What is it all about? If you are confused, ret assured that you have lots of company. The Growth Containment Boundary and the Urban Containment Boundary are not the same thing.
The Growth Containment Boundary is a feature of the Regional District of Nanaimo Regional Growth strategy. This is an overall strategy that sets the goals for growth in the region over the next 20 years. It is not part of Qualicum Beach’s OCP—which has a five-year horizon. However, it happens to be in the same place as the Qualicum Beach OCP Urban Containment Boundary. Both boundaries represent the limits of certain types of concentrated development.
But it is critical to remember that they are two separate boundaries, and are features of the by-laws of two very different governments. Both bylaws say that the two boundaries have to be consistent. Generally this has been considered to mean they have to be in the same place, which is currently the case. This means that the RDN must move its Growth Containment Boundary before Qualicum Beach Council can move the Qualicum Beach Urban Containment Boundary.
In meetings throughout the late fall and winter, certain members of council have made it clear that this was not acceptable to them—that Qualicum Beach council needed the ability to amend its own Urban Containment Boundary without first having to request permission from the RDN.
So Qualicum Beach council is going to apply to the RDN to move the RDN’s Growth Containment Boundary to the same location as the Qualicum Beach Town Boundary. The result of this would be that the RDN boundary would no longer limit the types of changes Qualicum Beach council could make to its own Urban Containment Boundary if there was a need to do so.
The process for moving the RDN boundary is set out in the Regional Growth Strategy. If the change is a major amendment, it requires a complex set of studies (probably a couple of year’s worth). If the change is a minor amendment, it can be done with little fuss, but in order to qualify as a minor amendment it would have to flow from a “….full Electoral Area or Municipal Official Community Plan review process.”
This was the situation at the Public Information Meeting on March 4. The town called the meeting to discuss their proposal to apply to the RDN to move the RDN boundary so that Qualicum Beach council would have the ability in the future to make changes to our own OCP without RDN involvement.
In order that it would be considered by the RDN as a minor amendment, the meeting was described as “2014 OCP Review – Growth Containment Boundary.” The Background Report presented at the meeting stated:
“Growth Containment Boundaries are in the RGS and are under the jurisdiction of the Regional District of Nanaimo. The Urban Containment Boundary (UCB) is defined by the Town of Qualicum Beach Official Community Plan (OCP) and is under the jurisdiction of the Town. It is not currently being reviewed in the present OCP review.”
The meeting was completely about the RDN Growth Containment Boundary. It was not the “…full Municipal Official Community Plan review process” required by the Regional Growth Strategy.
A portion of our OCP called the Regional Context Statement currently affirms that the Regional Growth Containment Boundary and our own Urban Containment Boundary should be in the same place. Qualicum Beach council needs to initiate amendments to this Regional Context Statement before applying to the Regional District. I don’t believe this was made clear at the March 4 meeting. It is certainly not clear in the written material.
Nor was it made clear that this portion of our OCP is only a few months old, having been updated and re-affirmed by council (including the alignment of the two boundaries) and without consultation, in November 2013.
It now appears there may be a game-changer in the works. Recently a BC Supreme Court decision affirmed that the Township of Langley has precedence over the Greater Vancouver Regional District when it comes to land-use decisions. Councillor Willie believes it effectively renders the RDN policies null and void if they come into conflict with our own council decisions. But it’s not that simple. The two situations are not exactly parallel. Even BC Supreme Court decisions require interpretation when they are applied to other circumstances. We will have to wait and see what the impact is.
I believe the people of Qualicum Beach are not fundamentally opposed to changes to the OCP if they make sense, but I also believe that we should not amend the OCP in a piecemeal fashion as has been happening recently, and we should involve the people of Qualicum Beach to the same degree as when the OCP was last renewed. An OCP is supposed to be a guidance document that reflects the aspirations of the community, and directs the development of by-laws over a five-year horizon. It not simply a legal impediment that is to be fiddled with every time it becomes a little inconvenient.
If we are to amend the OCP, let’s do a complete review, and let’s get the people of Qualicum Beach involved. We are spending more time and effort haggling over not involving the public than we would if we simply moved forward with meaningful, and inclusive consultations.