COVID-19 has caused some changes in public and stakeholder engagement that will delay the finalization of Pitt Meadows Official Community Plan (OCP).
Council will give a nod on Tuesday night as to how – given the pandemic – the city will proceed with the finals stages of consultation and approval for its OCP.
By mid-March, it became apparent that several more planned in-person consultation sessions couldn’t proceed, said Anne Berry, the city’s director of planning and development. Consequently, that has put off the council approval process – including a public hearing – that was expected to wrap up before the end of summer.
“The purpose of the engagement at this point in the OCP review is to consult with the public one final time before drafting the Official Community Plan bylaw for first reading, to determine if there were any lingering issues that needed to be addressed, and to provide a final check before the project entered into the bylaw stage,” Berry said of a process.
Although the community will have the chance to comment on the OCP during the public hearing, staff don’t feel that’s sufficient, Berry explained.
“Given the size of the project and the resources that have been dedicated to it, it is staff’s recommendation to consult with the community one final time, rather than be caught off guard by a new issue at the public hearing. Also, engagement helps to increase community buy-in for the policies and directions within the OCP, helping to facilitate future city projects and development proposals,” she said.
“Finally, it increases transparency of the process, giving the public greater confidence in the City, Council and the new OCP.”
Despite COVID, Berry said keeping the momentum going on this project is “imperative because so much work has been completed at this point.”
Therefore, at Tuesday night’s online meeting, councillors will be asked to ponder two alternatives that acknowledge the city’s inability – at this time – to hold large gatherings and the requirement to social distance.
Option 1 would assumes that some social distancing measures are still in place indefinitely, and that council still wants to complete the OCP review within the next few months.
In that case, Berry recommends the city continue with online engagement, and ensure what she calls “heavy promotion” through Facebook – but no in-person engagement. This option, Berry believes, can see council giving the OCP first reading by the end of June, with a public hearing at the end of September, and final adoption by the end of October.
Her second propopsed option would assume that social distancing measures will come to an end sometime this summer and that group gatherings will be permitted again.
“This option proposes a longer timeline, and it assumes that gatherings are permitted in the near future, and that there will be no further coronavirus outbreaks in the fall that would require social-distancing measures that would prevent all public gatherings,” Berry said.
In this case, staff would recommend an open house in mid-September, as well as a series of pop-up planning event used to augment online engagement. With this plan, first reading wouldn’t be given until the end of September, followed by a public hearing in early December and final approval in early January.
• Stay tuned for results of Tuesday night’s council vote
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