I attended the public meeting at Vanway elementary school on Thursday January 10th, and after hearing the proponents, affected Haldi Road residents, and the general public speak to the proposed Official Community Plan (OCP) amendments to allow for a treatment and recovery centre for women with addictions, I am convinced that everyone who spoke understands and appreciates the need for a womens recovery centre.
The OCP is a policy document which provides the long term vision and desired future for the community. It usually covers a 15 to 25 year span with a review and or thorough revision done every three to five years. The City of Prince George recently completed an extensive revision of the OCP and all zoning bylaws. Both were recently adopted by City Council. Zoning bylaws provide a clear way of determining and separating incompatible land uses within urban and rural areas.
My views of this proposed land use situation is that the planning department at City Hall are taking the wrong approach by attempting to make correct an existing supreme court ruling of incompatible land use as described in the current Official Community Plan within a rural area. The City is allowing an application to amend the OCP and is introducing a new site specific zoning bylaw, which, if passed, would not only allow for this centre to be developed in the Haldi Road area, it would also open up rezoning potential in all areas of the City for similar development with the issue of density left to the discretion of city council. Site specific zoning works well if the majority of the stakeholders want that type of land use in that specific location. I recommend that City Council scrap the proposed OCP amendment and revisit the goals what exactly are we trying to accomplish?
Many speakers provided excellent solutions and ideas on how to best move forward in a collaborative manner to establish a womens recovery centre in Prince George. I hope City Council seriously considers their recommendations when deciding on whether or not to accept the proposed OCP amendment.
The proposal to locate the womens recovery centre at the Haldi Road vacant school is not endorsed by the residents who live there, it doesnt fit within existing OCP policy guidelines for rural areas, it is not compatible with the rural landscape and essential operation of the centre cannot be sustained by existing rural services, for example; proponents will need to double the size of the existing lagoon to meet waste water management and Northern Health standards and haul truck loads of water into the centre for 24/7 usage.
I am a strong believer that the more the City amends the OCP on a project-by project basis, the further we are from developing strong, healthy and sustainable communities. There has to be a more integrated and strategic approach to land use planning and development in order to provide certainty to developers and attract and retain our most valuable resource, people.