What are the Key Challenges Facing the RDN?
A number of sustainability challenges have come out of recent RDN initiatives including the State of Sustainability Project. These challenges have formed the basis for thinking about how we progress towards our vision for a more sustainable region. The RDN Board believes that changes to the RGS should be made to better emphasize the RDN's goals, policies and actions for sustainability. Are these the main challenges? Would you identify others?Reducing Greenhouse Gas Production
Building more of our homes in existing cities and towns will allow people to live close to where they work, go to school, shop and play. This means that we can take advantage of public transit, cycle paths or walking to keep in shape and reduce our use of cars. The Province has adopted a target of 33% for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The Regional Growth Strategy and all subsequent official community plans will be required by provincial legislation to include targets to meet the provincial reductions. More energy efficient buildings are part of the answer but the vast majority of Green House Gas emissions in the region, about 70%, are produced by cars and trucks, and the vehicles used for business.Providing Affordable Housing and a Range of Housing Types
The State of Sustainability Report indicates that the basic needs for housing in the Regional District of Nanaimo are not being met for all residents. Everyone does not have access to suitable, affordable or adequate housing. In many instances basic housing needs are not being met and residents are paying more then 30% of their income for housing. The Regional Growth Strategy only contains one general policy on affordable housing. We have heard that more needs to be done to deal with this issue and the RGS could provide more direction on how to address this concern.Using Water Sustainably
Water consumption in the region has increased faster then the growth in population, meaning that each person is consuming more and more water. The State of Sustainability Report suggests that water consumption in the region exceeds the provincial average. Even in a wet region like Nanaimo, there is only so much water for human use as water is also needed to maintain healthy fish populations and support other sensitive landscapes and wildlife. Because water supply is not evenly distributed throughout the region, some areas that are currently identified for future growth do not have enough water to support that growth.Strong Urban Containment
The goal of strong urban containment is to encourage high density development in existing cities and towns, and discourage urban type development in rural areas. By confining urban growth to existing urban areas we can maintain a compact urban centre thereby reducing the need to drive and facilitating the cost efficient delivery of services. Assessments indicate that there is enough land to accommodate growth for the next 30 years without expanding the urban areas in the Regional District of Nanaimo. Development costs are generally cheaper in rural areas so there is continued pressure to allow urban type developments in rural areas. .Concerns about the impacts of urban sprawl is what prompted the adoption of a regional growth strategy in the first place.Maintaining Rural Integrity
The "Rural Integrity" goal of the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) is to protect rural areas from the encroachment of urban land uses and to maintain lands for forestry, farming and other resource uses. Concerns remain that a significant amount of development is still occurring in the rural areas. However, there is general agreement that this is largely due to a lack of implementation of Regional Growth Strategy policies to discourage development. The Regional Growth Strategy states that the Regional District of Nanaimo and its member municipalities will investigate an appropriate parcel size in the rural areas.Achieving Density and Mixed Use in Urban Areas
Development that is more densely concentrated in urban centres such as Nanaimo and Parksville should provide for more housing options and decrease the need to meet housing demand in rural areas. Concentrating growth in towns and cities means providing more efficient services, such as water and waste disposal. It promotes walking and cycling, and will help make public transit feasible in the Region. Achieving the higher densities requires the RDN and member municipalities to amend zoning bylaws to permit and encourage well designed higher density developments in urban areas within the UCB. The concern is that too much lower density development is still occurring in the urban areas.