When the Regional District of East Kootenay begins to gather information later this year for the development of official community plans for the Wilmer and Dry Gulch areas, RDEK Electoral Area G director Gerry Wilke said it’s important for residents to be active in any and all public consultations.
“With official community plans, it’s essential (that people get involved),” Wilke said. “That’s the best opportunity for the public to direct any concerns they have about the way their community is going to be planned.”
At the RDEK Board meeting on June 8, it was decided that the last two communities without community plans in the RDEK-governed Upper Columbia Valley should have ones implemented. Initial public consultations have the potential to begin this fall, following which the planning process will begin in earnest with an 18-month time frame before the plans are complete. Along the way, residents will have plenty of opportunities to have their say, with a variety of public meetings, surveys and questionnaires intended to gather public input available.
“The purpose is to set a long range vision for the communities,” said RDEK manager of planning and development services Andrew McLeod. “”It helps communities identify how they will grow and develop over time.”
The two communities have been developing under the Upper Columbia Valley Zoning bylaw for a number of years; however, these guidelines only serve to cater to present issues, without consideration of long-term development. One of the major catalysts for Dry Gulch in particular is the ongoing water supply issues in the community, and an official community plan is likely to help alleviate some of these issues.
“There are often a number of issues in every community the local government… can only really try and influence on behalf of the community, because the ultimate responsibility rests with other levels of government and organizations,” McLeod said.
Wilke said he’s been working to implement such plans ever since he became a director and feels that — since both areas are growing — a community plan is becoming more and more essential, stressing the importance of public input during the planning process.
“I just hope that the people will very much consider participating in the process,” Wilke said. “The greatest plans come out of the greatest participation, and I can’t emphasize that enough.”
Following an initial public consultation period, RDEK staff will begin work on the official plans, before returning them to the public to ensure that most, if not all, issues are dealt with effectively. Public input will be welcomed in nearly every aspect of the plans and Mcleod said further information will be provided to residents of those communities in the coming months.