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Suggestions offered for Victoria's vision

Jun 28 2012

Victoria's proposed new Official Community Plan received both praise and suggestions for change at a lengthy public hearing on Wednesday.

For more than three hours, residents lined up to speak to the plan - a statement of objectives and policies that provides a framework for community planning and land use - which envisions Victoria evolving into a more walkable community of neighbourhood centres.

"We would encourage council to take a look at the immediate need for an economic action plan in the downtown core," said Mike Miller, chairman of the Urban Development Institute of Victoria.

"An action plan that would look at streamlining approval processes and granting staff more authority with DPAs [development permit area applications], simply generating activity and achieving goals such as affordability by offering incentives that would draw businesses," Miller said.

Transportation was the main concern of Tracy James, president of the Burnside Gorge Community Association, who noted that six major roads pass through the neighbourhood.

"One of our significant concerns is that we are a 'pass through' neighbourhood in the current vision, and we'd really like to see that change in the longterm vision," she said.

The hearing was still underway at press time.

Mayor Dean Fortin said the extensive consultation that went into creating the document - more than 6,000 people were involved - had to be kept in mind when weighing the comments at the hearing.

"I'm hoping we can do the minor tweaks - but at the same time, I certainly wouldn't want one or two voices at the last minute overturning all the consultation work we've done over the past two years," Fortin said.

The OCP addresses issues such as land use, housing, major road and water systems, waste disposal, parks and schools, transportation and neighbourhood planning.

Victoria's plan was last updated more than 15 years ago.

The OCP predicts 20,000 people will move into the city and 10,600 new jobs will be created by 2041. About half of the new arrivals are expected to be housed in the downtown and Songhees, while 8,000 will find homes in strengthened town centres and large urban villages. Ten per cent will go to small urban villages.

Key features of the plan include the integration of housing and employment, expansion of the central business district, concentrating high-density development along Douglas and Blanshard streets, and giving priority to walkers, cyclists and those using B.C. Transit.

One of the central directions of the plan is to by 2041 have 90 per cent of the city's population living within a 400-metre walking distance of a village centre.

Fortin said the OCP sets the policy and direction of where Victoria is going over the next 30 years.

"It is a living document, but it is also a document that sets out with certainty where growth happens and how it happens," he said.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com