Burnaby has launched its first comprehensive OCP review in 24 years
The current official community plan was approved in 1998. Now, Burnaby launched an OCP review that will guide the city in the coming decades.
Nearly a quarter-century after the current document was adopted, the City of Burnaby is launching its review of the official community plan (OCP).
The current OCP, which guides nearly all aspects of the city’s work, was adopted by the city in June 1998.
And there have been numerous changes in the city, the region, and beyond since that time, noted Carl Isaak, director of community planning, in a planning and development committee meeting last week.
“Globally, the rise of e-commerce and digital social network platforms have massively changed how we transact economically and interact socially with each other,” Isaak said.
“And how we get around our community has changed significantly. Since the current OCP was adopted, new SkyTrain rapid transit lines—the Millennium and Evergreen lines—have been constructed in the community.”
And that has impacted the rate of growth in the direct areas around those routes, Isaak said, also noting the impact of ride-sharing networks.
“The new OCP process will revisit the urban framework in this new context and evaluate whether any changes are needed to the framework to accommodate projected resident and job growth, and the infrastructure that supports our city,” Isaak said.
At least two years for OCP review
Isaak noted the minimum for the OCP review process is 24 months and estimated an overall timespan of two or three years before the new OCP is finalized. That means the process will take the city well beyond the upcoming election process.
A framework for the engagement process is expected in the next few months, and the city’s top planner, Ed Kozak, said council should expect to see staff getting a little creative about the process.
He said the OCP process gives residents an opportunity to “identify who they are and what the community is about.”
“It’s usually quite a fun exercise for the community, and so we’re hoping to spend that time engaging the community in new and innovative ways and perhaps using mediums we haven’t used in the past,” Kozak said.
“We’re exploring some traditional, of course, but also some untraditional ways of engaging the community, so there’s something to look forward to for everyone.”
In recent years, city officials have alluded to an overhaul of the OCP, but last week saw the first official report on it submitted to the committee planning committee.
The ‘new bible’ for city planning
An updated OCP was mentioned in the recently finalized housing and homelessness strategy, and the need for major updates to the OCP was among the recommendations of the mayor’s task force on community housing.
Legally, all cities are required to have an OCP—with the exception of Vancouver, which operates under the Vancouver Charter, separately from the Community Charter that regulates BC municipalities.
Under the Local Government Act, OCPs must include a wide span of information—essentially, the OCP is intended to prescribe approximate densities and locations of residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, recreational, and public utility land uses for at least five years.
Or, as committee chair Coun Pietro Calendino put it, it will be the “new bible for … us to know what we can do and what we cannot do and for the residents to expect how the city will evolve.”
The OCP also must include projections for major road, sewer, and water systems, and for public amenities and utilities. And it needs to include information on housing policies and on targets for greenhouse gas reductions.
But since cities’ main responsibilities revolve around land use, it’s the zoning, density, and housing policies that tend to get the most attention.
Documents to guide the OCP review
And there are a number of factors that go into that. Typically, a city doesn’t just have a community-wide plan.
In Burnaby, there are four town centre master plans, 11 urban villages, seven suburban multi-family areas, eight mixed-use areas, and six parks and conservation areas, each with its own plan.
Some of those plans are more recent than others, and others still are in the works—the city has been working on two urban villages (Lochdale and Bainbridge), with the intention of renewing all of them eventually.
And the city has several recent plans that will also be major guiding documents, including the Home housing and homelessness plan, the climate action framework and energy strategy, and the transportation plan.
In a parallel process, the city will also be undertaking a review of its zoning bylaw, which more directly governs land-use in the city.
What’s more, the city must take into account the regional growth strategy, as developed by Metro Vancouver. Metro 2050—an update to the 2011 Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping our Future plan—has guided regional development since 2019.
And that plan anticipates a million more people, 500,000 new homes, and 500,000 new jobs in the region over the next three decades.
Only time will tell how much of that will land in Burnaby, but much of it will depend on how the city plans for the coming years—and the OCP will be central to that.
“It is primarily a growth management tool,” said Kozak in last week’s committee meeting. “The zoning bylaw is really a tool that implements the vision in the OCP.”
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