The Regional Growth Strategy was adopted by the Comox Valley Regional District board at its meeting on March 29, 2011.
A regional growth strategy is a local government strategic plan to promote human settlement that is social, economic and environmentally healthy and that makes efficient use of public facilities, land and other resources. An RGS gives long range planning direction for regional district and municipal official community plans (OCPs) and provides a basis for decisions regarding implementation of provincial programs in the area.
The Regional Growth Strategy provides direction for the overall pattern of land use in the Comox Valley and defines a sustainable human settlement pattern. As such, its focus is on defining where future growth will occur and the appropriate type, intensity and form of that growth. It also sets the pattern for protection of special environmental features, agricultural lands and natural resources. Specifically, the RGS creates clear boundaries for non-developable areas, generally guides standards and expectations for growth within existing built-up areas and identifies specific areas where future growth is appropriate over the next 20 years. In so doing, it also identifies specific regional services and priorities to support the envisioned growth strategy.
A further objective of the strategy is to maintain the high quality of life currently experienced by Comox Valley residents through maintaining both the rural character of the majority of the lands while at the same time promoting suitable and sustainable economic activities.
A regional growth strategy cannot regulate land use within member municipalities. The intent of the RGS is to provide for a common vision for the entire region, in terms of growth management, housing, the environment and transportation. The RGS allows municipalities to have flexibility in the implementation of the objectives of the plan, and only specifies the content to be included in local bylaws.
Both strategies look to the future, and both strategies are about improving the quality of life and the environment in Comox Valley. As a result, the two sets of strategies are complementary.
The Sustainability Strategy focuses on establishing specific environmental principles and related regional and municipal actions, while the RGS focuses on the overall pattern of land use in the Comox Valley and the creation of a sustainable human settlement pattern. As such, its focus defines where future growth will occur and the appropriate type, intensity and form of that growth. Another difference is that the RGS was a mandated regulatory document, whereas the Sustainability Strategy was something that CVRD elected officials felt would be useful.
There is substantial growth and development pressure in the Comox Valley. The Regional Growth Strategy is the most appropriate tool to ensure that growth is managed in the best way for those who live here now, and for those who will live here in the future.
The Regional Growth Strategy contains provisions to establish an ongoing monitoring and evaluation framework to annually review how well the bylaw is meeting the needs of the Comox Valley. While it is adopted as a bylaw, and as such has the full effect of law for those involved, it is subject to both ongoing monitoring and amendment as the Comox Valley Regional District Board sees fit. An amending process is incorporated into the bylaw, enabling member municipalities, the Electoral Area Service Committee and the CVRD board to propose an amendment they see as being required. Of course, as with the original bylaw, any amendment must go through a similar consultation process and also secure support from the board and other affected local governments.
Each member municipality has to prepare a context statement within its Official Community Plan that highlights how it achieves the objectives of the RGS. To learn more about your municipality’s OCP and/or context statement, visit the Town of Comox, the City of Courtenay or the Village of Cumberland.
Once an RGS is adopted, the parties to this bylaw are bound by the direction and policies contained within the RGS. If a local government (either a municipality or the CVRD) attempts to make a change to land use policies that is contrary to the RGS, it would be in contravention of provincial law. In order to enact such a change, an amendment to the RGS would be required in accordance with the amendment policies in the RGS or part 25 of the Local Government Act as applicable.
An area designated as a "municipal expansion area" has been identified as an area of municipal interest. It is felt it is required to support urban forms of development in the medium to long term. There is a need to identify and protect these municipal expansion areas to ensure current development patterns do not result in fractured lots that are impossible to support rational and planned servicing in the future.
Yes, there was extensive public consultation over many months in 2009 and 2010. Feedback was sought, particularly around the size and scope of the settlement expansion areas (SEAs) outside municipal boundaries. Following first and second readings of the bylaw, a public hearing was also scheduled to give everyone one more opportunity to submit comments to the Comox Valley Regional District Board.