Background: What's an OCP?

What Is An OCP?

An Official Community Plan (OCP) is a municipal bylaw that maps out our community's future growth. The intent of an OCP is to set broad policy direction in regard to key community issues and priorities. In the development of an OCP, planning staff, often working with a consultant, will seek input from partner groups and the public to map out policies. 

The plan becomes the key guide for decision-making on community planning and land management issues by City of West Kelowna Council, staff and the public. The new West Kelowna OCP, adopted on July 26, 2011, considers community planning directions with projections up to 2030; however, the focus is on near term priorities as West Kelowna is a relatively newly incorporated municipality.

The development of the new OCP has been guided by comprehensive analysis of existing conditions and best-management practices, as well as consideration of community values and feedback received from council, staff, stakeholders and the public.


Policies include:

  • Location and density of land use and development for residential, agricultural, industrial, institutional, and recreational purposes
  • Protection of environmentally sensitive areas
  • Affordable housing, rental housing, and special-needs housing
  • Phasing of community infrastructure like roads, sewers and water systems
  • Location and type of present and proposed public facilities such as schools, parks, arenas and waste water treatment plants
  • Sand and gravel extraction
  • Targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions
An Official Community Plan is also a requirement of all municipalities in B.C., set out in the Local Government Act.

Time Frame

An OCP takes a long-range view, for example up to 25 years into the future, to ensure the needs of all residents can be met in that period. For instance, if we consider just residential development, based on population projections (how many people will be born or move here), we can estimate approximately how many new homes will be required. The OCP gives direction on preferred locations for new residential development, the mixture of housing types that should be considered based on community need and possible appropriate timing for the residential development.

The Extras

 An OCP may also take a deeper look into other community needs:

  • Fostering social wellbeing, and development
  • Maintaining and enhancing agriculture
  • Protecting the natural environment, its ecosystems and biological diversity
  • How local growth fits into the region as a whole
  • Who will use the OCP
  • Who the OCP will affect
The Personal Approach

City council and staff, developers, and professionals, such as architects, engineers, planners, landscape architects, use the OCP to understand what the community wants regarding housing and other land uses, transportation services, infrastructure and amenities.

They also use the OCP to understand which areas are suitable for development, and those which are not, like environmentally sensitive areas, steep slopes, hazardous areas, for example. The public can use the OCP to better understand local issues and how they can be addressed.

Achieving Community Goals

All municipal policies, plans, and regulations must follow the OCP, making it a powerful guide to community decision-making. An effective OCP provides clear direction, but sometimes they are amended due to changing circumstances or reinterpretation of policies by council and staff. In this way, an OCP is called a "living document."

OCP vs. Zoning Bylaw

A Zoning Bylaw is a tool that puts very specific rules and regulations on land use, density, building setbacks and other issues such as parcel coverage. The OCP sets out general policy direction regarding preferred future growth, based on community values and needs. The document is strategic in nature, rather than setting out detailed rules for specific properties. 

For instance, the OCP might say that an area will be a future growth area for high-density housing, whereas the Zoning Bylaw might say that the building on a specific lot will be a maximum of 12 stories tall and cover up to 50 per cent of the lot.