Questions and Answers: Understanding the Draft OCP
These questions and answers will be a living document that serve as a companion to the draft Official Community Plan, explaining issues likely to be of concern or interest to the community. If you have a question, please send it along to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated Land Use Designations
- Does the draft OCP say anything about the site of Cedarwood Inn and Suites?
- Why is the Land Use Designation for Summergate Village changing?
- Why doesn’t the draft OCP reflect earlier plans to redevelop the Galaran neighbourhood as industrial land from north to south on a block-by-block basis?
- Why are some areas being designated from 'Neighbourhood Residential' (i.e. single-family homes) to 'Multi-unit Residential' (townhouses and apartments)?
Environmentally Sensitive Development Permit Areas
- What is an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA)?
- What is being proposed in the draft Official Community Plan (OCP)?
- Why include already-developed residential areas along the marine shoreline in the proposed permit area?
- Why have the ESA boundaries changed in the proposed OCP update?
- Why are the upland areas north of Allbay Road and on the Beaufort Peninsula included in the Marine Foreshore ESA?
- Why are there areas around Mermaid Creek included in the Riparian ESA? Why do they appear disconnected?
- Why isn’t the waterfront area along Lochside Drive included designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area anymore? Is it no longer protected?
- Is my property currently or proposed to be within an ESA?
- My property is within an ESA, what does this mean for my property?
- When would a Development Permit for environmentally sensitive areas be required? When do I need to apply for a Development Permit?
- If there is a Development Permit Area located on my property how will that affect: Construction? Subdivision? Maintenance? How large of a home I can build?
- Can a single-family home along the marine shoreline be rebuilt if it is within an ESA?
- How do I get a Development Permit in an ESA? What is the Development Permit process? What information is needed to apply for a Development Permit in an ESA?
Updated Land Use Designations
In the current OCP, the entire site of the Cedarwood Inn and Suites is designated as “Neighbourhood Commercial” including the west side of the property, which is undeveloped. In the draft OCP, the east side of the property is proposed to retain its “Neighbourhood Commercial” designation. This could allow for a hotel or other commercial use, as well as a commercial/residential mixed-use building.
The west side of the property is proposed to be designated “Multi-Unit Residential” in the draft OCP, with low-rise townhouses or walk-up apartments being possible future uses.
The Town has not received any development applications for the site. However, once a new OCP is in place and if a development application is received that does align with the new land use designations, the applicant would still need to apply for zoning bylaw amendment and a development permit. Both of these processes involve Council and opportunities for public input, including a public hearing. A zoning bylaw amendment would specify building setbacks, heights, storeys, and other specifics of a development.
In the current OCP, Summergate Village has its own Land Use Designation: “RES-2.1 – Modular Residential”. This designation was intended to align with the Land Use Contract for the property that was introduced in 1978. Because the Land Use Contract will expire in 2024 and will be replaced with a zoning designation (more information here), the draft OCP proposes to designate Summergate Village as “Neighbourhood Residential” to better align with the land use approach to other Sidney neighbourhoods. This designation does not change current permitted uses in Summergate Village or allow any new uses.
Why doesn’t the draft OCP reflect earlier plans to redevelop the Galaran neighbourhood as industrial land from north to south on a block-by-block basis?
The current OCP (adopted in 2007) designates the Galaran neighbourhood as ‘Industrial’ with policy guidance stating that if these lands are to be redeveloped for industrial use, the development would have to start from the north end of the neighbourhood at Henry Ave West and progress on a whole-block by whole-block basis. This policy has been in place since 1993 but in close to 30years, no industrial redevelopment has occurred, likely due to the time and cost it would take to consolidate all the parcels in the first designated block.
In 2017, Council adopted the West Side Local Area Plan (WSLAP), which set a new vision for the area as a vibrant, mixed-use neighbourhood that will provide housing options for a wide range of residents, and a walkable, village environment with dwellings, shops and services close to one another. The WSLAP is proposed to be retained and become a part of the new OCP, and the land uses for the area will be updated in the new OCP to be consistent with the land use plan in the WSLAP. This consists of two land use designations: “West Sidney Village” or “Multi-Unit Residential”.
This land use change will, over the long term, allow for sensitive and gradual redevelopment of the area in line with the WSLAP vision and support the existing industrial area west of Galaran Road, by retaining that industrial land solely for industrial uses, and allowing additional services and workforce housing nearby in the WSLAP area.
Why are some areas being designated from 'Neighbourhood Residential' (i.e. single-family homes) to 'Multi-unit Residential' (townhouses and apartments)?
One goal of the draft OCP is for residents in all of Sidney’s neighbourhoods to be able to easily access nearby commercial services that meet some of their daily needs. For example, a local restaurant, convenience store, or café around the corner can help build a more complete community and provide residents with services, a morning coffee, or a local gathering place in the neighbourhood. These are also areas where it makes sense to add additional housing opportunities, building in locations where services already exist and increasing support for local businesses in the process. More housing around a neighbourhood commercial hub also helps to reduce the need for longer trips when local services can be easily accessed on foot or by bike.
Environmentally Sensitive Development Permit Areas
Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) are areas of ecological significance within the community that typically require extra protection. The local ecology is crucial to maintaining healthy air, water, soil and biodiversity and provides a host of ecological services (at no charge) such as storm water management, soil stability, and temperature regulation. Unnecessarily disturbing these sensitive and important environments may harm their vitality and the important ecological services they provide. In Sidney, the Environmentally Sensitive Area Development Permit Areas (DPAs) include properties that may contain important natural features and habitat types, such as creeks, shorelines, and upland forests.
The draft OCP has proposed two categories of Environmentally Sensitive Development Permit Areas (DPAs) in Sidney: Marine Foreshore and Riparian. These areas include the Roberts Bay area, the Beaufort Peninsula, Mermaid Creek, and ḰEL¸SET (Reay Creek). Many of the properties in these areas have already been designated as ESA’s for many years, but approximately 80 new properties are proposed to be added in the draft OCP, mostly along the shoreline south of the Beaufort Road area.
Properties within an Environmentally Sensitive Area DPA require an approved Development Permit prior to any construction or landscaping that has a significant impact on the land or water. A Development Permit allows the Town to evaluate specific conditions and activities, identify where approvals or notifications may be required (federal, provincial, local), work with property owners to reduce the impact of development on natural areas, and to help protect and restore habitat where possible. Development permit applications undergo a review by planning staff to ensure that any proposal achieves a balance between the proposed development and environmental preservation.
The development permit application process typically runs together with building permit process and as a result does not add substantially to the time or cost of a project. It is important to note that the intent of these guidelines is to guide – not prevent – development, with consideration of the natural environment.
Details of all Development Permit Areas can be found in the Town’s draft OCP, including guidelines, exemptions, and maps. Please visit www.sidney.ca/ocp for more information.
Why include already-developed residential areas along the marine shoreline in the proposed permit area?
Already developed areas can provide opportunities for improvements to the marine shoreline and adjacent foreshore habitat. For example, many of these properties have older concrete seawalls that separate the upland environment from the shoreline area. Development guidelines would look for opportunities to protect or restore natural shoreline and vegetation, avoid construction that is too close to the high water mark, or incorporate naturalized solutions as part of home rebuilds.
This update to the Town’s ESAs in the draft OCP is intended to expand protection of natural areas and ideally help to restore other areas that have been substantially altered. Protecting and enhancing these natural areas is vital to the well-being of the community and to ensure that development in Sidney adheres to current federal, provincial, and municipal regulations.
Why are the upland areas north of Allbay Road and on the Beaufort Peninsula included in the Marine Foreshore ESA?
In addition to being part of important habitat areas on their own, these areas specifically contain some of Sidney’s last remaining stands of coastal Douglas fir trees, which provide important nesting areas and habitat for birds that depend on the sea for food. These two areas have been included as they provide strong ecological value to the urban forest and other critical natural assets, such as the Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
Why are there areas around Mermaid Creek included in the Riparian ESA? Why do they appear disconnected?
Streams like Reay Creek or Mermaid Creek can provide many benefits, such as contributing to fish habitat and providing important storm water services by allowing water to filter into the soil and improve water quality. Many municipalities are looking for opportunities to incorporate these natural features into their storm water management networks, or to “daylight” streams and restore them to their natural state. While some sections of Mermaid Creek are currently piped underground, there are other sections of open channel stream that would be protected by being included as ESAs. This protection then forms the basis for opportunities to restore the remainder of the creek through the development process.
Why isn’t the waterfront area along Lochside Drive included designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area anymore? Is it no longer protected?
Private properties within an Environmentally Sensitive Area require an approved development permit prior to any construction or landscaping that has a significant impact on the land or water. Since the waterfront area along Lochside Drive is public land managed by the Town and not private property, there is no benefit to including it in a development permit area. Development permits are registered on the property title and are intended to guide development – but public land has no title and so a development permit is not applicable. However, the Town does continue to acknowledge the environmental significance of this area and would consider any environmental impacts if making pathway upgrades or other changes.
The Town’s existing ESA’s can be found on page 54 of the current OCP. Proposed ESA’s include existing ESA properties as well as new ones, and are identified in Schedule D of the draft OCP (page 119 of the PDF). The blue and green on the map indicate the boundaries of the proposed ESA’s. If your property is within these boundaries, it is within an existing or proposed ESA.
If your property is included within an ESA, you may be required to obtain a development permit before you can proceed with undertaking any land alteration activities. Town staff will review the application in accordance with the DPA guidelines.
The ESA development guidelines are currently being updated and will be included as part of the new OCP (Section 6.5 in the draft OCP). The intent of the ESA development permit is not to stop development, but rather to guide it to help ensure the protection of the natural environment. There are some circumstances where portions of a property are dedicated as areas where no development can occur.
For example, on all properties abutting a natural boundary (a shoreline), buildings or structures near the shoreline may be limited in order to retain upland habitat and open space near the beach. If you are planning for development on your property, discuss your proposed work with Town staff early in the process. Staff will be able to advise you about whether or not your proposed work is exempt from the DPA requirements, or if you require further assessments by a qualified professional.
When would a Development Permit for environmentally sensitive areas be required? When do I need to apply for a Development Permit?
If your property is located within a Development Permit Area and you are altering the land, you are required to first obtain a Development Permit before applying for a Building Permit or commencing any work. This can include new construction, additions/alterations to the exterior of a building, structure, or fencing, and changes to landscaping. Changes to the building itself (e.g. replacing siding) do not require a Development Permit in ESAs. Some common activities that are exempt include:
• the minor repair and maintenance of existing structures,
• interior renovations, and
• gardening and yard maintenance within an existing landscaped area.
Town staff are available to review proposals at an early stage to determine whether or not a Development Permit is required or if the proposed activity can be exempt.
If construction, landscaping, or other activities that alter the land is proposed within an environmentally sensitive area (including significant trees and plants, drainage, etc.), you will be required to apply for a development permit before a building permit can be issued. A development permit is not required for interior renovations or alterations.
A property in an ESA must have an approved Development Permit prior to any subdivision.
Minor maintenance to a building or existing structures do not require a Development Permit.
A number of factors contribute to the potential gross buildable floor area of a home and varies for individual properties. This is largely dependent on the property itself and whether any trees or other natural assets may be present. The Zoning Bylaw is the main document that regulates what a property can be used for, the density of development, and the size and siting of all buildings.
Yes. A development permit area designation is not intended to stop development or prevent re-building of single-family homes; it's a flexible tool that allows the Town to evaluate specific conditions and activities, and work with property owners to reduce the impact of development on ESAs and restore habitat where possible.
How do I get a Development Permit in an ESA? What is the Development Permit process? What information is needed to apply for a Development Permit in an ESA?
A complete Development Permit application package is required to apply for a Development Permit (Minor) in an ESA which is available on the Town’s website. Additional information may be requested as part of the application where circumstances require, including identifying the location of a natural boundary, areas of special concern (e.g. bird nests), determination of the Streamside Protection and Environment Area (SPEA), a report by a qualified Professional Engineer, and/or an environmental assessment report by a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP). Provincial approval may also be required, site-depending.
Development Permit Application Steps:
1. Determine if your property is within a Development Permit Area
2. Preliminary discussion with Town staff (recommended)
3. Submit application package
4. Application review