Robyn and I were invited to participate in the beginnings of the Sustainability Process for the City of Castlegar, with about twenty other community members. With three focus groups formed to look at social, environmental and economic issues and solutions, two hours were dedicated to answering a couple fo questions on these topics in the small groups. I was on the economic focus group with members of the business community and some leaders from Selkirk College. Robyn was on the Environmental focus group, with community leaders in the environmental field. Overall, the groups seemed well matched to answer the questions of community sustainability.

Castlegar SignFollowing some group work, the City held an open house with a presentation from Urban Systems, the City’s consultant for the project, which covered the results from the community survey conducted in 2006, some definitions of sustainability, and the typical processes that communities follow to build sustainable plans and policies.

The discussion in the group work was excellent, I was glad to meet some new people, including influential people who care about the future of Castlegar. Some of the details of the process to be followed seem to focus less on the sustainability perspective, and more on the development and infrastructure planning, which, I admit are components of the sustainability of the community, but should not be the focus, given the intersection of climate change, peak oil and future economic issues, all of which are unknowns in the total impact of each problem, or how these will interact.


Castlegar has had a population growth of around 0.5% per annum over the past ten years and this fact leads me to question the heavy emphasis on development and land use in the plan, with building scenarios as the central piece of the process, leading into the Official Community Plan. It is almost as though the concept of sustainability is getting lost through the planning and land use process. For this to be the community’s sustainability plan, we need to have assurance that sustainability is at the heart of the process, not just something that was tacked on to meet some requirement to be green.

The compilation of thoughts and concerns from the focus groups and the community participants should be available within the next couple of weeks, and I’ll link to them from this website.

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.