OCP process engages Toby Benches community

Toby Benches is about to receive an Official Community Plan of its own, which will replace the oldest Land Use Strategy in RDEK.

Toby Benches is about to receive an Official Community Plan of its own, which will replace the oldest Land Use Strategy in the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK).

The Toby Benches Land Use Strategy has been in use since 1998 (for 17 years), even though strategies are supposed to be converted to OCPs after a maximum of 15 years.

RDEK planner Kris Belanger said an OCP is an important step forward for any community.

“It is a chance to check in with the community and make sure that their values and vision for the future are being reflected in their land use policies,” Belanger said.

The main difference between an OCP and a Land Use Strategy is OCPs are adopted through bylaw, which gives them more authority. OCPs also typically provide more comprehensive rules for

land use.

“It is an overarching document that guides any development and the future of land use in the area,” said RDEK Area G director Gerry Wilkie.

So far, residents in the 134-home community have been invited to three meetings to help shape the OCP.

Belanger said he has been very impressed with the turnout at the meetings, which included 50 people attending the first one in March.

“For such a small area, it is really a testament to how engaged the residents are,” Belanger said. “It has been fun and exciting working with them.”

In June, the RDEK held a visioning workshop where residents could discuss and refine policies that had been prepared after the first meeting.

Belanger also attended the Toby Benches Society’s Annual General Meeting in July, where he was able to learn more about what residents want in an OCP.

“It was a nice way to have a few candid and informal conversations about people’s concerns,” Belanger said.

The meetings have helped the RDEK establish four categories for Toby Benches area assets: environmental, recreational, cultural and public safety. Belanger said the next step is to present a draft of the OCP by early winter.

“We will then go back to the community and have an open house to gather feedback,” Belanger said. “We will also be sending the draft to a number of provincial ministries and First Nations for their feedback.”

Depending on the extent of the revisions that are required, Belanger said the OCP should be ready for adoption in the first half of 2016.

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