The City of Nanaimo has a range of long-term policy documents that guide the future development of the city, including the effective management of assets to maintain efficient service provision. These strategic documents collectively act as a framework to plan for and respond to the dynamic pressures of changing population and related economic, social, and environmental conditions.
In the past 20 years, the City has seen considerable population growth, which has driven the need for expanded municipal services and public amenities, resulting in changing patterns of land use. Evolving external factors, such as climate change, have a significant impact on the future operations of the City, as do changing social issues associated with homelessness and the need for affordable housing. At the same time, relationships with other levels of government, including Snuneymuxw First Nation and School District #68, continue to be strengthened, providing new opportunities for partnerships that shape community growth.
There are several key policy documents that merit an immediate review. This includes the Official Community Plan (OCP) that sets the overall framework for the City's approach to land use and community development, and influences the direction of multiple other policy documents. There is also a need to ensure that the work of more recently completed planning processes (including Council's 2020 Strategic Plan) are incorporated into existing documents. Subsequently, Staff have identified an opportunity to develop a coordinated approach to synchronize these strategic policy documents by initially focusing on three key strategic documents scheduled to be reviewed during 2020/2021:
- The Official Community Plan
- Parks, Recreation and Culture Plan; and,
- Active and Sustainable Transportation Plan
Additionally, the Economic Development Strategy, Water Supply Strategic Plan and Climate Action Plan are also scheduled to be reviewed in 2020. The review and development of each document will be included in the strategic policy review process to ensure coordination and coherence with the Council's Strategic Plan, the OCP, and the other updated policy documents.
Each strategic policy document is discussed below:
Official Community Plan
The City of Nanaimo adopted the current Official Community Plan (OCP), planNanaimo, in 2008. planNanaimo is built on the policies developed in previous community planning processes to promote the following city-wide goals:
- Manage Urban Growth
- Build a More Sustainable Community
- Encourage Social Enrichment
- Promote a Thriving Economy
- Protect and Enhance the Environment
- Improve Mobility and Servicing
- Work Towards a Sustainable Nanaimo
The OCP lists sustainability as the community's guiding principle, which is reflected in the implementation strategy included in the document. The City has completed many of the actions listed in the implementation strategy, and in keeping with best practices, there is a need to review the OCP. This would involve evaluating how effective the current policies have been and determine if policy changes are needed to reflect changing conditions and priorities.
Staff propose the 2020/2021 OCP update would continue to build on the policies of planNanaimo, and focus on the following:
- Update the OCP to include the significant policy documents created since 2008 (e.g. Transportation Master Plan and Affordable Housing Strategy).
- Fill information gaps with data generated through updated population models, land capacity analysis, and needs assessments.
- Evaluate existing policies and practices (e.g. land use designations for nodes, corridors, and neighbourhoods, steep slope development permit area guidelines).
- Include new priorities into the City's strategic policy fabric (e.g. Council's 2020 Strategic Plan, Truth and Reconciliation, climate change, and asset management).
- Implement and monitor progress towards the new and updated policy objectives.
Parks, Recreation, and Culture Plan
The existing Parks, Recreation and Culture Plan was developed in 2005. The existing plan includes directives related to recreation and culture facility development, service delivery methods and parks and open space management, including recommendations for sub plans to be developed in support of the master plan. Over the past 14 years, the majority of the plan directives have been addressed.
Additionally, the City adopted the Cultural Plan for a Creative Nanaimo in 2014. The goals of the Cultural Plan include: strengthening the creative sector and the creative economy; connecting people, communities, and ideas, and focusing on our cultural spaces and places. Elements of the Cultural Plan will be updated through the Parks, Recreation and Culture Plan.
There are opportunities to modernize the Parks, Recreation and Culture Plan by developing renewed plan directives to guide departmental initiatives over the next ten years. Since 2005, community needs have shifted, urban development patterns have changed, over 400 ha of new parkland has been acquired, new trends in recreation management have arisen, and initiatives to support climate change adaptation and environmental conservation have progressed. Undertaking a Parks, Recreation and Culture Plan review at this time will clarify priorities going forward and ensure alignment with other strategic planning documents slated for review.
Active and Sustainable Transportation Plan
The City prepared the Nanaimo Transportation Master Plan in 2014. The master plan recommended the City's growth be managed by supporting a shift from automobile to sustainable modes of transportation, including walking, cycling and transit, collectively referred to as active transportation.
Since 2014, the City identified the need to focus on implementing active transportation policy and create the Active and Sustainable Transportation Plan. The Transportation Plan measured active transportation usage: confirmed the wants and needs of the community for walking, cycling, and transit connections, and formulated an implementation strategy. Coordinating the development of the Transportation Plan with the Parks, Recreation, and Culture Plan, and the Cultural Plan for a Creative Nanaimo will help the City to integrate mobility networks with parks and recreation facilities, and identify creative opportunities for public realm enhancements.
The Transportation Plan also includes a strategy to support mobility for people of all ages and abilities as the City transitions from its current transportation network to a future network fostering active transportation. Additionally, the Transportation Plan includes a component of public education to provide residents with tools to age in place, offsetting the need for significant capital infrastructure investments.
Climate Action Plan
The City developed the Climate Action Plan in 2012 to address climate change by focusing on land use and transportation, buildings, energy systems, and solid waste. Since the City developed the Action Plan, the global awareness and understanding of climate change has increased significantly. To reflect the urgency of the issue, Council declared a climate emergency in 2019.
By updating the Action Plan, the City has an opportunity to review its commitments to climate change generally, and specifically to reflect the target goals of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Economic Development Strategy
Economic Health is one of the key pillars in the City's strategic plan. Economic development is the process of "creating wealth" through the mobilization of financial, physical, human and natural resources to improve the tax base and the quality of life in an area. It is about creating a vibrant, resilient and sustainable local economy that is inclusive of all persons that live, work, do business in, or receive services from our city.
The City completed Nanaimo's current Economic Development Strategy and Investment Readiness Assessment inventory in 2011. The strategy identified four key objectives and various actions items to increase Nanaimo's competitiveness and prosperity. This strategy is now nine years old, and the economic landscape both locally and globally has changed significantly.
City Council has expressed an interest in increasing economic development resources and recently committed to developing a new Economic Development Strategy in partnership with a number of non-profit partners in the community, such as Community Futures, Chamber of Commerce, Innovation Island, and the Mid-Island Business Initiative.
Defining an economic development vision and specific goals that align with the City's strategic priorities is vital for informing economic development work plans for the next five years. An economic development strategy will help guide the collective efforts of the City, local organizations, businesses, and citizens to build a stronger local economy. The Strategy will ensure efficient and effective use of resources and help reduce duplication with partners.
Water Supply Strategic Plan
Nanaimo's 2007 Water Supply Strategic Plan provides a 50-year vision for the city's drinking water. Aligning with the Official Community Plan's vision of viability, environmental protection and sustainable management, the Strategic Plan espouses three fundamental goals:
- Provide safe drinking water
- Ensure a sustainable water supply
- Provide cost-effective water delivery
Major cornerstones of the 2007 Water Supply Strategic Plan include:
- Begin planning for a water treatment plant in response to evolving regulations;
- Begin planning to augment the supply (build a new dam) to be ready for 2020;
- Continue building out a capital plan to ensure long-term viability and robustness of the supply;
- Recognize water as a shared resource, including the environment and other communities
Since 2007, the City constructed over $100 million in water supply infrastructure, including the flagship water treatment plant, reservoirs, pipe lines, and pump stations. The system is poised to serve the community for the coming decades.
Notably, the City now consumes the same amount of water annually as it did in the mid-1990s, despite population growth of 25,000. Reduced water consumption has delayed the need to construct a $100 million dam by at least a decade and a half; however, climate change is accelerating the need for expanding the city's water supply.
With a focus on sustainable service delivery, the City's water supply system continues to be robust; drinking water is managed through strategic and long-term planning. It deserves continued careful management and attention by the entire community. Including the Water Supply Strategic Plan in the 2020 strategic policy process will keep water resource management coherent across the organization, and drinking water prominent in the community.