New Westminster residents asked to envision their city in 2041

New Westminster Coun. Jonathan Coté -
New Westminster Coun. Jonathan Coté
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Hitting the refresh button on a web browser produces almost instantaneous updates.

Hitting the refresh button on a city’s Official Community Plan (OCP) is much more complicated.

New Westminster hasn’t updated its OCP since 1998, so the city’s planning department began the process of developing a new one in January.

They’ll take it to the streets next month with a series of community workshops, and the hope is by the end of 2015 they’ll have a new vision for New West in 2041.

“I’m very excited about the OCP process. We’re overdue for a refresh on the plan in the future,” said Coun. Jonathan Coté.

It will be Coté’s first involvement in an OCP overhaul since he was elected in 2005. Since then he has also become an urban studies graduate student at Simon Fraser University.

“It’s important for every city to look at its OCP every 10 to 15 years,” said Coté.

Outdated OCPs and policies can create major issues in neighbourhoods, he said.

“That’s not good for anyone in the community and you end up with greater neighbourhood conflict.” He also said during the last update the city was focused on social issues such as cleaning up an overt drug presence. Now it’s geared more toward issues such as homelessness and the environment.

Coté said the last OCP projected New Westminster’s growth areas would be Downtown and Queensborough. “It was accurate in that regard.”

Those areas grew so quickly the city had to update the neighbourhood plans for them. That’s why planner Jackie Teed, who is in charge of the project, figures the focus won’t be on those two as much this time around.

“Those two cases we recognized there are unique issues that needed to be addressed that aren’t found in the rest of our city,” said Teed. “[In the updating process] we might find out more neighbourhoods that might need their own OCP. That’s something that might come out of this review.”

Coté thinks that may be the case for the areas surrounding the 22nd Street, Sapperton and Braid SkyTrain stations since growth has exploded near many stations throughout the SkyTrain system.

“We’ll have a discussion with the community about what the future is for these locations,” said Coté.

He noted the community consultation may also reinforce the need not to make any major changes. Although well-established single family neighbourhoods like Queen’s Park and the West End may want to keep the status quo, a thorny issue like laneway housing might become part of the discussion.

Coté and the planning department are excited about the project even though it means doing it while also carrying out regular city business. Teed admitted OCPs can get a planner’s juices flowing.

“Every planner wants to do an OCP. It’s a powerful tool, and it’s an opportunity to create a vision of a city in the future with the community. It’s so important with the community involved,” said Teed. “We’re lucky to have a city that’s so involved, and community members so committed to our city. It makes our job a lot easier because we get to hear what people in our city want. It’s a balancing act to get all the things the community wants.”

New Westminster official community plan workshops:

Tuesday, June 3 – Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary, 1714 Eighth Ave., 5 to 8 p.m.

Thursday, June 5 – Glenbrook Middle School, 701 Park Cres., 5 to 8 p.m.

Wednesday, June 11 – Century House, 620 Eighth St., 1 to 4 p.m.

Saturday, June 14 – Queensborough Community Centre, 920 Ewen Ave., 1 to 4 p.m.

Wednesday, June 18 – Sapperton Pensioners Hall, 318 Keary St., 5 to 8 p.m.

Saturday, June 21 – River Market, second floor, 810 Quayside Dr., 1 to 4 p.m.

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