Several years ago the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s board of directors decided not to undertake review of the official community plans (OCPs) for each of the three individual electoral areas in the southern part of the CVRD (i.e. Cobble Hill, Shawnigan Lake and Mill Bay/Malahat) but, instead, to meld them together under a single “South Cowichan” OCP. One of the interesting results has been the need to create a new and unique type of advisory planning commission – a South Cowichan Advisory Planning Commission. Being a new approach to the processing of applications to change zonings and land designations, many people with an interest in such matters have experienced some confusion and uncertainty about how the process is expected to work.
To understand the newly modified process, it is important to first know about one of the most important aspects of the new OCP; the creation of “village containment boundaries” for each electoral area’s most densely developed lands. Prior to the adoption of the new OCP, each of the three electoral areas had its own CVRD-appointed Advisory Planning Commission (APC) with responsibility for providing the CVRD, when asked, with advice as to whether a land-use-change application should be approved or denied. For example, the Area B (Shawnigan) APC would provide advice to the CVRD on any application regarding a piece of land within the borders of Area B. Now, under the structural changes created by the new OCP, the Shawnigan APC now can only deal with land change issues on properties that lie within the Shawnigan Lake village containment boundary – an area that is a small fraction of the total size of Area B. All land-use-change applications for Area B lands that are outside the Shawnigan Village containment boundary are now to be dealt with by a new entity called the South Cowichan Advisory Planning Commission; sometimes also referred to as the “joint APC.” The two other electoral areas (A and C) are affected in exactly the same way as is Area B.
So, for properties falling within village containment boundaries, it is business as usual. For properties in any of the three electoral areas, (A, B and C) that are located outside of the village containment boundary areas, it means that CVRD referrals for APC advice will now go to the “joint” APC instead. The South Cowichan joint APC draws its members from each of the other three APCs using the following formula as set out in a CVRD bylaw: It will consist of at least nine people: five from the electoral area in which the property is located and two from each of the other two electoral areas - normally the chair and vice-chair persons of those APCs.
For a person who is applying for approval of a change in land-use, this altered process will probably not have a significant impact. It will simply mean that for properties outside of village containment boundaries, the application will be scrutinized and its merits assessed by and APC within the context of the entire south Cowichan area instead of from the more local perspective of one of those smaller geographic entities known as an electoral area.
More information about Areas A, B and C village containment boundaries and advisory planning commissions can be had from staff at the CVRD’s Planning and Development Department (phone 250-746-2620) and by going to the CVRD's web site.