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Sustainability is key to new official community plan

The city is urging local residents to have their say on a 402-page plan that sets Richmond on a course of sustainability for the next three decades.

Civic politicians have already given first reading to a revamped official community plan, which comes with the title Moving Towards Sustainability. Its stated vision is for Richmond to be “a sustainable and healthy island city that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The plan, which took three years to draft, anticipates 80,000 new residents, 42,000 new homes and 40,000 new jobs to appear in the next 30 years.

Most of the growth is planned for City Centre, while established single-family neighbourhoods, farmland and environmentally sensitive areas are preserved.

Fitting the theme of sustainability, planners are aiming to reduce residents’ reliance on the automobile. The plan envisions a significant boost in transit use, cycling and walking by 2041, and vehicle trips being cut be nearly half.

Planners project 49 per cent of trips will involve vehicles in the future—down from the current 83 per cent. To meet that goal, growth is being focused in City Centre, where transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly developments are rising around Canada Line stations. Future plans also call for more bike lanes and pedestrian routes.

City council is scheduled to next consider the plan at a public hearing Nov. 19.

Meeting the city’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets—an 80 per cent reduction of 2007 levels by 2050—is also a focus in the new community plan.

According to city staff, approximately 55 per cent of Richmond’s entire greenhouse gas emissions were transportation-related in 2010. Energy use in buildings accounted for another 41 per cent and waste equalled four per cent.

With a growing population, community greenhouse gas emissions are increasing every year.

“Significant action is needed to achieve real reductions and avoid levels of emissions that are predicted to result in unmanageable impacts and costs,” according to the proposed plan.

City officials say senior governments have jurisdiction over the big carbon offenders—transportation and building infrastructure—making action by provincial and federal officials “critical.”

“Equally important will be changes in the daily lifestyles of all Richmond residents and businesses to reduce vehicle dependency and fossil fuel based energy consumption,” the plan notes.

Significant gains in transit ridership have been made in the past decade, according to TransLink. In its recently released 2013 Base Plan and Outlook, the transportation authority says transit rides are up 80 per cent with 45 per cent more transit service.

Bicycle use is up 26 per cent in the last three years.

And despite a regional population increase of 16 per cent, TransLink says 10 per cent fewer cars now enter the core of Vancouver than a decade ago and traffic volume growth on other regional roads has “substantially slowed.”

But citing a $163-million funding gap, officials are warning TransLink is in need of a new revenue source to meet future needs.

“This issue is not going to go away,” said TransLink board chair Nancy Olewiler. “We need a long-term funding source.”

OCP consultation

•Open house Saturday, Oct. 20 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Richmond City Hall

•Information available and comments welcome at letstalkrichmond.ca

•City also welcomes written submissions and delegations to the public hearing, scheduled for Nov. 19

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