of the agricultural sector” that surrounds Vanderhoof, an important food source for the region.

Pateman said infill policies, which encourage higher density development in areas where sidewalks, sewers and water services already exist, need to be looked at in greater detail as the district and the community strategize to adopt a new OCP.

“Spreading out costs more for this district. It really does,” said Pateman, who bases many of her planning decisions on environmental sustainability and smart growth principles.

“When you’re planning, your planning to look down the road, and you’re trying to be more sustainable too, both energy sustainability and making sure you’ve got food as well.”

In an effort to further hone the community’s values, opinions, priorities and personal beliefs, the district is offering an online survey, Surveymonkey.com/s/PGCMC69, consisting of questions related to the state, wellbeing and direction of the community.

For more information, or to register for the workshops, please contact District Planner Kerry Pateman at (778) 416-6998, or kpateman@shaw.ca.