Ladysmith town council had a chance to ask questions and provide direction to consultants for the town’s Official Community Plan (OCP) review at its March 1 meeting.
Jennifer Fix and Lucas Onzols-Mongeau, from ahn Studio, provided a delegation to council and an update on the consulting work and drafting they have done so far. The consultants have conducted both broad and focused engagement with community members to help guide the OCP’s themes and vision, according to Onzols-Mongeau.
Emerging themes included: importance of the waterfront and natural areas; value of arts and culture; housing affordability and the relationship between the town and Stz’uminus First Nation.
“We have done our best to synthesize those themes and reflect back what we have heard and learned so far from the community in the form of a vision,” Onzols-Mongeau said.
A draft vision for the OCP reads, “Ladysmith is located in the traditional territory of the Stz’uminus First Nation, who have been stewards of the land since Time Immemorial. Ladysmith is unparalleled in its charm, big heartedness, and leadership in climate action. Ladysmith is known for its charismatic waterfront and energetic downtown, surrounded by cherished habitat areas that offer recreation, natural beauty, critical ecological services, and economic prosperity. Everyone is welcome here.”
Coun. Rob Johnson was critical of the vision statement — he said it is too general and “could apply to any place,” adding he would like to see more specific details.
Mayor Aaron Stone said the vision statement is by nature broad and overarching and specifics will be explored at greater depth further into the official document. He said he would like to see mention of the town’s heritage added to the statement.
Onzols-Mongeau said the vision reflects input received from community members and will still be refined, based on continued community engagement and council direction.
Emerging goals for the OCP include: reducing community greenhouse gas emissions; adapting to climate change; reconciliation; green transportation and making Ladysmith a place where people can access affordable housing and services. Also included is a goal to grow in population to over 10,100, without growing the town’s physical footprint, in the lifetime of the OCP.
Coun. Duck Paterson questioned how the plan will balance the need to densify, while keeping Ladysmith’s small-town.
“There are fewer planning issues that can be more divisive than infill and neighbourhood change. I respect that is something you are thinking about,” Fix said. “We are not looking at a complete overhaul of Ladysmith’s look and feel over the life of this OCP.”
She said growth projections in the next 30 years are modest and described diversification plans as providing “gentle density,” meaning duplexes, small apartments and detached dwellings.
“It’s really making sure that infill density is really complimentary to what is existing and making it be an ‘add to’, not ‘take away from,’” Stone said. He added the feedback on consultation so far made him feel the community is aware of the value of natural assets and recognizes the value of density in the downtown core.
Coun. Tricia McKay said it is important to make neighbourhoods walkable and community planning needs to be linked to active transportation.
Next steps for the OCP review include seeking community input on the draft vision, goals and growth scenarios. The document is set to be drafted in winter and spring this year. Community input on the draft plan will be sought in early summer.
The existing Ladysmith OCP is more than 15 years old and OCPs are typically updated around every 10 years.