New Sidney mayor prioritizes OCP, public input, affordable housing

After landslide, Cliff McNeil-Smith says first months will be routine, but influential

After a landslide victory, incoming Sidney mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said the first few months in office will be packed with routine, but influential business.

McNeil-Smith wants to start setting priorities for the 2019 budget process that staff have already begun to work on.

He also wants to get started on a review of Sidney’s Official Community Plan (OCP) that hasn’t been done in a decade. That includes visioning for the waterfront area, parks, the west side of Sidney, downtown, and more.

McNeil-Smith also wants to decide on an approach for affordable workforce housing, including “what and where and how the next affordable rental units become a reality.”

RELATED: Sidney mayoral candidates outline their vision

Enhanced community consultation was a major election promise for McNeil-Smith, who plans to look at the Town’s procedural bylaws and add opportunities for public questions during regular council meetings.

He also wants to create additional Town Hall-style meetings or meet-and-greets similar to those held by the local MLA and MP where residents hear updates and ask questions.

The Town is also seeking citizens for several committees, including the Advisory Planning Commission (APC), which gives recommendations on development proposals.

McNeil-Smith said he would like to re-examine the APC’s Terms of Reference, where prospective members must meet certain qualifications and experience. He did not want to speculate on what specific changes would be made, but would hope to complete that review in time to announce appointees by Dec. 3. The current APC’s term ends Dec. 31.

RELATED: McNeil-Smith ousts incumbent for Sidney mayor’s seat

The council will also make approximately 40 appointments to different committees and commissions at the inaugural meeting, consisting of the new councillors.

McNeil-Smith campaigned on placing a moratorium on five or six-storey buildings unless they contained a “significant community amenity” like affordable housing, which he called “taking a breath” until an OCP review is complete.

He said the mechanics of enacting such a moratorium were still in the works, but it could include councillors voting against such projects in the interim. He said this did not equal a pause or slowdown on development altogether, as most of the downtown already allows four-storey buildings. He wants to consult with the development community going forward.

The new council’s first meeting is Nov. 5.

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