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Sidney draft OCP set for public input

Document spelling out future land use calls for new limits on building heights in downtown Sidney
Pending approval from council, the public will have a chance to weigh in on Sidney’s draft Official Community Plan between March 1 and April 8. (Screencap)

New limits on future building heights in Sidney’s downtown core but greater density elsewhere, along with more environmental protection measures are among the key points in the draft Official Community Plan (OCP) now awaiting public input.

The report, set to appear before councillors during their regular meeting scheduled for Feb. 28, recommends limiting building heights to three storeys on Beacon Avenue, east of Fifth Street and four storeys elsewhere in the downtown. There’s potential for discretionary council approval of a fifth storey west of Fifth Street when projects include affordable housing. The report adds that this approach also includes specific design guidelines to set back the fourth storey level (when included) in order to create what the report calls a three-story “street wall.”

This plan first appeared in an earlier report based on earlier public feedback. It found there was “strong support for climate action, housing affordability and active transportation” among members of the public but also some opposition about the recent building boom that has seen the emergence of five and six-storey buildings. “Some feel that these ‘too large’ and ‘too tall’ buildings chip away at the town’s quaint seaside character,” it reads.

Other parts of the draft OCP, meanwhile, speak of increasing housing options elsewhere, including the downtown core through ground-floor residential uses in some areas of downtown Sidney. Areas designated as neighbourhood residential are to include what the report calls “abundant rental housing options in the form of secondary suites and detached secondary dwellings.”

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The draft plan also proposes to re-designate about 100 properties from neighbourhood residential (single-detached homes) to multi-unit residential. “It’s important to note that this only represents the potential future land use,” it reads, adding additional steps would be required before the municipality permits any multi-unit development in those locations.

The draft also envisions three areas as neighbourhood commercial policy areas comprising just over 30 properties.

“These are areas that represent potential neighbourhood commercial nodes in some residential areas and could accommodate a corner store, coffee shop or other local service for residents,” it reads.

As for environmental measures, the draft spells out new greenhouse gas reduction targets, which call for the cutting of community greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent below 2007 emission levels by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The draft also proposes to add about 80 properties to designated environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs).

“Upon designation, these properties would become subject to the applicable ESA development guidelines and would require an approved development permit prior to alteration of the land (this includes building a new house, addition or substantial landscaping work),” it reads.

Staff is recommending that council forward the draft to the public for input starting March 1 until April 8. Staff also recommend that the OCP advisory committee and the advisory planning commission review the document. Staff also recommend that the municipality inform property owners whose respective properties are re-designated as multi-unit residential, environmentally sensitive and neighbourhood commercial policy areas.

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