Ucluelet’s Official Community Plan (OCP) virtual public hearing is going ahead on Thursday, May 13 at 5:30 p.m. despite push back from over 100 community members.
A petition created by ‘Concerned Citizens of Ucluelet’ asking the District of Ucluelet council to postpone the May 13 public hearing until in-person open dialogue can take place garnered 138 signatures as of Monday afternoon (May 10).
“We are in the midst of unprecedented times, yet the District of Ucluelet Council is moving forward with a transformative Official Community Plan (OCP) and proposed bylaw changes in support of some of the largest development projects the community has ever seen,” reads the change.org petition.
“We call upon Council to do the right thing and delay the May 13th public hearing on the OCP until Ucluelet residents have had the opportunity to ask questions, and get meaningful answers in a public forum. Additionally, further development projects should not proceed until the OCP has been adopted,” the online petition says.
Ucluelet Mayor Mayco Noel responds.
“We’d love to cheer and have beers at night too, but at the end of the day our hands are tied by the Provincial Health Orders. The OCP is going out to public hearing for public input. We will listen to the public. If there are changes that need to be done we will go back out to the public for some more feedback. This will go on for the next four to six months, is my anticipation,” he said.
“Maybe people want to get the microphone and throw tomatoes at us. I really don’t understand what we are doing that is getting people to think that… It’s just normal course of government. We are going to digest the comments. If we have to make some changes, we will make necessary changes and come back out to the public for more information,” he re-iterates.
Acting CAO Andy Laidlaw said after the May 13 public hearing, Council will – at a future Council meeting – discuss and decide on the next steps in the process.
“The OCP could progress to third reading, or Council could ask for changes to the plan, schedule further public engagement and another public hearing, etc.,” Laidlaw wrote in an email to the Westerly.
The last time the District of Ucluelet hosted a community input session on the OCP was in 2018.
“A lot has changed since then,” says the petition. “The OCP should be reflective of the community’s long-term vision, not the vision of development corporations. Virtual public hearings, particularly for the long-term vision of the community, are not conducive to a public dialogue.”
Laidlaw said the May 13 public hearing is a time for Council to formally receive input from community members.
“If Council has a question they may ask for clarification from staff, but a public hearing on the bylaw is not a question-and-answer session for the public,” he said.
Noel said Ucluelet is going through a building boom, and that a lot of the proposed developments have been in the works for decades.
“The last time I saw this was 2004 to 2008 when Black Rock was being built,” he said.
“One of the things people are struggling with is change. Ucluelet is trying to navigate through its popularity, but quite frankly we always knew that the town would increase and slowly over a decade the population and housing and commercial would eventually come here.”
Community members are encouraged to review the OCP and all the background materials on the district website.
Written submissions will be accepted before the 5:30 p.m. start of the May 13 public hearing and participants can also provide feedback via Zoom or phone.