Town of Oliver is second South Okanagan municipality to adopt an Environmental Development Permit Areas Bylaw
A Regional Team Approach
To develop consistent ecological standards and practices, the South Okanagan-Similkameen Conservation Program (SOSCP) and four of its local government partners (Summerland, Oliver, Keremeos and the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen) have created a regional environmental planning table and implemented a collaborative approach to capacity building.
Environmental Development Permit Areas
“On Monday July 12th, the Town of Oliver’s Council approved Environmental Development Permit Areas as proposed under the South Okanagan and Similkameen Local Government Ecological Standards and Practices Capacity Building Initiative. This follows on the heels of the District of Summerland’s success,” reports Bryn White, SOSCO Manager. “Also interested in being involved in our second phase, or year two of the initiative is the City of Penticton and Town of Osoyoos.”
“The ‘regional team approach’ has made possible the Summerland and Oliver bylaws. Each recognizes that settlement change and ecology are equal values and they must be as much in balance as possible for the wellbeing of human and natural systems.”
A Proven Tool
“This tool is not new. It has been in use for years by municipalities throughout BC. What makes the South Okanagan distinctive is that several local governments have pooled our resources to share the services of an environmental planner. This has resulted in consistency and a ‘made in the South Okanagan’ approach to a proven planning tool,” observes Tom Szalay, Chief Administrative Officer with the Town of Oliver.
The amendments to the Official Community Plan extend environmental and riparian permit areas to cover grasslands, wetlands, mature forest, riparian (riverbank) areas and rugged terrain. The purpose of the permit areas is to protect these ecosystems from the harmful effects of development that could diminish species and habitat diversity.
According to the Oliver Chronicle, Councillor Jack Bennest said the bylaw means Oliver conforms with the rest of the valley and is basically a toolkit for town staff to do their jobs effectively.
Convening for Action in the South Okanagan
The seeds for this ‘regional team approach’ were planted in 2005 when the Town of Oliver and the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen participated in a pilot initiative known as Convening for Action in the South Okanagan.
“In 2005, the opportunity for inter-governmental collaboration under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia resulted from two planning initiatives: the Town of Oliver was a case study for Smart Growth on the Ground; and the Regional District was developing a Regional Growth Strategy,” explains Glen Brown, Executive Director with the Ministry of Community and Rural Development.
Inter-Regional Sharing and Learning
“We branded these two case studies as Convening for Action in the South Okanagan,” adds Tim Pringle, Director of Special Programs for the Real Estate Foundation of BC. “The Town of Oliver was the first building block and informed our contribution to the Regional Growth Strategy.” The Real Estate Foundation is an Action Plan core funder.
“We learned a lot about the power of a ‘top down bottom up’ strategy for influencing attitudes. In particular, a sharing and learning session hosted by the Town of Oliver in March 2006 had lasting significance. It became the prototype for an educational approach that leads to action.”
“The South Okanagan provided the first opportunity to test the ‘convening for action’ approach. That experience has been adapted in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island. Through the leadership efforts of the SOSCP, the cross-fertilization process has now come full circle: South Okanagan communities are adapting and building on lessons learned on Vancouver Island.”
“Each regional initiative has its own vision and road map. However, a commonality is a desire for a Regional Team Approach founded on partnerships and collaboration,” concludes Tim Pringle.
The Town of Oliver’s contribution to a ‘made in BC’ process for moving from awareness to action is documented in Beyond the Guidebook 2010: Implementing a New Culture for Urban Watershed Protection and Restoration in British Columbia.
To Learn More:
Click on South Okanagan and Similkameen Local Government Ecological Standards and Practices Capacity Building Initiative — Bryn White provides context for the community and inter-governmental collaboration that resulted in formation of a regional environmental planning table to advance sustainable land use planning.
Click on District of Summerland experience illustrates successful application of ‘regional team approach’ in the South Okanagan — Almost 2,000 hectares of land now have the Environmental Development Permit Areas designation which allows for careful consideration of ecological values during the development application and approval process.
Click on Convening for Action in British Columbia: ‘Beyond the Guidebook 2010’ connects the dots between South Okanagan and Vancouver Island — The South Okanagan Regional Growth Strategy provided the first opportunity to test the ‘convening for action’ approach. That experience has been adapted in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island. The cross-fertilization process has now come full circle.