Planners honour Comox Valley Regional Growth Strategy

The Planning Institute of B.C. has recognized the Comox Valley’s Regional Growth Strategy with an Award for Planning Excellence, under the category of Small Town and Rural Planning.

The award recognizes the contribution of planners working in rural or small urban settings that are faced with limited resources and significant growth challenges.

The awards committee complimented the collaborative efforts of the entire Valley — elected officials and the public — to come up with new ideas about what sustainability looks like in rural areas.

"I think we were the first for that (environmental sustainability language in an RGS)," CVRD chair Edwin Grieve said in response. "It just stands to reason in the Comox Valley. That is a real paramount thing that people are keenly interested in ... I don't think we would have got away with it if we didn't put it in there. We'd still be haggling over it."

The CVRD board adopted the government-mandated RGS in March. Creating the document involved two years of public consultation, and included four local governments and input from the K’ómoks First Nation.

It stirred a great deal of controversy in rural areas and municipalities, as heard at two public hearings last year. The first meeting drew upwards of 200 residents who blasted the document for encouraging urban sprawl. At the second session, many speakers wanted to abolish Settlement Expansion Areas.

The resulting bylaw protects and promotes resource and agricultural areas, and supports rural development while curbing urban sprawl.

"Kudos to all involved and, in particular, the public who participated in all the workshops and public hearing processes over the last number of years," Comox Mayor Paul Ives said.

Grieve said it can be difficult for people to stand back and look at the Valley as it is.

"We're so very spoiled," he said. "All you have to do is travel somewhere else for a year and you're so happy to get back. We have a lot to protect."

Grieve complimented the efforts of elected officials involved in the process, even when it came to disagreeing on issues.

"The decorum was there; the sense of respect was there," he said. "The mayors all realized that they had to make some concessions to make it work. We had some difficult moments, but in the end everybody bound together by the love of the Valley."

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