by LAURA KEIL
While it may appear as though local politics runs on a 3-year cycle, each municipality has a long-term planning document. It’s called an Official Community Plan (OCP).
Municipalities are encouraged to completely rewrite the plan at least every 10 years. Right now The Village of Valemount is in the midst of updating theirs – in a way that should give us pause.
According to the Province, the plan is “a statement of objectives and policies to guide decisions on planning and land use management, within the area covered by the plan, respecting the purposes of local government.”
It can include things like affordable housing policies, environmental management, and zoning. The existing Valemount OCP is roughly 30 pages long.
The current Mayor and Council have directed staff to update the document through a “housekeeping amendment.” In other words, tidying up a little bit here and there. In their view, the plan is largely still relevant from its last iteration 10 years ago.
I’m guessing Council didn’t really look at the document before asking for a housekeeping amendment.
In the April 11th Council agenda, staff presented the draft OCP to Council for first reading with proposed changes.
It’s pretty clear from scrolling through that this is not just a “housekeeping” amendment. Entire sections have been removed. They are proposing to remove nearly 3,000 words from a roughly 14,000-word document, and add another 2,000. Some 5,000 words will be changed, or 30 per cent of the document.
Is this housekeeping or avoiding public scrutiny?
One proposed addition is: “Major reviews of the Community Plan were completed in 1996 and in 2006. Since 2006 there has been little change in Valemount.”
The statement is followed by sweeping changes to the document, since it appears some things HAVE changed.
I’m not going to argue against these changes. They are absolutely needed. But to say these changes are housekeeping in nature, feels like bait and switch. It feels like Council doesn’t want to open up a can of worms, in other words, public consultation.
We’ve seen how this Council has operated since the last election – shutting public input when it doesn’t suit them.
While the previous Council held yearly Community Conversation town halls, this Mayor and Council are barely seen in public.
Instead of getting staff to drastically alter our key planning document behind closed doors, we need to put pressure on Council to reach out to the community for ideas and vision.
With the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and Valemount Glacier Destinations resort likely getting underway this year, new bike park trails infusing the town with new energy and new subdivisions underway, our long-term vision isn’t something we can do with a mop and a pail.