By Jenna Jensen
The District of Sparwood is nearing completion of updating their Official Community Plan (OCP), a project that is hoped to be finished by March 2014. The process, which is three phased, consists of engaging the public through newsletters, feedback forms, community idea fairs and many discussions focusing on goals and ideas presented by residents to obtain a clear vision for Sparwood’s future. The OCP will outline principals, objectives and policies to guide Council’s decisions on everything from land use, community character, and other aspects that will assist to make the vision of Sparwood’s future a reality.
The latest form of public input, and one of the last items in phase two was obtained through ‘kitchen table conversations’. Over 190 participants of all ages and walks of life focused their discussions and thoughts on specific areas such as community, economy, housing and environment.
Some key feedback and points of focus heard from the kitchen table conversations were: developing a central community space accessible to all ages and available to host all types of events; expanding support systems for women, youth, seniors and the underemployed; creating a vibrant downtown; supporting recreation by improving trails; expanding outdoor opportunities and developing amenities near the river, including a four season campground; focusing on arts, culture and heritage; cultivating engaged citizens; supporting affordable and accessible housing; preserving a healthy environment; remaining welcoming and inviting to new residents; and supporting the local economy through commercial and industrial maintenance and development.
All feedback received from the kitchen table conversations, as well as all other public and stakeholder input formats held since the OCP process began will help inform the first draft of the OCP.
“It is really critical that the policies of the OCP reflect the interests of the community and the vision of its residents, because there is a legislative obligation for future decisions of Council to be consistent with those policies,” said Nelson Wight, manager of planning, District of Sparwood. “It is also important to remember that some of the feedback we have received calls for action from other levels of government and the private sector. In those cases, the OCP can include policies that support certain initiatives and actions from those organizations or private interests.
“To put it another way, the OCP will set out a vision and directions for what Sparwood could be like in the future, and it will take the whole community’s support and action in order to reach that vision.”
The steering committee for Sparwood’s OCP as well as District staff and Council have been working hard to ensure all ideas and thoughts are heard, and that goals for Sparwood’s future are presented with ideas and thoughts to aid in the completion of the vision to an actuality.
The final phase will consist of drafting the OCP, further review and feedback, concluding with a presentation to Council for adoption.