Sidney residents have consistently emphasized one overriding value above all else: Sidney’s charm and character as a seaside town must not be lost. Residents don’t expect Sidney to be frozen in time; they’re open to change and growth. But controlled growth, managed growth, not unplanned and unmanaged over-densification.
Fortunately, controlled and managed ‘gentle growth’ is very achievable. Sidney has grown slowly for decades. That trend is expected to continue. Sidney’s population is forecast to grow from its current 12,300 to only 14,045 by 2038, less than one per cent a year. Extreme over-densification isn’t necessary.
Residential areas in Sidney are fully built out – all further increases in residential density must come from infill redevelopment. That requires very careful management to ensure that the character of existing neighbourhoods isn’t destroyed. Moreover, random neighbourhoods within Sidney must not be targeted for extreme over-densification resulting in an ugly patchwork quilt of low-density and high-density. Four-storey high-rises interspersed among bungalows.
Reading Sidney’s draft OCP, town planners still haven’t gotten residents’ message. Sure, after the previous administration’s humiliation at the polls for deafness to citizen protest and excessive densification downtown, planners have backed off there. Instead they’ve now just foolishly moved excessive densification into residential neighbourhoods.
Moreover, contrary to openness and transparency, planners have hidden their changes: keep the name, change its meaning. Single-family and two-family uses in ‘Neighbourhood Residential’ land-use areas (the yellow areas in the draft OCP map) would now, by a stroke of the pen, be over-densified by a factor of two to five compared to current definitions in the zoning bylaw for the same areas.
Even worse, the draft OCP arbitrarily carves off eight large chunks from the former ‘Residential Neighbourhood’ land-use area and converts them to ‘Multi-family Residential’ with densities as much as seven times higher than single-family. This is arbitrary, unreasonable, and unfair. But beyond unfairness, such excessive, arbitrary, and undifferentiated over-densification renders the draft OCP a blunt and useless planning tool.
This draft OCP does not fulfill its core requirement as a planning tool. It’s not a matter of mere tweaking and tuning. Sidney council must send it back for a complete rework.