Taxpayers who live within the boundaries of the City of Grand Forks should find the newly minted Integrated Sustainable Community Plan (ISCP) of considerable interest.
It will give them some idea of the direction future councils might be taking and how their taxes will be spent. The plan has yet to be enacted as Bylaw 1919 but that will happen at a future council meeting.
Official Community Plans (OCPs) are required in British Columbia under the Local Government Act that authorizes their development.
Work on the ISCP began in 2007 with the formation of a steering committee that determined the elements of the plan. Consultants from Urban Systems Ltd. of Kelowna facilitated the meetings and prepared the plan.
Several meetings were held in 2008 to gather community ideas and a draft had been completed just prior to the civic election, however, the election of a new council and administrative staff changes caused delays and the plan lay dormant for some time.
The cost of developing the ISCP was paid for with funding from the federal government Gas Tax Fund program and costs for mapping and other extras were covered by the city’s planning budget.
The ISCP (2011) will replace the former Official Community Plan (OCP), which will be repealed and the ISCP will become the guide for future councils and city staff as they make decisions on land use and economic, environmental and social issues.
Of particular interest is the vision on page 23, which says, “Grand Forks is recognized as a self-sufficient community that incorporates sustainable principles-social, economic, environmental and cultural-into its decision-making process.”
The eight goals for a sustainable Grand Forks: strengthened arts and culture, sustainable economic development, a healthy natural environment, constructive government-community relations, a capacity for self-sufficiency, sustainable land use, improvements in the social fabric and the integration of health policies into all decisions are also of particular significance.
The plan provides the detail on how the vision and goals might be achieved in Part Two.
There are bothersome statements in the plan that may be off-putting and seen as gobbledygook.
A Sustainable Community Plan (SCP) is intended to guide communities to envision, plan and implement a long-term, healthy, viable future that addresses the community’s needs at the present time and ensures that the needs of future generations are also met.
The SCP will express the City of Grand Forks’ commitment to this future and ensures that all components of sustainability are considered: the social, economic, environmental and cultural.
A key to interpreting the plan is an understanding of what “sustainability” means. Planners and developers like to refer to the Brundtland Report of 1983, which states “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” After 27 years is it still valid?
What constitutes a “viable future” in today’s world? Is it possible for any community to design its future with any degree of clarity given the chaotic environmental and economic challenges they now face? Does the current population of the city have the capacity to ensure that the needs of future generations are met?
The authors of the report say the ISCP should not sit on the shelf and its use as a reference will be the test of its significance in the governance process.
Future city councillors and staff will be committed to a plethora of actions within the social, economic and environmental spheres when Bylaw 1919 is passed. Their challenge is to use it to stay on course.
A final thought. In preparation for the civic election on Nov. 19 taxpayers and candidates for council should make themselves fully familiar with the ISCP.
– Roy Ronaghan is a columnist for the Grand Forks Gazette