Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Official Community Plan?
- Who creates the Official Community Plan?
- How can I get involved?
- How will my input be used?
- How will the Official Community Plan be developed?
- Why do we need an Official Community Plan?
- Does New Westminster already have an Official Community Plan?
- What legal status will the Official Community Plan have?
- What is the role of Envision 2032?
- What is the difference between the Official Community Plan and a Neighbourhood Plan?
- What is the difference between the Official Community Plan and the Zoning Bylaw?
- How will Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy Influence the Official Community Plan?
- How will Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy influence the Land Use Plan in the Official Community Plan?
- Does the city have to grow? Why not say “no” to Metro Vancouver’s growth projections?
- Would growth in the Downtown and around the SkyTrain stations satisfy Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy?
- How much of the growth target could be accommodated by the current Official Community Plan’s land use plan?
- Can areas be identified where no change/new housing forms are appropriate?
- Who decides on the final land use plan?
- Is there a difference between "housing choice" and "growth"?
- Will the infill housing forms being explored be affordable?
- Transportation is one of the top issues in New Westminster. How will the Official Community Plan improve transportation in New Westminster?
- Why can’t the City ban trucks from existing truck routes?
- How does the Official Community Plan influence TransLink?
- Will parking and traffic get worse as a result of new housing? What will be done about this?
- Why can’t we get a greater diversity of shops along the city’s main streets?
- What impact does the RCH expansion have on the Official Community Plan?
- The consultation so far hasn’t focused on industrial land or employment much, why is that?
- Does the Official Community Plan influence where new schools are located?
- What is the likelihood that this Official Community Plan will mean more amenities in my neighbourhood?
- Does allowing more density mean that the City gets more taxes?
- More people are going to require more amenities, services and park space. How can the City ensure there is enough for existing and future residents?
- How will the City protect and add new trees if new housing is allowed?
- How will the different infill housing forms be implemented?
- What can I build on my property when the Official Community Plan is adopted?
- Can I continue with my current land use on my property after the Official Community Plan is adopted?
- How will property values change if the Official Community Plan is adopted?
- Will a larger population mean that we all pay less property tax or do we have to pay more for services needed by new people?
What is the Official Community Plan?
The Official Community Plan (OCP) is a policy document which sets out the City’s vision for the future growth and development of the city. The Official Community Plan will integrate policies on land use, the economy, the environment, transportation, community facilities and services into a broad strategy to direct growth and development.
Who creates the Official Community Plan?
This Official Community Plan will reflect the ideas and input of the people who live, work, and play in New Westminster and who participate in the preparation of the Plan. Input from Council, City committees and other stakeholders is also used the create the Plan.
How can I get involved?
Public consultation will take place throughout the review process. Check out the "How Can You Participate" page for details about upcoming events.
There are a number of different inputs that are considered when creating a new Official Community Plan, including:
- The Public: Community members like you provide an important role in shaping the Official Community Plan.
- Stakeholders: Updates are sent to stakeholders, such as TransLink and the School District, throughout the review process and they are invited to provide feedback.
- Technical Expertise and Studies: Through the review process we have identified areas where additional technical expertise is required. As an example, we hired consultants to create an Ecological Inventory for New Westminster. This study will inform the policies included in the “Environment and Natural Areas” section of the Official Community Plan.
- City Policies: We take other Council policies into account during the OUR CITY process. These policies remain priorities even while the Official Community Plan is being reviewed. For example, the Master Transportation Plan will significantly impact the “Transportation” section of the Official Community Plan.
- Council Direction: We will present reports to Council throughout the OUR CITY process. This is an important opportunity for us to receive feedback and direction from Council.
- Regional Growth Strategy (RGS): Metro Vancouver’s land use plan is aimed at advancing the region’s livability and sustainability, while managing anticipated growth. The Official Community Plan must help achieve the strategies in the RGS (e.g. the City must show how it will work towards accommodating the projected employment, dwelling and population numbers included in the RGS).
Each of these sources of input are woven together to shape the Plan. Different sections of the Official Community Plan will rely more heavily on certain sources of input rather than others. For example, the “Energy and Emissions” section will rely most heavily on Technical Expertise and City Policy (i.e. Community Energy and Emission Plan). Public consultation will be focused on the areas that we need most input on (e.g. housing).
How will the Official Community Plan be developed?
The OCP review will be undertaken over three years, starting in early 2014. Year one will focus on conducting background research, and community engagement workshops and a visioning charrette which will build on the principles set in Envision 2032 and establish the OCP vision and policy area goals. Year two will focus on drafting policy, including the Land Use Map, and the review of these by Council and Council’s committees/commissions, the community, and external stakeholders. Year three will focus on drafting the Plan. Throughout the process, Council will be updated at appropriate points.
Why do we need an Official Community Plan?
The Plan will establish policies and guidelines, and designate land for specific uses that are supported by Council and the community. This regulatory framework will provide a guide for how the City evaluates and approves future development. It will provide clear direction for how New Westminster should grow in the coming years.
Does New Westminster already have an Official Community Plan?
Yes. But it has been more than 15 years since the vision and polices were created. It is time for an update that accounts for how New Westminster has changed and to better plan for the future. Click here for the current plan.
What legal status will this Official Community Plan have?
All Official Community Plans (OCPs) are prepared under the authority of the Local Government Act (LGA). The LGA describes an OCP as a comprehensive guiding document, primarily in relation to land use planning. The LGA outlines required policy components (e.g. approximate location, amount and type of residential development to meet the community's expected housing needs for the next five years) and optional components (e.g. policies relating to social well-being in the community). Historically, New Westminster has chosen to include a wide range of “optional” policy areas in the OCP, including social, cultural, economic and environmental policies, seeking to move forward in many areas where a local government can influence community success and livability.
The LGA states that a local government is not obligated to immediately meet the objectives of the OCP or to undertake any project included in the plan, or to retroactively amend existing bylaws. However, all of the City's subsequent policies, plans, capital projects or bylaws must conform to the adopted OCP. For example, the Zoning Bylaw and the Subdivision and Development Bylaw should be made consistent with the OCP over time.
What is the role of Envision 2032?
Envision 2032 is an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan, which Council adopted on May 27, 2013. It is a document that informs and guides City activities, including plans, policies, projects and practices, using a sustainable lens.
The work done on Envision 2032 was a preliminary step leading to the undertaking of a comprehensive update of the OCP. The OCP review will be one means of implementing the directions of Envision 2032. For example, the Descriptions of Success will be used to help shape the specific goals for each policy area in the updated OCP, creating a model for the process through which the broader sustainability directions flow down into other City plans and policies. The OCP review process will support the continuing development of indicators for measuring and reporting progress toward the Descriptions of Success.
What is the difference between the Official Community Plan and a neighbourhood plan?
The City has a number of neighbourhood plans. The two most recently completed neighbourhood plans (Queensborough and Downtown) are attached as Schedules to the Official Community Plan. Neighbourhood Plans align with the overarching Official Community Plan, but include a greater level of detail that is specific to the neighbourhood. One component of the OCP review process will be to review each neighbourhood and determine which needs its own plan.
What is the difference between the Official Community Plan and the Zoning Bylaw?
The Zoning Bylaw is a regulatory tool that includes more specific requirements that new development must comply with (e.g. permitted density, site coverage, land use and parking). The OCP is a high-level policy tool that is often less prescriptive than the Zoning Bylaw. The OCP includes land use designations and a land use designation map, which show the type and location of growth that Council is likely to support. It also includes development permit areas and related design guidelines which provide additional guidance for development. Council cannot approve a rezoning application that is not consistent with the OCP.
As an example, the current OCP designates the majority of East Columbia Street as Commercial Main Street. This designation allows “commercial uses at the street level, and commercial, office or residential uses above the ground level.” Most of the properties in this area are zoned Community Commercial Districts (C2-A), which regulates what uses are permitted (e.g. retail stores, restaurants), what density is permitted, the height the building can be (a maximum of 40 feet), and required setbacks from property lines. In this way the Zoning Bylaw helps to implement the OCP.
How will Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy Influence the Official Community Plan?
In July 2011 Metro Vancouver adopted a new Regional Growth Strategy, a land-use plan aimed at advancing the region’s livability and sustainability, while managing anticipated growth. The Strategy sets out goals, strategies and policies to guide the future growth of the region and provides the land use framework for transportation, economic, housing, utility (water, liquid waste and solid waste), environmental and climate change planning.
The Strategy is a shared commitment by Metro Vancouver and member municipalities to work together to achieve regional goals, including:
- Containing growth within a defined area and channelling it into vibrant, livable Urban Centres.
- Supporting the region’s economy, by protecting industrial and agricultural lands and ensuring their efficient use.
- Protecting the region’s valuable natural environment and promoting ecological health and supporting land use and transportation patterns that improve the region's ability to adapt to climate change.
- Building complete communities with affordable and diverse housing, close to employment and amenities, with good transportation choices.
- Integrating land use and transportation planning to help get people out of their cars, support the safe and efficient movement of goods and people, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A required component of the Official Community Plan is the "Regional Context Statement," which must be approved by Metro Vancouver’s board. The Regional Context Statement must demonstrate how the OCP policies are consistent with and help achieve the Regional Growth Strategy. For example, the City must show how it will work towards accommodating the projected employment, dwelling and population numbers included in the Strategy. A new Regional Context Statement will be developed as part of the OCP update process.
How will Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy influence the City's Official Community Plan Land Use Plan?
Metro Vancouver’s Strategy includes a Land Use Plan that provides broad direction the City must take into account when creating our Land Use Plan for the Official Community Plan. The City’s map cannot be contradictory to Metro Vancouver’s map. However, Metro Vancouver’s land uses are relatively broad and give the City the appropriate flexibility to create a land use plan that is best suited for New Westminster.
Metro Vancouver’s map is not explicit about where growth should be located within the General Urban area. Instead there are policies within the overarching plan that provide direction (such as putting the highest densities in the areas with frequent transit).
Metro Vancouver is explicit about where growth can't go. For example, the Regional Growth Strategy protects industrial land in the region through a specific industrial land designation. Changing the use of a property identified by Metro Vancouver as industrial requires an amendment to the Regional Growth Strategy that must be approved by the Board of Directors. As a result, it is expected that the land in the Braid, Stewardson and Queensborough industrial areas will remain industrial.
Does the city have to grow? Why not say “no” to Metro Vancouver’s growth projections?
Metro Vancouver’s Plan is a shared commitment by Metro Vancouver and member municipalities, including the City of New Westminster, to work together to achieve regional goals.
People are coming to the Lower Mainland and New Westminster because they are attractive places to live, work and learn. Most of the population increase will come from people moving to the region. Some additional growth will come from natural population increase.
Metro Vancouver is projected to grow to 3,400,000 people in 2041 (an increase of 1,205,000 from 2006). The goal of the Metro Vancouver’s Plan is to ensure that new housing is built in the right places. For example, housing should not be on lands that should be protected for other uses such as industrial, agricultural and conservation. Instead Metro Vancouver wants growth to be targeted within existing urban areas, especially those with frequent transit.
Metro Vancouver has broken the regional population projection down by municipality. A population of 102,000 people is anticipated in New Westminster in 2041 (an increase of 41,500 from 2006). The City’s share is 3.4% of the total growth projected for Metro Vancouver. This forecast would equate to an increase of 1,186 people per year (and a growth rate of less than 2% a year). The City has completed its own projections which are consistent with Metro Vancouver’s.
The Official Community Plan is about how to best accommodate this additional population in a way that achieves regional goals, City objectives and community aspirations.
Would growth in the Downtown and around the SkyTrain stations satisfy Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy?
Yes, growth in these areas could accommodate the majority of projected future needs for housing, but it likely wouldn’t be able to address other objectives raised by the community, in particular the need to increase housing options within our city.
How much of the growth target could be accommodated by the current Official Community Plan’s land use plan?
All of the anticipated population growth could be accommodated within the current Official Community Plan. However a comprehensive review has not been done of the Plan in over 15 years. We need to check in with the community and Council to make sure the right types of growth are accommodated in the right places. We still expect the majority of growth to be in the Downtown and around SkyTrain stations. We also expect some growth along key corridors such as Sixth Street, Twelfth Street and East Columbia Street, to encourage better transit support and local businesses.
All of this growth would be in the form of apartments. Since more than 95% of housing in the city is already either a single detached dwelling or an apartment unit this new growth will not help provide improved housing choice. We want to use the Official Community Plan review as an opportunity to explore with the community what other housing forms would be appropriate and where they would be appropriate. This has meant considering a range of housing forms (such as laneway houses, duplexes and townhouses) which may provide better options for people as their housing needs change.
Can areas be identified where no change/new housing forms are appropriate?
Yes. The community consultation, research and Council may identify some neighbourhoods or areas within neighbourhoods where no change is the preferred approach. It is possible for these areas to retain their existing “Residential – Low Density” land use designation.
Other areas may be suited to some change (such as by allowing new housing forms such as laneway houses or small lot duplexes). Other areas may be suited to a wide range of new housing forms (such as triplexes and townhouses). The Community Conversation on Housing will help us understand the community’s preferences which will help inform Council’s evaluation of land use options.
Who decides on the final land use plan?
Council will make the final decision. Their decision will be made on factors such as feedback from the community, other City policy, Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy, and research.
- Accommodate Expected Growth
- Increase Housing Choice
Growth: To be in conformance with the Regional Growth Strategy the City must show how and where it can accommodate 102,000 residents in New Westminster by 2041. Staff presented City Building Principles to the community at the Neighbourhood Visioning Process (February 2015). They included the following principles, which will guide work towards achieving this goal:
- Locate the most number of residents within mixed-use, pedestrian oriented nodes that are well served by transit.
- Locate the next highest number of residents along pedestrian-oriented transit corridors.
- Locate some additional residents in single detached dwelling areas using form and character that maintain neighbourhood character.
Choice: Currently single detached dwellings and apartments make up more than 95% of the city’s housing stock. Increasing housing choice in New Westminster would be achieved by encouraging more ground oriented housing forms. Typically a ground oriented unit has a separate, exterior entrance directly accessible (without passing through a common lobby or corridor) from a street or open space. This type of housing is often called “infill” as it is developed within an existing neighbourhood. It is very important to do this in a way that keeps our neighbourhood character. The draft City Building Principles included the following, which will guide this work:
- Provide housing to meet the needs of different ages, incomes, family types and abilities.
Will the infill housing forms being explored be affordable? Which ones are more affordable?
The different infill housing types which have been proposed (e.g. laneway house, duplex, townhouse) provide for a variety of tenures, ownership models and unit sizes all of which affect the cost of the unit. Different infill housing types are going to be more financially accessible to different people than others. For example one half of a duplex is going to be more affordable for many people than a full single detached lot/dwelling.
Transportation is one of the top issues in New Westminster. How will the Official Community Plan improve transportation in New Westminster?
Planning for land use and transportation should be closely linked. In addition to considering where people live, work and play, the OUR CITY process will consider how people move. A critical target for the City is to decrease the number of trips made by vehicles and shift to trips made using sustainable transportation modes. This means making walking, biking and taking transit more viable and attractive options. There needs to be a complete and well-designed network of pedestrian, bike and transit routes. In addition, the Official Community Plan must help ensure that the right land uses are in the right locations. For example, more housing should be located close to amenities like parks and grocery stores.
The City recently adopted a Master Transportation Plan (MTP) which includes long-term direction that will guide transportation policies, priorities and investments for each element of the transportation network. The MTP will be a significant input into the OUR CITY process. In addition, the Mayor has created a task force that will focus on the implementation of the MTP as well as the City’s response to dealing with regional transportation challenges. The OUR CITY process may also help identify implementation priorities.
Why can’t the City ban trucks from existing truck routes?
The City owns and manages many of the roads in New Westminster but not all of them. The City’s transportation system is influenced by decisions and directions from neighbouring municipalities and other levels of government, including TransLink, Metro Vancouver, and the Province. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) maintains the highway network and owns and maintains the Queensborough Bridge.
TransLink is responsible for planning, financing and managing the Major Road Network (MRN) in the Metro Vancouver region, and owns and maintains the Pattullo Bridge. TransLink also oversees the region’s truck route network. They have the authority to approve or reject any proposed changes that may impact goods movement on the street network within Metro Vancouver. Therefore, any request by municipalities to remove a truck route or implement time restrictions for trucks must be approved by TransLink. This generally also requires support of affected stakeholders such as neighbouring cities and the transport industry. Overall, municipalities must work with TransLink, each other and other agencies when seeking changes to the truck route network.
The City would like to find solutions that mitigate the negative effects that truck traffic has on our community, as outlines in the Master Transportation Plan.
How does the Official Community Plan influence TransLink?
TransLink manages transit services in the city and the region. They regularly monitor the transit network to see how people use transit services (e.g. different routes, busy times of day). Based on those findings, TransLink makes adjustments to improve both the efficiency and usefulness of the network. There are a number of objectives that help guide their decision making, including increasing ridership. Transit improvements tend to occur in areas of communities that have a large number of people working or living within easy walking distance, such as a along a well-developed corridor. This encourages municipalities to locate people (employment and housing) in areas where frequent transit is desired. This will be considered when the future land use scenarios are created for the Official Community Plan. The City will use the Official Community Plan and the Master Transportation Plan to advocate for the changes we want TransLink to make in the city.
Will parking and traffic get worse as a result of new housing? What will be done about this?
Parking is an important consideration for any of the infill housing forms. Provision of parking is closely linked to other site planning objectives including open space, tree retention, building bulk and setbacks amongst others. A balance between these objectives will need to be sought - stay tuned for your opportunity to talk about design requirements.
As described in the Mater Transportation Plan, Council has adopted an ambitious target of having 60% of all trips made by sustainable modes of transportation. This means both current and future residents will make more trips by walking, cycling and transit. Successfully achieving this target will mean that the city-generated vehicle trips will remain stable over time (even as population and employment increases).
The Official Community Plan must work in tandem with the Master Transportation Plan to help make this target feasible. As a City, we need to make it easier to drive less. Shops, services, and other amenities need to be well located and easily accessible to residents by foot, bike and transit. It also means having the right housing and employment mix, in the right locations.
Will allowing housing choice increase the number of heritage houses that are demolished?
There are some infill housing options which work well with existing heritage homes and could help retain these homes as part of the project. Other forms of infill housing may result in the loss of the existing house(s). How different forms are implemented can also have an impact on how likely it is for a home to be retained. This will be explored during the Official Community Plan review. These impacts will be raised to Council as one of the factors that needs to be considered before making a decision about what forms to allow and how to implement them.
Even if no new housing forms are permitted, the city’s old houses can be still be demolished if they are not formally protected. Formal protection is put on houses through either a type of heritage rezoning or on a voluntary basis – the City prefers to protect homes with the owner’s consent. The City is happy to explore the options for heritage protection with owners. Anyone who is interested should visit the Heritage Protection webpage or contact Julie Schueck, the City’s Heritage Planner who can be reached by phone at 604-527-4556 and by email at .
Why can’t we get a greater diversity of shops along the city’s main streets?
New Westminster has been working hard over the last years to support vibrant main streets and commercial districts throughout the city. The City has been beautifying streets (with new sidewalks, street trees and lighting). The City has also attracted a lot of new development that has brought new residents who become new customers for local businesses. The desire for vibrant commercial spaces is supported by the existing policies in the Official Community Plan and the regulations in the Zoning Bylaw. The tools are in place, now it’s a matter of private business and land owners implementing the vision.
While the City does grant business licenses, it does not control the variety of businesses or deny licenses without a valid reason. For example, if someone wants to open a shoe store the City cannot use the high number of existing shoe stores as a reason to deny the business license.
What impact does the RCH expansion have on the Official Community Plan?
The City, Fraser Health, and other key stakeholders are working together to examine opportunities centred on creating a high value, integrated, medical and technology cluster in Sapperton, using the RCH expansion as the anchor. This economic health care cluster has the potential of becoming the City’s premier employment strategy which would also utilize the work underway on the Sapperton district energy system (provision of clean, low-carbon energy) and the Intelligent City Initiative (fibre optic network supporting technology-intensive uses).
As this work proceeds, it will be important for the new OCP to provide for land use designations and policy direction that will support the establishment of health and technology related businesses within the area. Furthermore, the RCH expansion anticipates the creation of 2,500 new jobs within the community which will result in a need for housing and amenities for workers (childcare, shopping, park space, etc.). This additional growth will need to be factored into the work that will be done for the OCP.
The consultation so far hasn’t focused on industrial land or employment much, why is that?
At the same time as the Official Community Plan review the City will also be doing a comprehensive Economic Plan. This work will consider what actions the City should take to best support the development of the City’s employment sectors. The results of this work will inform the Official Community Plan.
There is also direction provided by Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy, which protects industrial land in the region. Changing the use of a property identified by Metro Vancouver as industrial requires their approval. As a result, it is expected that the land in the Braid, Stewardson and Queensborough industrial areas will remain industrial. The Economic Strategy will still consider the future of these lands. Is there new/different type of industrial land that the City should be targeting? How can these lands be intensified or provide more employment opportunities?
Public consultation regarding employment lands will be focused on key issues such as the transition between employment uses and residential uses, and the location and design of neighbourhood serving commercial.
Does the Official Community Plan influence where new schools are located?
The need to build a new school and to rebuild or expand an existing school is determined by School District No. 40 (New Westminster) and requires the approval of the Ministry of Education. Once the School District gets approval to build or renovate a school they make an application to the City for a building permit, just like any other developer would.
The way the city grows and what type of housing is encouraged (e.g. where new family friendly housing is located) impacts the need for new schools. As a result, the School District is a key stakeholder that the City invites to be part of the OUR CITY process. Once the public and Council have endorsed a draft future land use plan the City can provide a statistical analysis to the School Board regarding the potential for growth in each catchment area.
The future land use scenarios created as part of the OUR CITY process will not show the location of future schools. This allows the School District the flexibility to apply to build a school in any location they feel is appropriate.
What is the likelihood that this Official Community Plan will mean more amenities in my neighbourhood?
New Westminster has a number of city serving community parks and facilities. These tend to be larger parks and facilities that serve the entire population (e.g. Moody Park Arena, Queens Park). There are also a number of smaller facilities that may still draw residents from across the city but tend to be more heavily used by people in the immediate neighbourhood (e.g. Sullivan Park, Queensborough Community Centre). In a small city like New Westminster it is unlikely that there will be an increase in the number of city serving facilities because they are very expensive to build, operate, and maintain. The City recognizes that there is a need for local serving amenities in some neighbourhoods. The need for and location of new parks and recreation facilities is guided by the Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Plan. As the OUR CITY process continues it will explore what new neighbourhood serving facilities are needed (e.g. a new neighbourhood park and/or community centre in the West End). This work can also help provide direction and set priorities for future projects.
Does allowing more density mean that the City gets more taxes?
Tax revenue is related to many variables including land value, building value, tax rates (mill rate) and land use. Increased development entitlements generally relate to more tax revenue but also create demand and costs for more services and amenities which are addressed through a variety of other financing growth options (see the Financing Growth Overview website).
More people are going to require more amenities, services and park space. How can the City ensure there is enough for existing and future residents?
There are several ways in which the City finances the needed amenities and services related to growth, including Voluntary Amenity Contributions, park land dedication requirements and Development Cost Charges. These growth related amenities and services are accessible to existing and future residents. More information is available on the on the Financing Growth Overview website.
How will the City protect and add new trees if new housing is allowed?
The City has recently adopted a new Tree Protection Bylaw. Any new development must conform to the requirements of this bylaw and retain or replace trees as required. More information on the tree bylaw is available on the Urban Forest Management Strategy website.
How will the different infill housing forms be implemented?
We are still discussing what infill housing forms should be considered for implementation (e.g. laneway house, duplex, townhouse). If there is community and Council support for any of the infill housing types, we’d like to talk to the community about the variety options possible for implementation.
Options range from permissive (e.g. only require a building permit) to restrictive (e.g. require a rezoning process with full public consultation) and including options in between (e.g. require a development permit with design guidelines). Permissive implementation would make it easier to build the agreed upon infill housing types which could mean more interest in constructing them. Restrictive implementation would include more review which would also make it more difficult to build the agreed upon infill housing types and could mean less interest in constructing them.
What can I build on my property when the Official Community Plan is adopted?
You will be able to build the same things you are allowed to build today (in keeping with your existing zoning). After the Official Community Plan is adopted, the Zoning Bylaw would need to be changed before you can build something different on your property. Unless the City also amends the Zoning Bylaw (as a way of implementing the Official Community Plan) you would have to apply for a rezoning to change the land use permitted. If the land use designation for your property changes and new land uses are included, you may have more options as to what you can rezone to. If you don’t want to rezone and want to keep your existing land use, that’s okay too.
Can I continue with my current land use on my property after the Official Community Plan is adopted?
Yes. There is no obligation for you to change your existing land use. For many people their current land use, such as a single detached house, is right for them and will continue to be part of New Westminster neighbourhoods. Additionally, you are entitled to continue to use your property as it is now for as long as you like. This is true even if the City were to amend the Zoning Bylaw (as a way of implementing the Official Community Plan) and change the permitted uses on your property.
How will property values change if the Official Community Plan is adopted?
We are currently undergoing a review of the OCP, which is the City’s highest level land use policy. The OCP indicates the “land use designation” for all areas in the city. The land use designation generally indicates what types of uses (e.g. low-density residential, high-density residential, commercial, industrial, etc.) may be considered in an area.
The OCP is different from the Zoning Bylaw, which specifically indicates what is permitted on a property. The Zoning Bylaw regulates factors like what type of building may be built (e.g. single detached dwelling, townhouse, apartment building, etc.), the size of that building (e.g. building setbacks and heights, site coverage, number of dwellings etc.) and other factors related to the specific design of the building and site. These factors are often referred to as “entitlements”.
A property’s value is determined by a variety of factors – location, lot size, size of building, condition of building, market demand, supply, etc. Because the City controls some of these variables (e.g. type of building, size of building, number of dwellings) through the Zoning Bylaw, changes to a property’s zoning can often create changes in land value.
A change to the OCP land use designation does not change the zoning of properties or their entitlements. In other words, even if there is a change in the OCP that allows additional types of uses in an area, a property owner must first apply to have their property rezoned to permit that use to be developed. Property owners are not obliged to apply to rezone or change development entitlements on their property. Also, Council is not obliged to approve any such application because it fits with the OCP designation, so there is a risk that a rezoning application would not be approved. Because of this, changes to the OCP generally do not create changes in land value.
Despite this, speculation can occur. This is when owners sell their property based on the value that it would be worth if it were already rezoned to allow more entitlements, like a bigger building with more dwellings. One of the tools the City can use to reduce speculation is to create clear amenity contribution expectations so that developers know how many dollars they will need to provide to the City as part of their rezoning application. These dollars are used to build new amenities in the community where development is happening. If developers know how much the amenity contribution is expected to be, they will be willing to pay less for the property, which helps to keep property values where they should be.
Generally throughout the region, property values for all types of housing are rising. This is because there is increasing population, with an increasing demand for housing, and the development of new housing is not able to happen fast enough to provide supply equal to demand. This is a trend which is happening completely independently from the Community Conversation on Housing in New Westminster. While it is impossible to determine the direction of the market, there is no indication at present that this trend will be reversed so housing prices are likely to continue to rise.
A property’s assessed value, which is used for taxation purposes, is determined by BC Assessment. In determining an assessed value, BC Assessment looks at actual property transactions (sales) in the area and compares the many factors noted above (location, lot size, etc.). More information on the assessment process is available on the BC Assessment website.
Will a larger population mean that we all pay less property tax or do we have to pay more for services needed by new people?
Property taxes are used to pay of many different types of services and amenities. Council sets the property tax rate each year in relation to the projected capital and operation costs for the upcoming year, so a larger population wouldn’t necessarily result in lower taxes.
The City has many methods to ensure that new development bears the costs of additional growth and not existing tax payers (see our Financing Growth Overview webpage). Existing residents and tax payers often benefit from new amenities and parks associated with additional growth.