Exactly what goes into shaping a community plan? Last year, District of Squamish Council and staff invited residents, businesses and community groups to identify, share and discuss their visions, issues and priorities for the future of Squamish over a series of activities including interviews, interactive events including a youth world café, questionnaires and workshops.
Now, as we get closer to sharing a Discussion Draft, two District of Squamish planners reflect on the excitement - and the challenges - of writing an Official Community Plan.
Sarah McJannet and Matt Gunn have spent the past six months dissecting the existing OCP and integrating public input from participants aged 8 to 80, along with many key plans and strategies developed in the last 5 years, in order to create draft policies for the Official Community Plan.
“We’re weaving together elements from the engagement events and pizza parties, community advisory committee review, and broader public to pull from the community’s collective expertise,” says McJannet. “It’s neat to see how all of the various plan aspects fit together as we ask ourselves, ‘How are we functioning as a community?’.”
Together, they surfaced five OCP goals that they feel best reflect current community concerns and interests: Resilient, Healthy, Connected, Livable, Engaged. The plan’s objectives and policies are all linked to these five core goals.
“I’m particularly focused on the Livable goal,” says Gunn. “People see that Squamish is growing, but they want to maintain its character. Our intent is to make sure Squamish remains livable in the face of this growth so that we still have a great place to live 25 years from now.”
The draft OCP also places more prominence on topics that were not a major focus of past plans, such as active transportation, health, equity and diverse employment opportunities to create a connected, supportive town where everyone can thrive.
According to Gunn, trying to balance multiple interests in a growing community has been a challenge.
“I’ve worked on a number of rural OCPs where things have remained more or less the same over time and people are happy with that,” says Gunn. “Planning in an environment, like Squamish, that is changing rapidly, is much more challenging.”
“Some of the problems we are facing are not easy to solve overnight, like lack of affordable housing or early childhood vulnerabilities,” says McJannet. “How can we adapt and make the most impact?”
Despite the challenges, both McJannet and Gunn agree that drafting an Official Community Plan comes with its share of rewards.
“It’s rewarding to be connected to the community through this process,” says McJannet. “There is work to do, but we’re aiming for a truly great community plan; one made in Squamish, by Squamish.”
“Everyone has an opinion and an interest in the development of this community,” says Gunn. “It’s meaningful to work on something that is so relevant to us all.”
The public launch of Phase 3 of the #Squamish2040 Official Community Plan (OCP) is coming soon with the introduction of the draft OCP, to be shared with the public for discussion. A series of opportunities to provide feedback through a public survey, event and 'pop-up' mobile engagement around town will be widely advertised.
For more information and to sign up for OCP project updates visit http://squamish.ca/ocp.
Squamish 2040 OCP Update By Numbers:
40 Interviews with Stakeholder Groups
350+ Attendees at the Phase 1 Public Event
701 Completed Questionnaires
80 Howe Sound Secondary School Students at the Youth Workshop
220 Residents participated in Phase 2 workshops and OCPizza Parties
631 People subscribed to receive OCP news
February 02, 2017