What is an Official Community Plan?

    The Official Community Plan (OCP) guides decisions on how we use and manage land and reflects our shared values and vision for the next 20 years. The OCP sets out land use categories and approximate locations and densities of land uses. It is adopted as a Bylaw and serves as an overarching vision and framework to assist Council in its decision-making process.

    It provides direction on:

    • Land use
    • Growth management
    • Design of the built environment
    • Protection of the environment
    • Climate action
    • Transportation and mobility
    • Marine policy and management
    • Economic development
    • Infrastructure
    • Community amenities and greenspace
    • Community and social wellness

    Why does the OCP need to be updated?

    Much has changed since the current OCP was written. Adopted 15 years ago, the current OCP doesn’t address many of the issues facing the municipality today. We have a responsibility to ensure policies reflect our current needs, but also those we anticipate in the future, including planning for a changing climate, increasing local food production, reconciliation with Indigenous partner communities, and the housing needs of current and future residents. 

    Over the next 20 years the district’s population is set to grow by almost a thousand people: from 12,235 in 2021 to 13,000. The number of homes is also expected to increase from 5,235 in 2021 to 5,900 in 2038.

    Why will the OCP review take years to complete?

    It’s important the Official Community Plan is shaped by our community. To build a vision for the next 20 years, we need to hear from District residents, organizations and businesses throughout the review.

    How can I get involved?

    The OCP plays an important role in the community and as a result we want to have as many people involved throughout the process. Everyone is invited to have input into all five phases of developing the plan. There are a variety of ways to participate online or in-person, including online and print surveys and open houses. Printed surveys can be picked up at municipal hall and a planner is always available for a phone conversation.  

    How does the OCP affect me?

    The OCP guides how housing needs are met, where businesses and services are located, how parks are used, and how we protect the environment. It is an important tool for articulating the community’s vision and what the community would like to see in its community.

    How will other initiatives contribute to the OCP?

    In addition to public feedback, the updated OCP will align with the other plans and policies that have been adopted or are currently under development. This includes, but is not limited to the:

    A more comprehensive list of documents can be found in Appendix C of the Community Profile. The review of our OCP may identify new priorities that require us to update current policy. Until that time existing policies remain in effect.

    What is the OCP Advisory Working Group?

    The OCP Advisory Working Group (AWG) provides feedback to District staff and our consultant (Project Team). It is composed of community members and representatives from a broad cross-section of the community in order to provide a diversity of insights based on knowledge of key areas of the plan and a diversity of demographic backgrounds and lived experiences. See the AWG Terms of Reference and the AWG Composition Summary.

    Why is the District planning for new housing when we are a rural community?

    The Local Government Act requires an OCP to include statements, approximate locations, amount, type and density of residential development (new housing) required to meet anticipated housing needs for at least five years. The District must also consider the most recent Housing Needs Report when developing an official community plan. Section 4.5 of the Housing Needs Report outlines the Household Projections. Section 7.0 provides a summary of key areas of local need.

    An OCP must also include policies for affordable housing, rental housing and special need housing. 

    How does an OCP help us reach community goals?

    The OCP guides the District’s decisions on planning and land use management within the areas covered by the plan. After its adoption, all bylaws and initiatives should work towards consistency with the OCP.

    Public, stakeholder, and First Nations engagement occurs throughout the development of an OCP to identify key issues and priorities. This input helps to formulate the goals and policies within the Plan. The OCP is a “living document” and does not preclude change to the Plan based on evolving circumstances, community needs, or interpretation of policies by Council and staff.

    What if there was no OCP?

    Without an OCP the District has little control over development and land use and the community may grow or change in ways that don’t meet the needs of the community. The OCP guides development and coordination of District services, which supports planning of new infrastructure and amenities. Essentially, the growth of the District would be poorly planned and managed and the District would not be able to strategically address emerging issues such as climate change, an ageing population or protection of the environment. An OCP allows the community to determine how and where change may be considered, and how it will preserve and enhance other areas.

    Who uses an OCP?

    Residents, developers, businesses, and community groups use the OCP to learn about where and how future growth may occur. Council is guided by the OCP when making decisions about zoning, development, and servicing.

    What is the difference between the Official Community Plan and the Zoning Bylaw?

    The OCP is a high-level visionary document. It is more strategic and less prescriptive defining policies for future land use and development rather than specific sites. The OCP designates what land uses (i.e., residential, commercial, industrial, etc.) go where within the District. 

    The Zoning Bylaw is a regulatory tool that is very specific about land use and creates zones which describes what kind of building already exists or what a landowner is entitled to build. A zone typically contains regulations related to uses, density (lot coverage), height, building siting (where it is located on a lot) and other issues such as parking. An update to the Zoning Bylaw will follow the OCP review.

    How do other regional and municipal plans relate to the District's OCP?

    A Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) was co-created with municipalities and the regional district and provides a framework for guiding decisions on regional issues such as transportation, growth and settlement patterns. 

    OCPs play a dual role in the context of the RGS - they are both a tool to achieve the regional vision and objectives set out in the RGS (as captured in the Regional Context Statement (RCS)) and are a critical input to the RGS as they set out how a municipality plans to meet its community’s housing, commercial, industrial, institutional, agricultural, recreational and public utility needs (as updated through regular OCP review processes).

    The RCS addresses how the OCP’s local planning and land use policy will work towards the objectives, policies and targets identified in the RGS.

    Within the jurisdiction of the District, the OCP provides the highest level of direction for managing land use and development. All bylaws and initiatives must work towards consistency with the OCP and municipal policies and plans should align with the overall goals, objectives, and policies in the Plan.

    What areas are currently outside of the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS)? What are the District's options in relation to the RGS policy areas?

    The RGS currently excludes entire sections of the community: McTavish (Area 1) and Tsehum Harbour (Area 2), and therefore provides no policy direction for these areas. Having these areas clearly defined on the map within the RGS and supported with accompanying policies will provide additional guidance on long term land use. Having these areas clearly defined within the RGS and the OCP will deter development applications being processed on a more ad-hoc basis ensuring there is a strong policy framework in place to guide the long term land use envisioned for these areas.

    In 2016, an earlier draft of the RGS had identified McTavish (Area 1) and Tsehum Harbour (Area 2) within the Urban Containment Policy Area (UCPA) Boundary, but a mediation process requested by the District of North Saanich resulted in the areas being “outside of the RGS” in order to be consistent with the Regional Context Statement contained within the OCP at that time. These are the only areas in the Capital region identified in such a way. 

    Over the course of the current review of the District’s OCP there has been much discussion on both the role of the RGS and its relationship to the District’s OCP. This report provides a greater summary of the RGS, its role and purpose, in relation to the discussion around Areas 1 (McTavish) and Area 2 (Tsehum) and how it is being used in the District’s OCP review to identify how the OCP will demonstrate policy alignment.

    As we proceed with the OCP review and develop a draft land use designation map for the OCP, we will need to determine the rationale, context, and drivers as to whether these areas should be included within the UCPA or outside of the UCPA. The OCP provides an opportunity to analyze trends and to determine whether we wish to continue seeing high levels of growth outside of the UCPA and to consider a policy correction through growth management policy tools.

    We would need to balance the trade-offs amongst all RGS objectives to determine the relationship. For example, in relation to the targets and indicators in the RGS, if Area 1 (McTavish) were to be included within the UCPA, potentially along with some additional land base we would need to understand the relationship of the inclusion to the principles and policies set out the RGS.

    When was the District's OCP last updated?

    The last major update to the District’s OCP occurred in 2007, however there have been 14 revisions since that date. These changes are summarized on page 3 of the Official Community Plan Review – Scope and Proposed Approach

    Updating the OCP provides the District with an opportunity to update policies to address current challenges such as climate change, community growth and land use, housing affordability, agriculture and food security and others. Retaining past policies that were identified as working well while creating new policies that better reflect these contemporary challenges, the OCP is able to shape future growth to achieve the community’s vision for a sustainable future.

    Why is public input needed?

    The Local Government Act requires municipalities to consult with the public, stakeholders, government agencies and First Nations when an OCP is developed or revised. The OCP should reflect the type of community we wish to be in the future. 

    Municipalities must provide one or more opportunities for consultation with the community, organizations, and authorities that will be affected. This required consultation effort is in addition to the requirements for a formal public hearing, and many municipalities go beyond the minimum level of engagement when completing an OCP review because of its importance to citizens and stakeholders.

    District staff have already started by engaging the public, stakeholders, and First Nations in the first phase of the OCP update process using a variety of techniques that allowed meaningful participant feedback.  This input will help shape the OCP's goals and policies and help to ensure that the OCP reflects the overall ideas and aspirations of the community. The aim of the OCP Review process is to engage residents of all ages and walks of life to participate as part of an ongoing community dialogue that will carry on through the implementation of the OCP.

    Can you explain the difference between the Rural designation in the current OCP as outlined in Land Use Scenario 1 compared to the Rural Residential designation as outlined in Land Use Scenario 3?

    In the current OCP:

    • General Residential lot size range from 1400m2 to 2000m2 (0.3 acre to 0.5 acre), and are intended for future single family residential, with secondary suite or second dwelling units in appropriate circumstances. This means lots designated General Residential that are greater than 2800m2 (0.7 acre) can be subdivided, should Council approve a rezoning application. In the current OCP there are approximately 475 properties that have this potential, many of which are located in Deep Cove and Lands End areas. See page 5 of the Technical Memo
    • Country Residential provides for larger estate lots or smaller acreages 0.4 to 1 hectare depending on site conditions (serviced with wells or community water)
    • Rural lands that are non-ALR rural lands, are presently a variety of sizes, but no Rural lands are intended to be subdivided into parcels smaller than 4 hectares. These lands are intended to permit agriculture uses and compatible uses (i.e. parks or hobby farms)

    In the draft Land Use Scenario 3:

    • Designating all General Residential & Country Residential lands as “Rural Residential”, in line with the Regional Growth Strategy to keep these lands for rural and rural residential purposes of a form, density, and character to support working landscapes. This would also increase the lot size ranges, thereby reducing the number of properties that could apply to Council for a rezoning and then meet minimum parcel size for lots to be subdivided.  
    • Lands that are in the ALR would be redesignated to Agriculture to prioritize and encourage the principal use of agriculture 
    • Rural lands, that are not in the ALR remain consistent with current OCP designation

     Land Use Scenario 3 can be found on pages 17 & 18 and Land Use Scenario 3 can be found on pages 21 & 22 of the Open House Boards

    Where can I find definitions that are associated with the policy directions such as for neighbourhood nook, circular economy, blue-green networks, Green Shores, agricultural food hub and farm village?

    These definitions are contained within the glossary of the Phase 2 Engagement Summary and Policy Directions Report on Page 4 & 5.

    What are some of the regulatory and policy mechanisms the District can consider to limit (or attract the intended) the types of commercial activities occur in a "neighbourhood nook"?

    Neighbourhood Nooks refer to small gathering places in residential areas that encourage connection, promote small-scale entrepreneurship, and strengthen neighbourhood character and identity. Within OCP there is the opportunity to create policy to develop criteria to describe the general types of location, scale, and the types of uses that would be supported if a rezoning application was received by the district. A development permit area is another policy mechanism within an OCP that can set out guidelines for form and character. There are regulatory mechanisms through a zoning bylaw to prohibit drive thrus, limit retail size to discourage larger retail stores, as well as frontage limitations.

    What are some of the regulatory and policy mechanisms that the District can consider to limit secondary dwellings to a “cottage” as envisioned?

    Cottages are considered a single storey, detached dwelling typically located in the backyard of a single detached home. Within the OCP there is the opportunity to determine which land use designations would support this use in certain circumstances. Through the zoning bylaw there are regulatory mechanisms (including but not limited to) to permitting this use in certain zones, regulate height maximums, dwelling size, setbacks, lot area, and non-agricultural land.


    How was it determined to explore cottages on lots 1400m2 (0.3 acres) and greater?

    The scope of the OCP review includes exploring the opportunity to permit guest cottages on lots under 0.4 hectares (0.99 acres) to provide different types of housing options in North Saanich.  In the current OCP General Residential lot sizes range from 1400m2 to 2000m2 (0.3 acres to 0.5 acres), and these lands are intended for future single family residential, with secondary suite or second dwelling units in appropriate circumstances, The current OCP Country Residential provides for larger estate lots or smaller acreages 0.4 hectares to 1 hectare (0.99 acres to 2.5 acres) depending on site conditions (serviced with wells of community water). Given the current designations in the OCP and consideration for support of second dwelling units in appropriate circumstances the District seeks to understand whether there is support for cottages on residential lots over 1400m2 (or 0.3 acres) in certain areas. The District also wants to understand what the community feels are important considerations for allowing cottages on lots in North Saanich. This feedback will be included within the engagement summary report and will inform recommendations to Council on how to proceed with drafting the OCP.

    What are clam gardens and are there specific areas they would be considered?

    Clams were an important source of protein for W̱SÁNEĆ people. Clam gardens are ancient sites along shorelines in W̱SÁNEĆ territory that Indigenous people tended for thousands of years to enhance the production of clams and related sea creatures. More information on restoration projects can be found on the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council website.

     As part of the OCP process, the District is looking to identify where clam gardens could be restored and support projects that re-establish this local practice by W̱SÁNEĆ Peoples. The area of most interest is Coles Bay and there are potentially a few other areas that are well suited. 

    What is the current Area 1 (McTavish) and where is the boundary being considered to be expanded through Land Use Scenario 2? Why is a change proposed?

    The current boundary of Area 1 (McTavish) is shown in a dotted white line on each land use scenario map in the open house boards. Land Use Scenario 2 considers the expansion of higher density residential land uses outside of the current boundary and abutting the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) boundary. Land Use Scenario 1 and Land Use Scenario 3 do not consider the expansion of higher density residential land uses outside of the current boundary of Area 1 (McTavish). 

    What is the risk of having lands that are outside of the Regional Growth Strategy (Area 1 & Area 2)?

    Having these areas clearly defined on the map within the RGS and supported with accompanying policies will provide additional guidance on long term land use. These policies within the RGS along with the OCP will be used to inform the community as well as applicants who may want to propose a different type of land use or a higher density type of housing. Depending on the proposal an applicant could also be required to apply to amend the RGS -  for example increased residential density from single family dwellings to small lot subdivision or multi-family housing. Having these areas defined with accompanying policy will help ensure consistent evaluation of development proposals in relation to the policy contained within the OCP as well as the RGS.

     Currently there is only policy guidance for Area 1 (McTavish) and Area 2 (Tsehum) in the OCP as these areas are currently considered outside of the RGS. Having these areas clearly defined within the RGS and the OCP will deter development applications being processed on a more ad-hoc basis ensuring there is a strong policy framework in place to guide the long term land use envisioned for these areas

    What are all the options that could be considered for the areas that are currently outside of Regional Growth Strategy Area 1 (McTavish) & Area 2 (Tsehum)?

    The RGS shows the policy areas in the Growth Management Concept Plan (Map 3a) that designates the region into four land use designation types: 

    1. Capital Green Lands Policy Area. 
    2. Renewable Resource Lands Policy Area. 
    3. Urban Containment Policy Area. 
    4. Rural/Rural Residential Policy Area.

    Currently the North Saanich OCP also acknowledges that Area 1 (McTavish) and Area 2 (Tsehum) are “outside of the RGS” (Map 3a: Growth Management Concept Plan of the RGS and are not designated as one of the four land use designations) as these areas were still under policy development relating to affordable housing policy during the completion and adoption of the RGS in early 2018.

    Given that the privately owned lands within these areas do not demonstrate policy alignment with the Capital Green Lands Policy Area or the Renewable Resource Lands Policy Area the viable options include designating them within the Urban Containment Policy Area (UCPA) or the Rural/Residential Policy Area.

    As we proceed with the OCP review and develop a draft land use designation map for the OCP, we will need to determine the rationale, context, and drivers as to whether these areas should be included within the UCPA or outside of the UCPA in the Rural/Rural Residential Policy Area, and associated context and considerations. 

    What is the difference between the mixed uses (commercial and residential) at the McTavish Village as opposed to the Deep Cove Community Hub?

    Although there is no formal definition for mixed use in relation to the Deep Cove Community Hub the policy direction looks at an additional four lots for the potential mixed use (residential and commercial). The possibility of mixed use in this location would be intended to complement the existing uses and be a scale similar to what is already on the adjacent lots. This could be a mixture of residential and commercial uses that could be vertically oriented (i.e., commercial on the ground floor and residential above like the Deep Cove Market) or horizontally oriented (i.e., commercial building next to a residential building).

    Currently the policy direction for the McTavish Village Centre looks at develop a village centre around two nodes, (a) the McTavish Interchange to allow low rise apartment buildings where they are already permitted, up to four storeys, with townhomes to help integrate with single detached homes nearby, (b) and McTavish and East Saanich Road to provide for a mixed use corner that builds off existing shops and services (with an additional 7 lots) and determines a range of future commercial and light industrial uses such as health care offices and low impact, artisan manufacturing.

    Where can I find more information on Green Shores?

    The Stewardship Centre for BC and funding partners started the Green Shores program in 2005 to promote healthy shore environments that provide significant environmental, economic, and social values to coastal communities. More information can be found https://stewardshipcentrebc.ca/greenshores/

    How have First Nations been involved in the OCP review? Where is that feedback?

    Indigenous Engagement in the OCP review process has been summarized in the Phase 1 and Phase 2 engagement summaries as well as a special memo. The feedback has helped shape the goals and policy directions.

     Through the high-level review of the current OCP we have also identified what could be added and indicated a number of opportunities to integrate the feedback from W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. These include:

    • History and context section
    • Acknowledging that these lands and marine areas and waters have been stewarded by the W̱SÁNEĆ Nations for thousands of years
    • Clam gardens restoration to re-establish this culturally significant practice and food source
    • Creation of traditional and medicinal gardens and interpretive signage; and
    • Greater recognition of the historical, cultural, scientific, spiritual, and educational value of archaeological sites to First Nations and local communities