Mayor Cross flip-flops on zoning bylaw with legal pressure

Petition from lawyer draws promise of focused OCP review in Sidney to address zoning bylaw concerns

Coun. Mervyn Lougher-Goodey and CAO Randy Humble of Sidney address residents who picketed outside municipal hall on July 3 to protest the town's new zoning bylaw.

Coun. Mervyn Lougher-Goodey and CAO Randy Humble of Sidney address residents who picketed outside municipal hall on July 3 to protest the town's new zoning bylaw.

A legal challenge from a handful of Sidney residents has the town revisiting its zoning bylaw.

“I want everyone to know that the town is committed to undertaking a focused review of the [official community plan] and plans for the provision of single family residential use within the multi-family land use designations,” Mayor Larry Cross said Monday. “This change will then be incorporated in an amendment to the zoning bylaw.”

The flip-flop comes after residents whose properties, upon which sit single family homes, became non-conforming with the new zoning bylaw which no longer allows single family homes in that area. They enlisted lawyer L. John Alexander to file a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. Monday.

“Council is absolutely capable of resolving this issue if they desire,” Alexander said. “Zoning bylaws are amended all the time. All they have to do is introduce an amendment that puts single family back into the [RM5 zone].”

Cross said council would begin the review of focused OCP review in September.

Ray Headrick, who has led the push against the new zoning bylaw adopted June 11, was struck by the mayor’s comments.

“It seems rather peculiar,” he said. “[The mayor] has been absolutely defiant for seven weeks.”

Residents protested with picket signs and swarmed council meetings after the bylaw was adopted. Headrick flew two Canadian flags upside down in protest on Canada Day and July 2.

Cross said the focused review would allow residents plenty of means to give feedback and “will be conducted as expeditiously as possible.”

“The zoning bylaw is the implementation document of the OCP” adopted in 2007, Cross said. “Accordingly, in order to address the legal non-conforming status of the properties under the new zoning bylaw, we must first address the land use designation within the OCP – amending the OCP is a critical first step and must happen prior to us being able to address the zoning bylaw.”

Headrick isn’t convinced the review will accomplish what he seeks – permitting single family homes in RM5 zones.

“I would be a fool if I were to believe they were being honest about that. In three months they’re going to see what can be done? They couldn’t be more vague or evasive.”

The town has until July 30 to respond to the petition at which time a court hearing could be scheduled if necessary.

 

In the petition

L. John Alexander’s petition to the courts has two main goals.

Procedural missteps

The town didn’t adequately inform residents of the impact of the zoning bylaw, Alexander states. Wording in advertisements was too vague to convey the actual effects.

Elimination of use

RM5 (multifamily, no single family homes permitted) allows for rowhouses, townhouses and apartments. But some properties on First Street, which are now zoned RM5 are too small for the permitted uses. In order to rebuild, properties there would have to be amalgamated, Alexander said.

“It’s effectively sterilized these small lots.

“There’s always permitted uses [on most lots], but with these small old lots, the way they’ve done it is there are no permitted uses.”

If a house in RM5 burned down, “I can’t even camp in the burned out rubble,” Alexander said.

 

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Original article: Sidney considers new housing rules