The RDOS Area H Official Community Plan is written to ensure that development is done with regard to the aspirations of the people and for the benefit of the whole community. How that applies to Coalmont is not exactly clear – especially after reading it. I know that many people won’t bother to read it themselves even though there is a handy link on the Webmont page, so here are some interesting parts – from a Coalmontian’s point of view.
There are sections on transportation, parks, industrial development, natural resources, and more. Most of those are easy to understand and contain ideas that are generally acceptable. Coalmont residents are probably not immediately effected by those, but section 10 is interesting.
Granite Creek townsite is designated a Provincial Heritage Site. However, there are other heritage sites such as, the Coalmont Hotel, the Coalmont Liquor Store and possibly the Old Tulameen School worthy of preservation. In this regard the Regional Board supports a voluntary heritage site designation for these sites.
Local residents and the Province are encouraged to develop the area’s heritage attractions, especially in the Coalmont/Tulameen area.
Lets now go to Section 7.0 because “residential” effects us directly. The plan mentions that services are a particular problem in Tulameen and Coalmont. We have already seen that we are in danger of getting development projects so this could be a key point.
Here is sub-section one of the residential policies:
The townsites of Tulameen and Coalmont, both ancient subdivisions, are comprised of small, non-conforming size parcels. With further development it is becoming more difficult to obtain adequate separation distances between on-site domestic water and sewage disposal. Also, substantial areas of both communities are in the floodplain. In view of the growing potential problem for on-site services, particularly in Tulameen, the following measures are supported;
First of all, calling us a “subdivision” will certainly turn a few heads around here nowadays, though I suppose it’s the right technical term. All towns and cities are subdivisions of something. But let’s move on and look at the following paragraphs where it describes what “we” support.
a) consolidation of adjoining lots,
b) development of a community water system or sewer system, whichever is most appropriate.
The consolidation of adjoining lots is certainly applicable to us. That is only a recommendation, although probably a good one. Keep in mind that the properties that people live on are not generally “lots” in the legal sense, but are comprised of several legal lots which are commonly 25 feet each. Because of that, a developer doesn’t need to subdivide in order to build high density housing. Too bad.
The development of a community water system or sewer system is something we want to avoid. I believe the plan is referring mostly to Tulameen, but don’t count on that. A community water or sewer system would not solve any of our problems but could be extremely favourable to developers. Keep an eye on this one.
Sub-section two describes the criteria that will be used to assess future residential development.
a) capability of handling on-site domestic water and sewage disposal or availability of community water and sewer;
b) availability of vacant residentially designated land;
c) impact on the environment and adjacent land use designations and character of the existing area;
d) location relative to existing roads and other services;
e) susceptibility to any potential hazards including, but not limited to, flooding, soil stability problems, rockfall or moderate or higher forest fire risk;
f) capability of the natural environment and topography to accommodate additional development.
Paragraph “a” is probably the most important one. Notice that they mention availability of “community water and sewer” again. In the past there has been the famous 100 foot rule and that has dictated what people can do. Now that “rule” is only a recommendation and it is up to the private company doing the septic installation to decide what they think is good. It’s their call now. As to the meaning of “availability of community water and sewer” your guess is as good as mine. Let’s hope they don’t have any ideas that involve Coalmont. If they do, then we’re obviously in big trouble.
Paragraph “b”is also interesting. The availability of vacant residential land could mean different things to different people. There are the obvious lots that haven’t had anyone on them in years (if ever) but what about the 25 foot lots that comprise the currently used parts? We’ve already seen one developer’s “interpretation” of that.
“Impact on the … character of the existing area” as mentioned in paragraph “c” obviously describes a movable target. This has generally been ignored and probably always will be until we get a workable definition of “existing”.
As for the rest: I’ll leave those up to the reader to interpret. They seem pretty straightforward to me, but who knows? I’m not necessarily the brightest bulb, and someone motivated by the smell of money might find a way to interpret them to their advantage.
I think that in order to realistically comply with its stated purpose, the Official Community Plan should include some more specific things about Coalmont. It’s almost as if we are an afterthought. The OCP should be for the benefit of those that live in an area and not those that don’t. Most Coalmontians reading the bylaw would not feel strongly assured of that.
To end this little forray into the OCP, let’s just go back and look at section one on administration. This gives us some perspective and shows us the real significance of this plan. It also gives us some hope that someday Coalmont could be better represented.
.3 This Plan will be reviewed on a yearly basis and, in order that the document continues to accurately reflect the long-range planning objectives of the Princeton Rural area, the Plan will undergo a comprehensive review every five to ten years.
.4 The Official Community Plan can only encourage senior levels of government to take action; it cannot force or require senior governments to act. Furthermore, although the Official Community Plan cannot commit the Regional Board to specific expenditures, the Regional Board cannot enact bylaws or undertake works that are contrary to it without amending the Plan.