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Posted: April 16, 2015

OCP changes head to final reading

By Chris Conway

The District of Invermere has cleared all but the final hurdle in the process to adopt an Official Community Plan (OCP).

Invermere’s normally benign civic process became mired in unusual suspicion and dispute last month amid allegations of less-than-transparent changes to the OCP.

Residents sat up and took notice when the fur began to fly in letters to editors. Over 40 people turned out to a public hearing on March 17 to see what was happening and to ensure council stayed on track.  A number of well-informed public comments were made to council that evening. The hearing was then adjourned and a subsequent date was scheduled to ensure full opportunity for public comments and written submissions.

On March 31 the public hearing process was concluded.

At the council meeting on Monday (April 13) the OCP was the first order of business. Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Chris Prosser presented a Public Hearing Report to council and summarized the changes that had occurred during the process to date. All members of council expressed their belief that the process and the public participation had been positive and thorough.

Coun. Greg Anderson stated that the public comment and written submissions had made the OCP a better document. “That’s what we are about,” said Anderson.

Coun. Al Miller
Coun. Al Miller

Coun. Al Miller said that the process had been about “give and take. We have a good guiding document for the future,” he said.

Coun. Paul Denchuk asked if the (boundary expansion) public referendum process would be binding on council.

CAO Prosser confirmed that a “no” vote would be binding but that council would have the discretion to disregard a “yes” vote.  Denchuck then confirmed his support for the document.

Coun. Justin Atterbury said that there had been a lot of good discussion during the public hearings. “As a result we have a much stronger document,” said Atterbury.

Mayor Gerry Taft stated his belief that some of the initial public comments and emotion had been exaggerated. He expressed his hope that faith in the local government process had been restored.

“Council’s intention was not to plow over farmer’s fields, fill in the wetlands and expand boundaries,” claimed the mayor.  He said that the public hearings showed people that their comments had meaning and that there was nothing secret going on. “Council’s job is to listen to and represent the public, consider information from staff, form our own beliefs and then mesh it all together,” said Taft.

Regarding the document itself, Taft expressed his view that the document flows very well and that the graphics and the layout make it easy to read and less daunting.

“The integrity of the vision is in place,” concluded the mayor. He then called for the vote.

Council unanimously accepted CAO Prosser’s Public Hearing Report and concurrently gave the OCP bylaw a second and third reading.

A final affirmative council vote is required to officially adopt the OCP. This is expected to occur at the next regular meeting of council on April 28.

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