District of Houston refining community vision

The District of Houston will have special meetings to ensure understanding of the proposed changes to the Official Community Plan.

The District of Houston will have special meetings to ensure understanding of the proposed changes to the Official Community Plan.

The Official Community Plan (OCP) is a vision that defines what the community wants to become. It guides decisions in land use planning, infrastructure investments and social, economic and environmental policies.

The OCP incorporates the transportation and land-use plans, Economic Development Plan, Age-Friendly Plan and Community Energy Plan.

The District has been developing and updating all of those plans since March 2014.

The transportation, age friendly and land use plans are still in draft form and need final adoption.

After the plans are finalized, council will consider and adopt bylaws to enforce the plan.

Houston Chief Administrative Officer Michael Glavin said mayor and council should take a step back to make sure they understand the proposed OCP changes and implications.

“There are about 32 pages of proposed changes. I want to go through each one thoroughly and make sure that everybody understands it,” Glavin said.

He says some of the proposed changes could inhibit rebuilding if a building is burned or damaged in an area that is rezoned.

He also notes that some plans skip key parts of the existing OCP, such as a circle pathway.

Glavin says a step back is important for council because there are three new councillors since November 2014 and several plans that still need to be finalized.

He added that the closure of Houston Forest Products happened in the middle of the development of some of the plans, and changed the focus of Mayor and Council to community transition.

“Now that we have some normalcy in the community, let’s start looking at each of these plans… get an understanding of the changes and impact,” Glavin said.

Council agreed.

“We spent a whole lot of time putting this together,” said Mayor Shane Brienen.

“For a lot of communities, that plan takes two to three years. If we have to stretch it another four to six months, that’s fine… We’re going to be stuck with this plan for another 10 to 15 years.”

Brienen said the OCP has not changed much in 25 years and there are a lot of good proposed changes.

“I don’t think we should be frightened by that; a lot of things change in 25 years,” he said.

Houston Mayor and Council will have a Strategic Planning Session April 18 to clarify their short and long-term goals.

Then they will have meetings to go over the Transportation, Land Use and Age Friendly Plans.

The public will be invited to a public open house to explain the proposed changes.

Then council will update the OCP and pass bylaws to enforce the changes.

Glavin says the process may take six months.