North Saanich has officially restarted work on drafting a new Official Community Plan after a previous attempt at the process was halted following the 2022 municipal elections.
Council approved three motions made by Mayor Peter Jones on Monday (Jan. 30) directing staff to resume work on the OCP draft based on the work already undertaken by consulting firm MODUS under the previous effort, incorporate future work by the newly minted Mayors OCP Committees in the new draft before returning it to council, and to disband the previously established OCP Staff Advisory Working Group (AWG), respectively.
The first two motions were passed unanimously, but the third had one dissenter in Coun. Phil DiBattista, passing 5-1.
At the meeting, Jones also told council he had made several minor revisions to the terms of reference for the mayor’s committee, adding points directing staff to make themselves available if needed to provide minute taking services and any required professional support, which may involve third party sources.
”During this evolving process, it is necessary to amend the terms of reference to add details regarding staff involvement,” said Jones during the meeting.
In a previous conversation with the Peninsula News Review, Jones said he expects this revamped OCP review process to move quickly, with a draft to return to council for review and further public input sometime over the summer. The final document will be ready for approval in the fall. He also expects the process to be comparatively cheaper than the previous attempt, which he said cost taxpayers just over $400,000 up to its cancellation in November 2022.
“(MODUS) was putting together a really good OCP, it’s just for the wrong location,” Jones said previously. “During my campaign, I could see that the community was getting extremely agitated by the OCP process … the feeling was there was basically no input to speak of from the residents. There was the AWG, but in my opinion, they weren’t advising staff and council, they were being told what staff and council was going to do.”
Jones’ revised approach to the OCP process has been met with some contention on council from the moment he first pitched halting the original attempt. That contention came to a boil at the Jan. 16 council meeting, where DiBattista questioned Jones on several points, including why the citizen members of the mayor’s committee and subcommittees were chosen, a lack of transparency on their qualifications, and DiBattista being the only councillor not appointed to the committee or subcommittees.
Jones said previously he excluded DiBattista from the committees as he felt he was “diametrically opposed to where the vast majority of the residents of North Saanich have said they want to go (with the OCP),” and over an email DiBattista had sent to council and staff in December, which Jones described as “severely criticizing members of council for the way they were acting with regard to the OCP, but more particularly with regard to how they were acting.”
DiBattista denies the email – which was released publicly for the first time as part of the agenda package for the Jan. 30 council meeting – criticized anyone by name. He said the intent was to remind new council members of the importance of limiting their role in government to governance, rather than interfering with the day-to-day municipal operations carried out by staff he said he had seen his colleagues doing through constant questions and requests being made directly to staff, rather than through the town’s chief administrative officer per best practice.
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