New growth should not detract from the use and enjoyment of nearby properties or the community as a whole. This has been acknowledged in provisions to protect key quality of life factors (views and view corridors, sunlight access, village ambiance) that have been components of all our past OCPs.
By Scenery Slatter
What do I want for my neighbourhood for 2018? This question was recently posed to my neighbourhood group, the Ambleside and Dundarave Ratepayers’ Association (ADRA). For those not familiar with our organization, ADRA is run by a group of citizen volunteers. While our focus is the Ambleside and Dundarave neighbourhoods, our membership is open to all (see adrawestvan.ca). We strive to inform and involve our members so they may better influence important issues in their community. Our beautiful neighbourhoods and enviable quality of life is something we wish to maintain, enhance and share, not only for Ambleside and Dundarave, for all neighbourhoods.
To achieve this, we need an Official Community Plan (OCP) that reflects the vision and values of the community. An OCP that protects our quality of life as defined and prioritized by the community. A plan that clearly shows how our community will change as it develops and that will be respected and upheld in the spirit it was created. So what is quality of life? In the context of a neighbourhood, quality of life equates to satisfaction with neighbourhood features – the factors that make your home and neighbourhood enjoyable. These include but are not limited to: privacy, views, greenery, quietness, clean air and water, safety, transport, housing options, social life and community facilities and services.
New growth should not detract from the use and enjoyment of nearby properties or the community as a whole. This has been acknowledged in provisions to protect key quality of life factors (views and view corridors, sunlight access, village ambiance) that have been components of all our past Official Community Plans (OCPs). We believe most residents would like to see these provisions strengthened and earlier this year ADRA recommended a review of our past OCPs for context in this regard. However shortly after this recommendation, all of the historical OCP documents at the West Vancouver Library were disposed of. In our opinion, this was an unfortunate and (given that our OCP is currently being reviewed) poorly timed decision. Citizens must have a greater voice in what happens in their neighbourhoods, as well as a sense that their opinion matters.
If citizen input is truly valued, healthy public discourse must be encouraged and public access to relevant information must not be hampered or restricted. District officials need a clear understanding of what the community deems to be the most important quality of life factors. This requires an authentic public engagement process where outcomes have not been influenced or pre-determined.
It has been our experience that poorly planned development (including spot zoning) is one of the biggest threats to residents’ quality of life.
It has been our experience that poorly planned development (including spot zoning) is one of the biggest threats to residents’ quality of life. Too often development takes place without enough consideration to the impact it has on all of the factors that are important to our quality of life. Increasingly it seems some values are deemed a necessary casualty.
For example, privacy, preservation of views, neighbourhood character or traffic mitigation may be eclipsed or diminished in favour of more housing, accessibility, green building technology or public art. To be clear, in no way do we infer that any of these values are not important. However we must ensure that one priority or value does not come at the undue expense of another.
While this may seem like Solomon’s task, it is possible to attain. Done properly, an Official Community Plan should facilitate beneficial growth while minimizing negative impacts. District policies need to describe exactly how this will be achieved. For example, instead of the current practice of negotiating benefits on a development-by-development basis, important or desirable public amenities could be enshrined in the actual terms of development or rezoning. Proper planning can only result from a thorough, unbiased analysis of ALL realistic options for how the District might grow.
Lack of options can make the process unduly confrontational, as it tends to force a win/lose scenario with little opportunity for citizens to influence meaningful change or find agreeable alternatives. We all want to enjoy our neighbourhoods, now and in future years. Instead of wishing for positive change, we encourage citizens to make their values and priorities known and to actively advocate our elected officials to make quality of life a key, measurable goal of all plans and policies, including our Official Community Plan.
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